Essential Oils ~ A Crash Course in Essential Oils

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are the fragrant, highly concentrated natural constituents that are found in plants. They are what give the plant its characteristic odor and contain the healing power of the plant from which it was extracted. When used correctly, essential oils bring a broad range of health benefits since unlike common drugs, they have no side-effects.

Essential oils are the fragrant, highly concentrated natural constituents that are found in plants. They are what give the plant its characteristic odor and contain the healing power of the plant from which it was extracted. When used correctly, essential oils bring a broad range of health benefits since unlike common drugs, they have no side-effects.

A typical essential oil will contain more than 100 different chemical compounds, each of which exhibits a particular therapeutic property, and it is for this reason that many essential oils can be used for such a wide range of conditions. Virtually all essential oils possess antiseptic properties, but many also have antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Essential oils are located in tiny secretory structures found in various parts of plants such as leaves (eucalyptus), berries (juniper), grasses (palmarosa), flowering tops (lavender), petals (rose), roots (angelica), zest of fruit (orange), resins (frankincense) and wood (cedar).

How are Essential Oils Extracted?

Mostly, essential oils are obtained by steam distillation although other methods are used. Citrus fruits are cold pressed by mechanical means, and the oil from delicate flowers is achieved by a more sophisticated method that produces what is known as an absolute - not an essential oil. This unique process is used because delicate flowers can not withstand the high temperatures needed to extract essential oils by steam distillation. 

After extraction, the resulting essential oil is a highly concentrated liquid that contains the aroma and therapeutic properties of the source from which it came. Nothing should be added or removed from this oil if it is to be used in aromatherapy. To achieve maximum therapeutic benefits, essential oils should be exactly as they came from the still - 100% pure and natural. A real essential oil.

Standardized Essential Oils

Some industries reprocess essential oils in order to make them meet a required odor or flavor 'profile.' To achieve this, synthetic chemicals are added to the essential oil, and often individual unwanted non-fragrance components are removed (rectification). This 'standardization' is standard practice in the perfumery and flavor industries to maintain absolute consistency in fragrance or taste, and this is fine. However, this practice is entirely unacceptable if the essential oil is for use in aromatherapy. TAdulterated essential oils may often smell acceptable to the untrained nose, but because they are extended with synthetic chemicals or diluted with vegetable oil, it makes them extremely poor value for money. Not only that but if an essential oil has been standardized, adulterated or adjusted in any way it simply won't be as effective. Adulterated essential oils are often the cause if skin sensitisation and irritation - completely the opposite of what we aim to achieve in aromatherapy.

Purity in Essential Oils

This is why you should always buy essential oils from long established and trusted aromatherapy suppliers who specialize in supplying therapeutically active essential oils for aromatherapy, and not the more common commercial grade that has been adjusted to meet the requirements of the perfumery or flavoring industries. To meet the high quality for aromatherapy, an essential oil should be extracted from a single botanical species that has been botanically authenticated, and derived from a known country of origin.

To be 100% pure, nothing should be added or taken away from the oil after extraction.

The Science Behind Essential Oils

The chemistry of an essential oil is incredibly complex, and a typical example of an oil will contain an elaborate mixture of aromatic constituents such as alcohols, aldehydes, esters, ketones, lactones, phenols, terpenes and sesquiterpenes that combine to produce a unique set of therapeutic qualities. 

This complex mixture of natural chemicals is what makes essential oils such effective healing agents; for example, eucalyptus oil is refreshing and invigorating, eases muscular aches and pains, plus it is a very powerful antiseptic agent. This means that in aromatherapy there are several ways to use essential oils to enjoy using your essential oils to promote physical and emotional health and well-being.

Health Benefits of Essential Oils

Essential oils possess a broad range of healing properties that can be used effectively to keep you in the best of health as well as looking good. These health-giving benefits include improving the complexion of your skin by stimulating cellular renewal, easing aches and pains, balancing roller-coaster emotions and fighting bacteria, fungi and other forms of infection. Essential oils have an almost endless list of therapeutic uses, and science continues to discover more about them every year.

But be sure of achieving textbook results, you must use essential oils of the very highest quality, sourced by experts, from the finest producing regions around the world. Although cheaper essential oils may appear to save you money, they will certainly not deliver the results that you are entitled to expect. Therefore you will have wasted your hard-earned cash. 

Much of the above information was taken from Quinessence Aromatherapy.  Please visit their website more information.