What Are Essential Oils?
The recorded history of the use of essential oils dates back to 4,500 BC by culturesthroughout the globe and if you have ever enjoyed the scent of a rose, you’ve experienced the aromatic qualities of essential oils. These naturally occurring, volatile aromatic
compounds are found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. They can be both beautifully and powerfully fragrant. Essential oils give plants their
distinctive smells, essential oils protect plants and play a role in plant pollination. In addition to their intrinsic benefits to plants and their beautiful fragrance, essential oils have long been used for food preparation, beauty treatment, and health-care practices.
How are they extracted?
• Essential Oils are extracted in several different ways
Method 1 – Steam distillation
Steam distillation is the most common method of extracting essential oils from the plant.
Fresh or dried plant material is put into a still, and pressurized steam is generated and circulated through the plant material. The heat of the steam opens the specialized cells or glands to release the essential oils. As the essential oil is released, it travels with the steam molecules through a tube into the still’s condensation chamber. As this mixture cools, it condenses into oil and water. The essential oil then naturally separates from the water.
Method 2 – Cold pressing
In this method the peel of the fruit is grated while rolling over a trough. The tiny specialized cells which contain the essential oil is punctured. Then the fruit is pressed to squeeze the juice and the essential oil from the pulp. The essential oil rises to the surface of the juice and is then separated by a centrifuge. We saw this process in Italy with bergamot, and it was amazing to watch (and smell).
Method 3 – Solvent extraction
This method is most often used for delicate flowers that would simply dissolve in the heat of distillation. A solvent compound is poured over petals and buds and the essential oil
dissolves itself into the solvent. Solvents vary from the newer method of using carbon dioxide or the environmentally hazardous liquid butane, to crude alcohol, or even more toxic chemicals such as ether, hexane, benzene or other petroleum-based compounds.
Method 4 – Resin Extraction
This method involves tapping of certain shrubs or trees to extract the resin from them.
There are several other extraction methods. However, steam distillation, cold pressing, and solvent extraction are currently the most common.
Grades Of Essential Oils
There are said to be 4 grades of essential oil, all of which you may find being sold as aromatherapy
products, for aromatherapy purposes and where your health is concerned we would recommend
using the highest quality oil you can find which is of a “therapeutic grade”, it can be a minefield as
manufacturers can just label their bottles as they see fit which is why it is better to buy from a
recommended and known supplier. Here are the 4 grades and where you can expect to find them.
Therapeutic Grade Oil
Pure & Unadulterated
Sometimes referred to as a Grade A essential oil
Organic & Certified oils
Can still have chemicals
Sometimes referred to as Grade B essential oils
Extended or altered oils
Can Contain chemical & solvents
Sometimes referred to as Grade C
superior, organic material is used and it comes from a “Grade A” distillation process. However, if it is from compromised raw materials and/or a poor distillation process, it will be a very low quality. Floral Water is often used for more expensive oils, such as Rose Oil, since it takes 5000 pounds of roses to make just one 1 pound of essential oil.