What are Essential Oils - Combining Science + Nature

What are Essential Oils - Combining Science + Nature

Anatomē is redefining aromatherapy, combining science + nature to integrate physical and mental wellbeing. Having botanical extracts as core of our products, we believe nature is a great source to achieve perfect nutrition and greater mental and physical wellbeing. So here's a full guide of understanding what they essential oils are, how the are made and how to use them. 

While at first glance essential oils may appear to be only about scents and mood, they’re actually part of a unique area of study in organic chemistry. Chemistry and aromatherapy have gone hand-in-hand throughout history, forming Aromacology.

The quest to extract and study plant volatiles led, in part, to the progression and development of chemistry itself; from improvements in distillation equipment and techniques to mapping the first structures of organic compounds.

Today, biochemistry, essential oils, and aromatherapy are still closely intertwined. It is important for everyone who works with essential oils to understand the roles biochemistry play in the field of aromatherapy.


What is Aromacology?

If aromatherapy is known as “folk medicine,” then aromacology refers to the scientific studies of essential oils in health, mood and emotions. Although aromatherapy has been around for many years, scientists did not begin to study aromacology until 1989. Thanks to modern research, aromacology has a sturdy neurological base.

Anatome brings science and nature together to support mental and physical wellbeing, therefore we always refer to aromacology.


What are essential oils?

Essential oils are organic compounds derived from plant sources such as roots, bark, flowers and seeds. They are complex chemical compounds. Essential oils are mixtures of volatile compounds, usually non-polar and fat soluble, which are produced in plants. Each plant essential oil is composed of a combination of many biochemical constituents, sometimes even over 100 different compounds in a single essential oil.

 Even though they are called oils, they are not technically oil, therefore they do not feel oily at all. They are extracted using a variety of methods to capture the scented particles, leaving many of the other chemical constituents of the plant behind.


How essential oils are made?

Oils can be extracted by different methods, including Steam Distillation, Expression and CO2 Extraction.

Steam Distillation: In this method, steam is directed through the plant material. The steam vaporizes the lighter chemicals contained within the plant material. The steam is then condensed through a cooling process. This process generates two products: the essential oil, which contains oil-soluble molecules, and a hydrolat or hydrosol, which contains water-soluble molecules. 

Expression: This method is used to extract essential oils from citrus fruits. Expression is the process of grating or scraping the peel of a citrus fruit to release the oils. In this process, care is taken to capture the oil, it does not involve heating; thus, the chemistry of citrus essential oils is not heat-altered and citrus oils smell very similar to the fruits from which they come.

CO2 Extraction: In this method, carbon dioxide is used as a solvent. It is added and eliminated to produce a high-grade extract that is very close to the composition of the natural raw material. C02 extracts are different from distilled oils in that they contain a wider range of the chemical molecules found in the plant material.


How do I use essential oils?

Basically, there are three ways to use essential oils, by skin absorption, inhalation and ingestion. At anatomē our therapeutic blends are designed to be inhaled and topical use.

Inhalation: There is strong evidence that essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream when inhaled. The many blood vessels in the lungs absorb the oils and circulate them throughout the body. Our sense of smell connects directly with the limbic system of the brain, which processes memories, associations and emotions.

Ingestion: We ingest oils present in many foods where the essential oils are widely used as flavourings, for example in peppermint toothpaste and chewing gums, flavoured drinks and mouthwashes. It is unwise to drink essential oils unless prescribed by a medical herbalist.

Skin absorption: Most of the biochemical constituents of essential oils have a molecular weight of less than 1000m (m = weight of molecule). Theoretically, any substance with a molecular weight below 1000m should be absorbed by the skin. There is controversy over the issue of skin absorption. Some parts of an essential oil can be absorbed into the skin, but there is no evidence to prove that it is then absorbed into the underlying tissues reaching the blood. However, topical use has proven to give local benefits rather than systemically.