Essential oils have been in continuous use for thousands of years. From ancient cultures and times, the aesthetic and medicinal properties of various plants and plant oils have been widely utilized from religious settings to medicine, and from cooking to perfume. Consider myrrh. In ancient times myrrh was a sought after and costly commodity for its aromatic and antimicrobial properties. Today myrrh is still widely used for it antimicrobial, cleansing, and soothing properties. Myrrh is often used in mouthwash and is even being looked at by researchers for it’s role in supporting healthy cellular activity and reproduction.
While the “idea” of essential oils may be new to many people, the presence and effect of essential oils are a common experience of everyday life for medicinal purposes. Think about how this morning’s cup of coffee tasted. The essential oils from the coffee bean influenced the taste. The essential oils in oregano, dill, and basil help to flavor our favorite dishes. Lemon cleans. Lavender relaxes. Wintergreen not only freshens breath, but as a strong anti-inflammatory agent, it may also promote oral health.
Today, as more consumers and practitioners seek healthy alternatives in terms of food, medicinal care, home care, and general wellness, essential oils are rapidly increasing in popularity as natural alternative to man-made “chemical constituent” products . While some plant oils are more powerful than others and can be dangerous if not used appropriately, the overwhelming effect of regular appropriate essential oil use is the improvement of health and well-being.
What is an Essential oil?
Essential oils are naturally occurring oils in plants or, just plain plant oils if you will. Next time you enjoy the scent of a flower or a Christmas tree, you are experiencing the aromatics of the plant’s essential oils. Essential oils are typically composed of numerous compounds which can be sourced from any part of the plant but are typically extracted or distilled from the flowers, stems, roots, seeds, bark, resins, or fruit. The oils themselves provide protection to the plant and play a role in plant reproduction. Essential oil use is growing for a wide range of emotional and physical wellness applications. They can be used singularly or as compound blends depending on user experience and desired benefit.
How are Essential Oils Obtained?
The most common method of extracting essential oils is a low-heat steam distillation process. In this process, pressurized steam is circulated through plant material. The essential oils are liberated from the plant and carried away by the steam. When the steam cools, the water and oils naturally separate and the oil is collected. To ensure the highest quality oil extract with the correct chemical composition, the temperature and pressure must be closely monitored. Too little heat or pressure and the oil will not release; too much, and the oil’s composition and potency will be affected.
Unlike steam distillation, expression, sometimes referred to as “cold pressed,” does not involve heat. In this process, oil is extracted from the product under mechanical pressure. Expression is often used to extract citrus oils, such as wild orange, lemon, lime, bergamot, and grapefruit, from the rind.
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