Five amazing facts you didn’t know about aromatherapy oils
Essential oils have many different uses, from freshening up your home and making it smell great, to inducing relaxation and alleviating symptoms of some chronic conditions. However, many people fail to realise just how extensive the benefits of aromatherapy oils are and how long they have been used across the world.
For example, did you know that Captain James Cook used tea tree oil back in 1772 to protect his crew from scurvy? Or that being caught using essential oils for medicinal reasons in the 17th century could have led to you being hanged as a witch?
Let’s delve deeper into the five most amazing facts that you didn’t know about aromatherapy oils. These fascinating facts will change the way that you see essential oils forever.
- Essential oils aren’t actually oils
- The use of essential oils can be traced back over 6,000 years
- Essential oils have an impressive shelf life
- Essential oils are highly concentrated
- Essential oils don’t just smell great, they work great!
- To sum up
1. Essential oils aren’t actually oils
Let’s begin with a fact that you might find quite shocking: essential oils aren’t actually oils. Are you confused yet? To be categorised as an oil, a substance needs to contain fatty acids, which essential oils do not contain. So, if they aren’t classed as oils, what exactly are essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated, volatile (meaning they evaporate quickly) compounds that are extracted from plants. The substance that is extracted contains potent medicinal and cosmetic properties, as well as having a strong aroma.
You might be wondering how an essential oil is extracted from a plant. This process can be done in one of two ways: through distillation or mechanical methods. Whichever method is selected, this remains a delicate and fragile process which must be done carefully to retain the unique properties and qualities of the plant.
Most essential oils are extracted through low-pressure steam distillation. This delicate process involves passing steam through a vat which is filled with the desired plant, seed, flower or wood. The steam becomes enriched with the essential oil, carrying it into a coil where it condenses back into a liquid. The essential oil is then extracted from the water and bottled.
Another popular method of extracting essential oils is through cold pressing. This method is mainly used in citrus oils such as orange, lemon, and grapefruit. The fruit is passed over rasping cylinders that puncture the outermost layer of the fruit’s rind. This causes the sacs which contain essential oil to burst open. Water is then sprayed over the fruit to collect the leaking essential oil, after which the essential oil can be carefully separated from the water to be bottled.
2. The use of essential oils can be traced back over 6,000 years
How often do you hear essential oils being referred to as a new trend or a fad? The truth is, essential oils aren’t a new phenomenon. In fact, the use of essential oils can actually be traced back over 6,000 years, with the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and Chinese all benefitting from the therapeutic qualities of essential oils over the millennia.
For example, as far back as 3,500 BC, the Ancient Egyptians were using essential oils and plant extracts for medicinal purposes, as well as for cosmetics and religious rituals.
In the millennia that followed, the power of essential oils spread across the globe, with rumours circulating that essential oils could be the natural cure to many ailments. By 400 BC, the Ancient Greeks had also realised the benefits of essential oils. In fact, Hippocrates, one of the most well-known doctors of this period, famously used essential oils in the treatment of his patients.
Fast forward to 1910 and you’ll find French perfumer and chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse discovering that the body is able to absorb small amounts of essential oils, interacting with the body’s chemistry. In fact, it was during this year that Rene Maurice Gattefosse used lavender oil to successfully treat a burn on his hand.
By the 1950s, massage therapists had begun to routinely use essential oils as a complementary therapy, enhancing massage therapy and offering clients a wide range of holistic benefits. Since this time, essential oils have become a key part of holistic and alternative health treatments, used by people across the globe for enhancing their wellbeing and easing a wide range of different ailments and health conditions.
3. Essential oils have an impressive shelf life
You might be surprised to know that pure essential oils do not go bad. This means that most essential oils can be kept for several years, giving you impressive value for money. However, it’s important to note that essential oils can oxidise and deteriorate over time, meaning that they will gradually lose their potency, therapeutic benefits and aromatic qualities.
The shelf life of your favourite essential oil will be dependent on many different factors including the quality of the plant, how the plant was harvested, how the essential oil was extracted, the handling of the oil, and how the oil is stored.
However, you can estimate the shelf life of an essential oil based on its chemical properties. For example, essential oils from the sesquiterpene family such as patchouli, ylang-ylang and German chamomile have a shelf life of around 8 – 10 years, whilst monoterpenols such as lavender, peppermint and geranium will last for around 5 – 6 years.
Essential oils which belong to the monoterpene family which include citrus oils such as lemon, grapefruit and sweet orange, as well as oils such as frankincense and cypress, have a considerably shorter shelf life of 2 – 3 years. This reduced shelf life is a result of the oils being unsaturated which makes them more prone to oxidation.
You can give your essential oils the best chance of achieving a long shelf life by keeping them in a dark glass bottle to protect them from light. They should be stored in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight.
4. Essential oils are highly concentrated
There’s a good reason why high-quality, pure essential oils don’t come cheap: it takes a huge quantity of the source plant to produce a tiny quantity of essential oil. That’s what makes essential oils so potent.
To give you an idea of the quantity of plant that goes into essential oils, here are some examples of the amount of plant that is needed to produce various oils:
● It takes around two pounds of lavender flowers to produce a 10 ml bottle of lavender essential oil.
● One lemon contains five drops of lemon essential oil. That means that around 34 lemons go into each 10 ml bottle of lemon essential oil.
● You’d need over 5 pounds of peppermint leaves to create a 10 ml bottle of peppermint essential oil. In fact, 28 cups of peppermint tea is equivalent to just one drop of peppermint essential oil!
● To produce a 10 ml bottle of rose essential oil, you’d need almost 500,000 rose petals.
As essential oils are extremely potent, it’s important to remember that only a tiny quantity is needed to induce powerful effects on your body. When you use essential oils, it’s always a good idea to start with a single drop and increase the quantity if required. That way, you will never have to worry about wasting your precious essential oils and it’ll help to avoid any unwanted effects from overuse.
5. Essential oils don’t just smell great, they work great!
Ok, you might have known this fact, but essential oils are more than just an amazing smell: they are great for your health too. That’s because essential oils come with a whole range of holistic benefits and have been proven to assist with many different health ailments.
For example, if you are suffering from insomnia and struggling to get quality sleep, the soothing scent of lavender oil has been proven to help. It can help you to fall into a deep sleep by encouraging your body to release melatonin. This helps to promote a healthy circadian rhythm, facilitating natural sleep cycles.
Alternatively, if you are struggling to concentrate, essential oils can help to improve your focus and reduce fatigue. Concentration boosting essential oils include lemon, peppermint, rosemary, and sweet orange. These essential oils can help to give you motivation and enhance your productivity when you need it the most.
Other benefits of essential oils include:
● Improved mood – choose citrus essential oils such as lemon, grapefruit, and orange.
● Enhanced relaxation – opt for oils such as lavender, ylang-ylang, and rose.
● Ease migraines – consider essential oils such as rosemary, lavender, and peppermint.
● Boost immunity – look for tea tree, eucalyptus, and lemon.
● Improve skin conditions – choose oils such as ylang-ylang and bergamot.
● Aid anxiety – opt for frankincense, lavender, and bergamot.
To sum up
Essential oils have been used for many millennia, both for their scents and their healing qualities. Across the globe, essential oils are used to ease depression, aid sleep, and improve concentration, whilst providing a natural remedy to many different health ailments.
In this article, we’ve covered five of the most amazing facts about essential oils. However, the wonders of essential oils don’t end there. There are so many more fascinating things to discover about essential oils, from their diverse and astonishing qualities to their intriguing uses through history.
If these five amazing facts about essential oils have inspired you to give aromatherapy oils a try, you can discover our full range of pure organic essential oils here.