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aromatherapy 101

Essential Oil Production

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What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are the volatile, powerfully concentrated essences of plants. They are found in a variety of plant parts, including roots (as in vetiver), leaves (as in tea tree), flowers (as in rose), citrus fruits (as in bergamot) and seeds (as in cumin).

How are Essential Oils Produced?

Different processing methods are required to extract essential oils from different plants.

Citrus oils including sweet orange, bergamot and grapefruit are expressed oils. The expression method uses pressure to physically squeeze the oil from the plant tissue. This method is practical for citrus because of the unique oil bearing structure of citrus fruit rind.

Most oils are extracted using steam distillation, during which the plant material is permeated with steam. As the plant tissues break down, the essential oils and water vapor are released, then collected and cooled. The volatile essential oil condenses, separates and is easily isolated.

Solvent extraction is used when the odorous properties of delicate flower and plant material would be altered or destroyed by steam or water distillation or when a plant, for instance rose absolute and jasmine contains very little oil, making steam or water distillation impractical. Solvent extraction produces a concrete which in turn is refined into an absolute. To produce a concrete, the plant material is gradually saturated with a hydrocarbon solvent. The solvent dissolves the plants constituents including essential oils, fatty acids and waxes. After the solvent is distilled off the remaining constituents make up the concrete. The essential oil is extracted from the other constituents with alcohol. The fatty acids and waxes are not alcohol soluble so they're left behind. A secondary distillation then removes the alcohol, leaving the absolute oil behind.

An Oil for Summer

Life abounds in the summer season. Herbs, trees and flowers are at their peak and the air is filled with their aromas. One oil that epitomizes the summer season is bergamot. Bergamot oil is expressed from the bitter green citrus fruit of a tree called Citrus bergamia. Aromatherapists use bergamot for its uplifting, relaxing and refreshing effects. It evokes joy and inspires self confidence. Perfumist rely on bergamot's amazing ability to modify and harmonize complex blends of oils and fragrance materials. Its aroma is delicate, clean and citrusy-fruity with fresh spicy-floral tones.

Create a Summertime Room Spray
This blend will freshen your house with the aroma of a perfect summer day. It combines bergamot with other summertime oils.

Citrus oils like bergamot can make the skin sensitive to ultraviolet light. As a precaution, avoid the use of citrus oils when exposed to sunlight.


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