What are essential oils?
Essential oils are also called mixtures of volatile, aromatic substances. Essential oils can be chemically defined as multicomponent organic compounds of terpenes, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones and other substances. The ability to produce essential oils is not equally expressed in all plants. The amount of essential oils in plants varies widely - from one thousandth of a percent to 25%. The accumulation of essential oils is affected by various factors: climate, sunlight, soil, phase of plant development, age, etc. Essential oils can be found in different parts of the plants.
The use of essential oils as fragrances has a long history. The name of this group of substances was given in the 18th century, when little was known about their chemical composition. They were called basic because they are highly volatile, and oils, because they are greasy, do not mix with water and are lighter than water.
There are several methods for extracting essential oils from plants:
- distillation of raw materials with steam or water
- pressing (squeezing) - applicable to raw materials rich in essential oils (citrus fruits)
- adsorption - based on the property of fats to absorb essential oils, evaporating from flowers - applicable to plants whose delicate smell changes during distillation
- absorption by activated carbon and subsequent extraction with alcohol - fat-free absorption method
- maceration, based on the ability of essential oils to dissolve in oils and consists of immersing aromatic flowers and herbs in a base oil
- essential oil extraction with low temperature boiling liquids, which are then distilled
The most common method of distillation of raw materials is the steam method.