What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils may well be the ultimate gift from nature. Made from the
aromatic essences of plants, they have a remarkable ability to affect a
person's well-being and improve the environment around them.
An essential oil is a liquid that
is generally distilled (most frequently by steam or water) from
the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a
plant. Essential oils, contrary to the use of the word "oil"
are not really oily-feeling at all. Most essential oils are clear,
but some oils such as patchouli, orange and lemongrass are amber
or yellow in color.
Essential oils contain the true essence of the
plant it was derived from. Essential oils are highly concentrated
and a little goes a long way.
Essential oils are not the same as perfume
or fragrance oils. Where essential oils are derived from the
true plants, perfume oils are artificially created fragrances or
contain artificial substances and do not offer the therapeutic benefits
that essential oils offer.
The chemical composition and aroma of essential
oils can provide valuable psychological and physical therapeutic
benefits. These benefits are usually achieved through methods including
inhalation and application of the diluted oil to the skin.
Essential oils are often used by diluting them
with a carrier oil (sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grapeseed
oil) and then applying this blend to the skin for absorption.
Careful inhalation of the oils can also provide
therapeutic benefit as the oil molecules enter the lungs and are
absorbed into the bloodstream.
Essential Oils are usually sold for individual
use in very small bottles.
Essential oils can very greatly in quality and
price. Various factors that can affect the quality and price of
the oil include the rarity of the plant, country and conditions
that the plant was grown, quality standards of the distiller, and
how much oil is produced by the plant.
Essential oils can often be purchased as blends
and mixes of several essential oils. The advantage if it is a blend of pure
essential oils is that you can save from having to buy every essential
oil individually. The disadvantage is that you have no control over
the blend by not mixing it yourself nor can you reliably mix the
blend with other oils.
For inspiration on how to get started with essential oils, visit our 'Do It Yourself Recipes' section.