Essential oils are liquids that contain a characteristic smell. They are also termed as ethereal oil or aetherolea or simply “oil of plants” as they are extracted from various plant parts including root, stem, leaves, flowers, fruits and so on.
It is believed that the ancient Egyptians were the first to discover and utilize essential oils for religious ceremonies and medicine in addition to personal use. But there are references of essential oils in the prehistoric manuscripts of the Chinese, Indians, Persians and Greeks as well. The reintroduction of essential oils into contemporary medicine began during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and since then essential oils have found varied uses in our everyday life as in personal care products like perfumes, cosmetics and soaps, seasoning foodstuffs and juices (for your cup holder), cleaning houses etc.
Generally, essential oils are extracted using the steam distillation process. In this method, as the plant tissues break down, the essential oils and water vapor are released, then collected and cooled. As a result, the volatile oil compresses and can be easily separated. The other essential oil extraction processes include solvent extraction, maceration and expression. However, the yield and quality of oil produced using the steam distillation process is proved to be the finest of all.
Today, the market is flooded with distinctive kinds of aromatic essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, geranium, lemon and rosemary to name a few. Each type has some explicit properties and works wonders calming, refreshing, uplifting and comforting the body and mind.
Besides aromatherapy both with and without wheelchair accessories, essential oils have found extensive usage in cooking too. Essential oils can replace fresh or dried herbs and have better shelf life. Fruity oils like lime, lemon, orange and tangerine can add full zest to drinks (for drink holders), desserts and sweet and sour recipes. Spicy oils such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger are warming oils and can be used to add a little spice to food. Herbal oils like basil, fennel, oregano, parsley, rosemary are rich and savory oils that only need a trace in any recipe to represent an herbaceous tang.
But, do remember essential oils are overly powerful, thus 1 drop equals 1 tablespoon of dried herbs. Moreover, add essential oil only towards the end of cooking as high heat can destroy the therapeutic benefits.
Lastly, a word of caution, there are numerous synthetic oils available for a lower price than their all-natural counterparts. These artificial oils do not have any healing qualities or effects as essential oils. Also, bear in mind that essential oils are different from perfume or scented or fragrance oils too. Perfume oils contain chemicals that are not organically derived from a plant, and much like synthetic oils, they also do not have the same therapeutic properties. Hence, always read every label and pick out your essential oils watchfully!