What are essential oils?
Essential oils are aromatic volatile (evaporate quickly) liquids steam distilled from shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, or seeds. Vegetable
oils, such as olive, jojoba, or grape seed oils are usually pressed from the seeds, fruit or rind and can become rancid over time (and should be refrigerated) but essential
oils do not go rancid, if they are not contaminated.
The molecules of organic essential oils are much smaller than that of vegetable oils. Which is why essential oils evaporate
into the air and float across the room and absorb much more quickly into the skin. Organic essential oils are chemically
very complex, consisting of hundreds of different chemical compounds, which can make choosing which oil to use a little difficult, ask
me if you need help. They are highly concentrated and far more powerful than dried herbs. Organic essential oils are
not greasy, like vegetable oils, and do not clog the pores.
The highest quality of organic essential oils are ones that have been produced to preserve as many of the delicate aromatic compounds as possible. Fragile aromatic
chemicals are easily destroyed by high temperature and pressure as well as contact with chemical reactive metals, such as
copper or aluminum. Organic essential oils are steam distilled using pure water at low temperatures and low pressures. The
plants have been grown using “organic” farming methods: no pesticides, no herbicides and no chemical fertilizers.
They were planted at the right time of the year in well-balanced organic soil, and given the right amount of pure water. They
were harvested at just the right time of year at just the right time of day and distilled immediately. All these aspects affect
the quality of the oil and the labor-intensive methods push up the price.
Some manufacturers use chemicals in the distilling process to speed things along or to create more volume, and bring
the price down, but then those chemicals are passed on to the essential oil and can cause skin reactions. Also many manufactures
use high heat and pressure while distilling the essential oils because it is quicker and therefore bring down the cost
of production, even though they destroy some of the chemical compounds in the essential oil.
Adulteration is the addition of other substances either synthetic or natural to extend or to alter the appearance
or smell. It is a common practice for many manufacturers to add chemicals to create more volume and label it as pure
Many pounds, even tons, of plant material may be required to produce a relatively small amount of an essential oil.
Over 150 pounds of lavender flowers will make only one pound of essential oil. Over 5,000 pounds of rose petals produce one
pound of rose essential oil!! (Just imagine how much space 5,000 pounds of fluffy pink rose petals take up) That explains
why it is so expensive!
many complex chemical compounds. These compounds were designed to be used for healing when the plant is cut or broken, for
protecting against bacteria and molds, and to support the rebuilding of the plant.
a program the other day that was telling about amber and how bugs and things would get stuck and die in the sticky resin before
it got hard. They filmed ants that would climb these certain trees and risk their lives to collect the resin, which they used
to place around the entrance to their nests because it would protect the nest from bacteria!
parts of plants are used for distillation of organic essential oils, such as the flower, bark, roots or leaves. The distillation
captures these complex compounds that have such wonderful benefits. Human molecules easily recognize the molecules of organic
essential oils so we can enjoy the same wonderful benefits.
Do not confuse essential oils with
“absolutes” or “extract”. To make absolutes or extracts the plant materiel is soaked in alcohol or
some other solvent, which dissolves the plant oil, and then the alcohol is evaporated. Some plants, like jasmine, cannot be
steam distilled and have to use the alcohol or other solvent to extract the plant essence. The trouble with using absolutes
is that it is impossible to remove all the solvent. Everybody knows that alcohol is very drying to the skin. Use absolutes
carefully. Well, use essential oils carefully too!
Floral Waters and Hydrosols
During distillation steam passes
through the plan material and collects the plant oils. It then passes into a cooling chamber where the water and oil separate.
This water is what is called floral water or hydrosol. So it has the aroma and some of the characteristics of the essential
oil. They are wonderful to use in sprits bottles.
How Essential Oils Work
Aroma consists of volatile molecules that are small enough to float in the air. Millions of olfactory receptor cells
line the nose. Aroma causes these nerves to fire and send messages to the limbic area (which is the emotional center) of the
brain. From there, the messages travel to other parts of the brain, activating thought and memory. The pituitary gland is
also stimulated to release chemical messages that travel via the blood and nervous system to glands and organs that create
physical body responses. Hence the scent of an essential oil has the power to activate a number of physical and emotional
responses. It happens in less than a second! The sense of smell is the only one of the 5 senses that can evoke an immediate
Because of their molecular structures,
organic essential oils are rapidly absorbed when applied to the skin. Silky smooth to the touch, essential oils penetrate
the outer layer of skin. It is often possible to smell some essential oils on the breath shortly after applying them to the
body, try it with peppermint oil. Upon reaching the dermal layer of skin, essential oils lead to different effects, depending
on the type of oil applied. Because essential oils are made of hundreds of chemical compounds they have a way of balancing and supporting cellular function. One oil, such as lavender, can be effective for oily skin can also be effective for dry skin.