What is an essential oil?

Essential OilEssential oils are the odorant chemicals extracted from plants. Aromatic plants grow in great numbers but not all of them yield enough essential oil to make it worthwhile to go through the extraction process. Some of them also have a very toxic effect and therefore cannot be used for therapeutic purposes in the practice of aromatherapy.

When one asks what is an essential oil, it is useful to think about their characteristics and appearance. Essential oils are fluidic, odorant, colored and volatile. This means they undergo chemical changes when they come into contact with sunlight, air and heat. They are not water-soluble but will dissolve in pure alcohol or chemical solvents such as fatty or oily substances, petroleum and ethers.

Essential oils have a density generally lighter than water which causes them to float on the surface of water. There are however some essential oils that are heavier and will sink to the bottom. They generally do not freeze, although there are some exceptions to this rule.

Always keep essential oils in cool temperatures, around 5° Celsius. They should be stored in dark glass containers that are tightly capped or sealed to stop evaporation and prevent oxidation. This will ensure they will keep their therapeutic properties for the length of their shelf life.

Essential oils must be kept away from direct sunlight and heat to prevent photocatalytic activity. When purchasing essential oils from a shop it is important to look out for where and how they are stored.

Essential oils are obtained from various parts of a plant including leaves (Thyme), roots (Ginger), seeds (Coriander), flowers (Chamomile), wood (Sandalwood), fruit (Grapefruit) and bark (Cinnamon).

Birch Essential Oil

Birch essential oilBirch essential oil has a powerful and penetrating aroma with many useful properties including being an antiseptic, analgesic, diuretic and sudorific.

It blends well with Chamomile, Ginger, Lavender and Thyme essential oils among others and was often used in the perfume industry.

To find out more of Birch Essential Oil and its uses visit the full profile here.

Image by: Andrew Butko [GFDL 1.3 or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Elemi Essential Oil

Elemi essential oilElemi essential oil is distilled from the tree bark of the elemi tree originating from the Philippines.

It is a useful expectorant to help ease lung problems such as coughs and excess mucous in the lungs. It has a grounding and calming effect on the mind.

To find out more of Elemi Essential Oil’s properties and uses see the full profile here.

Lavandin Essential Oil

LavandinLavandin is a hybrid plant produced from true lavender and spike lavender. It produces a much higher yield, making it a less expensive essential oil than the other two.

It can be very effective for healing skin conditions such as dermatitis and can help with scarring. Great for stuffy noses and coughs due to its expectorant properties.

To find out more about Lavandin essential oil see the full profile here.

Anise-Star Essential Oil

Anise StarAnise-Star Essential Oil has a rather penetrating and pungent aroma, similar to liquorice. It should be used sparingly as it is a very potent essential oil and not often used in the practice of Aromatherapy.

It has great carminative properties so is useful for all sorts of digestive problems including feelings of nausea, flatulence and constipation.

It is generally best to avoid using Anise-Star essential oil in any natural skin care recipes due to its potency.

You can find more information about Anise-Star here.

Aromatherapy Home Recipes

Aromatherapy Home RecipesUsing aromatherapy around your home in cleaning recipes is not only a healthy decision you can make for you and your family, it fills your house with the beautiful aroma of essential oils.

If you have any old essential oils that have lost their therapeutic qualities, it’s also a great way to use them up and avoid having to waste them.

A very simple thing you can do is fill a bucket with hot water then add several drops of your chosen essential oil and use the water to mop your floors, clean your windows or even throw down your toilet to keep it smelling fresh.

A useful way to keep moths and weevils at bay is to wipe the inside of your cupboards with lavender oil. This also acts as a natural disinfectant. Alternatively, pour some drops of any of the citrus oils onto some cotton wool balls and tuck these into the corners of cupboards and drawers.

To make a natural air freshener, fill a spray bottle with water then add essential oils. It’s much more pleasant to spray this sort of mixture around your home than the commercial products full of chemicals.

If you have any ideas you’d like to share please leave a comment below.

Check out this page for more ideas on Aromatherapy Home Recipes.

Guide to Essential Oil Notes O-Y

The final guide for essential oil notes is available today and covers the essential oil notes from O-Y. The previous guides can be found at guide to essential oil notes A-E and guide to essential oil notes F-N.

These guides can help when blending many essential oil recipes including for natural skin care, aromatherapy body scrub recipes and bath and body recipes.

Guide to Essential Oil Notes O-Y

Guide to Essential Oil Notes F-N

Following on from yesterday’s guide to essential oil notes A-E, today we have the guide to essential oil notes F-N.

You can use these guides to help with blending your essential oil recipes. Not only for aromatherapy diffuser blends but it’s also handy for making aromatherapy perfume recipes.

Don’t forget, you can find out more about blending essential oils here.

Guide to Essential Oil Notes F-N

Guide to Essential Oil Notes A-E

Here’s a useful guide to essential oil notes which can help when making your aromatherapy essential oil blends. This first guide is for essential oils A-E, the rest will follow soon.

Ideally, essential oil blends should contain all three notes as this can create harmony within the blend. Once you’re arms with this knowledge, you can get creative and start making your own blends from your favorite essential oils.

You can find out more about essential oil notes and aromatherapy blends here.

Guide to Essential Oil Notes A-E

Essential Oil Extraction

Essential oil extractionSteam distillation is by far the most common form of essential oil extraction but there are other methods including enfleurage, expression, maceration and solvent extraction.

The method used depends on the part of the plant the essential oil is to be extracted from. For example, the delicate flower petals of roses, jasmine and neroli often requires enfleurage and sometimes maceration or solvent extraction.

Expression is often used for the rind of certain citrus fruit including lemons, oranges and grapefruit.

The steam distillation methods works well with leaves, seeds, roots, flowers and stems.

You can find out more details about the various methods of Essential Oil Extraction here.