Essential oils are the natural aromatic compounds found in plants. They come from various parts of the plant, including the roots, stems, seeds, flowers and bark. They are concentrated, highly potent chemical compounds.
Essential oils give a plant its scent, protect it from hazardous environmental conditions, and attract butterflies and honeybees. Essential oils act to protect the plant from bacteria, fungus and other diseases, while slowing decay, and helping the plants thrive in their environment.
That the oils do for the plant, they can also do for our bodies.
Essential oils are so concentrated that some oils are 50 times more powerful than their dried herb counterpart.
To extract the essential oil, plant material is steam distilled at an ideal temperature. Distilling is quite an art and science. It is important that the distillation be done correctly; if the temperature is too high or too low, it can impact the quality of the oil.
Most essential oils are steam distilled from the various parts of the plant, although some, like citrus oils like lemon, lime and grapefruit, are cold pressed from the rind of the fruit.
Essential oils are very concentrated. Just one little drop is very powerful. One to two drops is usually considered a “dose” of oils.
Do any of you use herbs for their health benefits? Herbs are wonderful, both fresh herbs and dried, and can be very beneficial. As an example of how powerful essential oils can be, some oils are 50 to 70 times more powerful than their dried herbs counterpart.
Essential Oils in History
Essential oils have been used for their medicinal benefits throughout history. In ancient times we know that frankincense and myrrh were highly prized for their benefits. Egyptians, were known to have utilized essential oils most widely, and used them for cosmetics, spiritual relaxation, embalming, and even mummification of their dead.
When King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922, excavators found more than 50 carved containers used specifically for storing essential oils. Raiders who plundered his tomb had chosen to leave treasures like gold, and take the precious essential oils instead.
We seem to have come full circle. Our ancestors relied on plants for healing, but with our amazing advancements in science, we moved toward the synthetic compounds we could create in a lab. These synthetic compounds mimic what plants do naturally, and can help manage symptoms. But they are imperfect and often cause serious side effects. Now we are finding how much more beneficial the natural substances are for our bodies and we are moving away from synthetics and back to nature.