A variety of plants cover the Earth in different shapes, sizes, colors, and scents. Many of these plants contain compounds that typically can’t be seen with the naked eye—they hide within the roots, flowers, seeds, bark, or other areas of the plant. These compounds are known as essential oils. They are highly concentrated, making them extremely potent. Also referred to as volatile aromatic compounds, essential oils give a plant its aroma, protect it from harsh environmental conditions and insects, and even play a part in plant pollination.
When you hear the word “volatile,” you may think it holds a negative connotation; however, in the case of essential oils, volatility refers to a substance’s ability to change its state quickly. The chemical makeup of volatile aromatic compounds in essential oils allow them to disperse quickly through the air. This is why you can instantly smell the potent aroma of an essential oil from the moment you open the bottle—even from a distance.
As volatile aromatic compounds move quickly through the air, you will experience the scent when the compounds interact directly with sensors in the brain. With over 3,000 types of volatile aromatic compounds discovered so far, it is important to note that these compounds greatly determine the benefit, aroma, and nature of each essential oil. Because of unique chemical makeup, each essential oil will vary from species to species, and even from plant to plant. The delicate ratio of aromatic constituents found in any given essential oil are what make it unique and give it specific benefits.
While some view essential oils as a new trend, the use of plant extracts and plant-based products is deeply rooted in traditions of the past. Ancient civilizations used plants for things like aromatherapy, personal care, health care practices, religious ceremonies, beauty treatments, and food preparation.
It is important to note that not all essential oils are created equal. The purity of an oil can change depending on geographic location, distillation methods, weather, and other factors. Additionally, no matter how well a plant is selected, cared for, and harvested, the quality of an essential oil can either be preserved or destroyed during the distillation process. Because of the attention to detail and precision necessary in distillation, it becomes less of a process and more of an art form. Distillers must be precise and pay careful attention to harvesting methods, temperatures, time of distillation, the amount of pressure used, etc.
The exact process for producing an essential oil will vary depending on what type of plant the oil comes from. However, the basic idea is that plants go through a specific distillation process using special machinery in order to separate the essential oil from its plant parts. The essential oil hides within different parts of the plant, often in microscopic amounts. During the distillation process, the machinery will separate the essential oil from its original plant part. For example, when citrus oils are produced, machinery is used to separate the essential oil from the rind of the fruit.
While essential oils and plant extracts have been used for centuries, essential oils still hold relevant applications today. With advancing technology, improved quality, potency, and safety, essential oils are now more accessible and easy to use in everyday life. Although essential oils were often used as a part of cultural practices and traditions of the past, we now have increasing scientific evidence and research to show the effectiveness and safe nature of essential oils in our day and age.
In ancient times, people used essential oils and plant parts to improve their health and well-being. Because essential oils can be used to soothe occasional skin irritations, promote healthy digestion, support good oral health, create feelings of clear airways*, and more, they have long been a popular choice for those who want to maintain good health.
Essential oils offer a variety of benefits, and each individual experiences essential oil use in their own way. Fortunately, the diversity of essential oils makes them a helpful way to maintain health, even for those who have specific health concerns, seek diverse health benefits, or experience sensitivity. Using essential oils for health benefits has become popular because it allows the user to tailor the experience to their specific wants and needs, rather than settling for a generic solution.
With unique chemical structures, each essential oil holds a variety of benefits for the user. Some essential oils hold soothing, toning, and grounding properties, while others are known as energizing, uplifting, warming, or renewing. As our bodies go through an array of emotions and physical states throughout a single day, essential oils can help us manage and maintain well-being.
The chemical design of an essential oil gives it specific benefits. Some essential oils are helpful for cleansing or purifying, while others provide a soothing sensation to the skin. The aroma of essential oils can also create a chemical reaction in the brain, eliciting emotions and internal responses.
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