What are Essential Oils?
|Essential oils are highly concentrated plant essences - extracted from a single botanical source - that can be found in a variety of aromatic plants around the world. Not all plants contain essential oils.
Essential oils are used in aromatherapy - the practice of using essential oils to promote emotional and physical well-being. Each essential oil has its own unique aromatic character and therapeutic properties.
As ‘products’ of Nature, essential oils are highly chemically-complex substances containing different naturally-occurring chemical constituents. It is the combination of these different constituents - such as esters, ketones - that creates an essential oil’s unique therapeutic properties and aroma.
Esters, for example, can be found in many essential oils. Esters are well-known for their deeply relaxing and soothing properties.
Despite their name, essential oils are in fact not oily. They are however volatile - they easily evaporate.
Where do essential oils come from?
Essential oils can be extracted from flowers, fruits, leaves, wood, barks, roots and rhizomes.
Plants can store essential oils in many different parts of their structure - including within flower petals, in glands on leaves’ surfaces, in trees' resin, in oil sacs within a leaf and in the rind of fruit.
Rose essential oil, for example, can be found within roses’ flower petals. It is what gives roses their exquisite aroma. ‘Rosa damascena’ and ‘Rosa centifolia’ are the two main species of rose used for essential oil production.
How are essential oils extracted from plants?
The most common method for extracting essential oils is by steam distillation.
Essential oils from soft citrus fruits like grapefruit and lemon are extracted by a process known as ‘expression’ - the fruit’s peel is pressed to release the essential oil that is held in the tiny oil glands found in the outer rind of the fruit.