What are essential oils? Aromatherapy benefits of essential oil candles
Interested in trying aromatherapy for stress relief, an energy boost, or better quality sleep? We take a deep dive into the science behind aromatherapy, from how essential oils are extracted to how they influence our mood. We also discuss the benefits of using essential oil candles...
What are essential oils?
An essential oil is a fragrant volatile (rapidly evaporating) compound, extracted from a single botanical source - eg: aromatic flowers, leaves, seeds, grasses, roots and resins.
It’s the essence of the plant, a complex chemical compound that comprises hundreds of separate substances, which determine its distinctive aroma, flavour and unique therapeutic properties.
Are essential oils actually oils?
Technically, essential oils are not oils. They are lipophilic (fat-loving) and hydrophobic (water-hating) volatile organic compounds. This means they dissolve readily in fat but don’t mix easily in water.
How are essential oils extracted?
Most essential oils are made by steam distillation. The still is packed with plant material, steam is pumped through at high pressure, the steam cools back to water and the essential oil floats to the top.
Citrus oils (eg: lime, orange, lemon) are ‘cold pressed’ (oils are mechanically squeezed out), as heat would break down and change their chemical composition.
Fun fact: It takes 3.6 million flowers to produce just one pound of jasmine absolute oil. This makes it one of the most expensive oils in the world.
Another precious oil is rose where it takes around 242,000 individual rose petals (or 8000 rose flowers) to produce one 5 ml bottle of rose oil. This is the equivalent to 42 pounds of rose petals.
How do essential oils work?
Essential oils can be used aromatically (inhalation), topically, or less commonly internally. Molecules pass to the brain (via nasal receptors in the nose), or are absorbed by the skin into the bloodstream, where they are dispersed throughout your system.
The chemicals within essential oils bind with certain enzymes and receptors within the body, creating physiological effects. Essential oils also act on the limbic area of the brain, the area to do with emotions and feelings.
Can essential oils help with anxiety?
A number of studies have shown that essential oils can help with anxiety and mood swings. A recent review (published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 2015) found bergamot, geranium, lavender, orange and sweet orange essential oils among the most effective in reducing anxiety.
Other studies have found that clary sage, lemon, Roman chamomile, rose, ylang ylang and sandalwood have powerful natural anti-anxiety effects.
Why are essential oils used in candles?
Essential oils are a great natural fragrance option for candle makers. Unlike synthetic fragrances or perfumes, which are often filled with nasty chemicals and allergens, pure essential oils are natural and non-toxic.
Benefits of using essential oil candles:
Essential oils provide candles with a natural, non-toxic, clean-burning fragrance.
By using essential oils, the candle will hold aromatherapeutic benefits. For example, a lavender essential oil candle can promote a calm and peaceful state of mind. Click here to see our favourite stress-relief candles!
Essential oils have a more natural smelling aroma, compared with synthetic fragrances, which often smell 'chemically' or 'fake'.
Some essential oils, e.g. peppermint or citronella, have insect-repelling properties. By burning a peppermint or citronella essential oil candle, you can effectively yield these properties to keep the bugs at bay. Click here to see our favourite insect-repelling candles!
Stay tuned for our guide on fragrance oils, coming soon!