Essential oils are natural, fragrant plant extracts with therapeutic properties. They are known to lift mood, alleviate stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality and boost skin health.
Unlike fragrance oils, pure essential oils can be applied directly to the skin without diluting them first. They should be stored in dark-colored glass bottles to protect their quality and purity.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to improve physical and emotional health. It’s often used to relieve stress, boost energy and improve sleep quality. Some people use it to help with headaches, indigestion and respiratory problems. The oil’s scent can stimulate the olfactory nerves in the nose, which send signals to the brain.
Essential oils are extracted from plants by steaming, pressing or distilling them. They contain compounds that give them fragrance, such as monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and phenols. The oils can be rubbed directly on the skin or added to a carrier oil, such as almond, coconut or olive oil, for topical application.
You can find essential oils online or in natural food stores, as well as some regular supermarkets. Look for a label that lists the Latin name of the plant, says it’s pure and doesn’t have any synthetic ingredients. The oils should be packaged in dark glass, as sunlight can taint the oil over time.
When applied topically, essential oils can be absorbed through the skin and can have a beneficial effect. For example, wintergreen oil can relax tense muscles during a massage and lavender can be added to bath salts for a soothing soak.
The phenolic compounds in many essential oils possess antimicrobial properties. They can also act as natural preservatives to extend the shelf life of foods. However, they must be used properly to avoid any negative impact on sensory properties of food products.
Traditional methods for obtaining essential oils include the use of organic solvents and steam distillation. These techniques can lead to a loss of volatile compounds, degradation of unsaturated fatty acids and toxic solvent residues in the extracted oil (Deng and others 2005).
The choice of extraction method can influence the quality of an essential oil. For example, the temperature of steam during the distillation process can cause a change in chemical structure and the action of an oil’s active ingredients.
Cooking with essential oils
Cooking with essential oils is an exciting and delicious way to add unique flavors, textures and aromas to foods. They are also a great way to give time-tested recipes new life or to create entirely new dishes.
While most people use essential oils for inhalation, cooking is a great way to enjoy them in a different way. It allows us to experience the psychological effects of certain scents and can help boost mood, relieve stress and anxiety, and enhance overall wellbeing.
When cooking with essential oils, it is important to only use ones that are considered safe for food consumption. Look for those with a Latin name and the FDA’s GRAS list (Generally Recognized as Safe).
It is also important to only use small quantities of oil to avoid overpowering flavors. Experiment with various oils and recipes, and keep a record of what works well so you can recreate them in the future. Make sure to store your oils correctly.
Using high-quality, pure essential oils is safe and effective when inhaled or applied to the skin. Essential oils have antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant properties, and they are also known for their mood-enhancing, calming and stimulating effects.
However, it is important to be careful when using essential oils, especially around children and pets. The most common reaction to essential oil use is a rash, but some individuals may experience more serious reactions like polypnea, convulsions or death .
Many store-bought essential oils contain a combination of lesser and synthetic oils and are not necessarily pure, says Mack. He recommends reading labels carefully, looking for a batch number and GC/MS (purity) report. It is also best to apply a few drops to an innocuous area of the body and wait 24 hours to see if any reaction occurs before applying the oil more liberally. For the most potent oils, it is recommended that they be used sparingly or combined with a carrier oil when applied to the skin.