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Essential Oils

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Essential oils are, as their name suggests, the intrinsic essence of a plant, produced by the plant in specialist cells. Most are extracted by steam distillation, but some are extracted by cold pressing and dry distillation. Essential oils are concentrated lipid soluble constituents. They consist entirely of pharmacologically activate secondary metabolites, i.e. they have no food value and are not needed for growth and metabolism, but can influence cell activity. They can be made up of several hundred individual chemicals which act in synergy together to produce the oil’s unique aroma and effects on both physiology and behaviour. An essential oil is by definition volatile (i.e. evaporates) and behaves as a gas at room temperature. Essential oils are chemical compounds generally lighter than 30 carbon atoms, anything heavier such as the absolutes are technically not essential oils and will contain more of the plants constituents including colours. Absolutes are plant extracts that are obtained via solvent extraction. They usually contain heavier molecules than are found in essential oils and have an aroma that is very representative of the plant used. Examples: Rose absolute – Jasmine – Violet leaf absolute

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