Chances are you have heard about essential oils, either from a friend, online, or on social media. You may even know people who swear by essential oils, and have perhaps even tried them yourself. Or, perhaps you haven’t, but are thinking about it…
Yes, essential oils have become the ‘trendy’ new thing to hit the natural wellness market. But did you know that essential oils are not a new ‘fad’ at all? They have been around for thousands of years, used in every corner of the world.
Even Cleopatra is said to have used essential oils!
Legend has it that Cleopatra bathed in rose oil and milk, often several times a day, to keep her skin soft and smooth. In her day, essential oils were seen not as a luxury, but as a necessary part of a person’s daily routine. Egyptians used essential oils to protect their skin from the drying effects of the sun, on their feet to prevent the skin from cracking and as an antiseptic, and to ease sore muscles after a long day of work. They even used them to make creams and perfumes. The oils were essential for therapeutic and spiritual reasons, to heal the mind, body, and spirit.
So what exactly are essential oils?
Essential oils are a highly potent form of plant based medicine. They are actually the most powerful part of the plant. Essential oils are distilled from shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes, fruit, rinds, resins, and herbs….and consist of over 100 different natural, organic compounds.
They are nature’s original medicine!
In humans, they can provide support for every system in the body: your skeletal system, your muscular system, circulatory system, endocrine system and your hormones, respiratory system and immune system. They support brain health and healthy weight. They are used extensively for emotions and for spiritual support. An oil in a diffuser can soothe a child’s tough day at school and provide a calming effect when you’ve had stressful day at work. There are about 300 essential oils on the earth, but you only need about 10-20 of them to build a good wellness kit!
I know what you are thinking — ‘yes, but……do they actually work?’
That is a great question! Perhaps you have tried some essential oils from the grocery store and aren’t seeing results? Or worse – maybe you have had ‘allergic’ reactions and aversions to the cheaper brands?
Where an essential oil comes from REALLY matters!
Properly distilling plant matter while not disturbing molecular structure is a highly temperamental process. Essential oil production is a delicate science that requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and understanding of proper production from the beginning to the end.
For an example, Cypress EO requires a minimum of 24 hours of distillation at 265 F and 5 pounds of pressure to extract most of the therapeutically active constituents. If distillation time is cut by only two hours, 18 to 20 constituents will be missing from the resulting oil. However, most commercial Cypress oil is distilled for only two hours! This short distillation time allows the product to cut costs and produces a cheaper oil. Sadly, it results in an oil with little or no therapeutic value.
Other ways companies can cut costs is by introducing chemicals into the steam-distillation process to increase the volume of oil produced, and/or by increasing the quantity of the oil extracted is through re-distillation. Unfortunately repeated distillation of the plant material to maximize the volume of oil by using second, third, fourth stages of steam distillation, results in successive weakening of the potency of the essential oil.
In addition to the distillation process, there is actually an exact right time of day that a plant should be harvested. There is a specific amount of time that plant life should “rest” after harvest to obtain the highest quality of essential oils. The timing of the harvest is one of the most important factors in the production of therapeutic oils. If the plants are harvested at the wrong time of the season or even at the incorrect time of day, they may distill into a substandard oil. In some instances, changing harvest time by even a few hours, can make a huge difference.
For example, German Chamomile harvested in the morning will produce oil with far more azulene (a powerful anti-inflammatory compound) than if it is harvested in late afternoon.
Phew, that seems like a LOT of work to get the optimum conditions for harvesting and distilling that yield essential oils with the most therapeutic value – temperature, environmental conditions, and timing are crucial!!!
Unfortunately, not all oils are created equally…..
When it comes to labelling of Essential Oils, currently there are no strict regulations. In North America, a bottle of oil may claim to be “100% pure” or “all natural”, however it is really only legally required to contain a minimum of 5% of that essential oil. In addition to all of the above ways mentioned for cutting corners and ultimately costs, often times water, alcohol or other synthetic fillers may be used to make up the remaining 95% in that bottle.
Its really difficult to decipher truth from fallacy, but at the end of the day you have to do your own research and follow your own heart.
Are you interested in learning more? Get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org), as you can see, essential oils are a passion of mine.