New to essential oils? Interested in essential oil but not sure where to start?
Learn everything you need to know about essential oils – from its history to how oils are made to how to begin using them in your home – in this Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils.
History of Essential Oils
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for many applications. It is said that Egyptians were the first to use them in their practice, religious ceremonies, beauty recipes, and even different kinds of preservation (think mummies!). Some essential oils were deemed so valuable that they were considered a form of currency and often exchanged for gold and rare spices.
The Greeks and Romans quickly caught onto the allure of essential oils and began including them in various therapeutic applications, one of which was aromatherapy. Soon Chinese practitioners, Persian doctors, and Ayurvedic shaman began developing more concentrated essential oils from all manner of aromatic plants.
Ever since, essential oils have been used throughout history to anoint holy relics and promote well-being.
Basics of Essential Oils
Essential oils are the highly concentrated, aromatic essences of trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, resins and flowers. They can be clear, amber, yellow, green, and even dark blue in color and range from very runny to almost solid in consistency.
Each essential oil comes from specific parts of the plant they come from too. For example:
- Myrrh and Frankincense come from the tree resin
- Lemon, Lime, Orange, Grapefruit and Bergamot come from the peel of the fruit
- Cinnamon comes from the bark of the tree
- Ginger and Vetiver come from the root
- Eucalyptus comes from the tree’s leaves
- Rose comes from the petals
- Cardamom comes from the seeds or pods
- Pine comes from the needles and twigs
On average, each essential oil contains over 100 components with more being discovered every day. These components also change even amongst the same species of plant.
Take Lavender for example, you can grow the same exact type of lavender plant in France and one in your garden and they will have similar but different properties. This is because the soil, climate, altitude, and many other factors will be different, therefore producing a very different oil with its own unique properties and constituents. Be sure to choose essential oils that are sourced from reputable farms without the use of GMOs, pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
How Essential Oils are Made
Essential oils are extracted by many different methods like solvent extraction, cold pressing, maceration, and enfleurage, but most commonly by steam distillation. This is why it’s important to know how your essential oils are made.
Some low-quality essential oils can be made from plants that were treated with pesticides and extracted with chemical solvents. These are NOT the oils you want to use for you or your family. Instead opt for pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils made from high-quality plants and herbs that don’t contain GMOs, pesticides, harmful chemicals or chemical solvents, such as Young Living essential oils (how to order Young Living).
Making an essential oil takes a lot of work and in some cases, tons of plant material to make even just a tiny amount of essential oil. For instance:
- To make just 1 oz of Rose essential oil, you would need 60,000 roses
- To make almost 1 gallon of Lavender essential oil, you would need about 220 lbs of lavender flowers
- For some oils like Sandalwood and Jasmine, you need to have precise timing. Jasmine must be picked as soon as the flowers open, and sandalwood must be 30 years old before harvesting
Crazy right? It’s no wonder high-quality essential oils may seem expensive. Have you ever thought of purchasing 60,000 roses? I sure haven’t! You literally need truckloads of plant material, have to race with the rising of the sun, or have to wait years before they are ready. Another factor that affects pricing is the rarity of the plant needed and each distiller’s quality of standards.
But when you consider you can replace DIY and household cleaning products with essential oils, it usually come out to be cheaper and more natural.
Here’s a list of DIY recipes on how you can replace conventional products from the store with your own homemade versions for cheaper AND without the harmful chemicals.
About the Author
Tashenna Lawson is a student at the East West School of Planetary Herbology where she studies diagnostic Chinese, Western, and Ayurvedic medicine. She’s an artist, herbalist, and daydreamer on a journey to health, happiness and clear skin! She blogs over at Holistic Health Herbalist.
Photo credit: DepositPhotos.com / OlezzoSimonaThis post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.
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