Heard about essential oils, but don’t know what they are? If you’ve ever wondered, what is an essential oil? You’re in the right place! Below, I’ll explain:
For those who like the quick & dirty, here’s how Google defines essential oil:
es·sen·tial oil, noun
noun: essential oil; plural noun: essential oils
a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted.
Yep. That’s it in a nutshell… but what does that mean? Let me help.
What is an essential oil?
Essential oils are plant-based chemicals that are physically derived from, yep – plants!
One way to think of essential oils is as the plant’s natural protection system. The essence of a plant is what protects it against disease and pests, or attracts pollinators for survival. This means that when you encounter a pure essential oil, you’re getting a very concentrated form of the plant’s essence – the plant’s system for protecting itself and ensuring survival.
Where do essential oils come from?
Essential oils come from one of two places on a plant, either internally or externally.
When a plant’s essential oil is contained externally, that means it is stored on the surface of the plant. A light touch is all it takes to release aroma – such as the smell left on your fingers after holding peppermint leaves or lavender flowers.
Plants that store their essential oils internally would require you to break a stem, leaf, or other physical structure before scent is released. Think of the aroma that is released from squeezing a citrus peel or cracking open a fennel seed – these cells were stored internally.
The main way of extracting an essential oil from a plant is typically distillation, but others are expressed, such as most citrus oils.
I find the chemistry behind it to be fascinating, but it can get overwhelming! Sometimes just the basics can suffice, but If you’re looking for more information, NAHA.org is a great resource! (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy)
Fun Facts about Pure Essential Oils
When you have pure essential oils that are unadulterated with synthetics or fillers (you ONLY want pure, SO SO SO important!) you have a super concentrated therapeutic powerhouse!
And I do mean concentrated! Did you know that it takes roughly 45 lemons to make a 15ml bottle of pure lemon essential oil? Here’s another: 1 drop of pure peppermint oil is equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea… wha?!?
While we’re at it – pure rose oil? It takes about 1,160,000 rose petals, picked fresh to make 1 fluid oz. Those precious rose petals must begin the distillation process within the same day they were harvested given the fragile nature of the resource. Crazy right?
There’s a reason those tiny bottles are hundreds and hundreds of dollars; it truly is a precious oil!
Be Safe, Be Educated
All in all, although essential oils are generally safe and beneficial, keep in mind that there can be too much of a good thing – think water poisoning. Education is key so check quality, reputable resources, and then cross check them!
You are in charge of your own body so do your due diligence. Know where your oils are coming from, how they are tested, their levels of purity, and proper usage/application.