Did you know that in 2018, essential oils were an $8-billion market? Come 2026; experts say that this will multiply by almost two-fold to reach a $15.61-billion value!
So, what’s the hype all about? What are essential oils anyway, and what kind of benefits do they bring?
We’ll answer all these buzzing questions in the post below, so be sure to stick around!
What Are Essential Oils?
An “essential oil” is a concentrate or extract taken from a specific plant. These are thick hydrophobic (water-repelling) liquids that contain volatile plant compounds. They also go by the name “volatile oils” and “ethereal oils.”
To obtain essential oils, various plant parts undergo distillation or mechanical pressing. This allows for the derivation of the highest concentration of extracts.
A significant amount of plant parts go into the process of making these volatile oils. For instance, it takes about 220 pounds of lavender flowers to produce just a pound of lavender oil.
“Essential oils” are “essential” because they retain many of the actual plant’s characteristics. This is especially true when it comes to the plant source’s smell and flavor. In that sense, the term “essential” here refers to how the oil comes from a plant’s “essence.”
Note that being an “essential” oil doesn’t mean that it’s crucial or vital to human health. The use of this term in oils is different from, say, “essential amino acids.” However, studies show that these ethereal oils do exhibit potential therapeutic benefits.
The Use of these Volatile Oils in Product Manufacturing
Many manufacturers use these essential oils to create cosmetics, perfumes, and topical products. They also add the volatile oils to body cleansing formulations, such as soaps and washes. Their main role in the beauty industry, however, is to add a pleasant aroma to the products.
Aromatherapy: One of the Most Popular Uses of Ethereal Oils
Another widespread use of essential oils is in aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is a natural and holistic medicinal practice that uses all-natural plant extracts. Aromatherapists use ethereal oils as a form of non-medicated treatments for various maladies.
Aromatherapy is an ancient practice, having been around for over 3,500 years BC. Ancient India was among the first to use essential oils as part of holistic treatments. The same goes for the Ancient Chinese and Egyptians.
How Does It Work?
During aromatherapy treatments, practitioners usually use devices called “diffusers.” These allow for the “diffusion” or dispersal of the essential oil molecules into the air. Spreading out the particles into the air makes it easy and safe to “inhale” the plant extracts.
The idea behind aromatherapy is that breathing in the oil may allow its molecules to enter the lungs. From there, the extracts’ potentially beneficial compounds may then mix with the bloodstream. Aromatherapists believe that it’s in this way that the body benefits from the oils.
Some aromatherapists also use diluted essential oil as part of therapeutic massages. It’s important to dilute these oils, seeing as how concentrated they are.
What Does Science Have to Say About Aromatherapy?
Essential oils have shown biological activities, such as being analgesic, antiseptic, and antimicrobial. Researchers have also found these extracts to have stimulatory effects.
Take eucalyptus, for instance, which is a common ingredient in decongestants. Studies have found that its oil can help with a runny nose while also easing swollen airways. It has also shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Lavender essential oil is another popular product, as it seems to help with anxiety. The plant itself has also shown to have sedative effects, which is why many use it to improve their sleep. These benefits may be due to the plant’s linalool and linalyl acetate content.
Some people who have anxiety or depression also use chamomile essential oil. According to scientists, this plant extract appears to have antidepressant activity.
As potentially-beneficial as these oils are, you should hold out on using the pure form on your skin. Studies report that undiluted oils have triggered allergies in some people.
To prevent allergic reactions, you should mix the essential oil with a carrier oil. Carrier oils, also a type of plant extract, are less concentrated than ethereal oils. They dilute essential oils and then “carry” them over on to the skin.
Some examples of carrier oils are coconut, olive, rosehip, and jojoba oils.
Also, keep in mind that essential oils are not ingestible. Remember: they are super concentrated, so they can hurt your mouth’s sensitive lining.
If you’re taking any medications, it’s best to consult with your doctor first before using essential oils. Their properties may interact with your meds, which may then cause adverse reactions.
Friendly Reminders When Buying Essential Oils
According to this post about Dōterra oils, 80% of commercial essential oils are impure. They don’t contain 100% plant extracts, but instead, have fillers and synthetic substances.
With that said, be sure to check a product’s label very carefully before buying it. Reputable manufacturers also usually make their lab tests available online. Review these tests to make certain that the essential oil you want to buy is pure and unadulterated.
Also, if you’re going to use essential oils at home, be sure to invest in a good diffuser. They come in many types, including ultrasonic, heat, evaporative, and nebulizing diffusers. The ultrasonic type is the most common, as it only requires mixing a few drops of the oil into a lot of water.
Try Using Essential Oils to Boost Your Mood and Spirit
There you have it, the key facts that answer your question, “what are essential oils?” As you can see, these oils may be quite helpful, especially to those with sleep issues or anxiety.
So, if you don’t want to take more meds for some of your health issues, ask your doctor for advice on using these oils. They may even help give you tips on which ethereal oils may work best in your case. If you have sinusitis or breathing issues, you can consider using essential oils that help sinuses.
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