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What are Essential Oils ?

“When we peel an orange, walk through a rose garden or rub a sprig of lavender between our fingers, we are all aware of the special scent of that plant. But what exactly is it that we can smell? Generally speaking, it is essential oils which give spices and herbs their specific scent and flavour, flowers and fruit their perfume”. The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils, Julia Lawless

All essential oils are extracted from the plant kingdom, from flowers, herbs, trees, vegetables, or spices. They are organic compounds that occur naturally in a wide variety of different species, and can be found in leaves (rosemary), bark (cinnamon), blossoms (neroli), fruit (orange), wood (cedar), resin (pine), roots (vetivert) or buds (clove). They are called ‘essential’ because they not only capture the plant’s fragrance, but also it’s healing properties in a very concentrated way.

The main method of extraction is by steam distillation. This applies to the majority of herbal essences including lavender, thyme, rosemary & marjoram. Most citrus oils such as bergamot and orange are extracted by simple expression or pressure to the peel of the fruit. The more delicate perfume essences require a more complicated technique ... jasmine, neroli and rose for example, are extracted using volatile solvents. Essential oils are the tools of the modern healing practise known as ‘Aromatherapy’.