By Kathryn Gassaway, Vendor-Contributor for the Mid-Week Madeira Beach Morning Market
Natures Essential Oils & Hydrosols
In last month’s article we covered that pure essential oils are the oils that are extracted from various plants. Depending on the level of oil concentration in each plant, it can take various amounts of the plant material to extract a single ounce of pure essential oil. For example, how many of us have been peeling an orange, when all of sudden, a tiny squirt of pure orange oil from the peeling hits us in the eye? Ouch! The peeling of citrus fruits is loaded with their essential oils. It is because of this high concentration, that essential oils from citrus fruits can be cold pressed from the peeling. The cost of various essential oils is determined by availability of the plant material, the oil concentration in the plant material and the method and ease of extraction. Due to the high oil concentration in the orange peel and the ease of extraction (cold pressing), the cost of most citrus essential oils is low in comparison to other essential oils.
I am often asked: “Why is rose oil so expensive?” It is because it can take up to 10,000 pounds of fresh rose petals steam distilled to produce 10-16 ounces of rose oil. In addition, due to the delicate nature of the flowers, they must be distilled on the same day that they are harvested. It is a labor intensive process requiring massive amounts of plant material for a tiny amount of precious oil. Often for delicate flowers, concretes and absolutes are produced by subjecting the plant material to hydrocarbon and or ethanol extraction. Some concretes and absolutes are of very good quality and often slightly less expensive than their pure essential oil counterparts. Hydrosols or floral waters, the water from the distillation process, are very popular alternatives to precious essential oils due to the affordable cost and the skin care and aromatherapy benefits. I am still joyfully amused when a customer takes a sniff of our pure rose water and says: “Wow, it smells just like roses!” Yes, it does. It is the water from real rose petals and it smells just like a rose in your garden!
Due to the cost and the labor involved in producing pure essential oils, the market is flooded with perfumes, cosmetics, laundry detergents and cleaning products that contain artificial and synthetically derived fragrance oils. Companies mostly choose to use fragrance oils to reduce cost. Synthetic lemon “fragrance oil” is approximately $1.00 per pound compared to pure lemon essential oil at $30.00 per pound. Big savings! Many of these artificial fragrance oils have already been banned in Europe and Canada due to their health risks. The health risks associated with being exposed to synthetic and artificial fragrance is an extensive topic that needs to be addressed in its own article. Over the past several years, as more information on these health risks have become available to the general public, I have seen an increase in the desire to avoid synthetic fragrance oils and a growing interest in how to use pure essential oils.
Essential oils can be used in many ways both for their scent and for their cosmetic and medicinal properties. In some respects, the word aromatherapy can be misleading. It suggests that it is a form of therapy that works exclusively through our sense of smell and our emotions. It is important to understand that, whether we inhale them or absorb them through our skin, essential oils interact with our bodies in three different ways.
Psychologically: How it affects our mood or state of mind. All of us can think of scents that trigger happy memories or make us feel calm. Cinnamon or fir needle can remind us of the holidays. Lavender has been proven to reduce stress and help us sleep. Many studies have been done on the mood elevating or antidepressant affects of essential oils like pink grapefruit or rose.
Physiologically: How essential oils affect the different systems of the body and whether they are stimulated or sedated. For example, peppermint tea is known to help calm the digestive system and many people find that a peppermint lozenge can help to ease nausea. In contrast, peppermint oil mixed into massage oil can stimulate circulation and help to remove lactic acid and soreness.
Pharmacologically: The chemical changes that take place when essential oils enter our blood stream. Many essential oils have been studied for their antibacterial, antifungal and or antiviral properties.
Before we discuss the methods of application and the various uses for essential oils, let us take a moment to discuss safety first. As mentioned above, essential oils are the pure oil from the plant and it takes tons of plant material to extract the oil. As a result, pure essential oils are highly concentrated and should never be used directly on the skin with out first diluting them in a carrier oil. Popular carrier oils include, grape seed oil, jojoba, olive oil, coconut oil, rosehip seed oil, argan oil and sweet almond oil. Carrier oils are usually chosen for their viscosity and skin care benefits. Even concentrated full strength perfumes are at least diluted 50/50 with a carrier oil. Most massage oils are diluted at a rate of less than 5% or 15-30 drops per ounce of carrier oil. When using essential oils, think “drops” not ounces.
Where children and pets are concerned, even more common sense and caution are required. Personally, I will only recommend the use of lavender, chamomile or calendula hydrosols or floral waters for skin applications on children under the age of four and for our furry friends (cats, dogs, ferrets and the like). I do not recommend skin applications of even diluted pure essential oils for children under the age of four. And for pets, some essential oils such as tea tree, rosemary, fir needle or eucalyptus can be toxic to their kidneys. The above mentioned hydrosols all have antiseptic and good skin care properties, have been proven safe and their aromas are calming to the senses.
Remember: “Furry or Under 4, Less Is More!”
All essential oils should be stored in a glass container, preferably amber colored to keep out light and in a cool dark place. Never put essential oils in plastic or Styrofoam containers. Because some essential oils can dull finishes, never use pure essential oils on wood floors or furniture.
Most people start using essential oils just because they love the smell of one particular oil. Some begin using them because they are trying to avoid artificial fragrances in their home. I am so allergic to synthetic fragrances that I buy everything unscented and then if I want a scent, I add my own essential oils. This works great for laundry soaps, dishwashing liquids and personal care products. Keep it light and start with 5 drops per ounce. I never use dryer sheets, but I do sometimes but a drop of lavender essential oil on a wash cloth and toss in the dryer to scent my bath towels and bed linens. One cup of baking soda with 10 drops of your favorite essential oil makes a great scrub for sinks, tubs and shower doors. It will kill odors in the garbage disposal as well. You can add 5-7 drops of essential oil to your mop water for ceramic tile floors. (Never use essential oils on wood floors or wood furniture!) My personal favorite, for general cleaning of countertops, mirrors and glass doors, is a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water with 5-10 drops of pink grapefruit essential oil. It adds a nice scent to daily house cleaning.
For a relaxing bath, add 8-10 drops to your bath water. Lavender, Ylang Ylang and Geranium are popular for the ladies. When my husband’s sinuses flare up, we put a few drops of rosemary, peppermint or eucalyptus oils on the shower floor. When the hot water hits it, the whole shower fills with the infused steam and helps him to breathe easier. Simmer a pot of water on the stove with a few drops of your favorite essential oil to scent the house. A few drops on a cotton ball can scent a closet. Make your own potpourri with herbs from the garden and add essential oils to freshen it. For more ideas and information, please visit us on Tuesdays at the Gulfport Fresh Market.
Next month’s topic: “The Wonders of Lavender”!
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