WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?
Essential oils, also known and ethereal oils or volatile oils, are aromatic concentrated hydrophobic volatile liquid extracted from plants. Essential oils are extracted from flowers, leaves, stems, bark, seeds or roots of shrubs, bushes, herbs and trees. Essential oil contain the characteristic fragrance or essence of the plant from which it has been extracted.
In other words, an essential oil is the essence that is extracted from the flowers, petals, leaves, roots, bark, fruit, resins, seeds, needles, and twigs of a plant or tree.
Essential oils are found in the specialized cells or glands of plants. They are the reason behind the specific scent and flavours of spices, herbs, flowers and fruits. It is interesting to note that not all plants have these aromatic compounds. As of now, around 3000 essential oils are known, out of which around 300 are considered commercially important.
Essential oils are volatile and evaporate rapidly when exposed to air. Most of the essential oils are colorless except for few such as cinnamon essential oil which is reddish, camomile which is bluish and wormwood essential oil which is greenish in colour. Similarly, most of the essential oils are lighter than water except for few such as cinnamon essential oil, garlic essential oil and bitter almond essential oil. Essential oils are usually liquid, but can also be solid (orris) or semi-solid according to temperature (rose).
Essential oils are of complex composition and contain hundreds of unique and different chemical components including alcohols, aldehydes, ethers, esters, hydrocarbons, ketones, and phenols of the group of mono- and sesquiterpenes or phenylpropanes as well as nonvolatile lactones and waxes.