What are essential oils?
A variety of plants cover the Earth in different shapes, sizes, colors, and scents. Many of these plants contain compounds that typically can’t be seen with the naked eye—they hide within the roots, flowers, seeds, bark, or other areas of the plant. These compounds are known as essential oils. They are highly concentrated, making them extremely potent. Also referred to as volatile aromatic compounds, essential oils give a plant its aroma, protect it from harsh environmental conditions and insects, and even play a part in plant pollination.
Essential oils are located in the tiny glands, hairs, veins or sacs of the various parts of a plant and are extracted by a variety of methods according to the type of plant. Plants store their essential oils either in external secretory structure (found on the surface of the plant) or internal secretory structures (found inside the plant material). Whether the essential oils are found on the surface or buried within their living hosts, they are the “life-hood” of a plant.
It’s generally understood that essential oils serve the following functions within plants:
- Provide a strong offense. Essential oil constituents protect the plant by attacking bacteria, viruses and fungi.
- Provide a strong defense. Essential oils defend plants by preventing animals or insects from eating them.
- Increase pollination. The unique fragrance of essential oils invite pollinating insects.
- Ensure survival. A plant’s essential oils also prevent other plants from growing too close by
History of essential oils
Essential oils have been integral part of the daily lives of people for thousands of years. At least 33 specific essential oils and aromatic oil producing plants are mentioned in the bible such as frankincense, myrrh, rosemary and spikenard. Essential oils were also used through the ancient civilizations.
The Egyptians used essential oils for beauty, skin care and fragrance as well as religious ceremonies.
The Chinese also believed in the power of essential oils and used them frequently to scent their clothing, homes, temples, paper and cosmetics. In Chinese medicine herbs are considered to have specific actions and properties and essential oils have been used for thousands of years as integral part of Chinese Medicine.
The Greeks utilized botany also known as plant science. Hippocrates documented over 200 different herbs during his lifetime. Theophrastus was known as the founder of Botany. He wrote several botanical books, The History Of Plants, being his most known and valued botanical science reference. He investigated everything about plants and how specific scents and different flowers aromatic properties affected peoples emotions.
As civilizations transferred world power, the essential oil techniques from Greece traveled to Rome as a form of aromatherapy and fragrances. During the Crusades, The knights and their armies were responsible for passing on the knowledge of herbal remedies learned in the Middle East through Western Europe. After the invention of the modern distillation process, the popularity of essential oils spread through Europe. During The Great Plaque, fumigations were conducted using aromatics to drive out sickness from cities. History tells us that there were several variations of a protective blend that were used during those times. One such blend was referred as Four Thieves which was noted of being a blend of vinegar, herbs and oils such as eucalyptus, clove, rosemary, thyme and sage.
The French discovered the benefits of lavender oil in 1910 when a French chemist Rene-Maurize Gattefosse used lavender oil for a burn on his hand. He decided to further analyze the properties of lavender oil and and how it could be used for cuts, scrapes, or scratches and skin imperfection or blemishes. He wrote several books about essential oils with his most famous book being Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles Hormones Végétales. With his work, the term Aromatherapy was officially born.
How Do Essential Oils Work?
Essential oils are the essence of plants. When these essences are extracted from a plant, they become and essential oil with a unique composition that affects how it smells, how it’s absorbed through the body and how it’s used by the body. These natural plant chemicals are created with unique tastes, aromas and colors to protect the plant from predators, sweet smell to attract pollinators and coatings to keep bacteria and fungi at bay. Some plants even release a chemical that prevents competing plant species from growing in the first plant’s territory. For example the plants of oregano and thyme naturally repel “unfriendly” bacteria, viruses and parasites in the nature by protecting the plant itself. When we use these oils they can support and benefit the body the same whey. With essential oils we are capturing the therapeutic properties of the plant and using them to support our own bodies.
How To Get Started With Essential Oils?
There are several doTERRA starter kits available that are a convenient and economical way to get started with essential oils. Choose the kit that suits your budget and household needs. For example the Diamond kit saves the most money, over $1000 but is also the most expensive. It’s a great option however if you wish to get a whole collection of essential oils all at once. If you are looking for a basic kit to get started with the Home Essentials Kit is an excellent option. It includes the most popular top ten essential oils as well as a diffuser. Add a bottle of fractionated Coconut oil and you ready to get started with using essential oils.
The Home Essentials Kit – Save $96!
The Natural Solutions Kit – Save $250!
The Diamond Kit – Save $1074!
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