Tag Archives: what are essential oils

What are Essential Oils

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated organic compounds that are extracted from various plant parts, including flowers, trees, herbs, spices. Essential oil compounds are found in the leaves, wood, resin, fruit, flower blossoms, roots and buds of the plant.

The term aromatherapy has been in use since the early twentieth century; however the knowledge of essential oil extraction and application is an ancient art, used for centuries in India, Arabia and other countries for providing therapeutic effects to the mind and body alike.

The term “aroma” refers to the characteristic scent that essential oils contain and “therapy” referring to the healing modality; The ancient art of aromatherapy is based upon the principle that plant parts contain chemical constituents and a vital life force which impact our mind and body, assisting the body to heal itself in various ways.

Essential oils are pure, undiluted and very concentrated. With very few exceptions, essential oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil before applying to the skin and should only be taken internally when under the guidance and direction of a qualified health care practitioner. When used as directed, essential oils are non habit forming and non toxic.

Each essential oil contains different chemical components and hence each oil has different therapeutic properties. Essential oils can be used to enhance mental and physical wellbeing, alleviate some skin conditions, used as topical disinfectants, to repel bugs and insects, can assist the body in dealing with the effects of continued stress, aid sleeplessness, are antiseptic in nature and can help clear up stobborn warts, can help ease athletic injury, muscle cramping and minimise the effects of a cold, allergies or sinus congestion.

Essential oils are generally inhaled or absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream. When absorbed through the skin, essential oils can impact the function of internal organs, muscle tissue and support circulation. When inhaled, essential oils affect the olfactory and limbic systems in the brain which then has an effect on memory, learning capabilities, emotions and other intellectual processes.

Extraction Methods

Steam Distillation

Stream is the most common mode of extraction, used at a high pressure and passing through plant material it releases essential oils in to water vapor. The steam is then cooled back to water and the essential oils are then skimmed off the top surface of the water.

Expressed oils

Are created by pressing the oil directly out of the citrus fruit peel.

Solvent extraction

Chemical solvents are used to dissolve compounds out of delicate plant material to make absolutes. The chemical solvents are removed during the final stages of production, and are required when it is difficult to extract oil from the plant. This does not affect the quality of the oil, it simply means that the final product is more concentrated that other essential oils.

What are Carrier oils?

Also called base oils, these oils are used to dilute pure essential oils so they are safe for topical application on the skin. Grape seed oil, Almond oil, Avocado oil, Sesame oil, and Peach kernel oil are all excellent cold pressed, unscented base oils ideal for blending essential oils.

To purchase pure, undiluted essential oils click here.

This information is for education only and does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist