A guide on everything you need to know when using essential oils!
Let’s start with the basics…
Essential oils, what are they?
Essential oils are the concentrated oils extracted from a variety of plants, including all of their anatomical body: stems, leaves, roots.
There are many different processes by which these concentrates can be extracted, but the common goal for each is to extract as much of their natural properties as possible.
Essential Oils Throughtout History:
Although the exact time frame for which oils were first used is unknown, their uses in crude form can be found in ancient texts as far back as 4500 BC.
Egypt– Egyptians were some of the first to document use of oils for healing, cosmetics, and for ceremonial purposes. For healing, crudely distilled oils would be added to medicinal edibles, powders, and pills.
China– The Chinese have gained benefit from the use of essential oils since 2500 BC, however, some believe they were in use much before ancient texts indicate.
The Chinese believe that by extracting the plants oils, you are actually freeing the plant’s soul.
I am envisioning a “plant soul” dancing around singing Free at Last… I really can’t make this stuff up y’all! 😂 💃 🌱
India– The home of the creator of Ayurvedic Medicine, India has been using essential oils for thousands of years as medicine. They too have ties to oils believing some to be sacred.
Ayurvedic Medicine is the belief in holistically managing your health. The delicate balance of mind, body, and spirit. It is believed that all living and dead are connected in harmony; and if that balance is disrupted you fall ill. Ayurvedic medicine promotes preventatives for good health as opposed to being reactive.
Rome– Romans used these oils in lavish ways such as massage oils and perfumes.
Persia– Persians were using oils extracted in crude distilling processes. Ali Ibn- Avicenna, who lived from 970 AD – 1035 AD, became a doctor at the young age of twelve and was the first to discover and develop the first pure form of distilling. Variations of this process are the foundation for modern distilling processes.
Europe– Europeans were first introduced to essential oils by way of returning Crusaders. After time spent battling in the Middle East, warriors returning home brought with them the healing properties and distilling process of essential oils.
As you can see, or may have already known, the glorious oils of plants have been around literally forever. We as humanity have gained benefit from these pure oils and I personally want to pass that information on to future generations. The Earth will provide many, many answers; if only we would just listen.
There are six distilling process in by which oils can be extracted from plant material. Those processes are:
Steam– Steam passes through plant material, leaves, and root releasing aromatic components. The steam is then condensed and the essential oil can be extracted.
Water or Hydro– Harder elements of the plant material such as bark and woody stems are submerged and heated to release steam. It is then condensed and oils are able to be extracted.
Steam/ Hydro Hybrid– Indirect steam is applied to plant material while water sits underneath.
Expression or Cold Pressing– Think cold pressed juice on this one. mmm yum! Plant material like the rinds of citrus fruits are pressed by a machine to extract the oils.
Solvent Extraction– Delicate parts of the plant such as petals are placed on trays and are washed repeatedly with solvent, stripping the plant of its oils. Those oils are them refined producing a product called Absolute. An Absolute may contain < 10 parts per million of solvent. This could be why certain brands of oils cause irritation. I try to avoid absolutes and stick with a therapeutic grade oil.
The last process is CO2 Extraction– CO2 is placed under high pressure until it becomes liquified. It is then used as a solvent to extract aromatic molecules. Once CO2 returns to room temperature and its natural state, only aromatic components are left. This is considered the safest of solvent based distillation processes as CO2 is naturally occurring.
So, now we know a little about the history of essential oils are how they are made, but what about quality standards? How do you know as the consumer what process the oil you choose has been tested for purity and quality.
Enter Gas Chromatography and Massspectrometry….. that’s a mouthful! Commonly referred to as GC/MS Testing. There, that one is a bit easier!
This testing breaks essential oils down to individual components. A certified Aromatherapist then compares the sample to a standardized composition per that particular oil. The test will determines if anything has been added or removed and for 100% purity.
I use Simply Earth Essential oils and they post the results for all of their oils right on their site.
No matter what brand you choose, choose one that is transparent in their approach. There are tons of brands out there. Just make sure to do your homework first before you invest full in on a particular brand.
That’s all I have for Part One. Let’s let all that you’ve learned marinate for a little while.
So far we’ve learned the history of essential oils and the ancient societies that used them in everyday ways. We have also learned about the process by which oils are extracted. And finally, we learned of testing done to guarantee purity and quality called GC/MS. And while these are not the most fun part of essential oil use they are some heavyweight info that I believe each person should be aware of as they begin their journey of essential oil use!
I hope you found this insightful and will come back for part two where we will learn about: methods of use, E.O. Safety, dilution ratios, projects and diys, and much much more!
Read Now! Essential Oils 101: Part Two
Check out DIY E.O. All Purpose Cleaner! This is perfect for those who missed the rush or are running low on cleaning products. I use this cleaner for most cleaning in my home! Truly “all purpose”😉
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Please note: Products mentioned in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products and information on this page are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This website is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your medical doctor regarding your medical care. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.