What Are Essential Oils Exactly?

rose petals

© Alexey – Fotolia – #11569304

Essential oils are highly concentrated natural plant extracts and, in many cases, one needs to only use a drop or two to produce significant results. Consider dried rose petals… Do they smell as fragrant as when it was picked? Of course not. That's because the essential oil of rose is very delicate and vaporizes easily into the air. Once it's dried, very little of the essential oil is still left. In fact, it takes 5,000 pounds of rose petals to distill one pound of rose oil, making it one of the most expensive and precious oils available today.

It is the same with herbs. Once an herb is dried, it only contains 3 – 5% of its essential oil, and it is the essential oil that makes us well! Plus, in the process of drying the herb, many of the delicate constituents found in the essential oil of the plant are lost altogether.


© Orkhan Aslanov – Fotolia – #3640834

To obtain these oils, sometimes an entire plant is distilled and may only produce a single drop of essential oil – which is the reason why essential oils have more potency than dried herbs.

Essential oils are the life-blood of the plant, and protect the plant from bacterial and viral infections, cleansing breaks in its tissue and delivering oxygen and nutrients into the cells. In essence, they act as the immune system of the plant. That is why they are so essential to the plant — without them, plants could not survive.

In the human body, they have a similar action — such as transporting valuable nutrients to the cells, increasing oxygen intake, and digesting toxic waste in the blood. This is because the three primary elements – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – are common to both human beings and essential oils. This shared chemistry makes essential oils one of the most compatible of all plant substances with human biochemistry. The lipid-soluble structure of essential oils, and the fact that they have a protein-like structure similar to human cells and tissues, makes them even more compatible with human tissue.

Essential oils are very different from vegetable oils (also called fatty oils), such as corn oil, olive oil, peanut oil, etc. Fatty oils are produced by pressing nuts or seeds. They are quite greasy, are not antimicrobial, do not help transport oxygen, and will go rancid over time. In comparison, essential oils absorb quickly, are not greasy. Nor do they clog the pores like vegetable oils can.

Furthermore, essential oils are highly complex substances. They are mosaics of hundreds – even thousands – of different natural chemicals. The average essential oil may contain anywhere from 80 to 400 known chemical constituents. Many oils contain even more, occurring in minute quantities – but all contributing to the oil's therapeutic effects. It requires years of study to understand these constituents, their activity and functions… some of which we are yet to understand.

basil leaves

© felinda – Fotolia – #490469

Different varieties of the same oil can have widely different therapeutic actions, depending on their chemistry. For example, basil high in linalool or fenchol is primarily used for its antiseptic properties. However, basil high in methyl chavicol is more anti-inflammatory than antiseptic. A third type, basil high in eugenol, has both anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects.

In addition, essential oils can be processed in different ways, which dramatically effects their chemistry and medicinal action. Oils that have been redistilled two or three times are obviously not as potent as oils that have been distilled only once. Also, oils that are subjected to high heat and pressure in processing have an inferior profile of chemical constituents, since excessive heat and temperature fractures break down many of the delicate aromatic compounds within the oil — compounds that are responsible for much of the therapeutic action of the oil.

How are Young Living Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils Different than Any Other Brand?

As we talk about this difference, I'd like to focus on two specific oils – clove and helichrysum.


© Tootles – Fotolia – #374315

The most common clove essential oil being sold today is distilled from the leaf and/or stem. On the other hand, Young Living only uses clove bud essential oil (the dried bud of the flower). Clove bud essential oil is fairly costly, as the buds are rather scarce on a clove tree. In fact, for every bud there are about 80 leaves. As you can see, clove leaves are abundant; plus, they produce a very decent yield, and are, therefore, less expensive to distill.

All clove oils smell identical to the untrained nose. Unless the label states clove bud and is unadulterated, you really end up with clove leaf oil that is sub-therapeutic.

Clove is a great example of an essential oil that is quite commonly adulterated. What happens is that a small amount of clove bud oil is extended by mixing with clove leaf and/or stem oil. It is very easy to practice this kind of adulteration and the consumer rarely even notices the difference – except in the therapeutic results.

Eugenol is the main compound in clove essential oil. The eugenol content of your typical clove bud essential oil is about 80-90%. Eugenol is also found in clove leaf and stem oils in very high amounts. But, this is not the key therapeutic aspect of clove oil. While it represents the anti-microbial aspect, there is much more to clove than just antiseptic properties. Clove bud oil has a very powerful anti-inflammatory property that comes from something called eugenol acetate. It is this eugenol acetate that gives the clove bud essential oil the truly therapeutic efficacy you are looking for. Clove bud essential oil is almost 10% eugenol acetate vs. less than 1% that is typically found in the leaf and stem oil.

The difference becomes apparent when modulating pain. Gary Young suffered intense pain. He understood what real pain is as a result of his logging accident. So, the modulation of pain is something that Gary is expert in, and he was the first to really differentiate between the various types of clove.

We've had many vendors try to sell us what they purport to be clove bud essential oil. However, with our advanced analytical equipment, we can really look at every constituent in an essential oil to the parts per million level. In this way, we can identify whether the clove essential oil is truly from the bud, or from the leaf and stem, or, even, if it has been adulterated in some way. If it is not a pure clove bud essential oil, containing the proper amounts of eugenol acetate and other properties, it is rejected.

Gary Young On Essential Oil Distillation

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greendropThis therapeutic grade essential oil is very mild and can usually be used without dillution for all but the most sensitive skin. The recommended diffusing time is up to 1 hour three times a day. divider8 yellowdropThis therapeutic grade essential oil is warm. While some people are able to use this essential oil without dilution from time to time, but it is generally recommended to dilute it 50/50 (1 part essential oil to 1 part V-6 Vegetable Oil Complex) - especially if using on sensitive areas such as the face, neck, underarms, etc. The recommended diffusing time is up to half an hour three times a day. divider8 reddropThis therapeutic grade essential oil is hot. While some people are able to use this essential oil without dilution from time to time, but it is generally recommended to dilute it 20/80 (1 part essential oil to 4 parts V6 Vegetable Oil Complex) - especially if using on sensitive areas such as the face, neck, underarms, etc. The recommended diffusing time is no more than 10 minutes three times a day. divider8 phPhotosensitizing - avoid using on areas of the skin that will exposed to direct sunlight or UV rays within 12 hours after applying to the skin. divider8 grasGenerally Regarded As Safe to use as a returntary supplement. Please keep in mind that your stomach is more sensitive as your skin - dilution highly recommended! Also, please remember that this same essential oil from another company may not be safe for consumption - check the label first!
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