Essential oils are precious, concentrated, aromatic liquids extracted from many varieties of plants. Those natural beauties have been used since 3500BC in various cultures all around the world.
Nowadays, essential oils are far more widely used than generally known. They are found in many medications, in perfumes, soaps, beauty products,... And also for flavoring food and drinks, adding scents to incense and household cleaning products.
Did you know that the unique flavor of Coca-Cola, which was invented as a nerve tonic by pharmacist John Pemberton in 1886, was created by blending the essential oils of orange, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, and neroli? But there is one ingredient in the secret “7X” formula, which remains a mistery.
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS MADE FROM?
The nature of an essential oil varies from plant to plant. Depending on the species of plant, essential oils are extracted from flowers, leaves, roots, wood, bark, resin or fruit, using a variety of methods to capture the scented particles. The most common way of obtaining the oil is by steam distillation. This involves putting the plant material in a large, closed container, and forcing steam through it. The heat and the pressure release the tiny droplets of essential oil from the plant. Then a cooling process turns the steam into liquid.
Naturally, some plants yield lots of oil easily, and others have more labor-intensive processes, yielding lower amounts of essential oil. Damascene rose is the most extreme example: It takes approximately 4000kg of rose flowers to produce 1kg of essential oil. You now understand better its high price tag (5000Eur/kg)....
The composition of an essential oil can vary depending on the time of day, season, geographic location, method and duration of distillation, year grown, and the weather, making every step of the production process a critical determinant of the overall quality of the product.
Aromatherapy was advanced by French surgeon Jean Valnet, who employed therapeutic essential oils in battlefield situations as he practiced surgery during World War II. Following the war, Dr. Valnet devoted his time to prove the nature and uses of essential oils in scientific terms, especially their therapeutic properties and value in everyday medicine.
Aromatherapy became a complementary therapy based on holistic principles, using the application of essential oils to improve mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. You want to heal skin issues, reduce anxiety or expectorate mucus from the lungs? Essential oils can be used in three different ways: aromatic, ingestion or topically.
Essential oils contain compounds from diverse chemical families, which give them very powerful therapeutic properties: antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, expectorant,... Some may think that aromatherapy is just smelling oils. But don't be fooled by those little bottles, essential oils are immensely powerful. In fact, many oils are 50 to 100 times more concentrated than their parent plant.
THE POWER OF SCENT
Smell is a potent wizard and a powerful psychological trigger. Our breath is the link that unites our mind and our body. When we smell something, molecules enter the nasal cavities and stimulate the tiny receptors in our nostrils. The information of the aroma is immediately sent to the limbic system of the brain, which is where our “emotional memory center” resides. Once it is stimulated, the limbic system releases hormones in the body (like serotonin, endorphins,...) that will influence the nervous system: it will help us to regulate stress or blood pressure, lift our mood, reduce anxiety, energize our brain, or simply relax.
Which chemical based products can do that? What nature gives us, chemical industry can not reproduce.