What are Essential Oils?

The origin of essential oil extraction can be traced back to the early 10th century. Historically, essential oil has been used for a variety of cosmetic and medicinal purposes alike. In formal terms, most of these oils are referred to by the chemical compounds that compose them.

One of the most common modern applications of these oils is for the alternative medicinal practice of aromatherapy. Depending on the nature of the essential oil that is extracted, it can play a role in food preparation just as much as cosmetic and medical application. While their medical efficacy is usually supported more by historical accounts then clinical research, the practice of applying these oils for alternative medicine remains popular.

Cultivation Process

The process of essential oil cultivation can accomplished through the application of steam, cold pressing, resident tapping and other means. Through the process of steam distillation, the essence of a plant is extracted and harnessed through concentrated hydrophobic fluid.

The forms of organic matter distilled for extraction include stems, seeds, flowers roots and other plant components. The type of plant matter used for the cultivation of essential oil will affect the nature of how said oil is cultivated.

When harnessing essential oil for aromatherapy, the aromatic compounds are diffused into the air with heat after being volatilized. The steam from the heated water vaporizes volatile compounds within plant matter, and as the vapors are transferred through a receptacle coil, they are converted into a hydrosol that can be collected and processed. Two of the most popular hydrosols are lavender water and rose water.

Because flowers lack the volatility and robustness to withstand denaturation in high heat, their essence is extracted through delicate solvents rather than steam. Following the initial solvent extraction, a separate solvent is used to isolate the most aromatic compounds from the initial extraction. Once the second extraction has been chilled for approximately two days, the product is purified and did the final aromatic product is left.

Volatility and Variations

Essential oils are classified as volatile due to the speed with which they can transfer from one state of matter to another. Because of the chemical composition of aromatic compounds, they vaporize quickly and can engage the olfactory nerves via proximity to the nose in their liquid form. The scent of an essential oil and its potential applications depends on the specific variety of aromatic compounds they contain.

Currently, there are over 3000 different aromatic compounds that have been discovered and categorized. Within all different varieties of oils are potential variations that depend upon the location, season, vaporization method and even the time of day. The age and weather can also be highly influential factors to the final essential oil product that is produced.

Essential oils can be used both as standalone products and be combined into compound treatment as well.
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