Essential Oil Basics

Here are the essential oil basics…

What are essential oils
Also known as volatile oils, essential oils are hydrophobic
liquid concentrates extracted from plants from which they borrow their
fragrance. They have been used for centuries for cosmetics, spiritual and
emotional purposes. Clove, lavender and eucalyptus are some of the more common
essential oils available in the market.

Essential oils have very many uses. From cleaning to
relaxation, beauty care to home remedies, different essential oils serve
diverse purposes around the house. 
Lemon, peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree oils have great disinfectant
properties. They therefore are very good for cleaning items and surfaces in the
house. Their characteristic sweet fragrances leave the house smelling fresh,
and some like the clove oil even help to rid the house off common pests.

Lavender, cedar wood and chamomile have great relaxation
properties and are often used in spas as massage oils.  The oils have also been used in the beauty
industry as deodorants, teeth whiteners, shampoos as well as skin oils to
reduce wrinkles, stretch marks and treat dandruff.
Essential oils have also earned their spot in the natural
medicine and home remedies category. Some oils have been known to heal burns,
treat bruises, curb cravings and reduce morning sickness.

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How are they made?
Essential oils are made through distillation, solvent
extraction and expression. In distillation, steam is passed through the plant’s
bark, peel, leaves or flowers so as to vaporize the volatile compounds. Once
the vapors condense back into a liquid, they are collected in a bottle. The
expression method is older than distillation. It involves the pressing of the
plant to release the oils. Olive, lemon and orange oils are made using this
method. When the plant’s volatile oil content are too low, solvent extraction
method is used. Like the name suggests, a solvent is used to extract the oil
from the plant.
What are hydrosols?
The recondensed liquid once the steam has vaporized the
volatile compounds from the plant during the distillation method of extracting
the oil is known as hydrosol. While some have unpleasant smells, others are
sold fragrant products. Popular hydrosols in the market are lavender, lemon and
rose water.
What is an absolute?
When oils are extracted from the plant through the solvent
extraction method, the highly concentrated extract is known as an absolute.
This method is especially popular in flowers because of their delicate nature
which makes it hard for them to withstand the high temperatures associated with
the steam distillation method.

What is an extract?
An extract is oil that has been expressed from a rind
through cold pressing.  This method is
specific to citrus essential oils and was done by hand in the olden days. The
modern method of expressing is referred to as the ecuelle a piquer process and involves prodding action,
pricking and sticking. Once the juices from the rind are collected, centrifugal
force is used to separate the water from the oil. The oil is the extract.
Extracts are more stable than distilled essential oils and do not deteriorate
as fast. They are also better for aromatherapy.

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