What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are products of plant origin, which are multicomponent mixtures of volatile aromatic substances and belong to different classes of organic compounds.
Essential oils also called volatile oils. The words "volatile" or "essential" emphasize the difference between these oils from non-volatile (or glyceride) oils of vegetable and animal origin, as well as from mineral oils.
Different essential oils can be extracted from different parts of the same plant. For example, orange flowers give neroli oil, orange oil is obtained from the peel of the fruit, and petitgrain essential oil is extracted from the leaves.
Essential oils are formed only in plants but have powerful physiological and pharmacological properties.
In pure form, they are obtained by distillation with steam, absorbing fats, in some places squeezed under pressure or extracted with liquid carbon dioxide and other solvents.
The name of the original medicinal plant materials, methods of its processing (dried, freshly harvested, whole, crushed), as well as the name of the producing plant (the genus, species, family from which it is obtained), should be specified in Pharmacopoeia articles or regulatory documents.
History of Essential Oils
The use of essential oils by man began in the pre-written era, but archaeological finds indicate that in the ancient world, including the civilizations of Egypt, Sumer, Assyria, Babylon, Crete and China, oils for rubbing, incense and smoking were known and there were skills in extraction, mixing and preservation of vegetable oils.
In ancient Egyptian tombs, archaeologists found traces of medicinal essential oil plants, as well as vials of incense based on them, and, for example, incense, sandalwood, and myrrh.
They identified flavors intended for home and public use. The burning of incense necessarily accompanied the administration of religious rituals and the most significant events of national importance since it was believed that this fragrance helps the highest forces “discover” the soul of each mortal. Balls of a mixture of wax and incense weaved themselves into the hair of a dancer-slave: in contact with the heated dancing skin, the wax melted, and the surrounding air was filled with delicate stimulating aromas.
Main Components of Essential Oils
In the composition of essential oils, the predominant components in most cases are terpenes and their derivatives, which are usually represented by monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids belonging to different classes of organic compounds (saturated and polyunsaturated, acyclic, monocyclic, bicyclic and tricyclic, as well as oxygen-containing). There are also aromatic and aliphatic compounds, not terpene structure (alcohols, phenols, acids, aldehydes, esters, sulfides, etc.).