The Essentials of Essential Oils

Essential Oils

*Please consult your doctor before adding any essential oils into your lifestyle (including but not limited to inhaling, ingesting, and using topically), as adverse reactions may occur. This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such.

We have written about essential oils before, but we have gotten some questions and requests for more clarity. So I present to you: The Essentials of Essential Oils*

Business have been built and billions of dollars have been earned due to the frequently touted benefits of essential oils. A quick google search for “essential oils” returns 2,400,000,000 results in less than a second, with many of the first page results being stores or businesses offering them for purchase. 

But what are essential oils? How are essential oils made? What is in essential oils? Are essential oils safe? Keep reading to find out!

What are essential oils? 

Simply put, essential oils are compounds extracted from plants. 

These compounds are produced by plants for practical purposes, including attracting pollinators, and protecting the plant by repelling predators and competitive species. Some essential oils, such as lemongrass, are thought to ward off pests and have components that suppress the growth of bacteria.

How are essential oils made? 

Essential oils are made by distilling or pressing the portion of the plant containing the desired compound. During steam distillation, the raw plant is steamed. This causes the plants to release the desired compounds and, in vapor form, they are carried with the steam to a cooling system where they return to liquid form, and the essential oil is separated from the water. While steam distillation is currently the most popular way to obtain essential oils, it does involve high heat which means that certain plants are not candidates to have their compounds extracted via steam distillation. 

Essential oils that are unable to be extracted from steam distillation, such as citrus oils, are extracted by expression or cold pressing. Instead of heat, this method uses needles and pressure to extract oils. 

The amount of plant matter required to make essential oils depends on the plant itself. For example, a pound of lavender essential oil requires about 250 pounds of raw lavender plant matter, while lemon essential oil requires around 1,500 lemons.

It is important to note that, in order to be a true essential oil, it cannot be made through a chemical process. Some plants are unable to withstand the steam distillation or cold pressing process, and alternative methods are used. These alternative methods often involve the use of chemicals, meaning they are not true essential oils. 

What is in essential oils? 

Unfortunately, as of right now, there is no government agency that provides oversight of essential oils. However, when shopping for essential oils, there are several steps you can take to ensure you are getting quality essential oils. First, look at the container the oil is in. Pure essential oils should be kept in dark glass bottles to protect the quality and integrity of the essential oil. Secondly, when buying essential oils, make sure to look at the following information on the label: the name, the purity, and the oil extraction method. Pure essential oils are typically labeled with the botanical or Latin name of the plant, have a clearly stated purity, and are acquired by either distillation or cold pressing. . 

Also, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. While different essential oils have different price points, if you find what seems to be an amazing deal on an essential oil that is typically very pricey, make sure it is from a reputable, reliable source and double check the purity as it may not be pure.

Why do people use essential oils? 

People use essential oils for many reasons. They are natural, and their scents and properties are believed to have benefits. They are often used in aromatherapy, carefully applied to the skin, and select essential oils, such as peppermint, are believed to have a positive impact when ingested. . 

Aromatherapy is the primary use of essential oils. Different essential oils are used to achieve different goals. For example, smelling lavender essential oil can help reduce anxiety and improve your quality of sleep, while you can find relief in the decongesting power of smelling eucalyptus essential oil.

Some studies indicate that many essential oils have antimicrobial and/or anti fungal properties as well, making them ideal for all-natural skincare and acne reducers. 

Are essential oils safe?

Some people believe that, because they are pure and all-natural, essential oils are safe to use in any way. However, that is not necessarily the case. When used improperly, essential oils can cause reactions including irritation, rashes, and phototoxicity, and can even be fatal. .  It is important to only use essential oils for their intended use, in the proper way, and at the proper level. For example, wintergreen. While wintergreen essential oil is used topically to relieve pain, ingesting it can be fatal.  The best way to be safe is to ask a professional before introducing any essential oils into your lifestyle, or to your family. Animals and children are particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of essential oils, so don’t forget to ask the pediatrician and veterinarian too!  While most people can apply tea tree essential oil to their skin with no problems or irritation, it can be toxic when ingested by or topically applied to a pet.


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