Essential oils are concentrated, volatile plant extracts obtained from various flowers, roots, barks and peels, usually by a steam-distillation process. Essential oils should not be confused with herbally infused oils, which are produced by infusing plant materials into a carrier or base oil that are then allowed to steep for a period of time. Essential oils enhance preparations with their scent, and can add therapeutic value. Aromatherapy uses essential oils for their subtle influence on mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. Essential oils are also generally strong antimicrobials, and can thus function as natural preservatives. They can be added to creams, salves, oils, baths, scrubs and almost any skin or hair preparation. These plant essences are very volatile, meaning that they evaporate into the air, so they must be stored in a dark, cool, dry place with their lids tightly capped. When using essential oils it is necessary to dilute them, since they are so concentrated; using them “neat” (undiluted) can irritate and burn the skin. Be sure to store essential oils out of the reach of children. I would not suggest ingesting essential oils without qualified supervision.
There are literally thousands of essential oils from which to choose. I have provided only a brief list, which nonetheless offers a broad scent and therapeutic spectrum with which to work. There are many excellent blogs that focus entirely on essential oils, some of which are listed in the Resources. Certain essential oils have a stronger odor intensity than others, meaning that a drop of one oil may have a more concentrated aroma and potency than a drop of another. In the list of essential oils that follows I note odor intensities; if this is not mentioned, the oil has an average odor intensity. This is important information for the successful blending of oils and creation of products.
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