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Essential Oil 101

Essential oils are the aromatic, volatile liquids which are extracted from many parts of plants, i.e. flowers, leaves, bark, seeds, roots and resins. Science is rediscovering the incredible healing power of essential oils & acknowledging their therapeutic value. They have been found to be antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal & anti-parasitic.

Essential oils are highly concentrated & a drop or two can produce significant results. An entire plant, when distilled, might produce only a single drop of essential oil. That is why their potency is far greater than dried herbs. Pressing or distillation extracts the subtle, volatile liquids (meaning they evaporate quickly) from plants, shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes & seeds, that make up essential oils.

Essential oils are very different from vegetable oils (also called fatty oils), such as corn oil, olive oil, peanut oil, etc. Fatty oils are produced by pressing nuts or seeds. They are quite greasy, are not antimicrobial nor help transport oxygen & will go rancid over time. Essential oils, contrary to the use of the word "oil" are not oily at all. Most essential oils are clear, but some oils such as Patchouli, Chamomile & Lemongrass are amber or yellow in color. Essential oils will not clog the pores like vegetable oils can.

The oils are contained in glands, sacs & veins of different plant parts. They are the essence of that particular plant form & are responsible for giving the plants its unique aroma. When you sniff rose petals, you experience the essential oils being released into the air.

Essential oils are volatile (volatile comes from the Latin root “volare”, which means “to fly”) and they disappear very quickly because they change from a liquid to a gas very readily at room temperature.

Scientists agree that essential oils may perform more than one function in living plants. In some cases they seem to be a part of the plant's immune system. In other cases they may simply be end-products of metabolism. Essential oils contain hundreds of organic constituents, including hormones, vitamins & other natural elements that work on many levels.

Essential oils are highly complex substances. They are mosaics of hundreds - even thousands - of different natural chemicals. The average essential oil may contain anywhere from 80 to 400 known chemical constituents. Many oils contain even more, occurring in minute quantities - but all contributing to the oil's therapeutic effects. It requires years of study to understand these constituents, their activity & functions.

In addition, essential oils can be processed in different ways, which dramatically effects their chemistry and medicinal action. Oils that have been re-distilled two or three times are obviously not as potent as oils that have been distilled only once. Also, oils that are subjected to high heat and pressure in processing have an inferior profile of chemical constituents, since excessive heat and temperature fractures & breaks down many of the delicate aromatic compounds within the oil -- compounds that are responsible for much of the therapeutic action of the oil.

Of even greater importance is the fact that some oils are thinned or cut (i.e. adulterated) with synthetic chemicals or base oils. At Edens Garden, our promise to you is that we will always offer 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils. All oils will be in their natural state without altering, changing, adding or taking away from what nature intended…100% pure- nothing added, nothing taken away.

Top, Middle and Base notes

Essential oils are broken down into three main categories when used for aromatherapy treatments. They are top notes, middle notes & base notes. When mixing essential oils, it is usually best to use all three notes in combination to arrive at a balanced & well-defined aroma, especially if you are treating the whole body & not just one aspect of a condition. It is because these oils work on the spiritual & emotional natures as well as the physical body that consideration should be given to include at least one of each note. If you primarily want to stimulate & enliven, you would use maybe 2 or 3 top notes, one middle & one base note in the formula. Likewise for a meditative, sedative oil, base notes would be prime & only accented with a top note & bridged with a middle note.

Oils with top notes are the most volatile & their aroma lasts the least amount of time when exposed to air. These oils are usually derived from flowers, leaves & flowering herbs & mostly affect acute conditions because they are so fast acting. Their qualities are uplifting & stimulating & can be used for lethargy, depression, lack of interest or fatigue. When used in a mixture with the other notes, the top note usually is the one you smell first. It is the first one to stimulate the limbic system & start the healing or detoxing process. Top notes have the ability to buoy up the emotions, bringing joviality & lightness to a situation, while stimulating awareness, focus & alertness.

Oils with middle notes generally affect the over-all health of the body, assisting & balancing the major systems of the body like the digestive, cardiovascular & lymphatic systems. They are mainly derived from spices & herbs (usually using the whole plant) & are a link between the faster top notes & the slower base notes. The main word for these middle note essential oils is balance. In creating the linking between the notes, they are able to establish a connection between the mental & physical planes. For instance if you have lack of concentration or forgetfulness, that could be considered an inability to digest information. Stiff joints could reflect inflexibility in your life. So it seems that middle notes have a way of treating the metaphysical reasons behind the physical debilities & bringing balance to the mind/body connection.

The base note oils were some of the earliest essential oils used by man because of their ability to be tapped as the resins & gums of trees. These base oils, like their name, denote solidity & groundedness. The trees that they are extracted from have their roots deep into the earth & when used, bring us back into our bodies & enable us to plant our feet on the ground. Base note oils would be good for nervousness, erratic behavior, flighty feelings, in fact, any emotion that would tend to make us want to flee our bodies emotionally. These oils also work for chronic conditions; disease states that having been buried deep within us (like the roots of a tree), & for those mental states that were so traumatic, they have been lodged in the unconscious. Many times deep seated angers, frustrations, feelings of rejections & pain have been energetically suppressed down into the tissues & organs of our bodies, where they sit & fester, creating a toxic environment for disease. Base note oils have the ability to support us & help us to feel safe as we journey into that dark place of dysfunction, lifting the emotions up like branches of the tree. Recognizing the emotions behind a disease can often alleviate the miasmic patterns behind that disease & help bring about health & proper functioning.

So whether you are creating a formula for a massage treatment, adding a new recipe to your face cream or designing a mixture for your bath, it is worth balancing the oils for a balanced harmony between the body and mind.