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Essential Oil Frequently Asked Questions:
What is an essential oil? An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam. Some important information that you should know about an essential oil is the botanical name, chemotype (if applicable), origin of plant (this can drastically change the chemical constituents percentages) and extraction method. It is also important to note if the essential oil has been diluted with anything (EVEN if it is a natural dilution).
What are the different methods of extraction?
Steam Distillation: The most common process of extracting an essential oil is by distillation, a process that isolates the aromatic, volatile element of the plant with steam.
Cold Pressed: Expression, or cold pressing, is used primarily for citrus fruits like orange and lemon, where the essential oil is obtained in tiny pockets in the peel or rind. Oils extracted by cold pressing are the most volatile of essential oils and can evaporate quickly when exposed to air.
Solvent Extraction (only used for absolutes): Flowers too delicate to be processed with heat are soaked in a solvent, usually hexane that extracts the volatile elements. The solvent is then evaporated leaving only the most fragrant constituents behind. This process produces what is called an "absolute". Here is a more in depth step by step process: 1) Plant material is macerated in a solvent, usually hexane. 2) After several days the solvent is removed, leaving the viscous, fragrant concrete. 3) The concrete is dissolved with high proof alcohol. 4) The mixture is chilled, and separates into plant waxes and fragrant tincture. 5) The fragrant tincture is vacuum distilled to evaporate off the alcohol, leaving an absolute.
CO2 Extraction: The CO2 extraction method yields a greater number of aromatic compounds than any other distillation process. In certain conditions at a low temperature Carbon Dioxide or CO2 can be pressurized to become a liquid. This liquid then acts as a solvent and is used to extract the oil from plants. After extraction is completed, the extraction vessel is brought back to normal temperature and the CO2 rapidly converts to gas, leaving behind a high-quality oil that is free of solvents.
How are essential oils used? There are many ways that essential oils can be used:
Massages: Massage is one of the most beneficial methods of using essential oils because it combines the therapeutic powers of the essential oil with the benefits of touch therapy.
Inhalation: Inhalation is one of the quickest ways to experience the therapeutic benefits of essential oils. This method is highly beneficial for helping respiratory ailments. Persons with asthma or epilepsy should avoid inhaling essential oil.
Baths: Adding essential oils to a hot, soothing bath can create a relaxing and therapeutic experience.
Essential Oil Diffuser: Diffusers and Aromatherapy go hand-in-hand. Adding essential oils to a diffuser effectively introduces the therapeutic properties and fragrance to any environment.
Can essential oils be ingested?Our official stance on the ingestion of essential oils is this:
“All of our Essential Oils are 100% pure free from any chemicals or pesticides. However, we do not recommend the ingestion of any essential oils. They are highly concentrated and have the capacity to cause serious damage if used internally without the necessary expertise required in administering it. This is supported by the International Federation of Aromatherapists.”
Why should certain oils be avoided during pregnancy? Certain essentials oils are considered too powerful for use during pregnancy as they may stimulate the production of certain hormones and can encourage bleeding. Please consult your physician or a reputable aromatherapist before using any essential oils while pregnant.
Can I use essential oils undiluted/neat?Most essential oils should not be used undiluted but diluted with a carrier oil, before application. This will also help “carry” the essential oil into the skin. Also, essential oils should evaporate! If you dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil before applying it to your skin, the carrier oil will help prevent the essential oil from evaporating! That means you are getting more essential oil into your skin which means you need LESS essential oil! AND the therapeutic properties of the essential oil will ONLY be strengthened by the carrier oil! Coconut oil, Grapeseed oil, and Almond oil are some common oils used in this way. We like to use coconut oil. Below is a helpful chart for your reference.
How should I store my essential oils once I have purchased them? It is recommended that oils be stored around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (room temperature) and out of direct sunlight. Refrigeration after opening is best.
What is the shelf life of essential oils? The shelf life of an essential oil depends on how you store your essential oils and specifically what essential oil you have. Citrus oils have a shorter shelf life of about 1-2 years where as other essential oils can be good for many, many years.
Adulterant: A substance, natural or artificial, that was added to an essential oil that was not originally present when the oil was distilled.
Botanical Name: The botanical sources are made up of genus and species (e.g. Eucalyptus globulus). This name tells us exactly which plant the oil comes from. Essential oils are composed of dozens of naturally-occurring chemical constituents.
Chemotype: Some plants of the same species can have major differences in constituents. These are called ‘chemotypes’ and are named after the largest constituent in the plant. Rosemary oil, for example, may be a pinene chemotype, a cineole chemotype, or a camphor chemotype. The majority of commercially available essential oils don’t have these variations, however, most of the effects of an essential oil are attributed to its major constituents.
Dilute: Adding a small amount of essential oil to a larger amount of carrier oil.
Distillation: A method used to extract an essential oil from a plant.
GC/MS (Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer): A device used by analytic chemists to determine the precise make-up of a given substance. A GC/MS is used in aromatherapy to determine the precise chemical constituents of an essential oil, and whether it is pure or adulterated with synthetic chemicals or other products.
Neat: Use of an undiluted essential oil on the skin
Oxidation: When oxygen, light or heat interacts with essential oils, the essential oil begins to deteriorate over time. This can cause the essential oil to become skin irritating.
Phototoxic: The use of the oil makes one’s skin more prone to damage from the sun’s UV rays. Primarily occurs with the citrus oils.
Therapeutic: Therapeutic means that which has healing powers. Used for health purposes. Therapeutic can also mean curative or medicinal.
Topical Application: Describes applying the oils to your skin.
Volatile: Describes how quickly a substance disperses itself into the air.
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