What are Essential Oils
What are essential oils? Essential oils are concentrated liquids that come from plants and fruits, and they’re often used in aromatherapy to create all kinds of soothing scents that can improve your mood and even help you relax.
Whether you’re looking to de-stress after a long day or cleanse your house of unwanted odors, essential oils have many uses, as long as you get the right one for the job.
General facts about essential oils
There are two types of essential oils: those that are steam distilled and those that come from cold pressing.
Steam-distilled oils take longer to produce, but they’re usually considered to be superior in quality. Cold-pressed oils use only physical pressure to extract plant material, which can damage a lot of useful compounds and reduce its effectiveness. (Some companies add chemicals or other ingredients to enhance their oil.)
A common misconception is that essential oils should smell strong—just because an oil has a strong scent doesn’t mean it has more health benefits than one with less fragrance.
Many aromatherapists warn against using essential oils with a strong scent since doing so could cause headaches and make some people feel nauseous.
The History of Essential Oils
Essential oils have been around for thousands of years, and our earliest ancestors used them in a variety of ways.
The ancient Egyptians bathed with essential oils and perfumed their bodies with these scents. Queen Nefertiti even used to perfume her breasts with an oil made from rose petals.
Essential oils also played an important role in religious ceremonies and rites, serving as incense or even being applied to cleanse and purify holy places.
Today, you can find essential oils just about anywhere – they’re used in aromatherapy, massage therapy, and even some modern medicines.
Although it may seem like we’ve come a long way since then, history shows that essential oils will continue to be very important for many generations to come!
How they are made
You may have heard of essential oils, but how are they made? All plants produce their essential oils, but only a select few are distilled to make concentrated versions.
The process usually involves filling a container with fresh or dried plant material and adding steam until it becomes a vapor.
Then, it is captured and transferred into another vessel where it is cooled off. Once cooled, water is added to create an infusion which can then be used in different ways (diffused through an essential oil diffuser or applied topically via an oil-based moisturizer).
If you are interested in using these types of products for your own health needs, consult with your doctor or another healthcare professional first.
There's still much research to be done when it comes to medical uses for essential oils.
Common types of essential oils
There are three types of essential oils—natural, organic, and synthetic. Natural essential oils are extracted from natural plant material using a variety of methods (this includes steam distillation, cold pressing, and enfleurage) while organic essential oils are extracted from plants using similar methods but with added guidelines to ensure that all parts of any given plant species (including the soil) have been carefully protected.
Synthetic essential oils, on the other hand, aren't extracted at all; they're created in a lab through various chemical reactions.
When to use them
Depending on your interest, essential oils can be used for relaxation, mood enhancement, support a healthy immune system, or simply to help improve breathing and circulation.
You can use them topically (applied directly to the skin) or internally (swallowed). Some of them may cause an allergic reaction when applied directly to the skin but others may be toxic if swallowed so it's important to consult a medical professional before trying any of these at home.
When in doubt about whether or not you should use essential oils for your health problem always consult a medical professional.
Chemistry of Essential Oils
Essential oils are comprised of organic compounds found in a variety of natural substances, including herbs, plants, and flowers.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years because they're so full of health benefits. Aromatic plants were used by ancient civilizations as part of their medicinal practices—as opposed to modern medical practices like vaccinations.
Essential oils (EOs) are naturally occurring volatile oils that give plants their distinct scents. Aromatherapy is one way to use essential oils but there’s more you can do with them.
Can I Use Them with Other Medications?
In a study published in Phytomedicine, researchers found that certain essential oils, when applied to their respective areas of skin and inhaled, could inhibit histamine release.
While some essential oils have been shown to have antihistamine properties, more research is needed before you can consider any of them safe and effective in conjunction with your other medications.
Check with your doctor first before using essential oils. The same goes for using them with children.
Always check for safety information with these products since they may not be safe or recommended for use with children younger than 6 months old and those younger than 2 years old unless otherwise directed by a medical professional.
How do they affect our health?
In short, essential oils affect our health in myriad ways. What's fascinating is that some of their benefits have been scientifically proven, while others are highly effective anecdotally.
For example, tea tree oil has been shown to help reduce skin inflammation and even acne (source), but it also is said to relieve pain in muscles and joints.
To truly know what essential oils can do for you, experiment with them! Put a drop on your wrist or neck when you feel tense or tired; place a few drops on your bathwater; inhale their scent from a diffuser or air freshener when you want to lift your mood or create a sense of calm.
How to use essential oils
The word essential in essential oils refers to something that is inherent to that substance and cannot be separated from it.
With most types of oil, such as olive or sesame, you can separate different elements. But an essential oil contains only one element—the very essence of what gives it its scent, flavor, color, and therapeutic properties.
To use essential oils safely, always use them undiluted in a carrier oil. If you’re using any kind of plant-based oil (e.g., almond or coconut), simply mix 5 drops with a teaspoon of your base oil; if you want to use a carrier oil made specifically for using essential oils (such as sweet almond or jojoba), then just follow manufacturer instructions on how much to add per drop.
How do they differ from other health products?
There are three primary things that different essential oils from other health products: First, they're natural, organic ingredients with a medicinal quality.
Second, they’re distilled from plants and flowers (rather than manufactured in a lab). Third, they have an inherent power when used properly.
Oftentimes, essential oils will be mixed with other ingredients to enhance their effects. With that said, there is some debate as to whether all of these products should be called essential oils.
There is a larger movement today pushing companies to use more natural ingredients derived from fruit and plants or herbs instead of distilling them.