Contrary to popular belief, jasmine oil is most often produced as a solvent extracted ‘absolute’ rather than an essential oil – a term that technically refers to a volatile oil that is extracted through the process of distillation (typically steam or hydro distillation, but also including molecular and dry or destructive distillation as well as hydrodiffusion). The exception is the volatile (essential) oil that is expressed or pressed from the peels/rinds of citrus fruits rather than being distilled. In the case of jasmine flowers they cannot be successfully distilled to yield an essential oil. Rather, the ‘concrete’ and then the absolute is prepared from the fragrant jasmine flowers and this is typically called jasmine oil. In addition to the extraction process, the absolute itself has a few inherently different qualities that render it unlike an essential oil.
There has been some debate over what consequential differences may exist between an absolute and an essential oil that would be typically extracted from lavender, for example. Perhaps the main difference between an absolute and an essential oil is the difference in concentration. An absolute, by nature of the extraction process, is a more aromatic substance, and typically less of it is needed when added to perfume blends, for example. However, absolutes are also sometimes more expensive due to the lengthy amount of time necessary to create them, and the sheer volume of flower matter needed. For example, it takes 8,000 carefully hand-picked jasmine blossoms to produce one gram (about one ml.) of jasmine absolute. When scaling this figure up to one pound, the number of jasmine flower petals necessary is estimated to be approximately 3.6 million blossoms weighing 1000 pounds! Thus, when broken down by varying degrees, it can be said that one drop of jasmine absolute (in this instance taken from Jasminum sambac) costs $0.10. This figure truly emphasizes how expensive this precious oil is. On the other hand, essential oils, in addition to at times being less expensive, are free from the wax particles and remaining alcohol that absolutes typically have in their solutions.
While there are certain differences in the way an absolute and an essential oil are created, the true difference between the two lies in their use. Absolutes are typically employed in the perfumery industry. While essential oils remain dominant when used therapeutic products, medicines, skin care and other topical applications due to their lack of pigments, waxes, and residuals solvents, notably alcohol which is present in the amount of 1 to 5 percent of the absolute and hexane which remains at trace levels of parts per billion.