How Essential Oils Work
Essential oils are extracted from the aromatic essence of certain plants, trees, fruits, flowers, herbs and spices. They are natural volatile oils with identifiable chemical and medicinal properties. Over 150 oils have been extracted, each one with its own unique scent and healing properties. Oils are sourced from plants as commonplace as parsley and as exquisite as jasmine. For optimum benefit, essential oils must be extracted from natural raw ingredients and remain as pure as possible.
Essential oils in action
Despite considerable research, the chemistry of essential oils has not been fully understood. Each oil is composed of at least 100 different chemical constituents, which are classified as aldehydes, phenols (strong disinfectants used for external use), oxides (compounds formed with oxygen), esters, ketones, alcohols and terpenes (type of hydrocarbon). There may be other chemical compounds that have yet to be identified. The oils and their actions are extremely complex. All the oils are antiseptic, but each one also has individual properties. For example, they may be analgesics, fungicides, diuretics, or expectorants. The collective components of each oil work together to give the oil a dominant characteristic. It can be relaxing, as in the case of chamomile; refreshing like the citrus grape fruit or stimulating like the aromatic rosemary.
Within the body, essential oils are able to operate in three ways: pharmacologically, physiologically and psychologically. From a pharmacological perspective, the chemical components of the oil react with the body chemistry in a way that is similar to drugs, but slower, more sympathetic and with fewer side effects. Essential oils also have notable physiological effects. Certain oils have affinity with a particular area of the body. For example, rose has an affinity with the female reproduction system, while spice oils tend to stimulate the digestive system. Some oils may also sedate an over-active system or stimulate different parts of the body that are sluggish. These oils, such as lavender, are called adaptogens implying that they do whatever the body requires of them at the time. Psychological response is triggered by the effect of the aromatic molecules on the brain.
Essential oils are not all absorbed into the body at same rate. They can take from 20 minutes to several hours, depending on the oil and the individual body chemistry of the person being treated. On an average, absorption take about 90 minutes. After several hours, oils leave the body – most oils are exhaled; others are eliminated in urine, feces and perspiration.