All About Essential Oils
Essential oils are used for many different reasons, from scenting your room through the use of an oil burner, to adding them to your bath or massage oil to help you relax at the end of a long day, to adding them to homemade soaps and candles.
A variety of oils are readily available from many different sources such as the dollar store, the supermarket, the health food shop, or an aromatherapy shop. You may have noticed that the price can vary widely even amongst different brands and oils. Why is that?
Pure essential oils are derived directly from plants and are produced from various parts of these plants such as roots, resin (gum), leaves, seeds, flowers, fruits and grasses, and are completely natural. For example eucalyptus oil is produced from the leaves of eucalyptus trees, sandalwood from the roots of Santalum album (Indian sandalwood) or Santalum spicatum (Australian sandalwood), lemon oil from the fruit rind, and rose oil from rose petals.
Incredibly, in order to produce 500mL of rose oil, up to a tonne of rose petals are needed! That equates to about 30 rose petals for a single drop! There are several different processes for extracting rose oil from the petals depending on the desired final product, however each is a complex multistep process. On the other hand, with citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges you can experience the extraction of their essential oils merely by zesting the rind as you would when cooking or even by peeling an orange. Is it any wonder that pure rose oil is more expensive than lemon oil?
What about the price difference between pure essential oils and scent or fragrance oils? Scent or fragrance oils are man-made from various chemical constituents, which may or may not come from the plant themselves. As they are produced synthetically, they are much more readily available whereas the availability of pure essential oils can vary depending on crop yield, HYPERLINK "http://www.greentimes.com.au/glossary/categories/lifestyle/environmental-impacts.html" environmental factors and weather conditions such as drought and flooding.
Considerations when choosing Essential Oils
Besides cost, there are a few other things to consider when selecting oils, whether fragrance oils or pure essential oils.
On one hand, pure essential oils are provided by the earth and thus are natural, dynamic oils with therapeutic properties. On the other hand, demand for these oils can outstrip the supply, which may lead to over-harvesting of these plants. Also, not all plants grow in Australia, which means that the fuel to transport the oils to Australia impacts on the environment.
Fragrance oils smell very similar, sometimes even better, than the essential oils but are lacking the dynamic, therapeutic properties. They are readily available in large quantities due to the relative ease of manufacturing techniques and availability of chemical components to make them. Often the recipe or ingredient list of fragrance oils are protected by FDA "trade secret" rules so we may not really know what exactly is in these oils, and some people report feeling dizzy or nauseous when using fragrance oils. This is often a result of impure or adulterated oils.
Look for Purity
So how can you choose which oils to use? In the interest of our health and environment it would be best to choose local, organic, Australian pure essential oils. Australia has an abundance of excellent quality native oils such as eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus blue mallee, and Eucalyptus dives to name a few), tea tree (Melaleuca alternafolia) and lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) as well as others such as lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), peppermint (Mentha pipertia).
Pure organic essential oils have been used for centuries and across many cultures. When pure, they are universally considered to be therapeutically beneficial, and each oil or combination contains different healing properties. Beware though, adulterated oils often smell acceptable, but because they are diluted with synthetics or vegetable oil it makes them extremely poor value for money. What's more, if an essential oil has been standardised, adulterated or adjusted in any way it simply will not be as effective.
Lastly, not all essential oils have the same affect on everyone so careful testing and research is recommended and never use pure essential oils undiluted.