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Myth: "An essential oil is just a plant all mushed up"

Myth: "An essential oil is just a plant all mushed up"

The essential oil is a ‘hormone’ in the plasma of the plant, closely linked to its physiological functions.

It is the response of the whole plant organism to environmental and life cycle challenges. The essential oil is the plant’s defence against things like disease, environmental pests, hazards, UV damage and wounds. It’s also the plant’s way of speaking with the world around it; attracting pollinators, repelling predators and communicating with other plants. It is active and ever changing, much like our own endocrine and immune system constantly changes to bring balance to our bodies. 

This is one of the many reasons why consumers should work with essential oils that come from an Organic Source and small-scale Artisan Farmers. If a plant has been interfered with, or it's healthy development has not be nurtured, it may not have produced the biochemicals desired. To learn more about the certification and control of essential oils, read this article

So, how do we get the essential oil out of the plant, and into the bottle? 

Humans have been extracting essential oils from plants for thousands of years; the human relationship with aromatic and medicinal plants has ancient and universal roots. Today, the essential oil can be extracted in a number of different ways. 

Steam Distillation is the most common form of essential oil distillation. In a traditional steam distillation, fresh plant material is placed in a chamber inside a stil. Steam is passed up through the plant material, and the heat gently extracts the essential oil. The steam passes through a coil where it is cooled down into liquid form. The steam distillation of each plant is an art form, many factors must be considered to get the most active essential oil possible; it requires time, care and great expertise. Our Rose Persian Essential Oil is a product of steam distillation. 

Co2 Extraction: Co2, at a particular temperature and pressure, becomes a supercritical fluid which is passed through the plant material, providing a highly effective solvent which extracts the essential oil and other compounds from the plant. This method of extraction is relatively new in terms of essential oils and at this time the essential oils available through Co2 extraction are limited. Our Frankincense Co2 Essential Oil is a product of Co2 Extraction. 

Cold Pressed Extraction is the mechanical expression of plant material, often used for citrus oils (citrus peels). A mechanism is used to press the essential oil out of the plant material. The main difference between cold press and steam distillation is that cold press is a mechanical process and does not require heat. Our Sweet Orange Essential Oil is a product of Cold Pressed Extraction. 

Absolute Extraction: Some plants are too fragile to be put through steam distillation or cold pressed extraction and the aromatic molecules are obtained through absolute extraction. The plant material is immersed in a solvent, and the solvent extracts these molecules, along with other waxy compounds. This concrete extract is then washed in alcohol (to remove the solvent), and the absolute remains. Our Jasmine Sambac is a product of Absolute Extraction. 

The essential oil isn’t the only thing that can be extracted from plants; Herbalists have been working with plants for thousands of years, experimenting with different methods of reducing them into active and healing natural medicines.

To learn more about the healing properties of plants, how they're extracted and how you can use them in your daily life, check out our Basics of Aromatherapy Online Course!

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