For the most, essential oils are a pure hydrophobic by product containing mutable aroma compounds derived from plants.
The term 'essential oil' is used to demonstrate that an oil contains the purest essence of a plants fragrance.
Essential oils have been extracted throughout history using a variety of methods.One of the earliest mention of techniques used to make essential oils is by the reknowned Andalusian physician, chemist and pharmicist Ibn al- Baitar (1188-1248). The most common method, which is still used today, is distillation. For the most part essential oils are used for a variety of reasons. These include, but are certainly not limited to- soaps, perfumes, different types of cosmetics and incense.
Another usage for essential oils is therapeutic. Throughout history essential oils have been used throughout different cultures for their various healing properties. In todays modern world many movements have revived this practice by incoorporating the usage of essential oils in alternate therapys such as reiki, massage and other forms of healing.
As mentioned earlier, distillation is the most common method of essential oil extraction. The process of distillation begins with raw plant material such as roots, bark, peel, leaves and flowers are placed into a distillation apparatus known as an 'alembic' over water. Once the water begins to heat, steam is then produced. This steam the begins to rise up through the raw plant material. This in turn vaporises the compounds. Once this steam passes through a coil, condensation occurs.
Another method of essential oil extraction, which predates the distillation process is 'expression' or 'cold- pressing'. Most citrus peels are used in the expression process due to the large amount of oils that are contained in their skin.
Essential oils are ususally placed in categories based on the type of raw material they were extracted from.
These categories are:
Stay tuned for our next blog as we shall be discussing different types of essential oils and their properties.....