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December 14, 2006

What is an Essential Oil?

Filed under: General Aromatherapy Articles — Administrator @ 9:44 am

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As you study and learn more about Aromatherapy you will quickly find out what an Essential Oil is.

And to get the quality and purity you need to use in Therapeutic aromatherapy there are certain things you should be looking for too.

To start with an Essential Oil comes from a living PLANT. Not an animal, not the earth or out of the air, or from a the petroleum industry.

Essential Oils are always distilled or cold pressed from various plant parts.

Plants can be trees, shrubs, grasses, and bushes. The parts distilled might be the flower, the seeds, the peels, the Bark, the twigs, branches and trunks (including the resins they produce), the leaves and the roots.

Some oils are extracted by solvents or carbon dioxide. Technically they aren’t called Essential Oils if extracted using those methods – they are concretes and absolutes.

Essential Oils are the subtle, volatile liquids extracted by steam distillation and cold pressed (peels of citrus fruit). They are the essences of life of the plant. They are unique to each plant variety. Rosemary smells different than roses and oranges smell different too. The Essential Oil is the so called fingerprint of each plant!

Volatile means to evaporate rather quickly into the air from a liquid state to a gaseous state.

Things to look for in Therapeutic Essential Oils.

The label should state the following information:

  • Common name of Essential Oil may also include a chemo type i.e. Thyme – ct Linalool.
  • Botanical name of plant the Essential Oil is extracted from i.e. Thymus vulgaris.
  • The Part of the Plant extracted from. i.e. the leaves

Other helpful information but not crucial is the country of origin.
The method of extracted is nice to know and most companies will have this too.

Another factor is to find out if they have the oils tested for Purity?
The most common tests run on Essential Oils are Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry. These are the basic tests. They tell us the chemical constituents and if there is contamination in any form.

Whether an Essential Oil is Organic, wild crafted or cultivated doesn’t assure the Therapeutic Quality of an oil. Only testing to be sure it is not adulterated with pesticides, insecticides or other man-made chemicals is what’s important.

The testing will tell us that and if the biological markers for a particular oil are in alignment with those chemical constituents that it should have. Of course, unless you are a chemist or know what you are looking for, the tests typically won’t mean much to the average person using Essential Oils.

Today we see a lot of advertised products stating they are Aromatherapy – this or that (could be a lotion or more than likely a scented Candle). But just because a product says it is ‘aromatherapy’, doesn’t mean it is Therapeutic Aromatherapy. If by chance it only has a few drops of pure Essential Oils but the rest of the product is made of ‘fragrance’ oils then it is more detrimental to your health than anything.

Fragrance oils are man-made using different chemicals made to smell like things in nature or our food supply. As an example, there are no Essential Oils that when blended together will make the smell of Strawberry shortcake or blueberry muffins or pumpkin pie.

If there was – it would be sold by Aromatherapists around the world. But you won’t find those products sold on any TRUE aromatherapy site unless they are selling FRAGRANCE OILS! If they do not specifically state that their are fragrance oils in a product along with Essential Oils, you should not buy the product.

And if they state that the scent of a Blueberry muffin will help you with some health problem – I suggest you leave the site or store!!

Fragrance oils are typically petroleum based products with chemically altered scents added to them. This may sound extreme but you might as well go smell out of your automobiles gas tank as gasoline is a petroleum based product too! Essential Oils are too expensive to put in your gas tank to make it smell good

Now, don’t get me wrong, occasionally you will find a fragrance oil product that has some Essential Oil in it. You will even find Fragrance oils called ‘Lavender’, ‘Rose’, and ‘Vanilla’. But a good way to figure if you are getting a fragrance oil or a Pure Essential Oil is to look through the items for sale. If all the bottles are the same size and they are all priced for exactly the same price – well, they are all fragrance oils.

Pure Essential Oils will vary in price. Rose, Jasmine, Melissa being some of the most expensive Essential Oils available. They cost several dollars for just a few drops. And Orange and other citrus oils are very inexpensive so large amounts will be just a fraction of the cost. J

So, if the name is a food or baked good, or some other goody name, it probably is a fragrance oil. And although they smell good, they are made with unnatural substances that can be hard for the body to deal with. Some may be more dangerous than you could ever imagine. Eventually many people will develop some type of a sensitivity to fragrance oils. We hear it all the time. And although a sensitivity can develop at any time in ones life, natural substances are less likely to cause any kind of problem.

So, once again, Therapeutic Quality Essential Oils are the volatile essences produced by a living plant that are extracted by distillation or pressing. They possess anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. They affect you at the cellular level to help your body to be chemically balanced, emotionally and physically.

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