Steam distillation is the most common way to extract aromatic compounds (essential oils) from a plant. Essential oils extracted from leaves, flowers, roots, and the bark of plants are usually steam distilled. Essential oils of lavender, rose, peppermint, sandalwood and eucalyptus for instance are commonly obtained this way.
During the steam distillation process, steam passes through the plant material. The combination of heated steam and some gentle pressure causes the essential oil to be released from microscopic protective sacs and this painstaking extraction process is the reason for the relatively high cost price.
Understanding the finished product
The high price essential oils can command has resulted in some substandard commercial products being made available. They may actually contain very small amounts of the real pure ingredient, or none at all. This makes essential oil purchase a rather tricky affair. Even most experts cannot gauge the quality or purity of the oils by just looking at them or smelling them. A common misconception is that the more powerful the aroma of the neat oils, the more pure they actually are. This is really not the case.
Terminology used in marketing Essential Oils
When trying to source essential oils for your own use, you may find many types of seemingly the same essential oil. Knowing what they mean may help you get the right quality of oil for a fair price. For instance, products named fragrance oil, aromatherapy oil, or perfume oil are not pure essential oils. They could be diluted forms containing vegetable oils or other ingredients.
Avoid Synthetic Fragrance Oils
There are synthetic versions of many essential oils. They are artificially produced by combining various substances, usually aromatic derivatives of coal tar. Their chemical composition could be near identical to the natural components of the essential oils and some may even smell exactly the same. However, they may not have the same therapeutic properties. Sometimes you may have to put more drops of a pure brand into your diffuser to seemingly get the same quality of aroma you had from an inferior product but don’t misunderstand the quality, you will get the benefits from the pure product whereas you may get a seemingly better smell experience from the synthetic product.