Posted on August 30, 2015
To say that my interest in essential oils has been tweaked, would be putting it mildly. Although I’ve known about essential oils for a long time, it wasn’t until a friend of mine hosted a talk on essential oils a while back, that I began to realise that there was so much more to these oils than I had ever imagined.
What I heard and what I have learned since that evening, has changed my thinking of these incredible oils for life.
Up until then, I used essential oils sporadically for fragrance, potpourri, and air fresheners or burners (mostly vanilla, lavender and geranium oils). I had also used Tea Tree Oil mixed with a carrier oil for various skin issues.
As I sat listening to the talk, I was so amazed to hear not only of the calming effects of the fragrances of essential oils, but also of the myriad of healing properties they contain as well as other properties such as those oils that are useful bug repellents. True to my nature, I had to research some more and, of course, try out some of the oils for myself and for my family.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential Oils are natural oils usually extracted from plants by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which they are extracted.
In distillation, steam is used to rupture the oil membranes in the plant and release the essential oil.
The steam carries the essential oil to a condenser and then as it re-liquefies the lighter essential oil floats on top. The water and oil are then separated. The water portion is referred to as either the hydrosol, the hydrolat, the flower water or the floral water. The oil portion, of course, is the essential oil.
Enfleurage is one of the oldest methods of extracting essential oils but is rarely used these days because of its high cost. It involves spreading a thin layer of fat called “chassis” on a layer of glass and then placing the flower petals on top of this. The oil from the petals diffuses into the fat. The fat is then collected and the oil is extracted from the fat using alcohol. Once the alcohol evaporates what is left behind is called the absolute. This is a very time consuming process, but was the only way to extract delicate flowers like Jasmine for a very long time.
Other methods of extraction are: Solvent Extraction, Fractional Distillation and Percolations, Carbon Dioxide Extraction and Phytonic Process.