SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Illustration of a steam distillation plant for distilling rosewater after a 13th century drawing.Steam distillation reduces the boiling point of compounds allowing evaporation at a lower temperature reducing the decomposition of many organic compounds due to higher temperatures. A hemispherical vessel containing rose petals and water rests on a fire. Vapour collects and is cooled in vessels on each side of a central column. These feed into external alembics. The distilled rosewater passes into external flasks. Rose water was used for medicinal purposes and as a perfume.In the 9th century al Kindi listed formuli for more than 100 perfumes.Around the 10th century Avicenna (Ibn Sina) described the distillation of rose oil from rose petals. In his "The Canon of Medicine" he described apparatus from Persia and the Middle East used to extract herbal oils.
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