Essential oils are the highly concentrated version of the natural oils in plants.
Getting essential oils from plants is done with a process called distillation, most commonly distillation by steam or water, where many parts of the plants are being used, including the plant roots, leaves, stems, flowers, or bark.
After distillation, the outcome is a highly concentrated portion of essential oil, which will have the characteristic fragrance and properties of the plant from which it was extracted, and contain the true essence of the plant it came from. This includes the smell, but also the plant’s healing properties and other plant characteristics.
You can see how this highly potent extract of a plant or herb can be extremely useful for many purposes.
DO ESSENTIAL OILS HAVE THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS?
Essential oils have been used throughout history in many cultures for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits.
While the oils are still in the plant, they provide the plants with protection against predators and disease, and also play a role in plant pollination. As these properties carry forward into the essential oils, folk medicine since ancient times has made use of essential oils in medicinal practices.
This knowledge is also still widely used today. Modern scientific studies and trends lean again towards more holistic approaches to wellness and a revival of essential oils for physical and psychological health and well-being applications.
The most common therapeutic application of essential oils is that of aromatherapy, where healing effects are achieved through the aromas of the essential oils. Many essential oils are believed to have an uplifting effect on the human’s mind; and many essential oils also have antiseptic properties, which means they reduce the possibility of infection when applied to the human skin.
Four favorites of essential oils for therapeutic benefits have been identified as:
- Lavender – helps to alleviate stress, anxiety, irritability mental fatigue, panic attacks and depression, but also good for bruises and stretch marks.
- Peppermint – helps with nausea, vertigo, and exhaustion and also good for headaches.
- Frankincense – used for immune system stimulation and to help with asthma, coughing and bronchitis.
- Tea Tree – disinfecting and good for skin blemishes and acne.
This little example list is by no means exhaustive and the therapeutic uses and applications for essential oils go on and on, which is well beyond the scope of this initial introduction.
WHAT IS A “100% PURE” OIL?
In my experience, the term “pure” has been used almost as a replacement for “single” essential oil. This means that pure essential oils are single oils (such as Lavender, Tea Tree, Rosemary, etc.) – and not a blend or synergy mix of aromatherapy oils.
A 100% pure essential oil means that you’re purchasing just that oil, and not an essential oil blend or a bottle that has oil blended together with carrier oils or other additives. I would go as far to say that “100% pure” wouldn’t be advertised for oils that could possibly contain additives, fillers, or chemical aromas.
However, companies might walk the fine line and call their single oils “pure oils” (without the 100% part), and possibly have some fillers or other chemical substances mixed into their oils. Who knows! Again, there is no 3rd party that polices this term, so it should on its own also not be your sole criteria for trusting any essential oil brand of choice. The only real way to know whether or not any essential oil bottle (or company) is trustworthy, consistent and accurate in their sales and advertising, is to go as far as looking at chemical test results of oil batches and bottles, and pick a brand that readily discloses this information for the public to see .
I always think the more information a brand discloses to educate their consumers, the more trustworthy they become in my eyes.
SHOULD I GET SINGLE ESSENTIAL OILS OR AN ESSENTIAL OIL BLEND?
Essential oils can be purchased in their pure, single versions, or as a blend of several essential oils. Single essential oils are best chosen if you are after a specific aroma or health benefit of that particular plant. A lot of popular essential oils are available in their pure versions.
Essential oil blends are great because they have been specifically designed to achieve a certain purpose, such as “Peace & Calming”, “Joy”, or “Breathe”. You may also be able to get blends in ready-to-use roll-on bottles, which can be extremely handy for on-the-go use when you don’t have a diffuser ready.
Purchasing a blend can also save you from having to buy every essential oil in that blend individually, plus then also learn how to blend essential oils together.
The disadvantage of oil blends though, is that you have no control of what goes into that exact blend. You may not like a certain sub-note or smell that has been used within that blend, but you may still like to achieve its end effect.
You also cannot use a pre-made essential oil blend to reliably further mix it with other oils.
Therefore, most essential oil starter kits come with a selection of pure essential oils along with a few ready-made essential oil blends to get you started and so you can try out what works best for you.