Biochemistry in action.
Essential oils are most often ascribed to the vague and derided world of "alternative medicine" and said to "heal with their aroma." Aromatherapy is, indeed, a powerful use of essential oils, which have a very potent aroma (through they evaporate quickly.) When used correctly, essential oils allow us to harness the unique aromas of various plants so we can quickly activate one of our least used senses - our sense of smell - and this has been shown to be a useful tactic in alleviating stress, anger and sadness and countering the symptoms of anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma. This is not because of unexplained woo-woo, but because it allows us to shift our thoughts away from the things we tend to fixate on.
But essenital oils are much more than powerful scents. They are highly complex liquids extracted from specific plants using steam distillation, enfleurage (wax embedding), solvent extraction, and cold pressing. These liquids are made up bioactive chemical compounds - the essence of the plant at an atomic level. There are 161 chemical compounds identified in essential oils, with a single essential oil often containing over 100.
These chemical compounds serve a purpose for the plants they are extracted from, such as signaling a plant's defense molecules when the environment shifts to something unfavorable. These properties can benfit (or harm) us, as well. Essential oils can be antioxidants, antiviral, antibacterial, vulnerary (heal wounds), insecticidal, sedative, stimulants, and so many more. Below, learn about many of the properties seen in essential oils and which oils have them.
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