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​What Is Essential Oil?

          Essential oils are secondary plant metabolites and are complex chemical compounds that have a different composition from the herb extract of the same plant. Essential oils are stored in specific secretory structures in leaves, twigs, seeds, petals, bark and roots, often with resins and gums in oil cells, sacs, resin canals, ducts and hairs, and are extracted from these structures by steam distillation, expression, enfleurage, solvent extraction, maceration and more recently supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, depending on the plant source. More than 3000 odour molecules have been identified.


          Chemical variations are common in plants of the same genus and these are known as chemotypes. Growing conditions, harvesting, storage and handling are known to affect the chemical composition of essential oils. Common phytochemicals in essential oils are terpenes, sesquiterpenes, alcohol, phenols, aldehydes, ketones, esters, acids, phenolic ethers, oxides, lactones and coumarins. It is necessary to understand the chemical composition of essential oils in order to understand their application in healthcare and the safety aspects associated with their use.


          Of the many chemicals present, the alcohols, lactones, phenols and sesquiterpenes are considered to have a major impact on the odour of the oil and are of particular significance in the cosmetic and perfumery applications of aromatherapy. Of these chemicals, alcohols are considered to be among the most important for therapeutic effect and pleasant fragrance. They often have antimicrobial properties and low toxicity and are described as warming, uplifting and good general tonics. Want to learn how to use essential oils? Visit our essential oils usage page to learn how to safely use Aromatica Republic essential oils.

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