What Are Essential Oils: Learn About Using Essential Oil From Plants

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By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Essential oils are mentioned a lot in natural health and beauty remedies these days. However, historians have found evidence that essential oils were used as far back as ancient Egypt and Pompeii. Almost every culture has a long history of using plant essential oils for health, beauty, or religious practices. So, what are essential oils? Continue reading for the answer, as well as information on how to use essential oils.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are extracts that are distilled from the bark, flower, fruit, leaves or root of a plant. Most true essential oils are steam distilled, though in a few cases a process called cold pressing is used to extract essential oil from plants.

Plants naturally contain essential oils for many reasons such as:

  • to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects
  • as protection or deterrent from pests, including rabbit or deer
  • as protection against fungal and bacterial diseases
  • to compete with other plants by releasing alleopathic essential oils in to the garden.

Some plants that are commonly sold as essential oils for their health and beauty benefits include:

How to Use Essential Oils

In order to extract the true essence of plants, they need to be distilled or cold pressed. Making essential oils at home is not actually possible without distilling equipment. However, it is recommended that essential oils used topically be mixed with a gentler oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil or jojoba oil. Essential oils are highly concentrated and are oftentimes mixed with just water as well.

There are three ways of using essential oils: topically, as an inhalant or orally. You should always read and follow the instructions on the labels of essential oils; it could be very harmful to ingest certain essential oils.

Bathing with a few drops of essential oils in the water allows you to use essential oils as an inhalant and topically, as the bath water is absorbed by the skin. You can purchase diffusers for essential oils that are meant to be used as an inhalant too. Compresses or massage oils are frequently used to apply topical essential oils.

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