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What is an Essential Oil?

With all the aromatic oils and other substances on the market, how do you know what is an Essential Oil?

How do you know if you have an essential oil or another aromatic oil?

True essential oils are volatile substances extracted from plants by way of distillation or expression.

The ISO (International Standards Organisation) defines an essential oil as follows –

“An essential oil a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.”



We extract essential oils from a variety of different plants or parts of plants. And therefore their particular properties will differ accordingly.

However these oils share some common properties.

Essential Oils are all –

  •  extracted from plants (None have  an animal or mineral origin)
  •  volatile (That is they evaporate readily)
  •  aromatic (So we can smell them)
  •  soluble in oil (They will not dissolve in water)
  •  soluble in alcohol
  •  not greasy (Although we call them oils, they feel very different to fixed vegetable oils)
  •  all antiseptic to some degree – with some more effective than others
  •  synergistic  (ie. they can be more effective when combined with other essential oil.)
  •  flammable
  •  combinations of various chemical components which determine their overall therapeutic properties


Essential oils are the liquid extracts of potentially beneficial plants. We use essential oils for their aromas as well as for a variety of common conditions. Their varying properties can promote and enhance health in a variety of ways.

Essential oils are complex and highly concentrated. Always dilute essential oils before applying them to the skin and never ingest them.

Essential oils are all fragrant gifts from nature with the power to be of great help for health and wellbeing.