What Are Essential Oils?
- August 21, 2018
According to the dictionary, an essential oil is, “… a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or another source from which it was extracted.” To simplify it even more, an essential oil is a highly concentrated oil extracted from plants.
Plants have their own naturally occurring oils that are found in leaves, stems, fruits, seeds, flowers, roots, wood, and/or resins. Those oils serve specific biological purposes. For example, the oil can attract pollinators, repel and defend against harmful insects, protect against fungal and bacterial infections, and even prevent competing vegetation from growing too close (known as allelopathy). Fortunately for us, these oils can also have profound benefits for humans.
So how do we get the oils out of the plants and into the form of the essential oils we use today?
There are a number of methods used to extract the precious and highly fragrant oils from their plant parts, with the most common method of extraction being steam distillation. Other common extraction methods include cold pressing and solvent extraction of the botanical material. The distilling process creates a much higher concentrated oil than that which occurs in the plant itself. Most people don’t realize just how concentrated essential oils really are. For instance:
- Orange Sweet Oil requires roughly 14 Oranges to produce one 15 mL bottle of essential oil.
- Lavender Oil requires over 200 pounds of plant material to yield 1 pound of essential oil.
- Rose Oil requires roughly 5,000 pounds of rose petals to yield 1 pound of essential oil.
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When you consider the amount of plant material required to produce essential oils, it becomes clear just how powerful and effective a single drop is. Just a few drops of essential oil can fill up a room with its scent for hours or help bring relief to painful muscle cramps or joint inflammation. To find out more, check out our blog, “What is an Essential Oil?”.