Essential Oils: Why Are They All The Rage
True to its name, an essential oil is the "essence" of any given plant. It is a highly concentrated liquid derived from a plant's flower, wood, leaf, nut, bark, root, seed, peel, or rind. Most essential oils contain a variety of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and other revitalizing and healing components. Once extracted from the plant, the oils can be used in a vast number of ways, many of which you yourself can benefit from.
The use of essential oil for health and wellness has been around for centuries. Historians believe that the earliest known use of essential oil dates back to ancient Egypt, though this age-old healing practice can be found throughout history in cultures all over the world. Today, in a world with a growing demand for organic and natural products, it’s no wonder that these oils have recently been exploding in popularity. You can now find everything from infused shampoos to household cleaners at your local grocery store; quality sources of these potent extracts are easier to find than ever.
Known Health Benefits of Essential Oils
Holistic healthcare practitioners, massage therapists, and other health and beauty professionals agree that essential oils are generally more potent and powerful than dried herbs. These oils have applications for everything from treating common skin conditions to cleaning your bathtub.
Both scientific research and anecdotal evidence suggest that essential oils have numerous beneficial properties, including:
Available studies have also purported that some essential plant oils offer medicinal benefits, acting as a natural antidepressant, stimulant, and diuretic. Of course, it's always important to talk to your doctor before using a supplement (even a natural one). Still, the healing effects of these oils can be extraordinarily helpful to many people struggling with chronic physical and mental health problems.
How Are Essential Oils Concentrated and Collected?
While the essential oil of a plant is derived in several different ways, these two ways are the most common:
The plant material is placed in a specialized container and exposed to high pressure and hot steam, which cause the oil to evaporate and then condense back into liquid form in a collecting vessel. Distillation is the most common type of extraction for oils such as lavender, patchouli, peppermint, tea tree, and eucalyptus.
Raw plant material is placed in a specialized container and slowly pressed. Over time, this causes the oil to drip out (much like water from a sponge) --essential oils from citrus plants are typically derived through this method.
No matter what method is used for extraction, it's important that the process is done as purely as possible in order to maintain the oil's potent blend of nutrients and elements. Oil extraction processes involving chemicals, artificial solvents, and extreme heat are generally less ideal.
The Demand for Products Containing Essential Oils Is on the Rise
Time, care, and a good bit of effort are required to extract essential oils from plants. For instance, it takes about 22 lbs. of rose petals to extract just mL of essential rose oil. When you realize the sheer amount of work involved in rendering these healthy extracts, it may not be as surprising to hear that this industry is potentially worth billions--and billions--of dollars.
According to market research analysis, the size of the essential oil market is anticipated to reach nearly $13.94 billion by the year 2024. Experts note that challenges to this potential growth include the limited availability of raw plant materials and the significant capital required to fund processing equipment and methods.
But despite these potential issues, market analysts agree that the essential oil industry will continue to boom in upcoming years across many consumer sectors, including medicine, spa and leisure, and home.
The Ten Most Popular Essential Oils...And a Few of Their Uses
- Lavender: This oil has notable calming effects. It is great for relaxation and sleep preparation. It also helps to heal burns, cuts, and scrapes.
- Tea Tree (melaleuca): This oil is a great odor eliminator. It also helps boost the immune system and fight infections.
- Eucalyptus: This oil helps to clear your sinuses and relieve respiratory conditions.
- Peppermint: This oil helps improve mental focus. Orange: This oil reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps to reduce anxiety.
- Lemongrass: This oil relieves muscle pain and keeps away insects
- Frankincense: This oil supports brain function and fades age spots
- Rose: This oil reduces inflammation and improves skin tone
- Sandalwood: This oil improves energy and restores a healthy libido
- Clove: This oil heals bacterial infections
How to Use Essential Oils in Your Daily Health, Beauty, and Wellness Routine
Essential plant oils have very small molecules and therefore easily penetrate your skin and hair. For this reason, a little bit goes a long way. However, because of their potency and high concentration, essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil or through some other medium before being used.
Buying natural and organic products already infused with essential oil is strongly recommended (as this takes away the burden on you to achieve the correct ratio). For inspiration, look for quality health, beauty, and home products including shampoos, conditioners, skin lotions, deodorants, cosmetics, laundry detergents, and multipurpose cleaners.