Raw plant parts are chemically processed to extract characteristic fragrances or essence. These liquid compounds are similar in oil when it comes to being waterproof and flammable. Because the liquid compounds have characteristic scents and are oil-like, people reference them as essential oil. These scented compounds are often used to infuse aroma into food, perfume, cleaning products, pesticides, insecticides, aromatherapy and medicines. How essential oils are made often depends on the plant part used.
Flowers, berries, seeds, leaves, wood, bark, resin, rhizome, roots or peel may be choice selections for plant material. Allspice and juniper plants are choice berry sources. Eucalyptus leaves, along with cinnamon, wintergreen, patchouli, peppermint, pine, spearmint, and tea tree are popular. Use of orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime and tangerine peels is common. Wood is a source for cedar, camphor, rosewood, and sandalwood. Geranium, jasmine, chamomile, lavender, orange and rose oil are obtained from flowers.
Aromatic compound ingredients are derived from complex mixtures of a variety of scented plants. Compounds may be produced from distillation, expression or solvent extraction, cold press and extraction. The quantity of wax determines the property of plant extracts. The product may be an oil, absolute, concrete, or a butter. Extracting fragrance can produce an assortment of compounds from Agarwood to Ylang Ylang.
The most common scent extraction method is distillation. Techniques primarily used in fragrance production include standard distillation, steam distillation and dry distillation. During distillation, plant parts are placed into a distillation apparatus and subjected to heated water. Boiling points unique to plant components, cause plant components to break up and separate. Condensing of aromatic vapor creates liquid essence. The raw plant material best suited for distillation are all parts of the plant except berries, resin, roots and rhizome.
The distillation of tarragon and tea tree plants show up on the market in a variety of widely popular products. Flowers from jasmine and lavender plants are frequently distilled into perfume, deodorizers, and aromatherapy products. Rose hip seeds, and rosemary flowers are transformed through distillation and used for medicinal purposes or in aromatherapy ointments.
Upon direct exposure to steam during steam distillation, plant components break down. Eucalyptus essence extraction is primarily produced by steam distillation. Its ability to combat insects and pests is why Eucalyptus is a primary ingredient in a variety of disinfectant and cleaning solutions. When produced using steam distillation, rose essence, which can also be a product of other fragrance extraction methods, or rose otto. When plants are not fresh, the dry distillation process is used.
Before distillation was discovered, cold pressing was used to yield plant essence. Cold pressing is a mechanical method to squeeze aromatic liquid from the peels of citrus fruits. The high yield of essence from citrus peel makes pressing economical.
Extraction, distillation or cold press can infuse fragrance into a variety of products. Chemically enhanced products rang from perfume to cosmetics to food and household cleaning products. Chemically infused compounds may be used for medicinal purposes. Homeopathic remedies such as aromatherapy may add these compounds to therapy. Cleaning products, including soaps and detergents often add citrus or pine infused chemicals. Chemicals used to kill bacteria, germs or pests may be us as bactericides, germicides or pesticides.
The author is proponent of the varied and potent healing actions of aromatherapy essential oils. For more, see www.anandaapothecary.com.
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