So you’ve been hearing all this talk about essential oils. They’re everywhere. They’re in your store, your co-worker raves about them, your sister sells them…but what exactly are they? Grab your pen and paper and lets dive in to a quick lesson and learn what all the fuss is about.
Essential Oils Defined
Essential Oils are the naturally occurring, volatile aromatic compounds that come from the leaves, flowers, bark, and other parts of the plant. Quite simply they’re like the blood of the plant. A plants unique essential oil protects the plant from pathogenic microorganisms (such as; fungi, bacteria, etc…) and heals the plant.
Essential oils can be extracted from the plant and then physically separated from the water phase.
There are three ways to physically separate an oil:
• Distillation (steam, steam/water, or water)
• Cold pressing (usually done for citrus oils)
When the plants are cultivated and the oils distilled correctly, the same therapeutic properties of the plant can be present. This is why your choice in a brand of essential oil is so important when looking to use it therapeutically.
The History of Essential Oils
So this is just a fad, right? The newest bandwagon us “crunchy granola, do-it-all moms” have hitched our minivans too….WRONG. The idea of aromatherapy and the use of plants to support the body both physically and emotionally has been around for a very long time.Click here for a visual timeline of essential oils.
- Records dating back to 4500 BC show us through ancient writings and traditions that aromatics were used for religious rituals, the treatment of illness, and other spiritual and physical needs.
- The Egyptians were masters in using essential oils, with Imhotep being credited for paving the way of essential oil use for medicinal purposes. In the Temple of Edfu there is a “laboratory” room with walls that contain hieroglyphics listing recipes for aromatic blends.
- The Ebers Papyrus, a medical scroll that dates back to 1500 BC, includes over 800 different herbal prescriptions and remedies. Many of these containing Myrrh.
- The Romans purified their temples by diffusing essential oils and used oil infused baths to ward of disease.
- The Bible contains over 200 references to aromatics, incense, and ointments. Aromatics such as frankincense, myrrh, galbanum, cinnamon, cassia, rosemary, hyssop, and spikenard were used for anointing and healing the sick.
So How Do Essential Oils Work?
Essential oils have the unique ability to penetrate cell membranes and travel throughout the blood and tissues. The lipid-soluble structure of essential oils is very similar to the makeup of our cell membranes and the molecules of essential oils are small, which allows them to penetrate into the cells.
Each essential oil is made up of unique components consisting of terpenes, esters, oxides, alcohols, phenols, ketones, and aldehydes. These components can interact with our bodies to support our various systems.
So there you go! That’s the definition, history, and science of essential oils. For me and my family essentials oils are an integral part of our daily routine in providing support and balance for our bodies.
Class dismissed. Now put the books away, go diffuse some Frankincense, and marvel that you are enjoying the same oil as those did back in BC.