Saturday, March 10, 2007

Distilling Frankincense Gum

I managed to obtain some fresh prime Olibanum (Frankincense) Gum (Boswellia carterii) from Somalia. I have distilled Gum Olibanum before, in my 100 gallon stainless steel steam distiller. It was a successful distillation, but an incredible mess. Frankincense Gum is actually a gum/resin. Partially water soluble. Inside the steam distiller, the gum would melt from the heat and water. Globs of gum covered the steam spreader bars. I normally distill plants such as lavender at about 1 pound of pressure. For this gum, I had to boost the pressure to 5 lbs, to keep the spreader bars clear. In the steam distiller, the gum bubbles up and expands. If too much gum is placed in the still, the gum will bubble up and possible clog the condenser.
For this distillation, I used a 40 liter rotating column Alembic distiller. I left the column down and performed a hydrodistillation. The most efficient quantity of gum to distill in this size distiller is about 5 pounds. I added enough water to insure that I would not run out of water during distillation. It is impossible to add water while distilling to this traditional style Alembic distiller. For each batch, I distilled for 4 hours. The first batch had 5 pounds of gum, the second batch, 8 pounds. The expected yield was 5%. My actual yield, was 4%. I am very pleased with the result of this distillation. The resulting oil is sweet and pleasantly aromatic. I plan to distill this oil on a regular basis. Another interesting distillation I did recently was Osha Root Powder (Ligusticum porteri). This was a test batch for a company that manufactures medicinal products which include Osha root and its extractives. It was a hydrodistillation because the raw material was freshly powdered root. For this distillation, I used a 7.5 gallon Stainless Steel Table Top distiller. I obtained a yield of 3.75% Next week, I will be distilling some incredible Sandalwood Powder (Santalum album). This is a very pure and aromatic heartwood powder directly from Mysore.