Essential oils are natural aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. They can be both beautifully and powerfully fragrant. If you have ever enjoyed the gift of a rose, a walk by a field of lavender, or the smell of fresh cut mint, you have experienced the aromatic qualities of essential oils. In addition to giving plants their distinctive smells, essential oils provide plants with protection against predators and disease and play a role in plant pollination.
The picture here depicts a peppermint leaf. Under magnification, you can see the oil sacs present on that peppermint leaf. That oil represents the “life blood” of the plant, protecting it from illness and harm. When we use essential oils, we can experience some of those same benefits. When properly distilled, essential oils are captured and the plant’s true essence is preserved. The finished product is very concentrated, potent and effective. To get an understanding of that concentration, imagine that 1-drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea!
Try this at home: Squeeze the peel of a ripe orange. The fragrant residue on your hand is full of essential oils.
Essential oils are non water-based phytochemicals made up of volatile organic compounds. There can be hundreds of different compounds in each essential oil, each providing a different medicinal benefit. Although they are fat soluble, they do not include fatty lipids or acids found in vegetable and animal oils. Therefore, quality essential oils are NOT “oily” feeling. Essential oils are very clean, almost crisp, to the touch and are immediately absorbed by the skin. Pure, unadulterated essential oils are translucent and range in color from crystal clear to deep blue.
In addition to their intrinsic benefits to plants, and being beautifully fragrant to people, essential oils have been used throughout history in many cultures for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Modern scientific study and trends towards more holistic approaches to wellness are driving a revival and new discovery of essential oil health applications.