Aromatherapy… Its beginnings.
True Aromatherapy is an ancient form of plant medicine and natural healing. It has been discovered that essential oils were used by the most ancient civilizations and is reputed to be at least 6000 years old. Translations of ancient manuscripts indicate that priests and physicians used essential oils for healing and rituals for thousands of years before the birth of Christ. Essential oils can really be considered mankind’s first medicine and have been used worldwide for centuries. Essential oils along with other aromatics have been used in religious rituals, to treat various illnesses, and for other physical and spiritual needs.
Research dates the use of essential oils back to 4500 BC. Ancient Egyptians were the first to discover the potential of fragrance. In fact, three oils that are still commonly used today—Cedarwood, Myrrh, and Frankincense—were used in the embalming process. According to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts, priests and physicians used oils thousands of years before the time of Christ. There are hundreds of references to oils in the Bible. Some precious oils like Frankincense, Myrrh, Rosemary, Cassia, and Cinnamon were used for the annointing and healing of the sick.
The reintroduction of essential oils into modern times first began during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Essential oils have been used traditionally to kill harmful germs, as well as spiritually to balance mood, lift spirits, and dispel negative emotions.
Aromatherapy… So what is it really?
What comes to mind when you hear the word aromatherapy? A pretty scent or aroma? Aromatherapy is really so much more. Aromatherapy has been defined differently over the years.
Jan Kusmirek’s definition of aromatherapy is: “The use of pure essential oils to seek to influence to change or modify mind body or spirit physiology or mood. “
Salvatore Battaglia states: “Holistic aromatherapy should incorporate the pharmacological, psychotherapeutic and the metaphysical activities of essential oils. Aromatherapy works on a holistic level body, mind and soul.”
Our favorite explanation is by Valerie Cooksley: “Aromatherapy is blending ancient knowledge and art with scientific knowledge to support natural healing for a lifetime.”
Essential Oils… What are they?
Essential oils are concentrated volatile aromatic compounds produced by plants. Volatile comes from the Latin root volare which means to fly. They are natural substances which are extracted or distilled from tiny molecular sacs of each botanical. They are part of the plant's immune system and yet a separate substance created from the plant. Pure essential oils are highly concentrated extracts; 75 to 100 times more concentrated than dried herbs. For example it takes between 40 and 60 roses to make one drop of rose oil and one drop of chamomile is equivalent to the concentration of 30 tea bags of chamomile tea. They are very potent and powerful and should be used with caution and knowledge of their potency and efficacy. Essential oils are distilled/extracted from various parts of the plant or tree, wood or trunk, leaves, grass, needles, cones, flowers, flower buds, twigs ,seeds, seed pod, roots, rhizomes or resin / gum.
They are a wonderful way to bring healing on every level into our everyday life. More and more people are gaining an understanding that aromatherapy is more than just a pretty smell that is used for candles and perfumery. Come join the ever expanding world of essential oils!
Methods of Extraction
Essential oils are technically extracted using a variety of methods. Below are the methods of distillation and extracted used for the oils at Stillpoint Aromatics.
Steam distillation, the most common method of essential oil production, involves the flow of steam into a chamber holding the raw plant material. The steam causes small sacs containing essential oil to burst. The oil is then carried by the steam out of the chamber and into a chilled condenser, where the steam once again becomes water. (Hydro-distillation is a similar process where the plant material is boiled, with the resultant steam being captured and condensed). The oil and water are then separated; the water, referred to as a 'hydrosol', can be retained as it will have some of the plant essence
The processing of an absolute first involves the hydrocarbon solvent extraction of a 'concrete' from the plant material, a semi-solid mixture of typically 50% wax and 50% volatile oil. The concrete is again processed using ethyl alcohol (the same alcohol found in beer, wine, etc.) in which the wax is only slightly soluble. The volatile plant oil separates into the alcohol and this mixture is removed. The alcohol is then evaporated and the result is an almost pure plant extract – depending on the care taken in the evaporation process, sometimes 2% or less of the ethyl alcohol may remain. The use of solvents in the extraction process notwithstanding, absolutes can have incredibly deep and complex aromas.
Carbon Dioxide and Supercritical Carbon Dioxide extraction. Both methods involve the use of carbon dioxide as the 'solvent' which carries the essential oil away from the raw plant material. The lower pressure CO2 extraction involves chilling carbon dioxide to between 35 and 55 degrees F, and pumping it through the plant material at about 1000 psi. The carbon dioxide in this condition is condensed to a liquid. Supercritical CO2 extraction (SCO2) involves carbon dioxide heated to 87 degrees F and pumped through the plant material at around 8,000 psi – under these conditions, the carbon dioxide is likened to a 'dense fog' or vapor. With release of the pressure in either process, the carbon dioxide escapes in its gaseous form, leaving the essential oil behind.
Cold pressing is used to extract the essential oils from citrus fruit such as lemon, orange, grapefruit, bergamot etc. This method involves the simple pressing of the rind at about 120 degrees F to extract the oil. Little, if any, alteration from the oil's original state occurs – these citrus oils retain their bright, fresh, uplifting aromas like that of smelling a wonderfully ripe fruit. These essential oils have a relatively short shelf life and are photo-toxic.