# 5.5B: Uses of Steam Distillation

The most common use of steam distillation is the extraction of natural products from plant materials. This is the main industrial method for obtaining plant essential oils, used in fragrances and personal hygiene products. As so many products can be isolated in this way, this technique is regularly performed in teaching labs. An extraction and GC analysis of the essential oil in bay leaves is shown in Figure 5.57.

Figure 5.57: Steam distillation of bay leaves. The main peaks in the GC spectrum of the essential oil are eucalyptol ($$5.69 \: \text{min}$$, $$14\%$$), umbellulone ($$6.70 \: \text{min}$$, $$54\%$$), and 4-terpineol ($$6.74 \: \text{min}$$, $$19\%$$).