What Are Essential Oils

What are essential oils, and where do they come from? Essential oils are compounds found naturally in the stems, seeds, bark, flowers, roots, and other parts of plants. The plants themselves have been carefully grown in their native habitats worldwide, then carefully harvested at the optimum time and processed with one thought in mind – to bring to the market the richest, purest, and most concentrated product possible.

The actual oil is obtained by steam or hydrodistillation, resulting in a highly concentrated product which is clean to the touch and ranges in color from clear to deep blue. Essential oils are without any traces of oil, fatty deposits or any other impurities, adding to their potency and effectiveness and resulting in a crisp, clean feeling as they are quickly absorbed into the skin.

Plants from all different parts of the world and from all possible climates provide the rich, highly individual, essential oils that have been prized by cultures over centuries of use. Most of us know them by their aromatic properties; think of the scent of roses, a walk through pine woods, the aroma of freshly chopped mint. Squeeze the peel of an orange or a lemon and your hand now carries minute amounts of essential citrus oil.

Essential oils have been used throughout history in many ways. They have been used in medical practice, beauty treatments, food preparation, and in religious ceremonies and rituals. They are mentioned multiple times in the bible and in other ancient writings. Frankincense, sandalwood, myrrh, and cinnamon were all very valuable commodities on the great trade routes, even being traded for gold and other precious goods sometimes. Greeks used them for therapeutic massage, Romans for personal hygiene, Chinese for their rich aromas. They were in use among ancient Hebrews for anointing religious leaders, and were used widely among many cultures in perfuming both the living and dead.

Today’s cultures around the world continue to expand the role of essential oils, so that we find them in use for everything from aromatherapy to massage therapy and personal care. They can play a soothing part in mental and emotional health and nutrition, including cleansing and weight control. They are used in yoga, and even in promoting pet health. They are safe and effective for children as well as for adults. Essential oils and blends truly have the capacity to enrich our lives.