Know your Essential Oil
Know your essential oil
The use of essential oils in aromatherapy is nowadays very popular. In a world full of hectic situations, they make us come back to our true inner essence and offer ways to take care of our body, mind and spirit.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are tiny chemical components that are stored within the plant. These oil molecules are the immune system of the plant, they help to regenerate the plant, defend it against bacterias, and regulate its hormones. The oils capture plants’ characteristic scent and flavor, in other words the “essence” of the plant. Due to its strong aroma, flowers protect themselves from dangerous insects and attract the one needed for their survival. Plants store the essential oils either in external secretory structures found on the surface of the plant, or internal secretory structures, found inside a part or parts of the plant. Plants with external secretory structures are for e.g basil, lavender, sweet marjoram, melissa, oregano, peppermint, rosemary… and plants with internal secretory structures include the plants such as the citrus fruit, eucalyptus, frankincense, angelica and many more.
How are essential oils extracted?
There are many different methods by which the essential oils can be extracted. The method is suited to the specific plant part containing the oil. Among all the methods, distillation and expression (cold pressing) are the most used ones. During the distillation steam or water slowly passes through the plant material to release the oils. These oils are carried to a condenser that cools the vapor back into the liquid form which is collected in a container below the condenser. The water and essential oils do not mix, making it easy to collect the oils from the surface of the water.
Most of the citrus oils such as tangerine, lemon, bergamot, sweet orange, and lime are extracted by cold pressing of the oil from the peels. The whole fruit is pressed to squeeze out the juice and the oil. They are centrifuged to remove any solids such as peel and the oil gets separated from the juice layer. Expressed citrus oils offer the advantage of a cold process which results in an aroma which is identical to fresh citrus peels. You can also find the distilled citrus oils which tend to deteriorate more quickly and are considerably more unstable than the expressed oils.
Except for distillation and expression, it is pretty common to extract the oils by CO2 or solvent extraction which work similar to distillation. Either CO2 or food grade solvents like hexane and ethanol are used to isolate the oil from the plant material. CO2 extraction does not alter the oils by the heat, causing them no damage, which might result in a higher quality essential oils.
Interested to know more? Join our Oil Path! A 4-week program that guides you through the wisdom of essential oils, its benefits and daily use. Throughout 4 weeks, you will receive emails including a link to the blog of the week, benefits and uses of a weekly essential oil, a morning/evening ritual, simple recipe and yoga practice tip. And it’s entirely free! Sign up for our newsletter on our website, and you’ll be invited to join.
Written by Patricia Rovna
Patricia is a host & social media intern at Beautiful Yoga. ‘I’m really passionate about the practice of yoga. I’m always looking for some new types of yoga and to learn about the poses and myself. My excitement with yoga and spiritual lifestyle comes from believing in the power of energy, love and presence.’
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