The Basics of Essential Oils

And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

-Revelation 22:2

Essential oils are the unique, aromatic compounds that are produced through the extraction process of plants.  Natural extracts come from the leaves, stems, roots, barks, flowers, fruits, and seeds of plants. How do essential oils really work? What we perceive as the simple fragrances of plants, are actually the aromatic compounds which provide plants with protective, reproductive, and regenerative properties.  People can also benefit from the chemical constituents of essential oils through aromatic, topical, and internal applications.

The Importance of Quality: The quality of an essential oil is directly affected by the geographic location of the plant, the time of year the plant was harvested, and the method and quality of the extraction process. Pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils reflect the same properties of the plants from which they are derived and humans can benefit from the same protective, regenerating, and immune-strengthening properties. Therefore, it is important you only use pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils as they will exhibit the chemical constituents of the original plant, maintaining the integrity of the desired plant properties.

A Brief History: Essential oils have been used for centuries by many cultures around the world for a variety of applications.  Did you know that essential oils are referenced in both ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts? Additionally, essential oils have religious connections as they are mentioned throughout the Bible. If you are interested in learning more about the essential oils mentioned in the Bible, check out this list with specific bible verses!

Extraction Methods: There are two main methods through which essential oils can be extracted.  The amount of each plant required to produce a specific quantity of pure therapeutic-grade essential oils varies, which accounts for the range of prices for essential oils.

  • The primary method for the essential oil extraction process is steam distillation. Through this method, the plant material is placed in an extraction chamber and the chamber is then infused with steam.  The vaporized water and essential oil will exit the extraction chamber through a cooling system which separates the water (condensed from the steam) and the extracted essential oil. Steam distillation accounts for over 90% of essential oil extraction. This method is effective as essential oils are volatile and hydrophobic. Essentially, this means essential oils are easily evaporated and they repel water.
  • The other method, cold expression (or cold pressing), is utilized to extract essential oils from citrus peels and rinds. Citrus essential oils include Lemon, Wild Orange, Lime, Bergamot, Grapefruit, and Tangerine!

Okay, okay…I will wrap up my little science lesson. I believe it is critical you have an essential oil foundation before you begin using essential oils.  Gaining some basic knowledge will be immensely beneficial as you begin incorporating your new “oily” friends into your life. However, if you do want to geek out on the science of it all, I highly recommend investing in this bookModern Essentials dives into the nitty gritty details of the chemical constituents and how they work with the human body.

I know you are probably getting excited to learn about the many essential oils available and how they can enhance your life! Trust me, our exploration process will begin soon! But first, I want to make sure we really enhance our knowledge about holistic health and personal empowerment before we jump into playing with the oils.

What are some unique facts you know about essential oils? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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