Extracting Aromatherapy Essential Oils
Aromatherapy essential oils are the core of the practice of aromatherapy. Before we get into how essential oils are extracted let us first define some terms that may seem basic and simple but are actually a little misleading. First we need to define the proper use of the word essential in this discussion. Essential means the essence, or the unique scent, of the plant that the oil is extracted from. So aromatherapy essential oils are not necessarily any oils of any great importance, essential just means that the oils are derived from the essence of the plant. The other definition is the use of the word aroma in aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is more about the use of essential oils, which are categorized based on their aroma, than it is about the use of the actual smell or scent of the oil. The oil is identified by its smell but the smell of the oil is not always what is used in therapy.
So now that we have aromatherapy not based on aroma and essential oils that aren’t really very essential at all, we need to find out how these oils are extracted from the plants. Remember that the key to identifying essential oils is their essence, or their scent, so when the process is complete you need to be left with a product that you can identify and use. Aromatherapy essential oils try to be as pure as possible as many therapists do not like any chemical compounds used in the extraction process that may linger after the process is finished. There are chemical methods used to extract essential oils but the more popular methods are water and pressure.
Two Of The More Popular Extraction Methods
One very popular method of extracting essential oils for aromatherapy is called distillation. Distillation is the process of using steam to extract the oil and then rapidly cooling the steam back into water form. Since essential oils and water do not mix it is easy to get the essential oil out of the resulting mixture causing the resulting product to be very pure. The more common essential oils such as peppermint and lavender are extracted using distillation. The water created as a byproduct of the distillation process is also very popular among those that use aromatherapy essential oils and those byproducts are called hydrosols. Hydrosols such as rose water are extremely popular as skin care products.
One of the simpler ways to extract aromatherapy essential oils is by simply putting the raw plant under a press and squeezing the oil out and this is called expression. The citrus plants are very concentrated in essential oils so the process of simply squeezing the oil out of them is inexpensive very effective and offers a very pure resulting product.