Used in perfumery and aromatherapy, absolutes are similar to essential oils. They are concentrated, highly aromatic, oily mixtures extracted from plants. Whereas essential oils are produced by distillation, boiling or pressing, absolutes are produced through solvent extraction, or more traditionally, through enfleurage.
Like their essential oil counterparts, absolutes are highly aromatic liquids extracted from plants. Absolutes, however, are extracted in a complex manner that requires the use of chemical solvents that are later removed during the final stages of production.
A trace amount of the solvent, however, can remain in the final aromatic absolute.
Although the amount of remaining solvent is considered tiny in carefully extracted absolutes, steam distilled essential oils are preferred within the scope of holistic aromatherapy.
Having said that, absolutes do hold their place within holistic aromatherapy and natural fragrancing applications. As with steam distilled essential oils, absolutes must be used with care, respect and knowledge.
While essential oils can offer great benefit when taken internally by those properly educated in the internal application of steam distilled essential oils, absolutes are generally avoided for internal use because of the trace solvent they contain.
Some raw materials are either too delicate or too inert to be steam-distilled and can only yield their aroma through solvent extraction. Examples of these are jasmine and beeswax. Absolutes in demand include rose, jasmine, tuberose, jonquil, ylang-ylang, mimosa, boronia, lavender, lavandin, geranium, clary sage, violet, oak moss, tonka bean.
Rose oil, jasmine absolute, tuberose absolute, orris root oil, ambrette seeds oil, angelica root oil, and orange flower oil are valuable and expensive fragrance and flavor ingredients.
Residual solvents may remain in the absolutes. Therefore, some absolutes are considered undesirable for aromatherapy.