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Not to be confused with essential fatty acid. An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds properties of essential oils...

Not to be confused with essential fatty acid. An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds properties of essential oils pdf plants.


Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, aetherolea, or simply as the oil of the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove. An oil is “essential” in the sense that it contains the “essence of” the plant’s fragrance—the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived. The term essential used here does not mean indispensable as with the terms essential amino acid or essential fatty acid which are so called since they are nutritionally required by a given living organism. Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam.

Other processes include expression, solvent extraction, absolute oil extraction, resin tapping, and cold pressing. They are used in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps and other products, for flavoring food and drink, and for adding scents to incense and household cleaning products. Essential oils have been used medicinally throughout history. Rather than refer to essential oils themselves, modern works typically discuss specific chemical compounds of which the essential oils are composed.

For example: methyl salicylate rather than “oil of wintergreen”. Interest in essential oils has revived in recent decades with the popularity of aromatherapy, a branch of alternative medicine that uses essential oils and other aromatic compounds. Oils are volatilized, diluted in a carrier oil and used in massage, diffused in the air by a nebulizer, heated over a candle flame, or burned as incense.

Medical applications proposed by those who sell medicinal oils range from skin treatments to remedies for cancer and often are based solely on historical accounts of use of essential oils for these purposes. Claims for the efficacy of medical treatments, and treatment of cancers in particular, are now subject to regulation in most countries.

Most common essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, tea tree oil, patchouli, and eucalyptus are distilled. As the water is heated, the steam passes through the plant material, vaporizing the volatile compounds.

The vapors flow through a coil, where they condense back to liquid, which is then collected in the receiving vessel. Most oils are distilled in a single process. The recondensed water is referred to as a hydrosol, hydrolat, herbal distillate, or plant water essence, which may be sold as another fragrant product.

Popular hydrosols include rose water, lavender water, lemon balm, clary sage, and orange blossom water. The use of herbal distillates in cosmetics is increasing. Some plant hydrosols have unpleasant smells and are therefore not sold.

Due to the relatively large quantities of oil in citrus peel and low cost to grow and harvest the raw materials, citrus-fruit oils are cheaper than most other essential oils. Lemon or sweet orange oils are obtained as byproducts of the citrus industry. Before the discovery of distillation, all essential oils were extracted by pressing.

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