What Makes Essential Oils, Essential?

By: Charlese Freeman


What are Essential Oils? 

Essential oils have become very popular remedies for personal care, but what are essential oils and why are they so popular these days? Their organic genetics have made them very popular in mainstream areas like health and skincare. Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts. These potent chemical compounds maintain their natural smells and benefits. They are called essential oils because they embody the core properties of each individual plant. Essential oils are complex and understanding every aspect of their breakdown is key.   

How are essential oils made? Grown?

Essential oils are naturally made, but in order for them to be sold each oil is first extracted from the individual plant. Steam distillation is a very popular way to extract the oils. During this process, steam vaporizes the plant materials in stainless steel containers called stills. Once the steam is inserted into the plants, the steam turns the plant molecules into vapor. The vapor then, using cold water, is transformed back into liquid form, using a machine called the condenser. As you may be aware, oil and water don’t mix. So, the last step uses a machine appropriately called the separator to divide the cold water and the essential oils. This method is the most popular and natural way to extract essential oils; however, there are other ways like solvent extraction, which usually is best for fragile plants (like a Jasmine) flower that cannot last under the pressure of steam distillation or plants that produce small amounts of oils.

What are some different oils: popular and unpopular?

There is a long list of essential oils, some are more popular than others. Some people tend to reach for the more popular oils. The oils that tend to be used more frequently include lavender oils, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, rosemary oil, and eucalyptus oil. Lavender oil is used as a natural sleep aid, peppermint oil is used to soothe pain and relieve inflamed skin, tea tree oil is used as an anti-fungal treatment on acne and even head lice, rosemary oil is used for hair growth and relieving respiratory problems, and eucalyptus oil is used to improve breathing and respiratory tract infections. These are just a few oils that may sound familiar to new oil users. On the other hand, some oils that maybe less familiar include ylang ylang oil, which helps heal wounds and is used to help with anxiety; tuberose essential oil, which is known for being used in perfumes and helps relieve tension caused by stress; and juniper oil, which is used to relieve arthritis and muscle cramps.

Why are they so popular?

There’s a reason for such popularity within the oil community. People like the idea of using natural remedies. These oils also are very cost effective compared to some medications. A standard 1 oz bottle of oil can cost anywhere from $8 and $20+. The prices vary for different locations, but people get tired of draining their pockets on expensive acne creams, good hair care products, and medications. With pharmaceuticals being one of the most lucrative industries in the country, medications to relieve pain (rather chronic or temporary) usually are very expensive and come with side-effects. People use essential oils for migraines, insomnia, and allergies. For instance, rosemary oil helps headaches. Essential oils cheap treatments for acne and acne blemishes. Oils like tea tree oils are anti-inflammatory, so they help soothe painful pimples. Essential oils are also very popular in hair care products as well. Oils like rosemary oil helps promote moisture and peppermint oils stimulates hair follicles for healthy hair growth. 

What are some benefits of essential oils?

Again, lavender oil has calming properties that helps promote sleep—great for sleep insomnia. Lavender oil also helps with respiratory, indigestion and immune systems. Peppermint oil antiseptic astringent. Ylang ylang oil is said to be an antidepressant, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, hypotensive, nervine and sedative type of substance. Ylang ylang oil also helps with depression, by creating a better overall mood. 

Some people use essential oils as a part of aroma theory. Because the oils are so potent, when released into the air the skin absorbs their benefits. Some people use them during a steamy shower or in a humidifier. Aside from aches and pains, people use essential oils for migraines, insomnia, allergies, and problem. For instance, lavender oil helps relieve stress, anxiety; while, rosemary oil helps headaches. 

Who uses them?

The great thing about essential oils is they are ageless. The oils intrigue a diverse audience with their many benefits. People with pain, breathing problems, and sleep issues are just some examples of those who may use the oils. Personally, I use essential oils on a regular basis. I apply rosemary oil and coconut oil as a “pre-moisturizer” before I wash my face with African black soap, which can be slightly drying as a detoxifying soap. Also I keep essential oils like peppermint as a part of my hair moisturizing routine. Apply peppermint oil 1-2 a week mixed with shea butter and Jamaican black castor oil. I like using these two oils because they have truly made a difference in both my skin and hair care regiments. My hair has grown rapidly because of the peppermint oil and my acne scars have faded using the rosemary oil. 

Safe ways to use Essential oils and Avoiding Risky Use

As mentioned earlier, pure essential oils are extracted directly from each plant material. These oils are very strong and should be used in very specific ways. First, essential oils should rarely be used alone. Try diluting them with carrier oils like olive oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil. Some people also enjoy mixing essential oils with shea butter, mango butter or coco butter for DIY body creams, but there are some people who should avoid essential oils because there are studies that show adverse effects. According to Medical News Today, “A person with high blood pressure, for example, should avoid stimulants, such as rosemary. Some compounds, such as fennel, aniseed, and sage act similarly to estrogen, so a person with an estrogen-dependent breast or ovarian tumor should avoid these.” Pregnant women are also suggested to stay away from some essential oils that may affect the development of an unborn child. When considering essential oils while taking any prescribed medication, research specific oils before making the decision to add essential oils to a daily regimen. 

Give them a try!

Essential oils are complex by nature. Natural remedies like oils can be purchased at grocery stores, vitamin and herbal stores, and even some department stores. Instead of making natural remedies the last resort, try them before you grab the store-bought products. 



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