Essential oils are often used in aromatherapy, which is a form of alternative medicine that employs plant extracts to support health and well-being. At the present time, essential oils are experiencing a surge in popularity, and it seems like everyone is discovering their effectiveness. With this, a lot of people have been incorporating essential oils into their homes. But what exactly are essential oils?
Generally, essential oils are highly concentrated versions of the natural oils found in plants. Acquiring them requires a process, such as distillation, where parts of the plants are used. It results in oil with the characteristic fragrance and properties of the plant from which it was extracted, including the smell, healing properties, and other plant characteristics.
If you are new to the world of essential oils and you’d like to learn more about them, we are here to help you. In this post, we are giving you an introduction to essential oils.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are liquid extracts of numerous plants that may have health benefits. The valuable chemicals from these plants can be extracted using manufacturing procedures. Essential oils frequently smell much stronger and have more potent active ingredients than the plants from which they are derived. This has to do with how much plant material is necessary to produce essential oil.
These oils have been used throughout history in a lot of cultures for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits. They do not exist in plants as free-moving substances, but they are stored in microscopic cellular containers. After that, they are extracted from varied parts of the plant, such as the root, seed, trunk, leaf, fruit, and flower. Essential oils are around a hundred times more concentrated compared to dried herbs. Each of them also has a unique chemical composition, which reacts with the chemicals in the body and mind when inhaled, applied, or ingested.
How are Essential Oils Extracted?
Have you ever wondered how essential oils are made? Well, they are not actually made but instead extracted from plant materials. The active botanical elements that serve as a plant’s “life power” are obtained through extractions. They are essentially a plant’s liquid form, and they allow the beneficial components to work more quickly than they would if you just ate the plant.
When a botanical material is combined with a solvent that causes some of the plant material’s components to dissolve, an herbal extract is produced. The solution that persists at the final step can be liquid, or the liquid can be omitted to turn the traces of the botanical into a solid, and this is what is termed the “extract,” which is the solvent that has been infused with the botanical substances that it has acquired from the source plant. The solvents may serve as preservatives or as substances that aid in the disintegration and release of plant cells’ contents.
There are four different ways to extract essential oils from plants, which you can learn more about below:
Distillation is one of the most popular ways to extract essential oils from plants. There are also different types of distillation, which are simple and steam. Simple distillation consists of turning water to vapor by boiling it, then allowing the vapor to pass through biomass before condensing into a container for collection. However, it can be a bad option for heat-sensitive products, like volatile oils, because it exposes products to high temperatures.
The most common extraction technique for essential oils is steam distillation. Pressurized steam is used to break up plant structures that contain the essential oils in a still, releasing the volatile and non-volatile compounds that make up the essential oils. Essential oil and hydrosol spontaneously split into two layers after the liquid is condensed. Orange flower water and rosewater are two common hydrosols.
Controlling pressure and temperature during steam distillation is important to prevent the essential oils from degrading while being extracted. Steam distillation can entirely extract the oils from the biomass in a few hours to many days, depending on the plant.
Cold Pressing (Expression)
Many oils, like those from lemon, orange, and grapefruit, which deteriorate when exposed to heat, are traditionally extracted by cold pressing. In this extremely straightforward extraction method, the biomass—typically fruit peels—is scraped or pinched before being compressed, and the oils are washed away with water. The oils and water are then separated.
Natural flavors, colors, sterols, and vitamins are all retained in cold-pressed oils. However, not all plant biomass is best suited for cold pressing, and it is ineffective for high-volume extraction because many components may be left behind in the biomass.
Ethanol, methanol, or any other petroleum-based hydrocarbon solvents can be used for solvent-based extraction, such as hexane, pentane, and acetone. The chosen solvent permeates the prepared biomass in order to reach the plant structures and release the essential oils. It was chosen for its affinity with the desired plant compounds. Particularly when petroleum-based hydrocarbons are used, the resulting mixture of solvent, plant oils, and botanical solids is often filtered and vacuum distilled to eliminate as much solvent as possible. In the finished product, a trace amount of chemical solvent residue is possible.
An example of a frequently used solvent extraction is vanilla extract. Alcohol was used to extract the desired aromatics from the formations of the vanilla bean pods, but the plant’s essential oils remained in it.
Supercritical and Subcritical CO2 Extraction
Industrial hemp extraction services, in particular, require a lot of carbon dioxide as a solvent to create high-quality complete, and wide-ranging CBD extracts. In order to obtain specified results, carbon dioxide is treated to specified temperature and pressure settings during CO2 extraction.
CO2 functions as a highly “tunable” solvent, whether it is supercritical or subcritical. This means that parameters can be changed to extract desired molecules while removing undesired components from the biomass.
The difference between supercritical and subcritical CO2 extractions is mainly in pressure and temperature. CO2 transforms into a supercritical fluid, which means it has characteristics of both a liquid and a gas above the critical temperature and pressure. These characteristics allow the CO2 to permeate the raw hemp biomass, disassemble the plant’s structural components, and release significant chemicals like terpenes and cannabinoids.
Similar principles apply to subcritical CO2 extraction, which can be a slower, less effective process with lower final yields. Subcritical CO2, on the other hand, is gentler to some of the more sensitive active hemp plant components. Depending on the targeted compounds and the desired end product, subcritical CO2 may be the preferred extraction method for manufacturers of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum cannabis extracts in order to achieve a whole-plant extract that delivers the “entourage effect.”
Both procedures result in a clean, unadulterated end product because, after extraction, temperature and pressure are allowed to go back to normal levels, and the CO2 dissipates, leaving no solvent residue. CO2 is safer, nonflammable, and more environmentally friendly than other solvents. Processes for extracting CO2 are more effective, use less energy, and are even less expensive than some of the alternatives. They can scale up to high-volume production, which is another advantage.
Health Benefits of Essential Oils
The molecules that make up essential oils are so tiny that they can enter your cells and even cross the blood-brain barrier in some cases. Essential oils are distinct from fatty oils from big molecules like those found in nuts and vegetables because they can enter your cells. They are not therapeutic in the same way as a result. If you are wondering about what health benefits you can get from essential oils, below are some of them:
You can use essential oils for hormones to regulate your levels of estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, thyroid hormone, and testosterone. Clary sage, geranium, and thyme are a few oils that can help balance estrogen and progesterone levels, which can help with conditions like PCOS and infertility, as well as PMS and menopause symptoms.
According to a 2017 study that appeared in Neuroendocrinology Letters, geranium and rose can affect how much estrogen women’s saliva contains. Women who experience symptoms of menopause brought on by decreased estrogen secretion may find this to be helpful. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that some oils can raise testosterone levels, which can boost a man’s libido, and lower cortisol levels, which can help to improve mood and lessen the symptoms of depression.
A lot of essential oils contain anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic properties that may help boost your immune system and fight infections. Some of the chemical substances found in essential oils include esters, terpenes, ethers, ketones, and phenolics, which are all capable of combating foreign pathogens that could endanger your health.
If you are looking for essential oils to boost your immunity, some of the best choices are ginger, oregano, lemon, myrrh, eucalyptus, cinnamon, peppermint, and frankincense. Also, based on studies, essential oils can destroy several fungi, bacterial, and viral pathogens effectively, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and candida infections.
Based on research, another benefit of essential oils is their role in helping improve digestion. There are essential oils that may help relieve upset stomach, diarrhea, stomach spasms, and indigestion, as well as conditions of the gastrointestinal system like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). By encouraging the production of digestive enzymes, essential oils can also help your body break down and absorb the nutrients, protein, and fats it needs.
One example is a ginger essential oil, which is known to promote digestive health by easing indigestion, ulcers, and constipation. According to one study, ginger oil encouraged gastric emptying in indigestion sufferers. Aside from that, it also has been used to reduce nausea, relieve gas, and ease abdominal pain.
Another example of good essential oil for digestion is peppermint. Based on research, it works to give fast relief of IBS symptoms. Some other essential oils best for digestion include lemongrass, black pepper, juniper berry, and fennel.
Boost Energy Levels
Essential oils can also help people boost energy levels and improve athletic performance. There are some essential oils that contain stimulating effects and can increase oxygen in the brain. These oils can leave you feeling refreshed, energized, and focused.
An example of an essential oil that can help boost energy levels is peppermint. Based on a study, peppermint oil increased brain oxygen concentration, reduced exhaustion, and improved exercise performance of healthy male athletes who consumed peppermint oil with water for around ten days. Aside from peppermint, other essential oils for energy include lemongrass, lemon, rosemary, eucalyptus, and grapefruit.
Improve Brain Function
Essential oil advantages, which include neuroprotective and cognitive performance-improving properties, have benefited many patients with neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. According to a scientific review published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, researchers found that essential oils naturally improve brain function and reduce inflammation because they include strong antioxidants that help to limit free radical scavenging.
Additionally, studies on essential oils have demonstrated that they enhance memory, focus, and learning. Oils that are both energizing and sedative might be helpful. For example, eucalyptus oil helps increase sustained attention over a longer length of time, while bergamot oil can be helpful for individuals who are enduring challenging tasks or circumstances. They can also be helpful in calming agitation in dementia sufferers. This is a result of their sedative and calming effects.
Reduce Emotional Stress and Anxiety
One of the most popular benefits of essential oils is their ability to reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, some essential oils contain sedative properties that can induce a calm, peaceful, and relaxed feeling. Some of the best essential oils for stress and anxiety are rose, vetiver, bergamot, chamomile, orange, ylang-ylang, and frankincense.
Alleviate Aches and Pains
Aromatherapy significantly reduces pain when compared to placebos or control therapies, according to a comprehensive review and meta-analysis reported in Pain Research and Treatment. Researchers looked at 12 studies on the subject and discovered that using essential oils to treat gynecological, obstetrical, and postoperative pain was particularly effective.
There are a lot of essential oils that can be applied topically or used aromatically to help reduce aches and pains. Some of these include eucalyptus, peppermint, chamomile, rosemary, marjoram, myrrh, ginger, turmeric, frankincense, and thyme.
Boost Hair and Skin Health
A natural and efficient way to maintain your personal care regimens without having to use products made with chemicals and hydrogenated oils is to use essential oils on your skin, in your hair, and in beauty products. Essential oils can thicken hair, protect skin from sun damage, alleviate acne, soothe irritated skin, and minimize the effects of aging.
Additionally, oils can boost the overall skin appearance and even speed up the healing of wounds. Inflammatory skin conditions like dermatitis, eczema and lupus can all be improved with oils. Some of the best essential oils for skin and hair are lavender, chamomile, tea tree, geranium, frankincense, myrrh, rosemary, clary sage, and helichrysum.
Promote Restful Sleep
There are essential oils that feature sedative properties, which are helpful for those who find it difficult to fall asleep at night. One of the most popular is lavender oil, which is known to be an effective sleep aid due it its capability to leave people feeling calm and relaxed. Other essential oils that may promote restful sleep include vetiver, chamomile, ylang-ylang, and bergamot.
Relieve Headaches and Migraines
Some essential oils may work as natural migraine and headache relievers as they can treat the trigger effectively and address the root of the problem instead of masking it. These also provide pain relief, improve circulation, and reduce stress, which are all major causes of migraines and headaches.
Lavender is the best example of essential oil that can help relieve headaches and migraines. But aside from that, you can also use peppermint, which has a cooling effect, eucalyptus, which can relieve sinus pressure, and rosemary, which can promote circulation.
There are also particular essential oils that may help reduce toxicity through detoxification of your home and body. Today, we all inhale and ingest various chemicals and environmental toxins that are dangerous for the brain, heart, and overall health. But some essential oils work as mild diuretics to increase urine production and improve detoxification. Some of the essential oils that may help promote internal detoxifications are ginger, lemon, lemongrass, fennel, and grapefruit.
There are also detoxifying essential oils that can be used to flush out toxins and clean the air of your home. Unlike cleaning products that are filled with chemicals, essential oils can clean your home naturally by destroying harmful pathogens and pollutants. Some of the best essential oils that you can use to reduce toxicity in your home include orange, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemon, and lemongrass.
The Top Essential Oils
Essential oils have been in use for thousands of years. In fact, they were used by our ancestors in perfumes and fragrances. Therefore, there are more than ninety types and hundreds of different essential oils that you can find today. While we can’t cover and discuss all of them in one post, we are giving you more information about the top or most popular essential oils today.
Lavender is probably the most popular essential oil, and its scent is widely recognized. It is the oil that has been used for thousands of years by various cultures around the world. It also blends well with rosemary and clove oils. There are many uses for lavender essential oils, which are as follows:
- Stress reduction
- Blood pressure
- Bug repellent
- Bug bites
- Mild burns
- Pain relief
Rosemary is a popular herb that is usually grown in home gardens. Rosemary essential oil has been shown to have a lot of health benefits. In fact, based on an article published by New York Times, it plays a big part in the diet in one of the world’s healthiest and oldest living populations in Italy. However, you have to be cautious when using rosemary essential oil as some may be sensitive to it and may have skin reactions. The following are the best uses of rosemary essential oil:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Hair loss
- Upper respiratory infections
- Muscle spasms
- Antioxidant protection
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree essential oil is extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca tree, which is commonly found in Australia. It has a fresh and medicinal aroma. It blends well with myrrh and lavender oil. There are a lot of benefits that you can get from tea tree oil, and below are some of them:
- Would healing
- Insect repellent
- Dandruff control
- Oral health
Lemon oil has a very familiar scent, which is sweet and sour at the same time. It can blend well with eucalyptus. It is commonly used in beauty products because it has antioxidant properties. Below are some of the other uses of lemon oil:
- Insect repellent
- Sore throat
Another well-known herb and essential oil is peppermint. It is a hybrid of spearmint and water mint. It has a sharp and fresh smell, and one of its major components is menthol. It is commonly used as a flavoring in chewing gum. It can also be blended well with eucalyptus, lavender, and rosemary oil. It has a lot of benefits and uses, such as:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Food flavoring
- Nail infection
- Skin infection
- Upper respiratory infection
- Hair growth
Eucalyptus is native to Australia, and it has been used by the Aborigines to treat sinus infections, pain, and respiratory infections. It can be blended well with lemon and lavender oils. However, it should not be consumed orally. Below are the different uses and benefits of eucalyptus essential oil:
- Upper respiratory infection
- Anti-tumor properties
- Natural deodorant
The main source of clove essential oil is the Syzygium aromaticum tree, which is indigenous to Southeast Asia. These days, it can also be found growing in other places. By distilling the dried flower buds, clove oil is made. The stems and leaves of the tree, among other components, are also very significant. Clove oil has a potent aroma and can be used to flavor and aromatize your curries in addition to its therapeutic effects. Below are some of the uses and benefits of clove essential oil:
- Antibacterial properties
- Pain relief
- Insect repellent
- Oral thrush
Chamomile is popularly consumed as an herbal tea for those aiming for a good night’s sleep. Its essential oil has a sweet and fruity smell, and it blends well with rose and jasmine oils. It also has numerous health benefits, and below are some of them:
- Allergies and asthma
- Wound healing
- Muscle spasms
Frankincense is popularly known as the gift of the Three Wise Men, and it was extensively used in perfumes. It smells balsamic and woodsy. It is frequently used in religious services today, including Catholic Church services. Frankincense was traded in Somalia 5,000 years ago and is also known as Boswellia by people in India and Africa who use it for medicinal purposes. It is reputed to:
- Prevent yeast infections
- Joint pain
- Crohn’s disease
Oregano is a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean region. Its essential oil has several health benefits and has been used for centuries. Below are some of the uses and benefits that you can get from oregano oil:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Heart disease
- Leaky gut
- Anti-parasite properties
- Cancer protection
Ginger is an herb that is mainly used for cooking. But it is also an essential oil that comes with a lot of benefits, such as:
- Pain relief
- Laxative effect
How are Essential Oils Applied?
If you are ready to use essential oils to get the best health benefits that they can provide, below are the most common ways essential oils are used today:
The chemical weight of essential oils is less than 1,000m (m = weight of molecule), making them incredibly tiny. Any substance with a molecular weight of less than 1,000 should be absorbed by the skin, according to scientific testing. This indicates that they have the ability to pass through the skin, the bloodstream, and various organs for internal therapeutic benefits.
However, keep in mind that some essential oils need carrier oils before you can apply them topically. This will make them gentler on the skin and prevent allergic reactions. Some of the best carrier oils are almond, argan, arnica, coconut, jojoba, and rosehip oils.
There is strong evidence that when essential oils are breathed, they are absorbed into the bloodstream. The vast number of blood vessels in the lungs allows for the absorption of oils and subsequent circulation throughout the body.
You can benefit from the advantages of these plant extractions by using a diffuser. Diffusing bergamot will reduce stress, melaleuca will purify the air, wild orange will lift your spirits, frankincense will bring you spiritual enlightenment, and spearmint will give you more energy and focus.
The use of essential oils as a potent medical treatment is possible, but keep in mind that these substances are strong. The majority of essential oils are suitable for consumption, but a little goes a long way. Usually, one to three drops combined with water are sufficient.
The internal advantages of oils like lemon and frankincense are enormous, and they can be consumed with water. Oregano and clove, two other essential oils, should not be taken internally for longer than a week without first being diluted.
Essential oils are frequently utilized today to create DIY personal care products. This is a fantastic way to use essential oils to enhance your appearance, your home, and your long-term health. Some of the best DIY recipes that you can make using essential oils are lotions, shampoos, toothpaste, lip balms, bug sprays, and household cleaners.
There are certainly a lot of different essential oils available today, and each of them offers various health benefits. You can also easily purchase essential oils today in health stores and online. In addition to the different uses and benefits that we’ve mentioned in this post, there are a lot more things you can discover about essential oils.
In fact, there are more than a hundred ways to use these potent oils at home and on the go. But aromatic and topical uses are the most popular and safest ways to get the benefits that they offer. We hope this post helped you learn more about essential oils, their uses, benefits, and applications.
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