Absolute Essence Essential Oil: Understanding the Terms
As you already know in previous articles, aromatherapy is mainly based on essential oils. But the scented extracts of some plants are also designated by another term: absolutes.
In addition, essential oils are sometimes called essences (perhaps the term "essential oïl" plays a specific role). Such a variety of terms can easily confuse the novice aroma enthusiast. Let's put everything in its place.
Gasoline (phyto-gasoline) is an aromatic substance produced by a plant in special secretory cells. After the synthesis reaction, the essence is stored either in the same cell in which it was synthesized, or in special storage cells, also called pockets or channels. Cells with one essence can be spread throughout the plant and can be found punctually in its most different parts.
In the leaves of aromatic plants, the cells containing the essence are generally close to the surface of the leaves. If the leaves break, the essence gives off a characteristic odor.
In some plants, the channels where gasoline is stored are in the smaller hairs on the leaf surface. These plants produce a fragrant essence, even if you only touch one leaf.
In some plants, the essence is contained in channels located in the fibrous parts of the wood or bark. In this case, it is much more difficult to extract, because before the material must be well ground.
In citrus fruits, the essence is contained in relatively large bags in the skin, and it is very easy to extract by pressure. If you crush the orange peel and bring a match, you can see that the essence of the oil will burn for a few seconds.
Essences fulfill several important functions in plant life:
- Metabolism: Essences are active metabolites of the metabolic processes that occur in the body of the plant.
- Thermoregulation: The essences, which volatilize and saturate the surrounding air directly from the plant with their vapors, reduce its permeability to heat and thus protect the plant from strong temperature variations in one direction and in the other direction, excessive warming during the day and hypothermia at night.
- Healing: In many plants, essences with dissolved resins (balms) result from cuts and other wounds and cover the wounds of external influences with a bandage, which allows a healing more faster and better.
- Attract insects: The smell of flowers, depending on the species they contain, as well as their color, is used to bait insects by cross-pollinating.
- Protection: Essences can prevent the infection of plants with fungi and pathogenic bacteria, while protecting the plant from animal consumption.
The quantitative content of the species in plants varies from 20% (clove buds) to a few hundredths of a percentage, depending on the type of plant. Such a significant difference is the main factor in the price difference of essential oils obtained from different plants. The content of essences with the most delicate and pleasant aromas rarely exceeds 1% and often (for example, in jasmine, acacia, heliotrope, violet, etc.) even less than 0.01%.
As you can guess, the corresponding essential oils are the most expensive.
The quantity (and quality) of the species in the same plant is also constantly changing and depends on the following factors:
- Growth conditions (soil, moisture, light quantity, weather conditions, etc.),
- Time of year
- And same time of day.
Therefore, the place and time of plant collection can also significantly affect the price of the essential oil.
Plant species have a very complex chemical composition. Using energy derived from sunlight, plants combine chemical elements in air, soil and water, such as carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, and build hundreds of aromatic molecules different from their atoms.
These molecules are grouped into seven main categories:
Although most of these elements are present in many species, each plant contains a unique combination of aromatic molecules, thanks to which the plant has a unique aroma and therapeutic properties.
In search of an "active ingredient" that can affect a particular symptom of a disease, in chemistry laboratories, separate components of plant species are isolated. But a single element synthesized in the laboratory will never have the same effective and safe effect as in its natural form and in combination with other plant molecules. The combination of molecules acts synergistically, i.e., their cumulative effect exceeds the effect of each individual molecule and, in addition, avoids undesirable side effects. Even when gasoline contains 80 or 90% molecules of the same type, it contains dozens of other elements, some of which are just traces, and regulate the effect of the main component. This is considered the main reason.
The essence becomes essential oil only after distillation. During this process, under the effect of
High temperatures and pressures caused by contact with water vapor, some chemical changes occur in gasoline, but they do not interfere with or even improve its therapeutic properties.
Essential oils are the main substances used in aromatherapy. But these are not the only aromatic products derived from plants and possessing therapeutic properties. There are balms and absolutes. Of all this, the final products in aromatherapy, as well as the essential oils, are absolute.