Hi every one, I’m back again and this time I want to write about essential oils.
A while ago, On one of my trips back to India, I happened to visit one of the busiest markets in the very heart of Delhi. If you do not like crowded places then this is certainly not for the faint hearted. Funny thing is that all the years that I lived in Delhi I hardly ever visited these places. Anyway I wandered into this tiny, small little lane attracted by such a gorgeous mixture of smells emanating from it, that I just had to go and check it out.The beautiful mixture of smells was coming from one particular shop which happened to be selling essential oils.
Talking to the owner, I learnt that this was a family business and had been run by his family for the last 76 years. They were exporting these essential oils all over the world. It was very fascinating to sit there with him sipping a hot cup of chai, which he insisted on getting me and learning all about the oils and how they are processed into these beautifully packaged bottles .India is known for its Ayurvedic products and what I saw in his store was the product all ready to be sent abroad.
There were so many varieties, in rolled top tiny bottles used as perfume , small little boxes in cream form and of course the massage oils and bath oils all packaged in gorgeous hand blown bottles.I was totally blown away with all the information that I had got and I know that I would love to share it with everyone here.
So here goes : Essential oils are volatile, aromatic oils obtained from plants and used for fragrances, flavoring, and health and beauty applications.
Historically, aromatic plants have provided important ingredients for perfumes, incense, and cosmetics for centuries. They have also been used for ritual purposes and in cooking and medicine. Egyptians used aromatic plant materials to preserve mummies, the Ayurvedic literature of India includes many references to scented substances, ancient Chinese herbalists valued them for their curative properties, and royalty used rare aromatics to perfume themselves and their surroundings. In those days Perfumes were only for the very rich or the royalty. Distillation became an important method of obtaining the healing and fragrant components of various plants and was well-studied ,starting in the 18th century and continuing on in the 19th centuries . In the 1900s, during the time of the industrial revolution, component parts of many essential oils were identified. These components were then synthesized for use in the perfume and flavor industries. The art of using essential oils declined during this time but experienced a re-birth in Europe with aromatherapy later in the century. In recent years, the use of essential oils has increased in many industries
and in new applications as awareness of the benefit of naturally derived products grows.
Plant anatomy and structure as they relate to essential oil production:
An essential oil is the volatile material derived from plant material by a physical process. The plant material is usually aromatic and of a single botanical species and form; some essential oil plants have a different chemical makeup, depending on the variety of plant, and the essential oils are correspondingly unique. Like grapes used to make wine, “terroir,” or the location, soil, climate and weather where the plant is grown, will affect its aromatic properties. The usual method of obtaining essential oils from a plant is through distillation or expression. Distillation is the most common method and may be water distillation, steam distillation or distillation using a combination of water and steam. Expression is the pressing of oil from a plant part: citrus oils are generally obtained from expression of the peels.
All varieties of plants are used, including grasses, annuals, flowers, trees, herbs, shrubs, and mosses. All parts of the plant are used, including bark, leaves, stems, seeds, fruits, blossoms, even roots and rhizomes. Essential oils tend to be derived from volatile oils that the plant produces; these are often terpenes, aldehydes, and oxygenated compounds such as alcohols. Essential oils are more than just the familiar lavender; sources list more than 300 different essential oils and by-products .
Oil may be in youngest leaves or twigs—new twigs and leaves of citrus trees contain petitgrain, and patchouli oil comes from the young twigs and leaves of the patchouli shrub—and production of essential oil in the plant often coincides with the period of most active growth. Flowers may be used as a source—lavender essential oil comes from the flowering tops of the plants. In many plants, the wood is used and essential oils can be gained from distillation of chipped wood. Tall grasses like lemongrass and palmarosa, or the roots of vetiver grass all contain essential oils often used in perfumery.
History of distillation and essential oil production
Distillation of plants has a long and varied history that includes distillation of alcoholic spirits as well as essential oils. While the product may be different, the process is similar. Egypt, Persia, and India are some countries where distillation was first carried out. It is likely that the first distillations of aromatic compounds were intended to produce distilled waters or hydrosols, and the essential oils floating on top may have been discarded. Turpentine, distilled from pine trees, was one of the first essential oils to be distilledalongwith juniper, rosemary, and lavender. These distillations likely occurred during the 1500s and were followed by a growth in distillation through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that primarily involved pharmacists. These apothecaries perfected methods of distillation and studied the nature of essential oils. Later, in the nineteenth century, essential oils were widely used as medicines but gradually became almost more important in perfumes. They also become important ingredients in beverages and foods as flavorings. In
the United States, turpentine was the most important and first distilled essential oil, in part due to the enormous areas of pine forests and the need for the product. Other early essential oils included sassafras, wormseed, and wintergreen. Peppermint was produced in large quantities by the 1800s; large-scale production continues, and much is sold for toothpaste. With the advent of chemical production of fragrance and flavor chemicals, essential oils decreased in importance. Recent interest in aromatherapy, natural products, and natural perfumery has led to increased production and interest in these botanical products.
Basics of essential oil distillation
The essential oils within a plant are generally not soluble in water, which means they will float on top of an aqueous (watery) solution. However, they can be carried away from plant material by means of steam applied in a closed container. The steam can then be condensed using cool water, collected in a container and the essential oils separated out as they float on top of water produced by the steam. The water thus left behind is often aromatic because it contains water-soluble fragrant chemicals from the plant. This water is called a hydrosol, herbal distillate, or floral water, the most familiar of which are rosewater and orange flower water.
Some plant materials require water distillations; for example, rose petals will clump when exposed to steam and must be immersed in water where they can move about freely. Other materials work well when packed into a space above boiling water to allow the steam to pass through. Many of the best distillations are carried out slowly over low temperatures. Distillation ceases when aromatic compounds are not detected in the outflow from the still.
I have such a fascination of the history of India and what treasures the land holds for someone who cares to look for it. When I was running my hotel in Pokhara , Nepal, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet many people from all across the globe. People who loved the outdoors and usually visited Pokhara for the chance to do the Annapurna trek. It is a grueling trek of around three weeks and people cane back tired but satisfied and all wanting to be pampered for a bit. Me being a trained Physio therapist I started giving people ayurvedic massages which became very popular and I was quite in demand. I used blend of special oils which worked fantastically and pulled the stiffness and soreness totally out of the limbs.
You should try some today. Get some essential oils for your bath and pamper yourself, or get a roll on perfumed essential oil or just some special massage oil and surprise your loved one with a special massage.
On this note, I shall love you and leave you with a deep namaste.
Until the next time, be safe in what ever you do..