The less sophisticated the process used to extract the oils, the less pure the oils will be. That's pretty simple. Dirt, dust, even the fluoride in your tap water can contaminate the oils, making them less effective. So, unless you’re willing to set up that copper still I discussed, purchasing the oils from a reputable vendor is the best way to ensure purity.
I also mentioned there was another way to extract the oils, and, to be honest, there are actually a couple other ways, but one of them is so expensive and rarely used, and it can only be used on such a small segment of oils, that I’ll skip that. The other way I will discuss, is a process known as expression, which is also known as ‘cold-pressed’. This method is used specifically with oils from citrus fruits, and can result in oils that are even purer, and therefore have greater health benefits, than oils being distilled from those same citrus fruits.
Cold-pressing used to be done by hand, by soaking the fruit in warm water to help bring the oils to the surface, and then pressing them with a sponge. When the sponge was full, it was squeezed out into a container, which then rested for a period of time to allow the oils and water to separate. In today’s mass-production world, most companies use rotating bins that are lined with small, pointed spikes that prick and puncture just the rind, allowing the oils to leak out. However, regardless of how they are expressed, they still must go through a process to separate the oils. In some cases, large centrifuge devices are used to speed that process up.
Okay – so now we have our oils. So, how do we use them? Essential oils can be used in three ways. The most common way is to diffuse the oils. This can be done in two ways; the first is by using a cold-water diffuser, which works kind of like those humidifiers your mom used to put in your bedroom when you had a cold; and the second is to put the oil in a container with ‘wicking’ sticks, which are small shafts of dried bamboo or other porous material. The sticks suck up the liquid from the container, including the oils, allowing them to evaporate at a higher rate than they would from just the surface of the liquid. This produces a higher level of aroma-bearing molecules in the air, and for diffused oils, it’s the scent you’re after.
Another way to use the oils is through digestion, which a lot of people do. A few drops in a cup of hot tea, or added to a soup or sauce, and you not only get the aroma of the oil, but the flavor, too! Finally, they can be used topically, which can be as easy as putting a few drops on your wrists, behind your ears, on your temples, chest, neck…you get the picture. Now, if you use either of these two methods--digestion or topical--you don’t want to use the oil directly. Depending on the oil, and depending on any allergies you might have, this has been known to produce a rash for some people, especially those with sensitive skin. Enter the carrier oil.
A carrier oil is simply an oil that helps bring the essential oil to where it needs to be. Essential Oils, which are more volatile, will dissipate faster, but with a carrier oil that bonds to the essential oil, that dissipation is greatly reduced. The most common carrier oil is V6 Vegetable Oil Complex, though there are others. I like to use Fractionated Coconut Oil. Here’s a list of several others you can try. The main job of the carrier oil is to dilute the essential oil without losing the benefits of the oil. Carrier oils are most commonly used to create massage therapy oils, as the carrier oil is far less expensive.
Next week, in the final part of this series, I’ll look at a few of the more popular essential oils, and why you might want to start using them. See you then!