Monday, February 17, 2020
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Essential Oils

Essential Oils

Essential oils are the volatile oils extracted from plant material, usually using steam as the extraction agent.  The principal components are hydrocarbons, particularly terpenes and its associated derivatives.  The major producers worldwide are the United States, China, Brazil, India, Egypt and South-East Asia.  South Africa is a fledgling producer of certain essential oils.  There are approximately 230 different essential oils worldwide (as estimated in 1984).

Cape Mountain Oil's primary focus is on the production of organic essential oils derived from indigenous fynbos species.  We distill essential oils from plant material using steam on the farm. Most plants are propogated from cuttings which are rooted in our nursery.  At present we produce essential oils from 14 different types of plants and we have about 3 hectares of essential oil plants under production on drip irrigation.  We intend to develop our production significantly over the next few years. 

Our oils are not generally available to the public: 12 ml bottles are sold off the farm to guests, but the bulk of the oil produced is sold for resale in a South African organic range and overseas.  We are regularly assisted by our consultants, Still Pure of Riebeek-Kasteel, to whom we remain deeply grateful.

If you are interested in buying any oils, please send us an email and we can see if we can help you.



African Chamomile

Cape Mountain Oil's signature essential oil is the indigienous, azulene blue AFRICAN CHAMOMILE (Eriocephalus Punctulatus).


African Chamomile is an indigenous oil that is becoming increasingly popular overseas and at home. When distilled at the right temperature, the azulene components of the oil are developed and the oil displays a beautiful deep blue colour that makes it so distinctive.  On the nose, the oil is very floral but complex, with both top and bottom notes evident. It has a powerful and distinctive aroma, both on the plant and after stilling.

punctulatus oil

The plants are not easy to propagate or put into production. Mortality as seedlings is high and like all fynbos-related plants, the balance of food and irrigation is a difficult one to get right. Mortality with over-watering is high and like all Eriocephalus, the plants develop thicker but unproductive growth with excessive moisture. Over-harvesting results in die back on plants and the timing of harvesting is critical. 

eriocephalus punctulatus

We harvest only once a year, in August, when the plants are in mid-flower and are still in a winter growth phase.  If harvesting is left too long, the growth phase is shortened and the summer sun and cause damage to under-grown plants. Flowering is a prolific show of 'kapokbos' type white flowers, much loved by bees and a variety of insects.   Because of the high value of the oil and the sensitivity of the plants, we harvest entirely by hand.

Read more: African Chamomile



Lavender has been used for centuries and it is one of the oldest known essential oils.  Its high linalool and linayl acetate levels give it a unique fragrance and antimicrobial qualities.  Ratel Farming has three lavender varieties in production on the farm:  two lavandins (Abrialis and Grosso) and one true lavenders (Mailette).  Harvesting of Mailette takes place in December, the lavandins being harvested in January.

Read more: Lavender



rosemaryRosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an evergreen perrenial shrub that is native to the Meditarrenean coast.  It is a hardy, drought tolerant plant that can tolerate a range of soil pH. Cape Mountain OIls produces two kinds of rosemary essential oils:  Tuscan Blue (cineole) and a standard Officinalis (verbenone). The demand for the verbenone variety is strong and we are expanding our production in this area. The plants have dense and pretty blue flowers that are a favourite of the honey bees. 


Read more: Rosemary


Tea Tree

tea-treeTea Tree is an exciting essential oil for Cape Mountain Oils .  This plant is indigenous to Australia and the oil is imported into South Africa in large quantities. Very little essential oil is currently produced in the country, and we are unaware of any other organically certified producer of the oil in South Africa.  Despite our harsh conditions, the early indicators are that this plant will do well, provided that it is well managed.    We currently have 3 000 plants in the ground under drip irrigation.

Read more: Tea Tree




Agathosma betulina (buchu) is an indigenous plant (growing specifically in the mountains of the Western Cape and occurring in the wild on the Groot Winterhoek).  It has been used over the centuries for its medicinal qualities and is now sought after in Europe as a natural food flavourant.

Read more: Buchu


Indigenous Fynbos

Cape Mountain Oils focuses on the production of organic indigenous fynbos oils.  We produce oil from several indigenous plants (in addition to buchu): African Chamomile, Cape Snowbush, Cape May, Blue Mountain Sage and African Wormwood.  In addition to these plants (which are in production) we are experimenting with a variety of other indigenous oils, such as kooigoed, slangbos and various naturally occurring geraniums.

Read more: Indigenous Fynbos


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