WHY ARE ESSENTIAL OILS ESSENTIAL

March 17, 2020

Picture of woman next to herbs on table

The oil bears the name of the plant from which it is derived; for example, rose oil or lavender oil. Such oils were called essential because they were thought to represent the very essence of odour and flavour.

Essential oils are aromatic compounds extracted from various parts of a plant, such as petals, barks, twigs, roots, leaves, seeds, rind and resins. They are odorous, highly volatile (readily evaporate in open air) oils. Their complex chemistry is commonly comprised of alcohols, esters, ketones, aldehydes, and terpenes. They are significantly different to fatty oils and have a consistency more like water than oil. Essential oils give flowers and herbs their scent and spices their spiciness.

Essential oils are generally extracted by steam distillation. This is done by placing the plant material in a vat and passing steam through it. The oils evaporate, along with water and other substances. The distillate is cooled, and the non-water-soluble essences are separated from the water. The water is used in cosmetic preparations and is known as hydrosols or hydrolats.

Other extraction methods include expression, which was traditionally carried out by hand to obtain oils from citrus fruits. The fruit peel was squeezed, which released the oil and was then collected in sponges. Today however, this method is mainly carried out by mechanical machinery. Another method is solvent extraction, which is extraction of the essential oils, mainly from flowers, using volatile solvents. A liquid solvent, such as alcohol, butane or ethanol, is used to dissolve the plant material in the solvent. It is then separated by being distilled at an exact temperature which condenses the oil but not the solvent. The oil obtained is of high quality and is known as an absolute. 

The amount of essence present in a plant can vary from approximately 0.01% up to 10%. Rose petals contain very small amounts, and up to 2000 kg of petals may be needed to produce 1 kg of oil. 

Picture of small jars being filled with oil dropper

At Flower and Spice, we are passionate about producing skincare that is beneficial, efficacious and pleasurable to use. Our Midnight Beauty Rich revitalising serum contains precious rose absolute, a soothing, nurturing essential oil to balance the skin and calm the mind. To calm the mind, inhale deeply and breathe in its therapeutic aroma before applying the serum.

Using skincare with gorgeous textures and beautiful scents help create a unique daily ritual, a moment to relax and take care of yourself. In many cases, it is very hard for synthetics to replicate the unique benefits of natural ingredients, and in the case of aromatherapy, synthetic fragrances that are added to skincare simply don’t offer the same the benefits to skin, body, and mind. This is one of the many reasons we prefer using essential oils as opposed to cheaper fragrance oils in our formulations.

Picture of different herbs and flowers

Using skincare products containing essential oils is a lovely way to incorporate aromatherapy into your everyday life.

How does aromatherapy work?

There are two ways in which essential oils reach the bloodstream; they are either absorbed through the skin or through air sacs in the lungs.

Absorption through the skin
Essential oils are tiny molecules that are easily absorbed into the body when applied to the skin. The skin is more receptive to the absorption of essential oils when warm, such as during massage or after a warm bath or shower. The essential oils have an affinity with the sebum produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands are thought to pass through hair follicles, sweat glands and through the top layer of skin into the deeper layers. They then pass into the bloodstream or are taken up by the lymph and tissue fluid and journey to other parts of the body. Essential oils are absorbed through the skin at different rates and can take up to ninety minutes to pass into the bloodstream.

Absorption via the lungs
On an inhalation, essential oil molecules travel to the lungs and pass across the alveoli, tiny air sac walls, into nearby blood capillaries. Clinical trials have revealed that small amounts of essential oil constituents are present in the blood within minutes of inhalation. They travel in the bloodstream being transported around the body to carry out their therapeutic benefits. They are later excreted from the body via sweat, urine, feces, and breath.

Essential oils in skincare

Essential oils are readily absorbed by and penetrate the deepest layers of the skin, making them effective for treating many skin conditions, while their beautiful aromas evoke a sense of calm and relaxation.

  • Essential oils can have a profound impact on the health of the skin.
  • They can help improve skin elasticity.
  • They help heal scar tissue and reduce the incidence of stretch marks.
  • Some oils, such as neroli and lavender, are known as cytophylatic oils, which stimulate the generation of new cells by encouraging cell division in the basal layer.
  • They assist with the skin’s desquamation process
  • Help reduce inflammation
  • Balancing – help regulate the secretion of sebum making them ideal for oily and dry skin.
  • Rehydrating – certain oils can help restore moisture levels in the skin.
  • Antiseptic and antibacterial – can help treat cuts, wounds and insect bites and assist in the fight against acne.

Using well formulated skincare with beautiful scents and textures helps to create a unique daily moment to relax and take care of yourself. 

*Litareture: Francesca Gould, Aromatherapy for Holistic Therapists, 2003 Robert B. Tisserand, The Art of Aromatherapy, 1977, Patricia Davis, Aromatherapy An A-Z, 2005

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