This information has been taken from my notes of many years of study and experience with essential oils. I hope it will help and maybe encourage someone who is interested in essential oils and natural therapies. More pages of information can be found on our website http://craftycutiesbydesign.com/cart/index.php.
Essential oils are not really “oils” but are a concentrated, pure liquid from plants. They can be taken from shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes, herbs, seeds and fruit. Plants contain complex and powerful substances known as the essence of the plant.
Every essential oil has different healing benefits for body & mind. They are mentioned over 500 times in the bible and were used to anoint and heal the sick, and were used in cosmetics and on the skin. They are now widely used in aromatherapy, but also in candles, air fresheners, perfumes, cosmetics, bath and body products, like soaps, lotions, powders, lip balms. They can be used to speed healing from illness and injuries, to flavor foods and in cleaning products.
The Difference Between Fragrance and Essential Oils:
Fragrance oils are synthetic, made in a lab and may have names like “cinnamon bun” or “fudge brownies”. They are fine to use for scenting your home and in some bath and body products. We love them and use them, but fragrance oils cannot give you the healing benefits of a true essential oils. We began by using only pure essential oils in our body products but by request we now offer a choice of popular fragrance oils or pure essential oils.
Essential oils are well known for improving body and mind, but do your research before using any oils especially for medicinal purposes. Essential oils and natural therapies should be studied carefully before you try any and ideally they should compliment medical treatments given by conventional doctors.
How Essential Oils are Made:
The most common method is steam distillation, and produces the best quality of oil. Steam distillation has been used since the eleventh century. The flower, plant, or herb is placed in a large still. Pressurized, heated steam comes into the bottom of the vat. Steam saturates the plant until it breaks down releasing the essence.
The vapor that is left (a combination of essence and water) rises to the top to condense into a liquid containing both water and oil. It is then cooled. They wait until the oil and water separate, oil is lighter than water and floats to top. A skimmer is lightly moved over the top of the liquid to remove the oil. This is the essential oil.
The liquid that is left is known by three names: floral water, distillate, or hydrosol. Floral water has therapeutic benefits, it is a milder version of the essential oil.
Citrus fruits use a cold pressing method, and is done by pressing the fruit peelings until the essence is drawn out.
Another method used is Enfleurage, which is a process of pressing an item into either a wax or oil until the essence is removed from the item completely.
In the case of delicate items like flower petals they can’t use steam distillation so theyuse a more expensive solvent extraction method. The items is mixed with solvents like benzene, hexane, or petroleum. This mixture keeps continuing until the solvent contains the essence of the item. This mixture is called concretes. Concretes are the mixture of essential oils, waxes, resins, and plant materials that are lipophilic(oil soluble). From this mixture, the now fragrant solvent is then mixed with an ethyl alcohol solvent which breaks down the non fragrant elements. When that process is completed, the mixture is distilled and filtered so the essence is separated from the solution. The essential oil at this state is called an absolute. These are usually much more expensive to purchase.
Some essential oils are made only “seasonally” when crops are ready. Rose oil is made in late spring. Rose petals are gathered by and in the early morning and distilled the same day.
Of the 400,000 varieties of plants available, only about 400 of them can be used to make a successful essential oil.
How to Buy the Best Quality Essential Oil:
For the most health benefits from your oils, it is important to get pure essential oils from a reputable source to be assured they are the best quality. The good news is that we have found you do not have to spend a fortune to get a good quality oil, but be cautious of overly cheap essential oils, they are usually diluted. To increase their profits many companies sell pure essential oils that are cut or “mixed” with alcohol. This weakens the oil and you are not really getting what you are paying for.
Another clue for essential oils that have been diluted or mixed with synthetic oils is when the prices are all very similar for different types of oils. Prices should always vary, sometimes quite a lot between the essential oils. Pricing depends on the type of oil, like floral, nut, herb, citrus and the availability of the product being used, like the season, and overall cost to produce the oils.
Wherever you buy your oils, they should be able to tell you the country of origin of the plant used, the parts of the plant used, and the method of extraction. It all makes a difference in the quality of product you are getting. Reputable online companies will have a MSDS Sheet for viewing which is the Material Safety Data Sheet.
Different parts of a plant can be used, like leaves, roots, fruit and some will be more beneficial than others. Extraction method also makes a difference in strength and quality. If your supplier does not know where our how the oils were obtained, I would not be sure of the quality.
Price of Essential Oils:
The most reasonably priced essential oils are usually the citrus oils, like lemons, oranges, grapefruit. Some of the most expensive are flower types like geranium, jasmine, melissa, neroli and ylang ylang. It takes over 100 lbs of lavender flowers to make one pound of lavender essential oil. It takes over 1,000 lbs of jasmine to make one pound of jasmine essential oil. The most expensive essential oil we have seen is Rose Oil. They say it takes 60,000 rose petals to make one ounce of pure oil or 10,000 lbs of rose petals to make 1 lb of essential oil.
Essential oils are a bit expensive, but are very concentrated so they go a long ways. It only takes a few drops of a high quality oil to scent a small bath product, it takes 2-3 times that amount when using lab produced fragrance oils.
I raise many organic herbs and flowers for cooking and to use in the products I create. While it would be nice to be able to make my own essential oils, it is an extensive, exact process that I have not attempted so for now I will order mine from a reliable company.
Where to Buy Essential Oils:
http://www.newdirectionsaromatics.com/ My favorite place to buy essential oils. They are reasonably priced, are based in Canada. They have extensive information on the oils they sell, where and how they are obtained. Their oils come in amber glass bottles.
Essential oils in amber (brown) or cobalt (blue) glass bottles will be better preserved and we have found they last much longer than those in clear bottles. Bottles with orifice reducers are much better than bottles with bulb droppers. When the cap is off your bottle, you won’t risk spilling the entire bottle, contaminating your essential oils when using the dropper, and it is much safer around children and pets.
You can always get essential oils at local health stores, but be sure they are freshly made and from a reliable source. They are usually much more expensive and you can easily become confused with so many choices and end up with an essential oil that has solvents, alcohol, extenders, or other diluting agents added.
Oils sold cheaply in big box stores and dollar type stores are the worst, they may be labeled as aromatherapy and even “pure” or “natural” but are usually highly diluted, may be synthetic and will only be good for scenting, not for therapeutic use.
A true essential oil will always have it’s Latin botanical name listed. Many of us are used to common names but there are “technical names” for different species of what we know by “common name” plants. For example Citronella is Cymbopogon nardus. The region may be included. Citronella Java that we buy is Cymbopogon winterianus. Grapefruit is citrus paradisi. Make sure a latin name is printed on the bottle.
When you have the essential oil home it is easy to tell if it is pure. Just put a drop of the oil on absorbent paper. A pure essential oil will evaporate leaving little or no mark on the paper. A diluted oil will leave a greasy oil mark and will not evaporate.
Grades of Essential Oils:
There are 4 grades of essential oils that help to indicate quality.
Grade A (or therapeutic): The best and highest quality essential oil. These oils are carefully handled and do not contain solvents and other impurities.
Grade B (or food grade): These oils may have solvents, synthetics, pesticides, fertilizers, and even chemical extenders in them. It does not seem like you would want to eat these!!
Grade C (cosmetic grade): There is a high percentage of solvents allowed and the same synthetics, pesticides, fertilizers and chemical extenders allowed in the food grade. This cosmetic grade is commonly found in the store bought perfumes and other scented products.
Natural or Conventional Oils Group: There are no chemical additives in these essential oils but they may contain agricultural residues in small amounts.
Some essential oils are labeled “organic” meaning they were certified organic, and no chemicals were used on the plants used for the essential oils. These are very good.
Safety with Essential Oils:
Essential oils are powerful and strong, so never put undiluted essential oil directly on your skin, or your pets. It can cause severe skin irritation and possible allergic reactions. You must first mix it with a carrier oil like olive oil, almond, coconut, grape seed, jojoba, aloe vera or wheat germ. Even when properly diluted you many have a strong reaction to certain essential oils if you have very sensitive skin. Try to wash as much of it off as possible with soap and water if this happens. Use great care with pregnant women, elderly, children, and those with serious health problems. You may perform a skin patch test to see how the oils will react to your skin before using in a sensitive or large area of your body.
Skin Patch Test:
If have sensitive skin and want to be sure the oil will be good for your skin, perform a skin test. They are simple and effective.
Mix 1 drop of the essential oil with a teaspoon of any carrier oil like sweet almond, coconut, or jojoba oil.
Apply a small amount of the mixed oil to the inside of your wrist or elbow and leave uncovered for 24 hours.
Do not wash the area during test time.
If there is no sign of irritation, burning, itching, redness or swelling, then it should be safe for you to use the oil.
Remember that just because an oil or plant is “natural” does not mean it is “safe”. Some of the deadliest and most toxic poisons in the world are “natural”. Essential oils can be wonderful healers when properly used but their strength and powerful effect on our bodies should be respected.
You should be cautious when using products with essential oils on any of your pets, even some items sold as “natural” for pets contain penny royal and herbs now known to be dangerous for pets. You must be especially careful around cats, they cannot tolerate most essential oils.
A large, very informative book “Herbs for Pets” by Mary L. Wulff-Tilford & Gregory L. Tilford is one I find the most helpful in using herbs around and for pets.
Citrus/fruits essential oils can be sensitizing to skin, making you more likely to have sun burning or skin damage so do not use it before long sun exposure. Do not put any citrus essential oils on a sunburned skin or on moles or skin cancer areas. Citrus may also irritate sensitive skin.
Emergencies: If a child or adult accidentally ingests a toxic essential oil or overdoses, DO NOT induce vomiting, that will cause more damage. This is not usually life threatening but you should call 911 or the poison control center, better to be safe than sorry. Seek medical attention for any other serious reactions when working with essential oils.
Essential oil in your eyes: Put a small drop of a carrier oil, like olive oil in your affected eye. The carrier oil will help absorb the essential oil. Rinse with water and pat dry with cloth. If you have no oil on hand, then flush with water for at least 15 minutes.
Irritated or Burning skin: Wash with soap and water. If rash persists for few days, or is blistering, seek medical attention.
Sick and Nauseated: If you feel sick, confused or have a headache, breathe in some fresh air. Problem should clear quickly, but it may take few hours to fully recover.
Essential oils will last for years if properly stored, in a dark jar, out of sunlight, out of heat, in a cool location. Sunlight and heat will break down the components of essential oils. Essential oils can also be stored in aluminum or double lined containers.
Companies will always tell you it is best to use within a year. Citrus oils like lemons and oranges do have a shorter shelf life, best in 6 months, although I again have found them good after a couple of years. One thing that helps extend the life of citrus oils is when the oils are halfway or so gone, transfer the remaining oil to a smaller bottle, with a tight lid. That seems to keep them fresher. Oxygen interacts with the ingredients of the citrus which causes it to break down faster than other oils.
We always use the freshest essential oils for therapeutic uses and in the products we sell, there are plenty of uses for our older oils around our home! When essential oils get a bit older, we buy fresh and use up the older ones in our homemade cleaning products, detergents, and even air fresheners. They still smell fabulous and nothing goes to waste!!
Aromatherapy uses for Essential Oils:
Inhalation: Add two or three drops of essential oil to a bowl of steaming hot water and breathe in the steam for a few minutes with a towel draped over your head to capture the steam with the essences.
Vaporization:The most common method of vaporization is to add pure essential oils to a nebulizing diffuser to disperse the micron-sized particulates into your environment for aromatherapy benefits. Add 3-8 drops of essential oil.
Bathing: Add four to six drops of pure essential oils to a hot bath. You may add milk to break up the oil on the surface of the water. If you have a carrier oil you can add 1 teaspoon of that for skin softening. Golden jojoba is popular. Keep in mind tubs can get slick with any oils used, so be careful!!
Foot Bath: 5-6 drops of essential oil directly to the water
Massage: Use15 to 20 drops of pure essential oil in 1 ounce of massage oil base is a relaxing and therapeutic way to receive the aromatherapy benefits of the oils, along with the detoxification of the body through lymph drainage and the stimulation of the entire circulatory system.
There are many good resources in books and online for learning about the benefits of essential oils, ideas, and usages. http://www.aromaweb.com/ is a good resource for beginners. You will also want more detailed and advanced books to reference if you are serious about essential oils and aromatherapy. Two of my favorite authors are Rosemary Gladstar and Valerie Ann Worwood.
The information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is by no means complete, it only scratches the surface. There is much more information out there and I am always learning more through my own and other peoples experiences. I encourage everyone interested in essential oils and natural healing to do your own research. This information is not intended to assess, diagnose, or prescribe for any medical condition. Always seek the counsel of a qualified holistic health care practitioner or a conventional medical doctor for health concerns.