In past blogs, I mentioned the many benefits that plants provide for you and the environment. Already you know about medicinal, aromatic, horticultural, and other plants, and I have even told you about different methods of using these plants.
This time I want to introduce you to another way in which you can use plants, that is, through essential oils. Surely you’ve heard about them, but here, you’ll find the information necessary to get to know essential oils as best as possible.
I’ll explain what they are, their benefits, the application method of essential oils, how they are obtained, and what ailments they treat. Lastly, I’ll mention some of the most used oils and a couple of features about them.
Table of Contents
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are aromatic fluids that can be found in liquid or viscous form and in different colors, depending on the plant from which it is extracted. These oils can be obtained from various parts of the plant such as leaves (mint), flowers (lavender), wood (cedar), roots (ginger), and seeds (coriander).
In the vegetable kingdom, essential oils function as chemical messengers as aromatic plants use them to interact with their environment. They help plants ward off diseases and pests and even shield them from the sun’s rays.
By attracting pollinating insects, essential oils contribute to plant reproduction and spread, which is an important role in nature. Additionally, these oils can also provide enormous benefits for people.
Here are 8 of these multiple benefits that I am sure you’ll find interesting.
- Help improve sleep, by using lavender oil you can treat insomnia.
- Promote skin rejuvenation and helps eliminate wrinkles, you can mix sandalwood or lavender oil with a facial lotion.
- Ideal for massages, you can mix the essential oil of your choice with a massage lotion.
- Work for relaxing baths, just add a few drops of essential oil in your bathtub.
- Contribute to reducing cellulite, coconut oil can be used for massage.
- Can be used as natural perfumes, the most used for this purpose are lavender, vanilla and jasmine oils, a few drops on the skin of your neck will suffice.
- Can be used to treat acne, with tea tree oil and applied topically you can treat this condition.
- For hair health, you can enhance your hair’s health by adding a couple of drops of lavender oil to your shampoo.
Essential oils have some physical properties that are worth mentioning. They have a pungent and very sharp odor and their flavor is very concentrated; it can be sweet or bitter and have a drug-like sensation.
Also, these oils are volatile, meaning they can change from liquid to gaseous state easily when placed at room temperature or higher. They are also soluble in organic solvents like other oils.
They can be insoluble in water but have the ability to transmit their aroma to it. Their appearance is oily but, while not being totally oily, they resemble a water-like fluid. Finally, essential oils can be flammable.
Methods for using essential oils
Before talking about ways to use essential oils, it’s important for you to know that they are used to treat various ailments, just like medicinal plants. In this case, oils are divided into categories according to their physiological effects.
Aphrodisiac: to increase sexual desire you can use sage, fennel, jasmine, rose, rosemary, sandalwood, and ylang ylang oil.
Analgesic: to soothe any pain you have the alternative of using bergamot, chamomile, lavender, peppermint, rosemary and tea tree oil.
Antidepressants: to fight depression you can use basil, bergamot, chamomile, sage, jasmine, lavender, orange, sandalwood, and ylang ylang oil.
Antispasmodic: you can treat spasms and cramps with chamomile, sage, lavender, marjoram, orange, rose, and rosemary oil.
Anti-inflammatory: chamomile, peppermint, rose and lavender oil help reduce inflammation.
Antiseptics: you can eliminate microorganisms such as fungi or bacteria using eucalyptus, lemon, lavender, orange, pine, rosemary, sandalwood, tea tree and thyme oil.
Carminatives: to alleviate flatulence you can use oil of chamomile, cardamom, fennel, mint, ginger.
Healing: you can stimulate the scar tissue formation by using lavender, rose, sandalwood and neroli oil.
Deodorants: you can combat body odor with citronella, cypress, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary and tea tree oil.
Diuretics: to promote urine flow you can use fennel, cypress, cedar, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemon and sage oil.
Emmenagogues: you can induce or stimulate menstrual flow using basil, chamomile, sage, fennel, lavender, lemon and sandalwood oil.
Stimulants: you can increase physical or mental function using geranium, rose, rosemary, thyme, basil, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint and tea tree oil.
Fungicides: to prevent the development of fungi you can use tea tree oil.
Hepatic: if you have liver problems you can treat them with chamomile, cardamom, lemon, mint and rose oil.
Hypertensives: if your blood pressure is too low you can raise it to the right levels with rosemary oil.
Hypotensives: to reduce high blood pressure you can use geranium, lavender, lemon and ylang ylang oil.
Nervine: for mental disorders you can use basil, laurel, bergamot, chamomile, marjoram, orange, peppermint, rose, sage and sandalwood oil.
Sedatives: chamomile, sage, marjoram, sandalwood and ylang ylang oil are used to calm and soothe.
Toning: for general body strengthening you can use basil, lemon, rose and sandalwood oil.
How to use essential oils?
Now that you know in what circumstances you can make use of essential oils, I’ll mention how you can take advantage of them. There are 3 ways:
Essential oils consumption by inhalation.
This method is known as aromatherapy and consists of using a diffuser, vaporizer, or essence burner to inhale the aroma of the oils. This allows generating a state of wellness in people. They can also perfume the environment and purify the air.
Topical use of essential oils
You can apply the oils directly to the skin, although certain oils are very concentrated and need to be diluted in organic solvents. You can also add them to the bathtub and use them for massages.
What is important is that you verify which oil is best for your skin. For example, if your skin is normal or combination, you can use geranium, jasmine, lavender, rose, ylang ylang, chamomile, lemon, or fennel oil.
Otherwise, if your skin is dry, peppermint, rose, chamomile, sandalwood, lavender, calendula, ylang ylang, geranium, rosemary and fennel oil will do the trick. For oily skin or skin with acne, you can use cedarwood, lemon, jasmine, sandalwood, tea tree, cypress, orange, peppermint and lavender oil.
Finally, when it comes to sensitive skins, chamomile, jasmine, lavender, rose, palmarosa and sandalwood oils work well, while for skins with psoriasis, you can use chamomile, lavender, rose, sandalwood, and patchouli oils.
Oral consumption of essential oils
Some essential oils are not toxic and can be used as additives in food. However, it’s always advisable to consult an expert before consuming them. The dosage can vary between 5 and 20 drops a few times a day, it all depends on the instructions of your therapist.
How are essential oils obtained?
Before knowing the methods for oil extraction, it’s necessary to mention that their performance is very low. In order to obtain a few grams of the essence, you need to use a large number of plants.
In case you want to extract the oils from your plants, keep in mind that you must have a significant amount of these to obtain enough oil content. Here are 3 methods of extraction.
This is one of the most commonly used methods for extracting essential oils. You must use a container called a distiller, which consists of 3 chambers. In the first one, you must add water for heating, in the second one, you must place the plants you’re going to take the oil from and in the third one, you’ll collect the extracted oil.
You can start with 120 ml of water in the first container, which will be heated up to 100°C. Once the steam starts to come out, it’ll reach container 2 in which you’ll add a handful of the plant to be distilled.
The heat causes the plant’s pores to open and release the oil. Once released, the drops of oil are transported by the steam to container 3, which will gather the extracted oil. From 120 ml of water and a handful of the plant, you may obtain 1 ml of essential oil.
Once the process is finished, you must separate the oil from the distillation water. This is known as floral water and is used for facial treatments, and skin masks, or you can keep them together and use it in case you are sensitive to pure essential oil.
It consists of continuously shaking the properly macerated, ground, or chopped plant in a solvent. This process is carried out at room temperature and the most commonly used solvents are methanol, ethanol, isopropanol, hexane, ethyl ether, cyclohexane, toluene, and xylene.
Avoid chlorinated solvents and benzene as they can be hazardous to your health. You can recover the solvent once the process is finished so you can reuse it.
Extraction by cold pressing
This process yields less oil but guarantees healthier and more flavored oil. First, you have to select the seeds from which the oil is going to be extracted.
Once selected, they go through a low-pressure press, which should have a maximum temperature of 40 °C. It’s necessary to control that the temperature doesn’t rise as the seeds generate heat when crushed and some of them are very sensitive to heat.
Speed and pressure are other factors to consider for successful oil extraction. The extracted oil passes through a filtration system using a cloth filter to prevent remaining seed residues.
The oil obtained should be stored in dark glass containers for they are sensitive to light. You can seal the bottles using either a dosing or a regular cap. And under the right conditions, it can last about 18 months before spoiling.
Classification of essential oils
Essential oils are classified based on the following criteria:
Essential oil by consistency.
According to their consistency, essential oils can be divided into:
- Fluid essences: these are volatile liquids if found at room temperature like rosemary, mint, sage, lemon and basil essences.
- Balsams: they are slightly thicker, not so volatile and more prone to polymerization. Their reagents are chemically grouped together and form a molecule called a polymer.
- Oleoresins: they carry a more concentrated plant aroma and have a liquid and viscous or semi-solid consistency.
Essential oils according to their origin
According to their origin, they are classified as follows:
- Naturally extracted: they are taken directly from the plant with no physical or chemical modifications. They can be very expensive since their yield is low.
- Artificially extracted: they are obtained from the mixture of several natural essences from different plants.
- Synthetically extracted: obtained by mixing various chemical components, they are cheaper and used as flavorings and fragrances.
Essential oils by their chemical nature
According to the chemical nature of their components, they are divided into:
- Monoterpenoids: oils rich in monoterpenes, which are components of the volatile essences of plants, such as peppermint, basil, sage, etc.
- Sesquiterpenoids: oils rich in sesquiterpenes, which are defensive agents or pheromones, such as pine, juniper, copaiba, etc.
- Phenylpropanoids: oils rich in phenylpropane, aromatic hydrocarbon, such as clove, cinnamon, anise, etc.
5 most common essential oils
Now that you know a little more about these wonderful oils I’ll share with you the most important features of 5 of them.
Sage essential oil
This plant has the capacity of reaching 70 cm high and has violet or bluish-colored flowers. The oil extracted from this plant is light yellow and has a very fresh aroma.
It has antiseptic, healing and anti-inflammatory properties. You can use the oil for bathing, on an essence burner, or even in massages. It also works to fight fungus and aging, it increases biliary secretion and helps to improve the operation of the digestive system.
You can consume this oil to help treat inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, reduce menstrual cramps, regulate hormones, and lower blood sugar levels, among other conditions.
Lemon essential oil
The lemon tree is native to Asia but has spread throughout the Mediterranean region. The oil from this tree is extracted from the lemon peel and has a greenish-yellow color.
You can use it for aromatherapy as it helps to boost mood and vitality thanks to its aroma. You can also use it for baths and massage lotion. This oil can help you in the production of white blood cells that are important to defend the body from infections or outside substances.
It works as an antiseptic and diuretic and allows you to improve concentration and mental relaxation. It also has antidepressant properties and will help boost your mood and promote emotional stability.
Chamomile essential oil
This plant is very popular, it has a hairy stem, gray-green leaves, and yellow-centered flowers with white petals. The oil is extracted from the flower and has a sweet, warm, and fruity smell.
You can extract the oil by steam distillation. Its color changes according to the variety. In the case of German chamomile, its color is dark blue, and in the case of Roman chamomile, it’s light greenish. You can use it in baths, compresses, essence burners, or lotions.
This oil helps combat digestive and stomach issues, and acne, and can be relaxing and soothing. Also, it has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and helps relieve migraines, allergies, colic, and burns, among other discomforts.
Tea tree essential oil
Its oil is extracted from the leaves and branches of the tree. It has a strong aroma and is considered medicinal for its huge antiseptic properties. Finally, it helps to strengthen the immune system.
You can use it for baths, compresses, massage lotions, inhalations, and in essence burners. Although it’s antimicrobial, antiviral, and cicatrizant, it should not be applied to open wounds. Finally, it’s recommended to treat acne.
Rose essential oil
The oil is extracted from the petals of this flower, it takes approximately 3 to 5 tons of petals to obtain 1 liter of oil. It has regenerative properties and helps to hydrate and balance the skin.
You can use it in an essence burner, for bathing, or as a facial lotion. Thanks to its astringent properties, it absorbs excess oil in the skin and prevents the appearance of blackheads and blemishes.
It also works as a regulator and stimulant, helping to relieve menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms. Besides, this oil contains aphrodisiac properties and helps to alleviate depression.
We’ve reached the end of this blog. I hope you learned about essential oils and all the benefits they bring. Besides, you can find them easily in markets or essence stores.
You can use them as you wish, and the best thing is that they have all the therapeutic properties of plants. Don’t wait any longer to have essential oils in your home – you’ll love them!