Essential oils are a highly concentrated liquid which are extracted from a variety of plants and trees fo health promoting uses. The concentrated oils are usually isolated via a distillation process, but can also be gathered using mechanical pressing. The oils are named after the plant from which they are extracted, for example lavender oil, orange oil or lemongrass oil.
Once collected, the oils are bottled and sold commercially to be used in three main ways:
- As an odourant they are used in soaps, skincare products such as creams, detergents and a range of other products including animal feeds, paints and cleaning chemicals.
- As a flavour enhancer essential oils are used in the confectionery and candy sectors, along with baked goods, soft drinks and many other food products.
- As a medicinal product they are used to aid in a wide range of medical conditions from eczema to headaches.
A Brief History of Essential Oils
Researchers have traced the use of essential oils back to ancient Egypt, where priests and even pharaohs used them in ceremonies and rituals some 4500B.C.E. Indeed, in ancient Egypt, essential oils were considered sacred, and were only to be used by priests as they apparently gave the user a more direct connection to the gods.
The ancient Egyptians were famous for their use of essential oils, and for developing an expert understanding of aromatic oils, cosmetic practice and for using ointments and oils in healing practices.
The ancient Greeks were also known for their use of essential oils and they adopted and adapted many of the Egyptians practices. Widely accepted as the ‘Father of Medicine’, Greek physician Hypocrites (460-377 B.C.E.) did much to further Greek knowledge and understanding of essential oils. This knowledge was gathered mainly from accounts of Greek soldiers returning from battles in India.
Fast forward a few thousand years and essential oils are just as popular now as they were in ancient times. Modern homeopathic medicine has documented hundreds of uses and benefits of using pure essential oils.
Among the many medical benefits include:
- Lavender oil can reduce stress, anxiety, nausea and aches and pains caused by muscle injuries.
- Peppermint oil aids digestion.
- Teetree oil has a wide range of medical benefits such as relieving headaches, helping clear nasal congestion and helping with a variety of skin conditions such as dandruff and eczema.
Keeping a collection of pure essential oils in your first aid cabinet is not the worst idea. Be sure to check with a medical professional if you are unsure about the benefits of any essential oil.