What is an essential oil? An essential oil is derived from a plant, flower, or tree through a process that extracts the essence. Essential oils have been dated back to the Egyptians 4500BC. It is the chemistry of the plant that gives its valued properties, much like our genetic code.
Chemistry 101: Everything you wanted to know. Each oil is made up of atoms like all living things. There is certain combination of atoms that give the oil its healing properties and they consist of: monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes (offer potent health benefits such as cleansing properties and the ability to support health), diterpenes, alcohol (cleaning properties), phenols (supports health and antioxidant), aldehydes key contributor to an essential oil’s overall fragrance profile), ketones (support health), Esters (calming and relaxing plus support health), oxides (promotes feelings of clear breathing).
“The chemical profile of essential oils is very complex containing up to hundreds of individual constituents. Many studies have been conducted examining both the synergistic action of the whole oil as well as the individual action of isolated constituents. These studies have verified that there is increased benefit and safety from using the whole oil, rather than just an individual constituent. In other words, oils are best used in their whole form—with the exact composition designed by nature —nothing added, removed, or isolated” (doTerra, online).
What parts of the plant is used?
In the most common oils such as lavender, tea tree, patchouli, and peppermint are distilled, and the plant’s raw material is used. The raw material is basically the whole plant: flower, leaves, wood, bark, roots, seeds, or peel. I will give you a few examples for the variety of what part is used. Oils that come from just the leaves would be: bay, lemon myrtle, violet, geranium, cinnamon and eucalyptus. Oils from flower and leaves: basil, rosemary. sage, peppermint, oregano, lavender, and lemon balm. Oils that are derived from flowers, petal and buds: clove, ylang-ylang, jasmine, chamomile and Rose. Rosewood and sandalwood both come from the wood itself and are endangered. The tree bark is used for cinnamon bark oil and cassia. The oil from spruce, scotch pine, cypress, and fir come from the needles. Then you have the grass oils: citronella, lemongrass, and palmarosa. Resin oils are gum or balsam which would be frankincense and myrrh. Berries or fruit oils are allspice, black pepper and juniper berry. The rinds are used for oils like bergamot, orange, lemon, grapefruit and lime. The roots are used for oils like angelica, ginger, and vetiver. Oils from the seeds would be: anise, carrot, coffee bean, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, and parsley. I hope this gives you a better understanding about oils and this was just a very small sample.
What processes are used to obtain the oil?
The processing could be steam distilled or cold pressed. Steam distillation is a process where heat and vapor are used to separate sensitive compounds like aromatics. Distilled water is used because it has no minerals and cannot add anything to the testing being conducted. Cold pressed describes a process in which a steel press is used to extracted oil leaving in the flavor, aroma, and nutritional value. Essential oils are very concentrated. For example, it would take 3000 lemons to produce 15 ml of oil. You are getting the benefits from 3000 lemon in a very few drops. It would take 3 pounds of lavender to make 15 ml. Another example is rose oil. The distillation of 242,000 rose petals only produces 5 ml of oil. The therapeutic value is magnified and would need to be diluted.
Which brings me to the next step: how much and for what reason.
Adults and children have different dilution rates. Adults should be 2% and children 1% of a carrier. The carrier can be oil, lotion, soap, or water. I have used essential oil blends for a variety of conditions such as mosquito bites, bugs around house, cleaning house, getting rid of odors, sleeping difficulties, leg cramps, headaches, and sunburn.
Is there a difference between therapeutic or 100% pure?
No government office has credited an oil as being therapeutic. Companies like doTerra have their own certified pure therapeutic grade (CPTG) testing process. According to doTerra, they certify that there are no added fillers, synthetic ingredients, or harmful contaminants that would reduce efficacy. I personally wanted to know that the oils I use have the properties that the plant has been tested for and has no interference or harmful effects. Certified organic is the way the plant was raised without pesticides.
I hope this covers any questions you may have had about essential oils.
To Your Health,