The concentrated hydrophobic volatile liquid extracted from different parts of plants, like flowers, leaves, bark, roots, resin, and peels, are called essential oils. They are the volatile aromatic compounds of the plants which evaporate when exposed to the air. They contain constituents like Alcohols (Monoterpenols and Sesquiterpenols), Aldehydes, Coumarins, Ethers, Esters, Ketones, Lactones, Terpenes (Monoterpenes and Sesquiterpenes), Oxides, Phenols, and many more. They are super concentrated. For example, it takes about 3.5 kilos of fresh peppermint leaves to produce 15 ml of essential oil or 30 kilos of rose petals to produce 15 ml of essential oil.
Essential oils are extracted by steam distillation and expression, that is, cold-pressed. When petroleum or ethanol are used for extraction, technically, the end product is called an Absolute. Petroleum solvents are not recommended to be used as they are harmful to health. The supercritical CO2 extraction process is relatively new and natural, extracting oils without any solvent residue. The process is costly. The extraction process influences the purity of the products and the price. “Nature identical” oils are synthetic, available at a much lower cost, but only original natural plant essential oils will provide the health benefits. Oils can be adulterated in many ways, like stretching, reconstituting, or bouquetting. Original physical characteristics of the oils are ascertained by their relative density, refractive index, optical rotation, and flashpoints, whereas GC-MS is used for their components quality status.
In aromatherapy, when you inhale the fragrance of essential oil, the aroma molecules enter your cells via your lungs and exerts its physiological effects. Essential oil molecules are extremely low in weight hence are easily absorbed through your skin when applied topically. The fragrance also affects the limbic system in your brain via the olfactory nerves, which controls both memories and emotions. The receptors of the olfactory nerves are in the nasal cavity.
Each oil has its potential health benefits. The oils tend to work synergistically, and using a blend of oils creates a much more powerful effect. Some of the common ways to use essential oils are:
- Diffusing oils in ultrasonic oils diffusers
- Massaging them into your skin diluted with carrier oils. Functional absorption areas being around your throat, back of the neck, or your tummy.
- Cupping; that is dropping few oils on your palm and rubbing them briskly together and then inhaling.
- Adding them to bathwater in bathtubs
- Using them in a hot compress
- Internal use but only pure natural oils under the supervision of your health practitioner. Adulterated oils can cause harm.
Essential oils have many health benefits that are backed by science. Few of them are listed below.
- Modulating our immunity and assisting in suppressing infections.
- Digestion and GI tract care
- Boosting energy and improving mental health
- Hormone balancing
- Alleviating and managing pains
- Destressing and promoting deep, restful sleep
Essential oils have been around for quite some time. The earliest recorded mention of the techniques and methods used to produce essential oils is believed to be that of Ibn al-Baitar (1188–1248), an Al-Andalusian (Muslim Spain) physician, pharmacist, and chemist.
Safety: Keep out of reach of children. Do not use internally, unless directed by a health practitioner. If pregnant, nursing, or taking medication, consult a physician. Discontinue use if irritation occurs. Do not use undiluted on the skin, mucous membrane, or eyes. Natural essential oils are highly concentrated, hence should be used with care.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or prescribe in any way.