What Are Essential Oils? An Overview of Essential Oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids that contain volatile aroma compounds from specific plants. Contrary to being called "oils", they are not oily feeling at all. The majority of them are clear, but there are some that are amber or yellow in color. The color would vary on what type of plant the oil was made from.
These oils are made by extracting them from a particular plant species. They can be extracted from many different parts of the plant, such as the flower, seeds, stems, bark, leaves, roots, and wood of the plant. There are several different methods of extraction, the most common being steam distillation. Some other methods are carbon dioxide extraction, pressing, and solvent extraction.
Essential oils are sold either as a pure oil, oil made from only one kind of plant, or as a blend of several different oils. Buying the blended oils saves you from having to buy each one separately and then mixing them yourself. Buying all of the oils individually can be quite pricey, so buying blends can save you money as well as time.
However, the disadvantage is that you have no control over the blend ratios and which oils are used in the blend. Also, by not blending them yourself, the blend can not be reliably mixed with other oils if you do not know what oils were used. Some oils can not be mixed with each other, so it's a good idea to know which ones can and can not be combined before mixing.
Essential oils should not be confused with perfume or fragrance oils. Essential oils are extracted directly from real plants. That means the oil contains the true essence of the plant, including any therapeutic values the plant it was derived from has.
Perfume and fragrance oils are made from artificial aromas or fragrances, or they are made with artificial substances in addition to any natural compounds. Therefore, they are not derived from the plants themselves, nor do they have any therapeutic benefits. These are generally used just to give something a special scent, such as in soap making or perfumes.
The chemical composition of essential oils and their aromas allows them to have physical and even psychological benefits on people. The most common ways to obtain these benefits are by inhaling the oil and applying it directly to the skin. The easiest way to inhale it is by using a diffuser. When applying it directly to the skin, it's generally diluted as the full concentrate oil can cause irritation to the skin.
Essential oils, either in pure form or blended, can have significant therapeutic benefits on people. There are many different uses for them, depending on the specific benefits of the particular oil. With over 300 different essentials, there is sure to be something for everyone.