A large number of herb materials contain essential oils with extensive bioactivities. In this work, an integrated simultaneous distillation–extraction (ISDE) apparatus was developed. To demonstrate its feasibility, the performance of ISDE was evaluated for the extraction of essential oil from Flos Magnoliae and compared with conventional techniques including steam distillation (SD) and simultaneous distillation–extraction (SDE). According to the product yield, the time consumed and the composition of oil, the essential oils isolated by ISDE were better than that obtained by SD and similar to those obtained by SDE. ISDE was also better than SDE due to its simple operation and lower consumption of energy and organic solvent. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.