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What are Essential oils?

Updated: Jan 16, 2022


Essential oils are fragrant plant-based volatile fluids extracted from steam distillation, Co2, and other forms from a single botanical species. These oils are named after the plant from which they are obtained such as lavender, rose, etc. These aromatic oils can be characterized as "essential" as it represents the essence of plants' odor and flavor.



For millennia essential oils were produced by crushing or grinding the plant, rupturing its cell wall, which then produces your oil. Enfleurage (cold fat) and Maceration (hot fat) are the first forms of isolating the oils from the plant.


These techniques can still be used today and you can make your own essential oils at home.

The Arabs were the first to discover the process of isolating ethyl alcohol from fermented sugar, which created the solvent for the extraction of essential oils. Interestingly, essential oils that are produced in the tropics, with loads of sun, are found to be most odoriferous.


We smell the essence of the plants as we pass by because the microdroplets in the glands of the plant diffuse through the glands, spreading to the surface and before evaporating producing a perfume odor, filling the air.


Younger plants produce more oil while older plants are richer in order as the plant over time evaporates the lighter fraction of the oil leaving a resinous dark oil.



These fragrant substances are pure and will become unstable if you don't properly store them and care for them. They are made mainly from compounds such as aldehydes, fatty acids, phenols, ketones, esters, alcohols, nitrogen, and sulfur.


Essential oils compounds are derived from the bark, leaves, herbs, and rinds of particular aromatic plants. These plant extracts are mainly used commercially in cosmetics, perfumes, detergents, food, drink, soaps, cleaning, and as preservatives.


Do not mistake, essential oil is not just used for scenting but be used as a complementary therapy with precautions. Studies have shown essential oils can Boost mood:


  • May Improve job performance through reduced stress and increased attentiveness

  • May improve sleep

  • May kill bacteria, funguses, and viruses

  • May Reduce anxiety and pain

  • May Reduce inflammation

  • May Reduce nausea

  • May Relieve headaches.



However, not every plant makes essential oil. These fundamental oils provide a specific aroma and make them smell nice.


The plants and flowers use their fragrance to assist with preventing hunters like bugs or herbivores. These oils likewise assume an essential part in the reproductive cycles of plants and are helpful during plant fertilization, by producing the scent for attraction, so insects can then use their buds, and pollinate.


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References:

  • Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia. "essential oil". Encyclopedia Britannica, 15 May. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/topic/essential-oil. Accessed 7 January 2022.

  • https://health.clevelandclinic.org/essential-oils-101-do-they-work-how-do-you-use-them/

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