An Overview of Essential Oils

Everyone has heard of essential oils, but how many know where they come from, what they do, and why they work? What is Aromatherapy?

So what are they exactly?
Essential oils are the liquids, of water, plant fats (fatty acids), and chemical compounds, contained in fresh plant cells that help the plant grow, produce fruit, and protect itself from fungus and predators.  They are the life blood of the plant.  They are contained within the flowers, leaves, stems, barks, fruit and rinds, and seeds.  They have been deemed Aromas and thus their process of utilization is called Aromatherapy.  These are volatile (evaporative) compounds.

How do we get them?
They are extracted from the plant material in several different ways.  Over 5000 years ago, at least, the first essential oil extracts were achieved by immersing the plant materials in rendered animal fat.  The animal fat would attract the oils from the plant material, this process was repeated with fresh plant material several times until the chemical constituents of the plant saturate the animal fat.  This process was used, most effectively, for softer plant material like flowers and leaves. For harder materials like seeds and barks the materials were ground and pressed.  While pressing the materials the oils were squeezed out.  Fruit rinds are very simple to extract oils from because the oils are right there and in large amounts.  Simply puncturing or scraping the rind will release the oils which were then absorbed into a natural sponge, animal hair, or cloth.

Steam extraction was the next process to be developed.  This process holds the plant material above boiling water.  As the steam rises through the plant material the essential oils are picked up and moved up though a cooled metal pipe where it condenses and falls into a collection chamber.  These oils are quite pure but they may contain some of the plant waxes or colors found within the plant cell wall.  Also this process can damage the essential oils chemical composition because heat, especially high heat, tends to break down the oils chemical bonds.  This process is very similar to water extraction, in which the plant material is immersed in water and then boiled.  The steam carrying the oils up as well.  This can be even more damaging to the chemical compounds because of the high temperatures.

About 200 years ago they began using alcohol to extract the oils from the material.  The alcohol breaks down the plant material releasing the essential oils.  The alcohol was then evaporated off.  The only problem with this process is that the alcohol leaves behind many unwanted chemical compounds thus interfering with the chemical function of the essential oil.

Recently scientists developed a much more effective process for extracting essential oils.  This process utilizes pressurized CO2 in an airtight container.  The pressure pushes the oils out of the plant material and the CO2 completely evaporates, leaving nothing but pure essential oils behind.

What do they do?
The chemical compounds found within the essential oil have many beneficial actions.  They range from antibiotic (helping the body fight infection) or antiseptic (cleansing and sanitizing to the environment) all the way to emmenogogue (uterine stimulating) or cicatrissant (cellular regenerative).  These chemical compounds are nothing like the man made chemicals used for these same purposes because the constituents are already found within our bodies.  They do not force the body to do something it wouldn’t normally do, thus hindering function.

Essential oils actually assist the body in its natural processes, thus improving function.  This is because like every living thing on Earth, and throughout the Universe, we are all made up of the same chemical compounds.  Man, as of yet, has been unable to create exact copies of these compounds, so what is created is somewhat incompatible with and sometimes damaging to our bodies.  This is why there are always so many side effects listed with prescription medications.

Mother Gaia makes multiple amazing Aromatherapy products that are expertly blended for your safety and for the most benefit.

How do they work?
Through the process of Aromatherapy there are three specific ways that the chemical constituents of the essential oil enter the blood stream.

First, and fastest (within nanoseconds), is through absorption through the skin.  Placing the essential oil on the skin allows it to transported through the pores and into the blood.  Our skin is an amazing organ that not only protects us from the outside by covering us all over but it also takes in nutrients and toxins from the products you use on it and from the environment.  Like when sun hits the skin Vitamin D is produced from chemical compounds already in the body.  If your skin is dry it is not working as effectively as it should and cannot protect you from invaders as well.  When the skin is healthy and nourished it works at an optimum to protect you.

Second, and almost as fast (within milliseconds), is through diffusion of the oil into the air and inhaling it.  The oils are placed in a warmer or diffuser.  The warmer warms the oil and causes it to break down and evaporate before the heat damages the chemical compounds.  The diffuser uses a small amount of heat and a small fan to blow the chemical compounds into the air.  After processing by the olfactory organs the chemical constituents enter the blood.  You don’t even need to use one of these, you can simply open the essential oil bottle and sniff the aroma.  You can also make a spray of water, alcohol, and essential oils and spray it all over whenever you need it.

Third, and the slowest, is by consuming the oil.  The oil is dropped onto a sugar pill and swallowed, or mixed into a drink, or even dropped into water.  This is a beneficial process for internal healing but takes time for the chemicals to be processed by the digestive system. It can also be inflammatory to the digestive system, especially when certain oils are used at full strength. These absorbed chemical compounds are integrated into the cells very easily because they match the compounds already there. It is not recommended to ingest essential oils unless under the supervision of a trained professional.

One thing you must remember is that essential oils are highly concentrated. Most must be diluted in order to use them without physical reactions.  Some can be poisonous when not diluted, but are amazingly beneficial when used in 2 to 12% dilutions.  A dilution is when you mix the essential oil with a carrier oil like sweet almond, sunflower, or grapeseed. The percentage is determined by the amount of essential oil to the amount of carrier oil. For example a 2% dilution is 2 drops of essential oil to 100 drops of carrier oil.

This is the same concept as following your prescription instructions to avoid an overdose.  You don’t take eight pills of Tylenol at once when you’re supposed to take two at the most.  People want relief now and don’t consider what they are putting into their bodies.  This is when kidney and liver failure occur.  Then the company producing the medication is sued because the instructions were not followed.

Never take/use more than recommended.