Let’s talk about essential oils and aromatherapy… and how it may help you in your daily life: physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.
What are essential oils?
All plants have aromatic essences. Or what we refer to as essential oils. During photosynthesis the plants create these aromatic oils. We find them, and extract them, from flowers, leaves, stems, roots or fruits depending on the plant.
The essential oils adapt within the plants to it’s environment. The essential oils are very much the spirit or the life-force of the plant (see below for more on this). The oils are there to attract pollinators, or protect against insects or other animals, to prevent other plants to grow to close to them (for their own survival) and for their own metabolism and catabolism.
Why do we call them essential oils?
It is thought to be a shortened form of the original “quintessential oil.” Quintessence was said to be the fifth element according to the Aristotelian elemental philosophy of Earth, Water, Fire and Air. The Quintessence would be the fifth and considered Spirit or Life force. Where as in Ayurveda the lightest element is the element of Space/Akash.
The essential oils are volatile and sometimes referred to by that name. This means they dissipate from liquid to vapour easily. Almond oil, sesame, sunflower and other vegetable oils are fixed oils, heavier and doesn’t evaporate the same way.
How are they made?
Essential oil are usually extracted by steam distillation. Certain oils are also extracted by enfleurage or solvent method this called an “absolute” and is not a strict essential oil. Interesting this is often done to very fragrant flowers such as jasmine and rose. Absolutes are used the same way as essential oils but the plant material (e.g. the petals) has been immersed in a solvent perhaps a fixed oil and the “essential oil” has later been extracted from the solvent.
When you purchase an essential oil you get the extracted or distilled essence. Nothing else should have been added to it. Simply the pure essential oil from the steam distillation. However, some companies may dilute it. Or mix cheaper essential oils to a more expensive oil. And there are differences in the plants’ quality and the distillation process determining the quality of the finished oil.
Where do I purchase pure essential oils?
Look for highly recommended brands/producers. I prefer organic or wild grown (the original organic!) such as Neal’s Yard Remedies or Oshadi. Get a list from the Aromatherapy Trade Council (ATC) with approved companies. You can always ask for a gas chromatography from the company if you understand the science.
(As an aside, there is no independent body (such as ATC or Soil Association) approving so-called therapeutic grade oils – this is one company’s own standard for their own products only.)
How do they work and how can I use them?
This I will share with you very soon… But just try to smell a few different ones. How do they make you feel? If you use them in a massage oil or bath oil… what effect to they have on your emotions, your mood, mind and body? Just start to explore.
And before mixing your own please have a read here.