Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fragrance Oil versus Essential Oil

I have often been asked the difference between Essential Oil and Fragrance Oil.

Essential Oils are natural chemicals that are extracted from different parts of a plant; the leaves, flowers, stems, roots or bark. In reality it isn't an oil, but are aromatic essences.

Fragrance Oils are synthetic chemical compositions of fragrances. Some people also referred to these oils as Perfume Oils.

Lets explore Essential Oils. I will talk more about fragrance oils in another post.

There are several methods used to extract essential oils from a plant, the most common being steam distillation. This process involves  placing  the botanical material into a still where steam is forced over it. The hot steam helps to release the aromatic molecules from the plant material which evaporates into the steam. The steam is then passed through a cooling system to condense the steam, which forms a liquid from which the essential oil and water is then separated.

Hydro diffusion is a type of steam distillation where the steam is introduced into the still from the top, onto the plant material instead of from the bottom, as is normally the case with steam distillation.
The condensation of the steam / oil mixture occurs below the area in which the botanical material is held in place by a grill. This method uses less steam and has a shorter processing time.

Water distillation is another method of extracting essential oils and involves immersing the plant material in water which is then brought to a boil. When the condensed material cools down, the water and essential oil are separated. The water is not discarded as it still contains aromatic properties and is sold as floral water or hydrosol.

A combination of steam and water distillation can also be used to extract essential oil. The botanicals are immersed in water which is heated, at the same time steam is introduced into the still.

There are times when an essential oil contains impurities. Purification can be obtained by re-distillation. This process is known as rectification.

Fraction distillation is sometimes done, which merely means the oils are collected in batches rather than continuously.

Maceration extraction is a method using hot oil instead of water.

Enfleurage extraction is rarely used in this day and time, though it was once popular. The process involves using glass plates in a frame (called a chassis) which are covered with highly purified and odorless vegetable or animal fat. The petals of the botanical matter are spread across it and pressed in. The petals remain the greasy compound from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the botanical material being used. The  depleted petals are removed and replaced with a fresh harvest of petals.This process is repeated until the greasy mix is saturated with the essence. When the mix has reached saturation point the flowers are removed and the enfleurage pomade is washed with alcohol to separate the extract from the remaining fat. Once the alcohol evaporates the remaining mixture is essential oil.

Solvent extraction is a method of extracting essential oils with the use of a solvent such as petroleum ether, methanol, ethanol or hexane. This method of extraction is frequently used on fragile botanicals such as  jasmine, hyacinth and narcissus, which are unable to handle the heat of steam distillation. These essential oils are very concentrated and  very close to the natural fragrance of the material used. There is considerable controvery regarding the use of solvents due to the residual solvent present in the essential oil. For this reason, Benzene, which was determined to be carcinogenic, is no longer used. Some studies report  a solvent residue of 6 - 20% still present in the finished extraction when benzene was the standard solvent used. With hexane as the solvent material, the  residue is reported to be about 10 ppm (parts per million) which is extremely low.

Yet another method of essential oil extraction is Hypercritical Carbon Dioxide Gas CO2 Extraction. This method is a relatively new process. Carbon dioxide becomes hypercritical at 33 degrees Celsius, which is neither gas or liquid, but has qualities of both. This method of extraction is a rapid, low temperature process that has no chemical interaction with the finished product.

Now that we know how Essential Oils are obtained, lets quickly go through the beneficial properties of some of the most popular ones. As I write this, I realize another post will need to be forthcoming to discuss uses of essential oils . I will touch on just a few, briefly.

One of the most popular essential oils of all time is Lavender. It is reputed to promote relaxation, has antibacterial properties  and is popular for use as room and linen sprays.

Tea Tree Oil is easily the most versatile oil when it comes to having a wide variety of uses. Unfortunately, the fragrance is considered by some to be unpleasant. I personally love it.  It has natural antibacterial, antifungal and antibacterial properties, so, is often used to clean wounds. It is also used to repell insects and for decongestion purposes. Tea Tree is very potent and should always be used with caution for the first few times to make sure that you are not allergic to it.

Peppermint is the most commonly sold mint essential oil. It is believed to promote relaxation, both physically and mentally.

Jasmine is popularly used as an anti-depressant.

Chamomile is safe for ingestion, and is the most popular herbal tea. It is reputed to have a calming, sedative effective and is very effective against indigestion. 

Rose Essential Oil has many benefits of which few people are aware. It is very gentle and a good starting point for those just getting started experimenting with essential oil.

I will compile a more extensive list of Essential Oils and their beneficial properties in another post. For now, I am sure your eyes are VERY WEARY!!!!

I will also write more about Fragrance Oils.




1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed another great post! Can't wait for the rest. Very informative!