An essential oil is a complex and concentrated liquid extract obtained by subjecting aromatic plants or plant organs (flower, leaf, wood, root, bark, fruit, etc.) to steam distillation. An essential oil is therefore the distilled essence of an aromatic plant. Each essential oil is made up of around one hundred active aromatic and terpene molecules that are particularly effective at treating everyday health ailments.
There are few aromatic plants that are capable of producing an essence. In fact, of the 800,000 species in the plant kingdom, only 10% produce essential oils. Nevertheless, these aromatic plants are extremely sophisticated.
Thanks to high-performance chemical analysis tools (chromatography, mass spectroscopy, etc.), we can identify the molecular compositions of essential oils.
The origin and history of essential oils
Essential oils have been known for their powerful therapeutic properties for thousands of years. During the Middle Ages, however, they were all but forgotten. It wasn’t until the arrival of the Arabs that plant-based medicine once again became a viable method of treatment.
The extraction of essential oils by way of steam distillation was discovered during the Industrial Revolution and allowed for the development of food products and perfumes.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of researchers (Chamberland, Cadéac, Martindale) demonstrated the antiseptic power of essential oils.
Gattefossé and Valnet (and later, his pupils) are considered the fathers of aromatherapy. R.M. Gattefossé, the pioneer of modern perfumery, burned his hands during an explosion in his laboratory. He instinctively immersed his hands in a container filled with lavender essential oil and felt immediate relief. What’s more, his wounds healed with surprising speed. Amazed by the effect, he decided to study the properties of essential oils.
Modern aromatherapy was born.
Today, prominent doctors (Valnet, Duraffourd, Lapraz, d'Hervincourt, Belaiche), researchers (P. Franchomme), and pharmacists (Dominique Baudoux) have validated the reputation, effectiveness, and extraordinary capabilities of essential oils.
Extracting essential oil
Many processes are used to extract aromatic substances. Extracting essential oils is an extremely difficult and delicate task as it seeks to capture the most subtle and fragile byproducts of a plant without altering their quality. Essential oils are the essence of the plant. Essential oils are complex and diverse substances that can only be obtained with the utmost attention.
In the proper doses, essential oils can be used for countless remedies without posing a risk to your health.
These doses, the fruit of many years of research, may seem rather minuscule. You might think 2 to 3 drops of a substance would have little to no effect, but such is not the case when it comes to the power of essential oils.
It is therefore vital that you carefully respect the prescribed doses. You won’t increase their therapeutic power by using more. Instead, you may actually be putting yourself at risk.
Essential oils can be enhanced by blending them with other essential oils or mixing them with vegetable oil. The resulting synergy strengthens the active elements of the individual oils. Essential oils can be used in countless different ways. At the Pranarôm laboratory, we’re constantly developing new usage forms, including liquid solutions, capsules, gels, creams, lotions, suppositories, and more.
Developed by our scientific experts, these products are innovative alternatives for all areas of healthcare. Ready to use, safe, convenient, and suitable for children and adults alike.
How do you recognize a high-quality essential oil?
The best essential oils are:
- 100% natural: no synthetic molecules, chemical emulsifying agents, or mineral oils
- 100% pure: free of essential oils from the same family, vegetable oils, alcohol, and turpentine
- 100% whole: uncut, uncolored, unmodified, and not subject to deterpentation, overoxidization, or peroxidation
The essential oils used in scientific aromatherapy must meet strict quality criteria:
Certified plant species
Essential oils must come from certified plant species, i.e. those identified by two Latin names, Latin being the universally recognized language of botany.
Parts of the distilled plant
Different parts of the same plant (flower, leaf, stem, bark, root, etc.) can produce different essences. The plant organ must therefore also be specified.
For example, Neroli essential oil is made by distilling the flowers of the bitter orange tree, while bitter orange essential oil is made by distilling the leaves of the same tree.
Depending on the biotope (sunshine, climate, soil composition, altitude, etc.), the same plant can secrete a variety of different biochemical essences. These variations in the biochemical composition of essential oils give rise to the notion of chemotypes (CT). Two chemotypes of the same essential oil will not only behave differently but also have very different toxicities.
Insufficient knowledge of chemotypes and a lack of precision when using labels such as CTEO can lead to toxicity and failed treatments.
CTEO essential oils have extremely high concentrations of a variety of active ingredients; they do not have exactly the same properties as the plants from which they are derived. CTEO essential oils must be applied with care, never exceeding prescribed doses. On average, a CTEO essential oil contains 75 different active molecules, whereas in a synthetic drug, interactions can be observed between three molecules at best. CTEO essential oils affect the entire body and its physiology. Aromatherapy is therefore both holistic and extremely effective.
The country or region of origin provides interesting insights into the biotope (environment) of the aromatic plant and contributes to its biochemical composition.
Indicates whether the plant is wild or cultivated, and whether it is organically grown (organic label).
Stage of development
The characteristics of chemotypes sometimes depend on the stage of development, e.g. are flowers picked before, while, or after blossoming.
The composition of essential oils can vary according to the method of extraction: distillation, steam distillation, percolation, cold pressing, etc.