René-Maurice Gattefossé

Introduction To Essential Oils

"The external application of small quantities of essences rapidly stops the spread of gangrenous sores. In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene. Just one rinse with lavender essence stopped 'the gasification of the tissue'. This treatment was followed by profuse sweating, and healing began the next day (July 1910)"

René-Maurice Gattefossé

What is an essential oil?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in their Vocabulary of Natural Materials (ISO/D1S9235.2) defines an essential oil as a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.

How is essential oil produced?

i. Distillation

During distillation the plant material is placed upon a grid inside the still. Once inside, the still is sealed, and, depending upon the above methods, steam or water/steam slowly breaks through the plant material to remove its volatile constituents. These volatile constituents rise upward through a connecting pipe that leads them into a condenser. The condenser cools the rising vapor back into liquid form. The liquid is then collected in a vehicle below the condenser. Since water and essential oil do not mix, the essential oil will be found on the surface of the water where it is siphoned off. Occasionally an essential oil is heavier than water and is found on the bottom rather than the top, such as with clove essential oil.  

ii. Expression

Expression, also referred to as cold pressing, is a method of extraction specific to citrus essential oils, such as tangerine, lemon, bergamot, sweet orange, and lime. The process involves a prodding, pricking, sticking action to release the essential oil. During this process, the rind of the fruit is placed in a container having spikes that will puncture the peel while the device is rotated. The puncturing of the rind will release the essential oil that is then collected in a small area below the container. The majority of modern expression techniques are accomplished by using machines using centrifugal force. The spinning in a centrifuge separates the majority of essential oil from the fruit juice.

Absolutes, on the other hand, can be extracted via solvent extraction or enfleurage, although enfleurage is rarely performed in the modern day.

Another type of aromatic product available on the market are CO2 extracts, referred to simply as that, CO2 extracts. They differ in chemistry from their related distilled essential oils but are becoming increasing available on the market. CO2 extract are made by passing pressurized carbon dioxide through aromatic plant material.

How do I choose an essential oil?

The essential oil that you choose will depend on the purpose; for example, do you want it to help with sleep or do you need something to repel mosquitoes? Each essential oil has its own uses and some may share similar uses and may act synergistically when blended. You can read the description of the essential oils on the label for the uses. If you want a more in-depth information, you can always research for reliable sources on the net or simply send us an email! Be sure to pay attention to each essential oil label especially cautions and application method.

What are the methods of using essential oils?

1. Inhalation

i. Direct Inhalation

Inhaling from aromatherapy inhaler or direct from essential oil bottles are the easiest, most portable way to inhale oils, are cost effective, and can be used for a variety of reasons discretely.All inhalers use a cotton wick to apply the essential oils to. The cotton wick will soak up approximately 15 drops, depending on the size of the wick. These are good for about three months before you need to replace them. Another method is putting a few drops of essential oils onto diffuser accessories such as bracelets and necklaces made of lava beads or that contain cotton felt pad.

ii. Steam Bowl/Tent 

You can use the sink, or a stainless steel or glass bowl. Bring water to nearly a boil, but not too hot. Pour into plugged sink or bowl. Add a few drops of essential oil, cover your head with a towel and lean over the steamy water. Be sure to keep your eyes closed. You can alternate breathing in through your nose and mouth as long as the water is still producing steam (on average 3-5 min). You can safely do this every two to three hours.

iii. Diffusion (water or nebulizer)

Diffusing is an easy and effective way to inhale the aromas of essential oils. This method is great for uplifting mood, helping to unwind, or purifying the air. When diffusing, there should be a window of time for doing so.It is important to note that diffusing carries little risk when done so appropriately. A good rule of thumb is to not diffuse for much longer than one hour at a time without a break. The ideal diffusion is intermittent diffusion for 30-60 minutes on and 30- 60 minutes off. Provide adequate ventilation. Be sure to follow the instructions provided by the diffusers manufacturer, the amount of drops that you use will depend on how much water the unit holds.Aromatic oils stimulate your olfactory nerves, which send signals to your brain. The olfactory bulb becomes saturated rather quickly; which is why the oils effect on your mood seems almost instantaneous. Therefore, diffusing for long periods of time is not only unnecessary, it is a waste of precious oils, and is not without risk.

iv. Room Spray

Use a spray bottle made of glass or PET plastic (essential oils are solvent and there will be a chemical reaction with regular plastic bottles). Dilute essential oils to 1%-2% with water or witch hazel. As oil and water don't mix, give it a good shake to disperse the essential oil molecules before spraying. Add on preservatives if you're planning to keep the spray for several days to avoid contamination.

2. Topical/Dermal Use

Topical use of essential oils is great when you are looking for something specific to the place you are putting the diluted blend. A few examples would be but are not limited to: minor discomfort, bruises, or dry, irritated skin. There are varying circumstances such as which oil or oils you plan to use, age, and thickness of skin, but it is estimated that about 10% of the essential oils (diluted) gets absorbed into your skin. Generally, there are 3 mediums in which essential oils can be diluted in;

i. Oil based (carrier oils, butters)

ii. Water based (aloe vera jelly)

iii. Oil and water based (lotions and creams)

Topical use is an effective method of using essential oils, but if not done so properly, it can come with a certain amount of risk.DO NOT apply undiluted essential oils to your skin. It’s that simple. The most common adverse reaction, experienced by hundreds, possibly thousands of people every year, is a skin reaction, and the most common cause is using an undiluted essential oil. Refer to the guideline below on how to safely dilute essential oils.

3. Internal use

We DO NOT recommend taking any essential oils internally. There are many sales rep and laymen recommending internal ingestion of essential oils, but it all comes with risks. These include chemical burns, irritation along the digestive tract mucosa, sensitization, liver and kidney damage.

How do I dilute essential oils safely?

Dilution guideline for essential oils
Dilution according to end use
Dilution according to age group

For the three younger age groups (up to age 6) this applies to any topical application. For the older two age groups (6 to adult) the percentages are for full-body applications. More concentrated dilutions can be used for local applications (small areas of skin).

Are essential oils safe to be used on children and babies?

It is safe to be used on children and babies WHEN used correctly, only with appropriate oils. Some oils are contraindicated in children, so it is important to read the label. Keep essential oils in a place where young children cannot reach them, and never let them handle essential oils bottles. The chart above is a recommended dilution guideline range according to age groups.

Another safe alternative for children and babies are hydrosols.

What are hydrosols?

Hydrosols (hydrolats, floral or aromatic waters) are one of the two products of distillation. During distillation, water evaporates along with aromatic compounds from the plant material. When the vapors are cooled, the water and essential oil separate. Most of the aromatic molecules pass into the essential oil, but some pass into the distillation water.Hydrosols have a wide range of use, and as the concentration of aromatic constituents is much lower than in essential oils, they offer a safer therapeutic option.

Which medium (base) should I use to dilute my essential oils?

Choosing a base depends on a few factors; purpose, place of intended use, viscosity, texture, comedogenicity, etc. You might want to find out the properties and characteristics of different bases to see which best suits you. However, the commonest base would be diluting using carrier oils. 

What are carrier oils and which should I use?

Carrier oil, also known as fatty oil or base oil or vegetable oil, is used to dilute essential oils and absolutes before they are applied to the skin in massage and aromatherapy. They are so named because they carry the essential oil onto the skin. Carrier oils do not contain a concentrated aroma, unlike essential oils, though some, such as olive, have a mild distinctive smell. Neither do they evaporate like essential oils, which are volatile. 

Choosing a carrier oil usually depends on your skin type (different carrier oils has different comedogenicity ratings), intended purpose, personal and texture preference.

How do I store essential oils?

Keep your precious oils in cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight. Refrigeration may prolong the shelf life of your oils.

What are essential oil notes?

Top notes are the most delicate and volatile. Derived from leaves, flowers, fruits, and flowering herbs, their aroma evaporates most quickly. When mixed with other notes, top notes hit the nose first. Some examples of top notes are Basil, Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Sweet Orange and Peppermint.

Middle note essential oils are extracted from herbs and spices. Interestingly, middle notes are the most robust and heavy. Nutmeg, Juniper, Lavender and Palmarosa are examples of middle notes.

Base notes essential oils are extracted from the resins and gums of trees, base notes have an earthy quality. For example, Vanilla, Vetiver, Patchouli and Myrrh are essential oils categorized as base notes.When mixing essential oils, it is usually best to use all three notes in combination to arrive at a balanced and well-defined aroma.