What Are Essential Oils? Where do they come from?
Let's take a closer look. Maybe you're already an essential oils user, but do you know how these precious oils ended up in that little brown bottle you're holding? It's called plant therapy for good reason! Once you know more about the nature and sourcing of these oils, you'll be even more excited to use them in your daily life.
An entire book could be written about the nature of essential oils but let’s just focus on a few key facts to get you confident about using them. I’ll list some resources at the end so that you can continue to expand your knowledge.
Essential oils are extracted from plants. These can include leaves, stems, flowers, bark, resin, roots and fruit. Plants produce certain chemical compounds to help them thrive and survive in their environment. For example, some flowers produce a scent that attracts pollinators. Other plants produce a scent that repels predators such as insects or fungi. When a plant is injured, certain chemical compounds help it to heal. Since I’m a live/dried blood analyst, I like to think of the essential oil components of the plant as like our blood cells. Some help us to heal and others help to sustain us.
Essential oils are so powerful because only the key chemical components are extracted from the plant and other plant materials like the fibrous material is left behind. That makes essential oils very, very concentrated and very, very powerful in minute quantities. It takes about a pound of peppermint leaves to make 1 tbsp of peppermint essential oil and over 100 lbs of rose petals to make just 1 tsp of rose essential oils. Generally 1-2 drops of an essential oil is enough to get a desired effect. To put it in perspective, 1 drop of pure therapeutic grade peppermint essential oil has the potency of about 28 cups of peppermint tea!
Pure essential oils are extracted via steam distillation or cold-pressing. Generally citrus oils (i.e. grapefruit, lemon, bergamot) are cold-pressed from the rind of the fruit. Steam distillation is a very complex process and can take a many hours depending on the plant (for example, 2 hours for peppermint, 36 hours for Hawaiian Sandalwood). When I was in Hawaii in 2020, I was fortunate enough to witness the first distillation of sandalwood essential oil at the Keylakekua Mountain Reserve. It’s a multi-step process that involves preparing the wood chips and then distilling them under high pressure and heat.
Purity Is Key
For several years I purchased essential oils from a reputable European-based supplier. I made some diffuser blends but beyond that I never expected essential oils to have any therapeutic or medicinal value. After doing more research, I realized that very few essential oil suppliers can actually verify that their products are pure. And by pure I mean free from additives and impurities such as heavy metals, extracts from other plant species, chemical solvents or fillers. Many essential oil companies buy their essential oils through brokers and as a result they don’t have full control over the quality of the plant while it’s being grown, the way the plant is harvested and distilled, or how the finished products might be made more profitable by adding filler oils or essentials oils from other plants that are cheaper to grow.
This becomes a huge concern if you’re trying to use essential oils for therapeutic purposes or if you are conscious of what kind of chemicals you might be exposed to in the air, on your skin or within your body.
For a closer look at purity, read my blog article here.
Now that I know more about essential oil quality and the difference it makes in the oil's effectiveness, I only use doTERRA's CPTG brand of essential oils.
The best assurance I have found is when an essential oils supplier verifies purity through an independent third party AND releases the test results as public information.
Imagine what our world would be like if EVERY company out there was that transparent in its product practices!
In the top right-hand corner, enter the ‘Quality ID’ number found on your bottle of certified pure therapeutic grade essential oil. Hit ‘Enter’ and view the test results.
The Story Of Tea Tree
When I lead an essential oils class, this is my favourite story to tell about how essential oils work.
Imagine the wet, hot swampy flats of Australia. This is where the melaleuca or tea tree likes to grow. As you can imagine, that kind of climate also produces a host of bugs, bacteria and fungi.
Why do you think that this bushy little tree is the dominant plant in those areas?
It has found a way to protect itself from predators (ie bugs, moulds, bacteria) by creating its own antiseptic chemical components. When these components are extracted as an essential oil, we humans are able to use tea tree’s incredible antimicrobial properties to support our health too.
That’s because plants, animals and people are all carbon based beings, so we use some of the same chemical receptor pathways in our bodies.
What’s good for the tea tree, can be good for the person too ;)
When used correctly, the potent plant extracts known as essential oils can be of powerful therapeutic value to your health and well-being. There are nearly unlimited uses for essential oils in and around your home and for your personal wellness.
Do you have a wellness concern and are you wondering if essential oils can help? Reach out to me via my Contact Form. Ready to buy certified pure, therapeutic grade essential oils? Click here to get started!
Live/Dried Blood Analysis - Homeopathy - Essential Oils Specialist
Have questions about essential oils? Feel free to Contact Me.
Here are also some great publications for further reference:
The doTERRA website: https://www.doterra.com/US/en/what-is-an-essential-oil
The Essential Life (book)
Modern Essentials (book)
Advanced Oil Magic (book)