Contrary to the common perception, essential oils are not oily, but undiluted liquids enclosing effervescing fragrant compounds usually distilled from different parts of plants, including leaves, flowers, stem, bark, and roots. Essential oils actually possess the genuine aroma and concentrate on the plants they have been obtained from and are hence known as ‘essential’. Essential oils are very valuable and a small amount sustains for long. They are also called ‘volatile’ or ‘ethereal’ oils and most essential oils are usually clear in appearance. Speaking precisely, every year people around the globe harvest thousands of tons of trees, shrubs, aromatic plants, flowers, roots and grasses and distil them most frequently by steam to obtain essential oils and absolutes.
WHERE DO ESSENTIAL OILS COME FROM?
The aromatic matters found in the plants are produced in the chloroplasts of the leaves. These distinctively smelling substances coalesce with glucose in the chloroplasts to develop into glucides, which later flow around the plant. The glucides accumulate in specific parts of the plants either at a particular time during the day or the year.
However, the essential oils are also formed in the tissues that perform the function of secretion in a number of plants, while in other plants they are blended with glycosides. In the second instance, the essential oils are usually not evident till the plant is dehydrated or squashed. An ideal example of this is the valerian. It is important to note that the essential oils are deemed to be performing significant roles in the food assimilation process or metabolism of the plants. While a number of essential oils have hormonal actions, others comprise a phase in some other development. For instance, the essential oil present in the rind or peel of the orange is basically a phase in the process of vitamin A synthesis.
Significantly, the essential oils may be present in nearly all parts of the plant. However, their concentration varies depending on the plant as well as the moment in time of a day or a period of a year. For instance, essential oils are found in the roots of calamus and valerian, flowers like the lavender and rose, barks of the sandalwood and cedarwood trees, fruits such as the lemons, cardamoms, and oranges, berries like juniper and leaves of the thyme, rosemary, and sage.
All plants possessing the essence ought to be harvested at a particular point of time during the day, in the right time of year and specific weather situations to enable one to extract the greatest amount of essential oils from the plants. In addition to these, as in the case of any other herbs (therapeutic or dietetic), the quality of the soil on which the plants are grown as well as the atmospheric or climatic conditions at a particular place also influence the amount and quality of the essential oils acquired from plants.
Absolutes are a special type of essential oils that are profound (heavy) and undiluted in nature. The essential oils extracted from flowers such as the roses and jasmines are perfect examples of absolutes. On the other hand, the essential oils that are in solid form at room temperature and need to be heated prior to use are known as balsams. Typical examples of the balsams include essential oils such as camphor and benzoin.
PROPERTIES OF ESSENTIAL OILS:
It is important to note that though many essential oils may possess features that are exclusive to them, they may have common medicinal actions and utilities. In fact, more or less, all concentrates possessed by plants are antiseptic or insipid in nature. The essential oils derived from eucalyptus, thyme, and the tea tree are best examples of this statement. In addition, a number of plant distillates also possess anti-viral characteristics. Among them, the essential oils extracted from garlic and the tea trees are the most potent.
Generally, the concentrate obtained from garlic is not used for aromatherapy message for understandable reasons. However, as an alternative, the essential oil obtained from garlic is used as a medication as garlic capsules. Several concentrates obtained from plants such as the rosemary and juniper are known to be effective in alleviating or preventing rheumatism. Massaging these essential oils on the surface of the skin invigorates the flow of blood as well as things pertaining to the lymph and boosts the supply of oxygen to the aching regions in the body. This process helps to remove the undesired elements such as the uric acid and lactic acid from the system. It may be mentioned here that the wastes such as uric acids and lactic acids are largely responsible for the acute pain endured by people enduring arthritic and rheumatic symptoms.
Numerous essential oils, as well as herbal medications also, possess a fascinating feature and that is their ability to normalize or produce various natural substances that work through the adrenal glands to produce adjustments in the body to combat stress and increase resistance to stress, and which usually produce no side effects. In fact, scientists in Eastern Europe have discovered that garlic possesses a special property whereby it can raise unusually low blood pressure and at the same time lower very high blood pressure.
In fact, the essential oil obtained from hyssop is said to possess a similar action like garlic. Several types of research have demonstrated that the hyssop essential oil makes the blood pressure to rise, subsequently, fall and finally stabilize it at normal conditions. Interestingly, such a feature is unique for essential oils obtained from garlic and hyssop and is absolutely absent in any artificial or chemical medicine.
It is important to note that a number of physicians engaged in the field of remedial aromatherapy have also found that combinations of specific concentrates are more potent compared to the individual essential oils present in the blend. They are of the opinion that this is primarily owing to an inexplicably combined effort of the concentrates at work. As a result, the impact of the blends is more compared to the total of each of the individual essential oils in the combination. This phenomenon is especially evident in the case of the antibacterial activity of the essential oils. For instance, a combination of essential oils obtained from thyme, clove, lavender, and peppermint is much more potent compared to what the chemist may anticipate of the combination considering the collective chemical elements of the essential oils in the blend.
While a blend of a few essential oils may prove to be more powerful than the total strength of each of them, it has been intriguingly noted that when more than five concentrates are blended together the result is harmful or counter-productive. However, a number of essential oils are extraordinarily aggressive against microbial germs even when they are used individually. For instance, the essential oil derived from the lemon is so aggressive that it counteracts typhoid, diphtheria and pneumonia bacteria below three hours! With a view to determining the essential oils that are most suited and effective for any individual, the French aromatherapy physicians normally undertake a special test known as the aromatogram that is said to be a vital key to optimizing treatment with aromatherapy. Employing the aromatogram entails collecting a layer from a contaminated region of the patient’s body, culturing the substance in a laboratory and subsequently testing it with at least 15 different essential oils to ascertain the right combination of the oils that would be most effectual for treating the infections in a particular person. Once the most powerful oils have been identified, they are produced as capsules and given to the patient for oral administration. It is surprising to note that under this form of treatment different combinations of essential oils are used to treat the same infections in different individuals. Hence, there is no fixed formula for treating any particular infection, but it depends on the individuals enduring the contagions.
SOME THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES OF ESSENTIAL OILS:
A number of essential oils possess some special remedial properties, including antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, cytophylactic and sedative. These topics are discussed in brief below.
- As discussed earlier, more or less all essential oils possess antiseptic properties, which is one of their most noteworthy and helpful features. In fact, an expansive depiction of ‘antisepsis’ comprises anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-viral and common anti-microbial actions that are present in essential oils obtained from fruits, leaves, roots, flowers and bark of plants such as lemon, thyme, garlic, tea tree, lavender, pine, sandalwood, cinnamon, and eucalyptus.
- Essential oils possessing anti-inflammation features aid in alleviating irritation and tenderness. Normally, the indications of inflammation include aches, swelling, redness and sectional or complete loss of the concerned tissues. Some of the essential oils that possess anti-inflammatory features include concentrates obtained from rose, chamomile, sandalwood, lavender, benzoin, and myrrh.
- Many essential oils also help in restoring tissue function as well as a renewal of cells. Essential oils derived from basil, pine and rosemary are known to possess such extraordinary features. They are said to reinstate the performance of the adrenal glands while the concentrate present in cypress, jasmine, and ylang-ylang help to renew the functioning of the reproductive endocrine glands. On the other hand, essential oils derived from lavender and chamomile also rekindle the renewal of the cells in the dermis.
- Many essential oils also have a distinct impact on the nervous system as their administration/ application leads to relaxation, comfort, alleviate pain, mitigate muscle contractions and soothe the nerve cells. Generally, essential oils obtained from rose, neroli, lavender, ylang-ylang and geranium possess these special properties.