These pure essential oils – also called aromatherapy oils – are best derived from organic sources whenever possible. The reason is that these plants are raised under very strict conditions, free of petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical pesticides that work their way into virtually all parts of the plant – and ultimately, into essential oils. Although the rules and regulations regarding what can be sold as “organic” vary from one country to another, in general farmers who raise plants for use in organic essential oils must keep very careful documentation of their procedures as well as submit to yearly inspections and audits. This is your guarantee of the best quality when it comes to essential oils.
What Exactly Are Essential Oils?
Aromatherapy essential oils are the “hydrophobic” (i.e., oily) liquid extracts from plants that contain aromatic compounds. Most all plants have such oils; one that you’ve probably consumed the last time you ate at an Italian or Greek restaurant is olive oil; sesame oil is used extensively in Asian cuisine. However, the aroma of these particular pure essential oils is very mild, and of little use in aromatherapy. It is worth noting however that olive oil has been used as body oil in the Mediterranean for several thousand years. When wealthy Romans bathed, it was a common custom after exiting the baths to have their bodies oiled and scraped by slaves; olive oil was virtually the only kind of oil used for this purpose.
When it comes to aromatherapy, however, it is the scent that is the most important. These oils are called “essential” in that they have distinctive scents or smells. These oils are what give certain flowering plants, such as roses and carnations, their pleasant smells.
How are Aromatherapy Essential Oils Made?
There are three basic ways in which these oils are extracted:
- Distillation: the substance is boiled, causing the various biochemical substances to separate and allowing them to be collected
- Expression: the plant, its petals, leaves or seeds are crushed (this is how olive and sesame oils are produced)
- Solvent Extraction: biochemical compounds are separated by using some other type of liquid.
Uses of Aromatherapy Oils
Essential oils have been used for centuries for many different reasons, ranging from medicinal to supernatural. An example is the use of such oils in incense that is burned during the ceremonies of many religious faiths. There are claims that certain oils used in aromatherapy actually have curative properties, however, these have not been proven scientifically. However, there is no harm in using essential oils simply for the sensual pleasure of their scent.