Essential oils: if you haven’t heard of them by now, where have you been? What started as a somewhat unknown practice that only a small percentage of adults have used in the US has blown up; even younger generations are taking to applying essential oils to their daily lives; whether it be as small as spraying a sleep mist on their pillows or as big as swapping all Big Pharma medicines for essential oil-based alternatives. With so many essential oils that serve so many different purposes, it’s easy to get confused. Have no fear; here, we’re giving you a crash course on essential oils. You’ll learn everything you need to know, from their history all the way to the way essential oils can impact our moods and our “energies.”
Lesson One: History
Like most things, essential oils didn’t just pop up out of thin air and randomly become popular; they have a long history behind them. Many different nations, cultures, and religions used essential oils for a variety of reasons, from healing the sick to having a nice-smelling perfume.
Egypt has one of the richest essential oil histories, due in part to the peoples’ knowledge of cosmetology and medicine at the time. Essential oils were used as perfumes and ointments. Most often, they were utilized in religious practices by priests. Considering every god and goddess had their own fragrance dedicated to them, you can imagine how, well, essential, essential oils were in Egyptian religious life
Most notably, Greece gave us Hippocrates, also known as the “Father of Western Medicine.” Hippocrates had an incredible knowledge about plants and their medicinal properties, and his studies contributed largely to the world of “modern medicine” – that is, medicine based on rationality and observation rather than superstition or religion.
Rome’s use of essential oils was centered in cleanliness and aromatherapy. While several highly fragrant oils were applied to clothing and bedding, bathhouses with aromatic oils were used for cleaning the body. Such oils were used in therapeutic practices as well, such as massages.
Essential Oils in Christianity
It is widely misperceived that essential oils, or the use of oil in medicinal or therapeutic purposes in general, is reserved for some made-up kind of hippie culture that denounces conventionally organized things such as Big Pharma and most religions. Now that essential oils are well-known for being proponents in frequency, energy, and spirituality, it is all too easy to assume that essential oils are to be denounced as demonic or otherwise shunned by members of organized religion, most notably, Christianity. However, this could not be further from the truth. The use of essential oils dates back all the way to Biblical times, making its New Testament debut as some of the gifts the wise men gave to baby Jesus (frankincense and myrrh). Anointment with oil is a Sacrament in Catholicism and used in some sects of Protestant Christianity. To put it as bluntly as possible, essential oils have been used by virtually every kind of person for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Let’s destroy the myth that essential oils are reserved for a few select cultures or a certain “type” of person. Essential oils are for everyone; if you don’t believe us, check the history.
Now that we know how essential oils have played a role in several countries, cultures, and faiths, let’s take a look at how essential oils are made today.
Lesson Two: Extraction Method
There’s a specific way to extract essential oils – a couple different ways actually, and it’s no surprise that both ways take multiple steps. Like any good cosmetic product, essential oils aren’t created overnight. Essential oils can be extracted by being either cold-pressed or steam-distilled. First, let’s take a look at the cold-pressed process.
The process of cold-pressed extraction is mainly used on citrus fruits, but can be used on other fruits and vegetables. In this type of extraction, external heat is unneeded, and all heat is naturally created internally.
Cold-pressed extraction starts with the citrus fruit on a rotating trough. The fruit peel is rolled over and poked with the spikes on the trough, piercing the essential oil pouches. Then, the whole fruit is pressed, squeezing out the essential oil and juice. The oil rises to the surface of the juice, but it doesn’t end there. After this, there is still a process to further separate the oil from the juice.
Oils extracted from the cold-pressed method are separated by a process called “centrifugation.” In centrifugation, the oil and juice combination is rotated, and the centrifugal force separates the essential oil from the fruit juice.
The steam-distilled extraction process is typically used on anything that isn’t a citrus fruit, such as flowers and other plants. While citrus oils can still be extracted from distillation, it is more beneficial for them to be cold-pressed. Unlike the cold-pressed method, extracting oils with distillation requires outside heat.
Steam-distilled extraction begins with the distillation still. After plants and flowers are picked, they are placed in special distillation stills. In there, one of four distillation methods are used to release the essential oils into the vapor. They are then put through a cooling condenser, which separates the oil from the water. In many cases, the oil will be on top and the water on bottom, but occasionally, some oils will be on the bottom due to their density.
The four distillation methods are as follows: water, steam, water and steam, and hydro-diffusion. Water distillation is exactly how it sounds; the oil is extracted by direct contact with water. Steam distillation, the most common method, consists of steam inside the still blowing through the plant from the bottom of the still, typically at high temperatures and pressures. In water and steam distillation, water is left at the bottom of the still, while steam comes from outside. Hydro-diffusion is a much newer process, similar to steam distillation. In hydro-diffusion, steam hits the plant from the top, and for shorter periods of time.
Lesson Three: Most Popular Essential Oils
There’s no denying that the use of essential oils in general has become more popular over the years, but certain oils are preferred over others. Lavender, peppermint, lemon, and rose oil are just a few of the most popular, so we’re going to talk a little bit about them here.
Lavender oil is most well-known for its calming affects and its sleeping aid properties. It also reduces anxiety, is a natural insect repellant, and helps to heal wounds. Lavender oil can be used in all kinds of cosmetic products, but is most often found in products related to calming or sleep, like nighttime face wash and pillow sprays.
Have a cold? Peppermint oil should be one of your go-to home remedies. Peppermint is more than just a tasty, breath-freshening flavor; its oil has many properties to help with sickness. Peppermint oil clears sinuses, reduces nausea, and can also minimize migraines. In addition, peppermint oil gives you energy.
All citrus oils have most of the same benefits, but lemon oil is by far the most popular of all the citrus oils. Lemon oil is rich in antioxidants and enhances the immune system. It’s also good for cleaning – your body, your house, almost anything, really. The only drawback to citrus oil is that it can be drying on the skin, so if you have dry skin, it might not be the best to slather all over your body. Feel free to slather it all over your kitchen counters, though!
Rose oil is another popular oil, also known as the Queen of Essential Oils. The benefits of rose oil are mostly based in emotional well-being, but it does help physically. Rose oil is great for cell regeneration, treating skin problems, and minimizing coughing. Emotionally speaking, rose oil, like lavender oil, reduces stress and anxiety. Rose oil also helps with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and is an anti-depressant. Its deeply floral scent is naturally an aphrodisiac, and is often used in cosmetics and perfumes.
Lesson Four: Essential Oils and Energy Frequency
Have you ever walked into a cosmetic or body care store and picked up a product that claimed it would be “revitalizing?” That it would give you energy, or increase your “energy frequency?” If not, that’s okay. It’s not a super common marketing practice just yet, but it’s popping up more and more often.
The concept of energy frequency goes a little something like this: as human beings, like any object in the universe, we give off vibrations (energy) that, when raised higher, is given off at a much faster rate (frequency). This all happens within the electromagnetic field, but is tangibly noticeable in our physical and emotional health. There are several things that can help raise our energy frequency; eating healthier, having a healthy exercise routine, getting enough sleep. All of these things tend to naturally lift our moods, thus lifting our energy frequency. The higher our energy frequency, the better our overall health is.
Essential oils play an extremely important part in energy frequency. Since essential oils improve our physical and emotional health, they can raise our energy frequency. Essential oils with higher frequencies, such as rose oil, assist in the spiritual wellness department, where essential oils with lower frequencies, like cypress oil, help with physical wellness. Mid-frequency oils like lavender take care of emotional wellness.
With this info at your side, you’ll have all the basics that you need to know about essential oils. Of course, there’s always more specific information about any particular oil at your fingertips, thanks to the help of several aromatherapists, dermatologists, and home remedy enthusiasts who have done their research and want to share this wonderful information with everyone. Now that you’ve completed the Essential Oils 101 course, you can start looking at different products and figure out which ones will help you have the best physical and emotional well-being.