What are Essential Oils?

Essential OilBy definition, essential oils are natural oils that are highly concentrated from the source (can be shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes and seeds) that it’s extracted from and are also known as volatile oils. They are usually extracted through steam distillation, but can also be extracted by cold pressing. Essential oils have been around for many years due to their many uses: flavouring, adding scent and health uses. You can either dilute the specific oil in a carrier oil which is then massaged into the skin, diffuse the oil in the air, heat over a flame or burn it as incense.

ancient-essential-oils-information-1.1-800X800Essential oils as well as plant extracts have been known throughout history since the beginning of time and are considered by many to be the missing link in modern medicine.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and far more potent than than dried herbs due to the distillation process. It requires a large volume of plant material to produce small amounts of a distilled essential oil. Did you know that it takes 5000 pounds of rose petals to produce 1 kilogram of rose oil?!

herboilmaker06Most essential oils do not go rancid and are powerful antimicrobials. Although, some essential oils that are high in plant waxees (e.g. patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood) if not distilled properly, can go rancid after time. Essential oils can be distilled or extracted in different ways and will have dramatic effects on their chemistry and medicinal properties. Oils derived from a second or third distillation of the same plant material aren’t as potent as oils extracted from the first distillation. Though with certain oils, there may be additional chemical constituents that are released only in the second or third distillation.

researchtesttubesLast but not least, it pays to research about different oils and how they are processed. Some oils are adulterated, engineered or have their life-span “extended” due to the use of several synthetic compounds being added to the oil. Ex. pure frankinense is often extended with colourless, odourless solvents such as diethylphthalate or dipropylene glycol and the only way to distinguish the “authentic” or unadulterated form would be to test through lab results. Unfortunately, a large percentage of essential oils marketed in North America fall into this category.

thumbYou, as the consumer, must understand the world of synthetic oils as well as low-grade oils cut with synthetic chemicals in order to be more educated in what you are actually purchasing.

POLL: Do you use essential oils? What’s your favourite scent?

Source: Essential Oils – Pocket Reference. Life Science Publishing, Sixth Edition. (2014, May).

  • I love essential oils. I’m lucky that I go back to Thailand a lot where they have a lot of unadulterated oils. I always stock up for my diffuser! It’s great to read this though, I will have to be more careful next time I buy some over here in Australia. They’re just not the same.

    My favourites would have to be creamy & fruity scents. Stuff that makes me hungry haha


    • Lucky indeed! I agree that they’re not the same, some of the “same” scents (e.g. lavender in different brands) don’t even smell the same… it’s crazy!

      I love citrus scents! They just make me feel so refreshed!

  • Rebecca V

    I love love love this article and i love essential oils! I put teatree oil in my baths and peppermint oil for my migraines : )

    • Hi Rebecca, thanks for checking out our article! If you are experiencing severe migraines, considering using Majoram essential oils as an analgesic. Marjoram oil reduces the pain associated with migraines, inflammation, and cluster headaches. The best thing about this is that it does not have any adverse side effects, and can be used in conjunction with other analgesic pain relievers.

      Just curious, which brand of essential oils do you currently use? Some brands are not as pure as others.

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