WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL
oils are pure, natural, volatile, aromatic substances
created by specialized secretory cells in plants and
extracted by distillation with water or steam, cold
expression, or dry distillation.
While still in the plant these substances are
known as essences.
Once they are distilled they are called essential
highly concentrated substances may be extracted from
flowers, grasses, leaves, bark, fruit, wood, resin,
roots, rind and/or seeds.
These plant juices make up the intrinsic,
fundamental nature of the plant itself.
Plant essences (the substance within the plant)
are chemically complex structures created by energy
obtained from sunlight combined with the chemical
elements found in the air, soil and water surrounding
the growing area.
When these essences are extracted from the plant,
it is this complexity that allows the oils to be
effective, generally safe, and extremely versatile.
is the foundation of aromatherapy.
Each essential oil is made up of a wide array of
chemical constituents that affect the physical, mental,
emotional and spiritual states of a being.
Each inhalation of an essential oil creates an
electro-chemical response impacting the brain and other
portions of the nervous system, simultaneously small
components of the essential oil enter your lungs.
From there these constituents are delivered
throughout the body via the bloodstream.
When essential oils are applied to the skin, the
minute molecules enter the circulatory systems and are
distributed throughout the body.
A bath with essential oils can be quite an
effective delivery method - studies have shown that
penetration of the dermis (skin) is increased 100-fold
if essential oils are added to a bath - plus there is
the added benefit of the relaxation of the bath itself.
In the true sense, essential oils are either distilled
or expressed (Arctander 1960).
The most common ways of distillation can be completed
via water, water and steam or steam alone.
Distillation involves using a still to heat the
plant material to a temperature high enough to produce a
vapor then cooling that vapor to cause condensation into
a liquid form.
distillation - plant material is covered by water
and slowly brought to a boil
distillation - plant material is mixed with water
and subjected to steam
plant material placed on grid and
pressurized steam blown through it
- the water used in an initial distillation is added
back to the still with the plant
matter for re-distillation, used to recover water
soluble components lost in the first run - used
to make Rose otto
distillation - usual distillation with interruptions
at various stages to collect only
the portion that has been produced to that point in the
process - Ylang ylang essential oil is
produced by this process - can be stopped and restarted
up to 4 times with the first fraction
being Ylang ylang Extra, and the following fractions
referred to as Ylang 1, 2 and 3
- plant material distilled, without water or steam, in a
- citrus peels are scraped then the essence is collected
by centrifugal separation
There are other methods of extraction that
produce products often incorrectly referred to as
These are created by the use of solvents and
applied to plants whose aromatic substance would be
degraded by usual distillation.
- this involves a three step process:
1) solvents are used to extract the essential oil
of delicate flower petals, thus creating a concrete (a
mixture of about 50% essential oil and 50%
plant wax); 2) ethanol is then used to dissolve the wax;
3) the resulting mixture is
filtered and the alcohol removed by distillation in a
Hypercritical Carbon Dioxide
- an excellent solvent that can extract essential oils
quickly at a low temperature without any chemical
reaction creating a pure plant extract.
disadvantage of this is some of the chemical changes
created by steam extraction do not occur
and the end product is not the same as the ones that
have been researched and used in
As more research and trials are conducted, this
may become an accepted part
Essential oils are highly concentrated.
The amount of essential oil extracted from an
aromatic plant can range dramatically depending on
variables such as:
weather conditions, soil, altitude, time of
harvest, temperature, pressure and length of
The percentage of yield from various plants range
from 2% for Rosemary to .05% Lavender to .006% of Rose.
That translates to approximately:
Eucalyptus - 25 lbs plant matter to make 1 lb essential
Rosemary - 50 lbs plant matter to make 1 lb oil
Lavender -200 lbs. plant matter to make 1 lb oil
Rose - over 16,000 lbs of petals to make 1 lb oil
PURCHASING ESSENTIAL OILS - What
to Look For
~Every bottle of essential oil should
have the common name such as Lavender; the botanical
angustifolia; and the country of origin,
There are numerous varieties of Lavender, so it
is important to know which one you want and what you are
getting-the botanical name will tell you that.
The country of origin is there because the
location where a plant grows can alter the chemical
make-up and the odor quality.
~Essential oils are sensitive to
light and should be bottled in amber (brown), cobalt
blue, violet (almost black) or green bottles to protect
buy oils sold in clear bottles.
~Each bottle (from 2ml through 30ml)
of essential oil should have an orifice reducer, a small
plastic disk that limits the amount of oil dripped out
of the bottle.
This has a two fold purpose:
in case of an accident it limits the amount of
oils emitted and it also allows you to count the number
of drops when creating a formula.
Never buy essential oils in bottles with a rubber
squeeze top (like an eye dropper).
Many essential oils cause this rubbery top to
disintegrate and contaminate the essential oil.
~Buy your oils from a reputable
dealer with whom you can build a relationship.
Whether using essential oils for the scent alone
or for their healing potential, it is important to
employ the highest therapeutic quality oils.
Therapeutic quality means the essential oil's
chemical constituents fall within certain percentages
and will therefore be effective in addressing specific
is also indicates there are no artificial substances or
additives in the product.
Since there is no formal regulation (in the US), anyone can make these claims,
so what is a person to do?
I encourage you to communicate with the provider,
ask questions and get a feel for their knowledge.
You have a right to get what you are seeking.
STORING ESSENTIAL OILS
~Keep your essential oils in a cool,
dry, dark place away from light and heat - closets or
drawers are great.
Do not store them in the bathroom or near a heat
~Keep the lid tight.
Essential oils will evaporate and/or oxidize when
exposed to air.
~Essential oils are flammable.
Do not use them near an open flame.
COST OF ESSENTIAL OILS
The cost of essential oils can vary greatly depending
how much essence a particular plant produces
how easily the essence is to extract
how plentiful the plant is