An essential oil is basically a concentrated, hydrophobic liquid comprising volatile organic compounds extracted from various plants. Essential oils are sometimes also called volatile oils, eucalyptus oils, the oil of the aromatic plant from which they are extracted, including lemon oil. These liquid constituents are highly volatile, have very poor solubility properties, and are quite harmful when used as ingredients in their pure form. They are extracted through a process of steam distillation, solvent extraction, or expression.
Steam distillation is a method that is mostly used to extract essential oils from stems, leaves, fruits, bark, and roots. In this method, steam or water is forced through a heated column containing an activated carbon, with a high concentration of carbon dioxide and water. In distillation, the on the top of the column are essential oil and collected on the bottom. Hence, steam distillation is also called cold pressing.
Cold pressing is extraction using an activated carbon plate under low pressure. It is effective for the separation of volatile substances from essential oils and can be done using low temperatures. However, cold pressing also results in a compound that contains a higher level of vaporization than the carrier oil. This results in the formation of undesirable secondary compounds during distillation, when the carrier oil is combusted by the vaporized component.
Because of the vaporization process, essential oils are more concentrated than their carrier oil counterparts. When they are ingested or inhaled, they may cause severe health reactions like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, breathing problems, and stomach disorders. Because of these potential side effects, most of the life science essential oils used for aromatherapy are diluted to reduce the risks of allergic reaction or irritation. Generally, pure essential oils pose no known side effects when taken as recommended. On the other hand, dilution can increase these risks because of the reduced concentration in a given volume of oil.
The different classifications of essential oils include alpha, beta, gamma, and theta. These are considered together as the "other" essential oils and each has a wide variety of benefits for the body. The aroma which comes with the body through inhalation is known as "efficacious". The aroma which is already present in the bloodstream by secretion is called the "inalquisite". The last one, known as "distant odourless fragrance", is not generally considered as essential oils but is still highly beneficial to the body since it produces the sensation of smell during sleep.
To sum it up, the differences between true essential oils and synthetic ones are too vast that it would be impossible to mention all of them in this brief article. But knowing what they are would help you determine which one to use, especially if you are new to aromatherapy or have just started having interest in healing through smell. Try to learn more about the various types of plants by going to your library and checking out books on the subject. There are also plenty of websites online which provide useful information on the topic.
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