Essential oils, commonly known as aromatherapy oils are aromatic compounds that are extracted from parts of plants including but not limited to roots, stems, seeds, flowers and even leaves. They are naturally synthesized by plants for different reasons according to their needs. Some synthesize it to help fend off parasites and insects, some to attract pollinators (bees, butterflies) and some are simply vital for the physiology of the plant. This is why they are called “essential” – because they carry the very essence, and undoubtedly the most important part of the plant. Technically, essential oils aren’t true oils as they contain no lipid content but are instead made up of a variety of complex, volatile compounds.
They all share a common low boiling point and are particularly volatile. Like all oils, they are extracted by either using the distillation process or by using solvents which dissolve the oil and is later separated out. They are extremely concentrated because of the nature of the extraction process and should always be diluted before use. They have highly complex structures and each oil carries a different, unique aroma and structure; no one oil is similar. This variance in structure and composition is what makes them each one of them so functionally versatile.
Uses In Various Industries
Essential oils have been used since biblical times for its healing and aromatic properties. Today, these oils play a prominent role in alternative medicine, forming a whole new branch of medicine based on these oils called aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses essential oils to heal or improve one’s physical and emotional health and mind without the use of any synthetic drugs or chemicals – a natural way of healing. In fact, they are so strong that certain oils are believed to be able to affect a person’s mood and emotional state with only their aroma, making it suitable to treat people suffering from depression or severe stress. People who have had no success with mainstream medicine often resort to aromatherapy as a second chance. Some oils are antimicrobial, some are soothing and some accelerate the healing process and each oil is specifically chosen depending on the condition.
Although there is still a lack of concrete evidence for the essential oil’s various curative properties, many people have reported having more success with it than conventional medicine. An example of a commonly used essential oil would be the tea tree oil. It is widely used to treat acne because of its strong antiseptic properties and is included in many facial cleansers, scrubs and soaps. Essential oils are used by either direct application, burned as incense, diffused into the air by a diffuser or simply consumed. As in the case of vegetable oils, not all essential oils can be consumed so take extreme care as some might cause adverse reactions when taken in.
Essential oils are also used in the food and drinks industry to add flavour or scent to certain foods. They are mixed into perfumes by most manufacturers because they can diffuse easily and by doing so, spread the aroma and smell of the perfume. Most massage therapists also use essential oils for their massaging sessions due to their health benefits and have largely replaced artificial massaging lotions.
Since most essential oils are sold in their concentrated form, you have to make sure that they are properly diluted before ingesting it or using it for topical application. Improper use can be harmful and cause irritation. These oils cannot be diluted using water as they are not miscible with them, and so other inactive forms of oil, often termed “carrier oils” are used for this purpose instead. These carrier oils passively lower the concentration of the oils without affecting its efficacy or composition. It is also advised that you seek professional medical advice before consuming any form of essential oils directly as it can be very dangerous to do so, especially for pregnant women, without proper guidance. Always test for allergic reactions before using essential oils. Test by applying a few drops of it topically onto a patch of skin and then observing for the next 24 hours. If you are allergic to it, a red rash or inflammation will form around the applied area.
Some sceptics have attributed the magical curative properties of essential oils to the placebo effect while many other proponents disagree and are strongly advocating for their use in mainstream medicine. While there has been no hard evidence to prove either side correct, you should try it yourself and see what works best for you. Anecdotal accounts greatly vary from person to person as some have claimed that these essential oils work miracles while others say it produces no noticeable effect. The decision is yours to make.