Due to the worldwide usage of essential oils for centuries, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which culture began using them first, but the first records of essential oils allegedly come from ancient India, Persia, and Egypt. Greece and Rome also engaged in the widespread trade or aromatic oils and ointments with Eastern countries. Each culture had various uses for them ranging from health treatments to spiritual practices. Their herbal preparations included incense, perfume, clothing and fabric fresheners, medicine such as pills, powders, and suppositories, ointments, scented baths, aromatherapy massages. In many cultures, aromatic oils were believed to create a union with the gods and were held in such high regard that they were used only by a select group of privileged people, such as priests.
Arabs were the first to develop the technique of plant distillation to extract essential oils. They were able to replace the fatty oils that were used as solvents for extraction with a new solvent that they created by distilling ethyl alcohol from fermented sugar. During the Middle Ages, this knowledge of the distillation technique spread to Europe and its pharmacies specialized in distilled products.
- Essential oils are organic, volatile, liquids that are secreted by tiny structures in a plant’s various parts such as the seeds, leaves, fruits, flowers, resins, and woods.
- An essential oil gets its name from the plant from which it is derived.
- These oils were given the name “essential,” because they were believed to capture a plant’s essence, that is its odor and flavor. They lend plants their distinctive fragrance.
- Essential oils act as their original plant’s defense mechanism and are more powerful due to the concentration of healing compounds collected in the oil.
- The specific ratio of the constituents in an essential oil gives it its specific wellness-enhancing and therapeutic qualities.
- Fragrance oils are artificial and synthetically created by chemists, thus they do not contain the same therapeutic benefits as essential oils.
- It is best to avoid essential oils under specific circumstances, especially when they are undiluted, and when a user is pregnant or on medication.
- To ensure that an essential oil is of the highest quality, check for a “Canada Organic,” “United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified,” or “Organic Certified” seal.
- Essential oils should be stored in cool, dark, dry areas.
- Essential oil prices depend on crop and growing conditions, suppliers’ and each company’s resources, and their process and production practices.