The benefits of essential oils are extensive. Many we have already talked about in “History of Essential Oils” but there are many more.
Essential oils have always been associated with the supernatural. They have been said to be used in magical or religious ceremonies to heighten perception, for divination and love potions, etc.
dO they dO?
When the vapours of the essential oils are inhaled, they interact with the Olfactory System and Limbic System therefore having profound effects on the body, physiologically and psychologically.
The Olfactory System
is located high up inside the nose and is responsible for our sense of smell. When we smell an aroma, the nerve endings in the olfactory system are stimulated and relay messages to the brain, which then causes the body to respond for example, the smell of freshly baked bread may cause a person to salivate. The smell of Lavender oil may remind you of a favourite aunt who wears a lavender fragrance. The primary olfactory cortex and higher olfactory areas in the brain are responsible for recognising what we have smelled and associating it with other information like the examples above.
The Limbic System
is connected to parts of the brain that control blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, memory, stress levels and even hormone balance. It then activates instinctual behaviour and emotion. For example, smelling Orange or Grapefruit oil may cause you to salivate and desire that food.
There are several ways essential oils can affect the body in this way when used to inhale or topical application.
Most oils have an antibacterial effect.
The cardiovascular system can be stimulated by rosemary eucalyptus and black pepper, resulting in increased local circulation.
Camomile can help to lower your body temperature whilst Camphor can raise it.
Blood pressure can be decreased by lavender and heart rate can be stimulated by camphor
Fennel, Peppermint, Rose, and Clary Sage have an antispasmodic effect on the respiratory system, which helps to lessen muscle spasms.
Jasmine, Ylang Ylang and Rose are said to have an aphrodisiac effect
And many more.
are essential oils made?
Essential oils are extracted from the plant using either steam distillation, solvent extraction, or expression.
is the oldest, most established, and truest form of extraction. This is where steam is passed under pressure through the plant material which causes the globules of essential oils to burst open and release the oil. This oil then evaporates with the steam into another container, cooled and the two separated. The water distillate that is left behind after the separation is also a valuable by-product and is used as a flower water or hydrolat.
Is a process where the plant material is covered with a volatile solvent which in turn dissolves the plant material. It is then heated, and the solution filtered off leaving a form of paste. Alcohol is then used to help separate out the essential oils.
Is used solely for the citrus family. The oil from the citrus fruit lies under the surface of the rind which simply needs to be pressed out and collected. The good thing about expression this way is the fruit juices are not wasted and made into drinks, etc.
Is a historical method of extraction. This method was used to extract the finest quality essences from the delicate flowers such as rose and jasmine. It was a very labour-intensive process which is virtually obsolete now.