A Life Cycle of an Essential Oil - from Natures Source
The use of essential oils is gaining popularity worldwide as healthy, natural alternatives to medicine, flavorings, home cleaning products, and conventional hygiene products. Have you ever asked yourself where essential oils come, how they are made, and what they are used for?
In this article, we give you an overview of the life cycle of an essential oil from the plant to the bottle so that you can have a better idea of what you are putting in and on your body. Of course, the process may vary greatly from brand to brand and from oil to oil, but this will present you with a general idea of the process of some of the most commonly used oils.
Stage 1: Growing and Harvesting the Plant
In order for essential oils to carry the organic label, they have to follow strict guidelines from the seed to the bottle. For example, the seeds cannot be genetically engineered, have experience ionizing radiation, have been exposed to pesticide and herbicides, among others.
When oils are wildcrafted, it means that they come from plants that grew naturally in uncultivated areas, and were harvested by hand, rather than by machine. It is important to note that these plants are cannot be certified organic because their production process did not take place in a controlled environment, so it is impossible to know what they have been exposed to.
Plants that were grown conventionally were cultivated, but without organic standards. That means they may have been exposed to pesticides, they may be GMO, or have experienced ionizing radiation.
Stage 2: Extraction of the Oil
Essential oils are extracted from the plant in two main ways. The first is distillation, and the second is through expression.
The Steam Distillation process is the most common way to extract oils from leaves and plant material. Steam Distillation has been used for over 5000 years, first of water and panacea, and later for aromatic and floral waters for medicinal and perfume purposes, among others. Today, distillation is the most common way to extract oil from plants for personal use.
The distillation process begins when the plant is placed on a grid inside a still, which is then sealed. When sealed, the still is filled with steam, and it slowly breaks through the plant, which them removes what will become oil in the form of vapor. The vapor rises into a pipe that then takes the vapor into a condenser, so that the vapor turns back into liquid form, where the oil naturally separates from the water. The oil collected is what we will eventually come to know as essential oil.
Expression is another name for cold pressing, and it is a method used specifically used to extract essential oils from citrus fruits, including lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime, and bergamot.
The artisanal method of extracting oils from citrus fruit is by soaking the rind in warm water, and pressing the rind with a sponge, which absorbs the oil.
For the more modern form of expression, the rind is placed in a container with spikes that puncture the rind repeatedly, which releases the oil. The oil is then collected, often by centrifuge, in a smaller container below.
Stage 3: Taking the Essential Oil to Market
After the essential oils are extracted, they are either bottled to be sold pure (or diluted), or they are used as ingredients in other products, as mentioned below.
Stage 4: Uses of Essential Oils
There are dozens of essential oils that have shown potent effects for a variety of skin issues, or simply for maintaining overall skin health.
Some of these include:
Carrot seed essential oil: used to help to smooth skin, fade scars, and even tone.
Frankincense essential oil: used to help reduce inflammation, calm acne, and even skin tone.
Geranium essential oil: used to reduce the appearance of oily skin and control breakouts. It can also help heal bruises, burns, and cuts.
Lavender essential oil: Used to reduce sun spots and scaring.
Myrrh essential oil: used to promote elasticity and firmness, and reduce sun damage.
Just a small collection of essential oils can help treat more ailments than your whole medicine cabinet can. There isn’t enough room in this article to talk about all the potential health benefits of essential oils, but here are a few suggestions:
- Lavender and peppermint oil to alleviate migraines
- Lavender oil and aloe vera to treat burns
- Ginger oil to improve digestion
- Eucalyptus oil for bronchitis
- Tea tree oil and coconut oil to treat ringworm
As a Food
Only essential oils labelled as food grade can be ingested. They can be used is small quantities for chocolate, candies, frostings, baked goods, soups and marinades.
For example, it is possible to use lemon oil instead of lemon zest, or peppermint oil instead of peppermint extract.
Cleaning and Home Purposes
Some ways to use essential oils at home include:
- Tea tree oil as a natural disinfectant
- Lemongrass oil as mosquito repellent
- Peppermint oil as spider repellent
- Cinnamon essential oil to clean the air
- Your favorite oil to add a wonderful scent to your laundry
- Lime oil with baking soda and vinegar to scrub your bathtub
- Lemon oil to disinfect produce
Aromatherapy is often used to take advantage of the calming, relaxing, and therapeutic effects of oils. It can be used topically, as explained above, or in a diffuser, which raises the temperature of the oils so that they vaporize into the air.
As you can see, essential oils are extremely diverse in their uses and functions. The essential oil life cycle shows that the quality of the oil you are buying will greatly depend on the processes applied to the plant from the seed to the final product.
In their application, the uses of essential oils are incredibly diverse, and may help you avoid potentially dangerous household products and medicines, while adopting a healthier, more natural life.