Essential oils are so popular now that you almost can't avoid them. In fact, nowadays there are "essential oil wars" where people involved in pyramid marketing schemes engage in verbal fights and arguments over who has the best, purest essential oil. It can be easy to feel frustrated with trying to figure out which oil is the best; which companies to avoid, and to wonder if they even really work! Many of us have heard so much about essential oils, but yet, some still don't even know the basics...
What is an essential oil? An essential oil is a powerful liquid that is distilled by steam or water from the leaves, flowers, barks, roots, or other elements of a plant. Enormous amounts of plants are needed to make each essential oil. It takes 4000 pounds of roses to produce 1 pound of rose essential oil, making this one of the most costly essential oils around. Other plants, like lavender, take 100 pounds of plant material to make 1 pound of lavender essential oil. One thing that might surprise you is that essential oils are not actually "oils". They do not contain the fatty acids that make up what we would consider an actual oil. They are, as most aromatherapists like to say, "the life force of the plant". Essential oils are a distillation of the most vital nutrients found in a plant, fruit, or bark.
How are essential oils made? Most pure essential oils are extracted from plants through a process called steam distillation. Freshly picked plants are suspended over boiling water, and the steam pulls the oils out of the plant. The steam rises, is captured in a vessel, and is pushed along tubing. Then the steam is rapidly cooled, causing it to condense back into water. Since water and essential oils do not mix, the two separate, and the essential oil is collected. With citrus essential oils, they are often made through a process called expression. The oils are pressed from the rinds of the fruit, and the oil is squeezed out. This is a similar process to how olive oil is obtained.
What's really so great about essential oils? Because essential oils capture a lot of the nutrient-rich properties of the plant, they can in turn give these nutrients to you. Most essential oils are high in antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, making them amazing household cleaners or skincare products (if diluted with lotion or something else to avoid irritating your skin). Essential oils are 100% natural, and can be used for therapeutic purposes, in household cleaners, or simply to make your home smell good. You won't have the side-effects or risks of the chemicals found in aerosol air refresheners, or harsh detergent cleaners. If you do a little research on any essential oil, you are bound to find many therapeutic benefits. For example, rosemary essential oil increases focus and concentration, while lavender reduces stress and helps ease insomnia. Essential oils also have a long shelf life of 5-10 years, so you don't have to worry about them going bad.
A little goes a long way One drop of essential oil can give you a lot of benefits! You can apply one drop of tea tree oil to a cotton swab, dilute with a few drops of another oil like grapeseed or jojoba, and apply it to pimples to get relief from acne. One whiff of lavender essential oil can help you ease stress and find relief from a headache. You can make a simple all-purpose cleaning spray with only 15 drops of essential oil. If you've got young children underfoot, or kid's who like to help with chores (lucky you!) then you can let them clean the home with an essential oil spray and not worry about the side effects of inhaling harsh chemicals. Plus, your home will smell amazing afterwards! There are so many ways you can use essential oils, that to go into them all here would take hours upon hours of reading. However, if you check out our essential oil section at Africa Imports, you can see many of the benefits of each oil listed in the oils description.
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