Essential oils are extracted from plants. They contain highly aromatic molecules which have been used throughout history for therapeutic purposes. Essential oils come from the flowers, seeds, leaves, roots, bark and fruits of plants, shrubs and trees.
Habitat of Essential Oils
Aromatic plants grow all over the world in different climates and environments. The best oils tend to come from plants best suited to particular geographical habitats. Climatic conditions, air quality and soil quality will greatly influence the growing of the plant, and the nature of the essential oil extracted from it. For example, Lavender grown in France at high altitude will have a different chemical make up to Lavender grown at sea level in eastern England.
Production of Essential Oils
There are a variety of methods for extracting the volatile aromatic oils and essences from plants, but the main one is Steam Distillation. Please follow this link for an excellent illustration of the production process: www.distillation.co.uk (select the Steam Distillation Overview option). Two commodities come from essential oil distillation, one is the highly concentrated aromatic oil and the other is the aromatic water, or hydolat. Both products have therapeutic properties.
Therapeutic Properties of Essential Oils
Each essential oil has is own chemical identity, which produces unique properties. Essential oils can be antiseptic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious and so on.
They can be used to stimulate or sedate, and their powers to heal can be applied to physical, mental and emotional conditions. Aromatherapists are trained to choose essential oils for their specific properties. The skill is in selecting the most effective oil to treat the condition. Oils can be blended by the qualified practitioner to suit the individual client's needs and problems. The synergistic effect of two or more oils working together can be more effective than a single oil. For example, a blend of Lavender and Ylang Ylang can be more effective in normalising blood pressure than either of the oils used on their own.
Using Essential Oils Safely
Essential oils are highly concentrated and should not be used in an undiluted form for safety reasons, unless under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Oils are usually diluted in vegetable carrier oils or water. All reputable essential oils are sold with comprehensive instructions for use, and these instructions should be followed at all times. Some oils are not suitable for use with certain medical conditions, and most oils are not used during pregnancy, or with very young children. All essential oils should be kept in bottles with dropper lids and tightly closed caps, and kept out of reach of children and pets. Click here for brief notes on essential oil safety
Storing of Essential Oils
Essential Oils and Hydrolats should be stored away from heat and sunlight in dark glass bottles with tightly closed caps.
Please note that the IFA does not recommend or endorse the ingestion or internal use of essential oils