Essential oils are compounds found in specific plants in nature. Not all plants produce essential oils, some produce very small quantities and some produce a lot. They are used by the plant to cure itself, invite pollinators, keep animals away, and many other purposes. They are called oils, but they are actually not. They do blend in fats (lipophilic) and not in water (hydrophobic) and that is why the confusion occurs.
People have been using essential oils for over 6,000 years- we’ve been addicted to these fragrant wonders. They’ve been studied and researched for years, and we now know a lot about their therapeutic properties, while, of course, there is still much more to be learned. There are a few ways to extract essential oils from plants, but the main one is through steam distillation. In short, steam is run through the plant material, then is condensated, and splits into the watery part (hydrosol) and the essential oils that float to the top. The oil and water are then separated and bottled. Try to imagine the smell in a distillery working on Siberian Fir for example - mindblowing.
Almost all essential oils are anti-inflammatory and have different properties that are great for a wide range of needs, depending on the different chemical compounds they contain. From relaxing muscles to supporting the immune system and the entire terrain (a person’s entire being - body and soul), fighting bacteria and viruses, the list goes on and on. Some essential oils are amazing at treating skin issues. From basic nourishment to acne-fighting and wound healing - different essential oils do it all. It’s like getting a key to nature’s medicine cabinet.
Essential oils are seldom used directly on the skin (neat), but rather are diluted in a carrier oil, butter, or another base. If you think about the concentration of the material that’s achieved by the distillation, it might help you better understand their potency. For example, 260,000 flowers of Jasmine are required to make just one ounce of Jasmine essential oil. Think about it for a second, the power of so many flowers in just 1 oz is pretty powerful. It can help us achieve great things, but too much of it is counter-effective. Also, their wide and complex aromas bring out something very visceral in us, unlike any synthetic aroma compounds which are flat and don’t do much to our mind.
Here are some examples of magical oils for skin.
Aromatherapy was born when René-Maurice Gattefossé, a cosmetic scientist was working in his lab on a new concoction when he suddenly burned his hand. He immediately plunged his hand in Lavender essential oil and kept treating it with it for the next few days. The injury healed so well, that he decided to make it a science, and literally wrote the book about Aromatherapy. Lavender is skin healing, helps treat burns, ulcers, itching, wounds, it is also anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial.
This small tree has one of the most famous essential oils out there, and rightfully so. It was called Tea Tree by Captain Cook, who came to Australia in 1770 and used this plant to make tea because there were no real tea plants around. It is a great oil for fighting acne because it has great anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Such a lovely, balancing scent, that is made of the wood of the Sandalwood tree primarily found in east India. It is a great moisturizer and helps alleviate acne, eczema, and dermatitis. Absolutely wonderful on mature, and dry skin.
This very warm, herbally essential oil is made from the leaves and flowers of the Marjoram plant. It is anti-inflammatory and healing to the skin, yet gentle and calming. It has also shown antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Everybody knows about Manuka honey, but Manuka essential oil started showing up in the 80s and has been making waves ever since. Manuka is a wild bush/tree that grows in New Zealand and on harsh terrain, high humidity, and strong winds. One of the reasons it can survive all of these conditions is its essential oil. Its antifungal activity is considered 5-10 times stronger than that of Tea Tree. It is great for fighting acne and calming down the skin. It is impactful yet gentle.
If you ever want to experiment with essential oils, it is highly recommended that you dilute them in a nice carrier oil or butter such as Olive Oil, Jojoba Wax, Shea Butter, etc. Since they do not blend in water, it would not dilute them, and in effect, you’d be experiencing the oils undiluted, which as we said is not recommended. You may also start to experiment with them just in an inhaler or diffuser, to help calm the mind down. Many of them are antiviral and antibacterial and help to clear the air when diffused.