If you look up the word ‘Essential’ in a dictionary, you will comer across terms or meanings such as absolutely necessary, extremely important, crucial, vital, indispensable. So when we hear someone refer to essential oils, does this mean that we can not live or survive without them, what are essential oils and what are they used for?
The general term ‘essential’ is derived from the Latin expression ‘essentia’ or ‘quinta essentia’, which ancient alchemists regarded as the inherent, and most vital element of all natural substances (constituting the essence of something). When referring to essential oils the word essential refers to the essence of the plant, the odorants, the aromas, the volatives , in other words the molecules that you detect as a scent.
Essential oils are a natural oil that is typically obtained by distillation, and retains the characteristic odour of the plant or the source from which it was extracted. They are extracted from a single botanical source with citrus oils being extracted by expression. In certain instances other methods are necessary to extract the aroma / oils, as some flowers or raw materials are either too delicate, or too inert to be steam-distilled and can only yield their aroma through solvent extraction.
Absolutes are produced through this method, and one of the earliest methods of extraction was called enfleurage. Due to the process, time and effort it takes to extract the oils, Rose oil, Jasmine absolute, Tuberose absolute and Orris root oil, are some of the most expensive perfume ingredients in the World.
For thousands of years mankind have been using essential oils for therapeutic purposes, and aromatherapy is one area where essential oils are employed extensively, where the essential oils are used to treat certain health conditions, and to help alleviate stress.
The word aromatherapy derives its name from the word aroma, which means fragrance and therapy which means treatment. The therapy is used to treat the body as a whole, not just the physical body but the mind and spirit also. Numerous studies have been carried out to test the efficacy of this therapy on the human brain, peoples emotions and the possible role it plays in altering moods, alertness, and mental stress.
While the medical and alternative world of medicine, have very varying views on the virtue of using essential oils to treat physical or mental aliments. The one aspect that everyone can agree upon is that your sense of smell is the only sense that is not filtered by the cortex of the brain. All others such as sight, sound, taste and touch are filtered before we can react to them.
Since smell is not filtered, we are unable to consciously control our reaction to it, and as our sense of smell is one of our most primordial senses, and the only sense to send information directly to different parts of the brain, it stands to reason that scent molecules can and do have an impact on your brain or your body’s reactions. If your sense of smell did not play an important role in keeping you safe, then why would it have evolved as the single sensory faculty by which the body perceives an external stimulus directly to the brain.
In our day to day living we rely on all our sensory functions, but in humans the olfactory and the gustatory systems are the principal sensory systems, and are responsible for smell and taste respectively. Though most people can rely on vision and hearing, both of these senses can easily be blocked by closing your eyes or plugging your ears. It’s impossible to turn off your sense of smell unless you have worked out an alternative way to breath when you mouth is otherwise occupied. Or you have lost your sense of smell due to an accident or illness.
This is nature way of telling us that we need to be keenly aware of the chemical compounds around us. ‘Chemosensation’ our oldest group of senses, that is smell, taste and touch and our earliest form of communication between our brain, bodies and the world around us. When three of our principal, primordial sensory systems that exist to insure that we survive, rely so heavily on the information supplied by volatile compounds ( aromas, perfumes). How can you totally dismiss or disregard the beneficial uses of ‘Essential Oils’ in promoting well-being, or improved physical and mental health.
Smell affects emotion, behaviour, memory and thought, so using aromas, perfumes and differing scent molecules will impact on our sense of well-being. You just have to insure that the perfumes or aromas that you use, are beneficial to the person you are trying to help.
While there may be many benefits of using essential oils, it would be totally irresponsible to ignore the potential danger of an essential oil. These dangers are sometimes relative to the level, or grade of purity of an oil. It may also be related to the toxicity of specific chemical components contained within a specific oil.
While many essential oils are used exclusively for their aroma-therapeutic classifications, these essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin in their undiluted or “neat” form. As some can cause allergic reactions, provoke severe irritation, and over time prove hepatotoxic (damaging or destructive to liver cells). Some essential oils, including many of the citrus peel oils, are photosensitizers, which means they increase the skin’s vulnerability or sensitivity to sunlight.
Practitioners or industrial users of essential oils should always consult the safety data sheets (SDS), that should be provided with each oil, to determine the hazards, handling or specific requirements of each oil. Even certain therapeutic grade oils can pose potential threats to individuals who suffer with epilepsy, or to expectant Mothers.
The use of Essential oils in holistic medicine has come a long way over the last number of years, and the number of research papers being produced by the scientific community in regards to their use and or their effectiveness, bears witness to the more holistic approach to health and well-being that is becoming more accepted and main-stream.
So whether you choose to use essential oils as part of your quest for a more holistic lifestyle, a way of looking at wellness by taking into account mental and social factors, of the whole person rather than just treating the symptoms of a disease. It is of upmost importance that you check the safety and veracity of the oils that you choose, and their relevance to the condition you are dealing with.
PAIRFUM London’s ethos has from inception been to use only Natural, Organic and Bio-degradable materials in the creation of their products. This includes the use of Essential Oils in our Home Fragrances, Skin Care range and Perfumes. Click here to view the full collection.