ESSENTIAL OILS are derived from complex liquids found in plants that infuse the air with distinctive aromas. They can be found in seeds, bark, leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruit, and resin. These complex liquids play a role in a plant’s metabolism and act as communication signals between other plants and insects. They attract pollinators, discourage predators, inhibit the growth of harmful fungus and defend against harmful microorganisms. Their beneficent properties in plants are mirrored in their effect on humans. Essential oils are proven to have numerous healing properties some of which are bactericidal, antiseptic, fungicidal, and anti-inflammatory. Because of their volatile nature, they evaporate quickly and can easily be absorbed in human tissue. In addition to the healing effect on our body, essential oils evoke a therapeutic effect on our thoughts, emotions and subconscious.

Extracting the active compounds requires the process of distillation or expression. The most commonly used is steam distillation, in which steam is sent through the plant material in a still. Volatile oils from the plant accumulate in the steam, cool and condense, and are collected in a container along with the hydrosol. The hydrosol is a result of the condensation process. The essential oil is then separated from the hydrosol.

Climate, cultivation, soil condition, time and method of harvesting, along with the art of the distillation process, play a role in the quality of essential oils produced. It is important to note that large quantities of plant material are required for the extraction process, making essential oils quite costly. For example, approximately five tons of roses are required to obtain one kg (24.5 lbs) of rose essential oil. About thirty pounds of lavender flowers produces one 15ml bottle of lavender oil, and forty five lemons make one 15ml bottle of lemon oil.