What Are Essential Oils


It was French Chemist and Perfumer Rene Maurice – Gattefosse who first learned of the benefits of Essential Oils. In 1937 a lab accident left him with a badly burned hand. He treated himself with Lavender Oil, soon realising its was a natural antiseptic. This led him to continue his study of oils; he later released the book Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy.

Essential Oils are the distilled essence of plants, trees, seeds and citrus. Though their full potential is not yet noted, they have shown unique benefits to mental and physical health. When inhaled, they can reduce stress and Anxiety. In some cases they have helped to combat Depression and other mental illness.

The can also be applied topically when combined with carrier oils or other solutions. Some oils promote the release of lactic acid when applied to a sore area. Lactic Acid is built up when you sustain an injury such as a muscle pull or spasm.



First and foremost many essential oils have calming or soothing qualities. There are a number of ways to utilize these natural remedies. Diffusers are among the most popular at the moment. Ultrasonic Diffusers break down the essential oils into micro molecules before dispersing them into the air.

The molecules from oils such as Lavender or Chamomile enter the airway and get absorbed into the limbic system. The limbic system is a complex set of structures that connect to the structures in the brain that control emotions.

They’re Natural Muscle Relaxants

Rosemary is known primarily for being a mental stimulant. It can improve mental acuity and even combat Depression. But it is an analgesic as well; meaning it can relax muscles, soothe aching and even relieve headaches.

Some oils can be applied topically to areas of injury. Lavender, for example can improve circulation in sore areas. When added to a carrier like coconut oil, apply it to the afflicted area. The oil enters the bloodstream through the muscle. This process improves circulation while driving any lactic acid to the surface.

They’re Natural Decongestants

Eucalyptus is a natural decongestant. It can be used to treat a variety of respiratory conditions. The oil can either be diffused or combined with a carrier oil like coconut oil and applied topically. When combined with other ingredients, including peppermint oil, the aromas of this topical decongestant actually open up the airway and eliminate mucus.

At the root of the limited research available on Essential Oils and Aromatherapy is relaxation. These oils have a way of communicating through our brain in order to reduce the stress or Anxiety. Molecules from diffused or perfumed oils ender the limbic system through the airway. The limbic system is the structure within the brain that connects to the hippocampus, hypothalamus and amygdala. These three areas control emotion and stress.

Peppermint Oil has a unique effect when applied as a topical solution. When applied to injured muscles, the oil is absorbed into the bloodstream through the muscle. The natural cooling properties of it push the lactic acid out of the muscle, relaxing it.

The Benefits of Aromatherapy

Learn More About the Benefits of Aromatherapy

For more information on how aromatherapy may benefit you, read our in-depth article. We took a deep dive and looked at published information, including numerous studies on the subject.

Read more: the benefits of aromatherapy.

Uses & Applications

Yoga and Meditation

Specialised Practitioners are trained in the application of aromatherapy to their practice. Some oils are used to set the mood, encouraging calm and relaxation. Other can help with focus, improving concentration and spiritual connection.

As a Method of Complementary Care

Studies have shown an acute decline in Anxiety in hospital patients. Self-stated Anxiety was measured in cancer patients, those in long-term care and pre and post operative patients. Short aroma-therapy sessions (consisting of diffusion or massage) were conducted in the study.

Respiratory Aid

Topical applications are not limited to the treatment of injury. Oils can be combined into rubs and applied to the chest or head to alleviate respiratory ailments, illness, as well as headaches. Oils breakdown the mucus bettering air flow into the lungs, reducing recovery time.

Origins & History

Egyptian SphynxThe origin of Essential Oils can be traced back to ancient Egypt, as early as 4500BCE. It’s initial use was in religious ceremonies but the Egyptians soon discovered their medical benefits. They had a common preparation they called Kyphi – which was a mixture of 16 ingredients.

The Egyptians were the first to identify the medial benefits of Essential Oils. They created pills and ointments from balsams, vinegars, barks and more. Study continued in different areas of the world through the years; but it was not until 1937 that a version of the term aromatherapie was first coined.

French Chemist and Perfumer, Rene Maurice Gattefosse was conducting an experiment in his lab when he triggered and explosion. He suffered a badly burned hand. Gattefossé made his first discover at that moment when he chose to treat his hand with the closest substance, Lavender Oil. His hand healed quickly, with no scarring. Lavender Oil, as he discovered is a a natural antiseptic. This moment led him to study oils and in 1937, release his book aromatherapie.

Essential Oils Used for Aromatherapy

You can find Essential Oils in a number of stores now. Their growing popularity has created better accessibility for the average person. They can range in price from as low as $10 to around $100 depending on type and quantity.

How Essential Oils Are Made

Some of the most common essential oils on the market are distilled from the leaves and twigs of plants.

The plant material is placed on a grid inside a still like the one shown below. Next, steam or water slowly begins to break through the plant material. Volatile Constituents are removed, and begin to rise upward. They go through a pipe at the top of the still, that’s connected to a condenser.

Image courtesy: Naha

Once in the condenser, the constituents are cooled back into liquid form. The fall to a vat of water below. Being that oil and water don’t mix, the oil can be siphoned from the surface.

Water Distillation is one of the most common methods of extracting these oils. However it does not work best for every substance. Percolation is a recently discovered technique in which steam is applied from the top. It has decreased the distillation time and is beneficial when extracting oil from woods or seeds.

Video showing how lavender is distilled.

With citrus oils a technique called Expression (Cold-Pressing) is used. When it was first discovered, this painstaking process entailed soaking the rind of lemon for example in warm water before using a sponge to extract the oils. Now this process is more automated. The fruit is placed in a chamber with spikes which puncture the fruits while it rotates. This process releases the oils into a chamber below.

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