Essential oils are organic, volatile liquids secreted in various plants, such as seeds, leaves, fruits, flowers, sap, and wood. Scientists still can not come to a single definition that would describe all the beautiful properties of these substances.nces. However, the effectiveness of essential oils in the treatment and prevention of many diseases and a beneficial effect on a person's hormonal balance and psychological and emotional state are proven scientific facts.
About 3000 essential oil-bearing plants have been used to date, and each oil gets the name of the plant from which extracted it, e.g., lavender oil, patchouli, orange, etc. Accordingly, the aroma of essential oil, which we breathe, is the "soul" of the parent plant, its essence, and quintessence.
The plants use essential oils for self-healing, attracting pollinating insects, preventing contamination by pathogenic fungi and bacteria, as a mechanism to protect against eating by animals, and as "strategic stocks" when emergency regeneration is needed. Plants store essential oils in either external secretory structures found on the plant's surface or internal secretory systems. The percentage of oils in plant material is tiny, from 0.01% to 6% of its mass. This fact, among other things, determines the high price of essential oils. Consider: producing 200 grams of rose oil. You will need a ton of fresh rose petals!
As a matter of interest, the composition of essential oils obtained from plants of one biological species will differ slightly depending on the age of the plant, the area where it was grown, the climatic conditions, and even the time of day when the raw material was harvested.
Essential oils, in the conventional sense of the word, are not oils. Any "regular" plant oil consists of glycerol trihydric alcohol esters and high-molecular fatty acids. Examples of such oils called primary or carrier oils are olive oil, sunflower, linseed, jojoba, avocado, or grapeseed oil, and many others. However, the substances that we call essential oils are multicomponent mixtures of organic compounds, mainly terpenes and terpenoids, esters, organic acids, alcohols, and hydrocarbons. All organic substances are classified into three primary groups, namely proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. We refer to all carrier oils as fats, but the essential oils as carbohydrates. In addition, any essential oil quickly dissipates into the air, even at room temperature, leaving no oily traces; and carrier oils either do not fully dry or they leave a residue film on the surface.
Humankind has been using essential oils from time immemorial. It is theorized that the alchemists of the East discovered the first healing "essence" of plants in their experiments with the distillation of various organic substances. Then brought this knowledge to Europe. There is documented evidence of the production, use, and export of essential oils in ancient India, Persia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The price of such a product was fabulously high, and each drop was worth its weight in gold. Not surprisingly, precious essential oils were considered the gift of the gods. Ancient people did not possess modern knowledge of biochemistry and medicine, but they certainly knew the benefits of essential oils. In cities where the production and trade of essential oils were located, the rate of morbidity and mortality from cholera and other infectious diseases was much lower than in different settlements.
Indeed, all essential oils, without exception, have bactericidal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as a beneficial impact on the emotional sphere and mental health. In addition, oils are actively used in cosmetology and dermatology, helping to restore and maintain the beauty and health of skin and hair.
Modern man has become accustomed to the treatment with antibiotics and other potent pharmaceutical preparations, which often relieve only the symptoms of the disease, but not its causes; also, hard drugs can suppress natural immunity. Thus, it is difficult for us to believe in such "universal" properties of herbal medications, which cure the disease and force the body to fight the potential threat by itself. It seems to be a magic wand. Understanding how these "magic wands" works require mentioning the key property of essential oils. We get the answer right after we open a bottle with any essential oil: the smell!
What do we know about smells? How does our body perceive them, and what effect do they have? Of course, there is a set of "positive" and "negative" smells for each culture and individual But there are high chances that – at least for most of us – the aroma of the rose is pleasant, fresh pastry smells delicious, and we feel fresh and energized in the pine forest. It is the way how our brain reacts to smells. In the nasal mucous membrane, which is the "entrance gate" of our sense of smell, there are about 100 million nerve receptor cells. These cells react to the molecules in the air or food, called odorants, and perceive from them information about odors. In response to stimulation of the receptors, the brain receives nerve impulses. They are recorded by the brain almost instantly; only direct physical effects such as shock or burn can be perceived by the brain more quickly. After the brain "recognized" the smell, it assesses this particular odor and sends the body signals about danger, excitement, relaxation, and so on.
Moreover, nerve cells release certain substances called neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, or dopamine. The neurotransmitters directly affect the nervous system, emotional state, hormonal background, and immunity in the human body. The brain's olfactory center is the oldest department of the brain, formed even earlier than the visual and auditory centers.
This center is closely related to the brain's limbic system through neurons, which controls all human emotions, creativity, memory, sexuality, and the vegetative functions of the body (blood circulation, digestion, breathing, hormone production). Thus, smells directly affect the psycho-emotional state and control the physiological processes in the body. Our brain accepts incoming signals about smells, translates them into emotions, and can support feelings, or conversely, depress human health. It is proven that such negative emotions as apathy, overexcitement, or anxious thoughts reduce the protective functions of the human body and make it vulnerable to infections. Positive emotions serve as a natural immune stimulant. In addition, the unique "multi-profile" composition of essential oils does not leave chances for various pathogens: For example, alcohols have an antiviral effect. Aldehydes are antibacterial and sedative remedies. Esters have antifungal and spasmolytic properties. Phenols can stimulate the immune system.
How essential oils are obtained, how to choose a quality product, and whether it is possible to use inexpensive synthetic oils will discuss in the following article.