Maybe you’re a true Kitchen Witch, very familiar with making all kinds of personal concoctions with essential oils or maybe you’ve only started hearing about essential oils and are wondering what all the hype is, or what they even are? We love getting creative with them but let us give you a run down first before we get right down into all the endless possibilities!
Who is she?
A scientist would tell you that essential oils are a concentrated, aromatic volatile compound that is obtained from the flowers, fruits, seeds, barks, roots or leaves of a plant. To break that down a little, volatile compound means that it can evaporate into the air and because of this, we can breathe them in. Something unique about essential oils is that they always have a scent, and it’s usually pretty, unless you hate the smell of Patchouli or Wintergreen. Can’t relate. Not all volatile compounds have any odor at all, and many are not naturally produced. These can be found in a variety of manmade products such as building materials, paint or household cleaning products and many other chemicals. The volatile compounds in essential oils occur naturally and it is this that creates the ‘essence’ which is the smell or the flavour of the plant. Unfortunately, real life plants aren’t as chatty as the ones in Alice in Wonderland so they can’t hold their ground to shoo off unwanted herbivores or pests, or entice a cute pollinating bumble bee. Instead, plants use their volatile compound, or essence, to do so.
Bottle her up!
We like to think of the essence of essential oils like the plant’s soul. So to bottle this, we need the help of some Dementors-uh, we mean distillers! Two of the most popular distillation processes are through Steam and Cold-press extraction.
Steam distillation uses the combination of pressure and steam to extract the essential oil from the plant. Raw ingredients (the plant’s roots, leaves, flowers etc) are placed inside a stainless steel device where water is boiled right below it in another device. Picture an hourglass with boiling water at the bottom and all the natural plant’s bits above it. The steam that is released from this goes through another tube that leads to a condenser which cools it and brings it into a liquid form of oil and water. The oil can be skimmed off the water and this is how your essential oil is born! No storks needed. Some oils though, (like spicy clove!) are very dense so they actually sink to the bottom of that water and are collected from there. There are many factors that need to be perfect for this like temperature, pressure and time so this makes steam distillation a very laborious process.
Cold-Press extraction (also known as expression) is another method where heat is used but at a much colder temperature so as to not interfere with the biological nature of the plants. Think 120 degrees fahrenheit opposed to around 200 degrees fahrenheit of steam distillation. The natural materials who have been slightly heated go into a metal contraption with spikes that turn the plants over and over so that they are poked through and once they are punctured the essential oil of the plant is released below into another vessel to be collected.
In both processes, something called adulteration can be a misstep in the distillation that compromises the purity of the final essential oil. Things that may render an essential oil as a lower quality are when some companies that try to cut costs by processing natural materials two, three and sometimes four times rather than just once. The natural plant material should never be recycled this way because you only get the purest form when it’s oils are extracted one time. Also, some distillers will use non regulated raw materials so that means they are collecting plants sprayed with pesticides and allowing that chemical into their essential oil final product. Ew.
Our Dear Friends at Zayat Aroma
We are not about that life so that’s why we love Zayat Aroma essential oils. We trust our local friends at Zayat because they are transparent about their process and their ingredients. You know we love shopping locally so we couldn’t pass up working with this Quebec based family business who is as passionate about quality, sustainably resources as we are. We are also confident to be using these oils with their organic certifications from ECOCERT Canada, Canada Organic and USDA Organic. All of these certifications ensure that what is bottled is of highest quality and has none of those pesky adulterations. But some people may not know that to have these above certifications, you need to pay for them. Which is fine but we also like to work with farmers who have just as high quality of a product but might not have the funds to pay for that certification. Zayat agrees with that so instead they will have the following markers on their labels. If you see ‘SAUV’ on the label it means this plant was grown wild with zero human interference and was then foraged to obtain it for the essential oil. ‘PED’ indicates a farm who has strived not to use any pesticides or fertilizers and has no time or money for the certification process, like the ‘SAUV’ grower. This is the similar case for any essential oils sporting the ‘CONV’ marking on Zayat’s label, as they’ll use little to no fertilizers or growing aids but are not organically certified. Finally, their essential oils are ‘HECT’ certified, meaning it has been tested by gas chromatography and the results are 100% natural, 100% pure and 100% total. The chemotype and analysis’ essential oils are available on request. Feel free to check out the Zayat Aroma site for all kinds of info on their specific essential oils!
Essential Oils vs Carrier Oils?
Where essential oils use the aromatic part of a plant for extraction like we mentioned, carrier oils use the ‘fatty’ part of a plant to get the oil out. This often comes from the seeds or nuts. This produces the oils you may be familiar with from cooking like coconut, almond, chia seed ect. Carrier oils are heavy oils that when applied to our skin will eventually sink in and generally moisturize. These are not volatile oils (again meaning they won’t evaporate for us to breathe in) instead, they literally ‘carry’ the essential oil on to our skin and help to dilute the intensity of the essential oil. Like we’ve learnt through the distillation process, essential oils are very concentrated and often need to be diluted so that it is none irritating to the skin. We’ll put a list of resources in our sources below so you may learn a little more on which essential oils need to be diluted more than others.
Let’s Get Oily With It
Essential oils are able to be used in a multitude of ways if you haven’t already jumped on that train. We love to mix them with our favourite carrier oils in a roller ball to us on our skin. We’ll have some recipes for this soon, but make sure to do your own research to which oils may be best for you! We also love to add a few drops of essential oil to water in our diffuser to help spread the oil throughout the air as we sleep. Lavender and Cedarwood are one of our favourite combinations!
It’s an Essential Oil World and We’re Just Livin’ in it
We believe that the realms of people and plants have always been intertwined. We all breathe air and need water, sunlight and love. This is why we surround our homes with luscious leaves and have fresh cut flowers in every room. Incorporating essential oils into our lives is just one more way to envelope our senses with the magic of plants. We hope that this has been helpful and has inspired you to dabble in the endless possibilities of pure plant power.
Author Bio: Izabella Amico
After getting her Bachelor’s in English Literature, her DEC in Fine Art and her certification in Massage Therapy, Bella has been living each day as varied as she can. When she isn’t being a dog mama to her King Cavalier, she’s writing freelance copy, treating her massage clients and working on her own two small companies; a skincare apothecary and an art print shop.
Check out our sources!
El Asbahani, A., et al. "Essential oils: from extraction to encapsulation." International journal of pharmaceutics 483.1-2 (2015): 220-243.
Guenther, Ernest. The essential oils-Vol 1: History-origin in plants-production-analysis. Read Books Ltd, 2014.
AHPA 2012: American Herbal Products Association Guidance Policies: Trade Requirement & Guidance Policy for Labeling of Undiluted Essential Oils Used Topically and Offered for Retail Sale, [Accessed 2014 July 14].
Tisserand RB. The Art of Aromatherapy: The healing and beautifying properties of the essential oils of flowers and herbs. Rochester (VT): Healing Arts Press; 1977.
Zhao, Xin, et al. "Effect of carrier oils on the physicochemical properties of orange oil beverage emulsions." Food Research International 74 (2015): 260-268.
Cassel, E., et al. "Steam distillation modeling for essential oil extraction process." Industrial crops and products 29.1 (2009): 171-176.
Li, Ying, Anne-Sylvie Fabiano-Tixier, and Farid Chemat. "Essential oils: from conventional to green extraction." Essential oils as reagents in green chemistry. Springer, Cham, 2014. 9-20.
Cakaloglu, Busra, Vasfiye Hazal Ozyurt, and Semih Otles. "Cold press in oil extraction. A review." Ukrainian food journal7, Issue 4 (2018): 640-654.