An essential oil is a liquid that is generally distilled (most frequently by steam or water) from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant. Essential oils, contrary to the use of the word "oil" are not really oily-feeling at all. Most essential oils are clear, but some oils such as patchouli, orange and lemongrass are amber or yellow in color.
Essential oils contain the true essence of the plant it was derived from. Essential oils are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way.
Essential oils are not the same as perfume or fragrance oils. Where essential oils are derived from the true plants, perfume oils are artificially created fragrances or contain artificial substances and do not offer the therapeutic benefits that essential oils offer.
The chemical composition and aroma of essential oils can provide valuable psychological and physical therapeutic benefits. These benefits are usually achieved through methods including inhalation and application of the diluted oil to the skin.
Essential oils are often used by diluting them with a carrier oil (sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil) and then applying this blend to the skin for absorption.
Careful inhalation of the oils can also provide therapeutic benefit as the oil molecules enter the lungs and are absorbed into the bloodstream.
Essential Oils are usually sold for individual use in very small bottles. See the Storing Your Oils page for information on how to store your oils.
Essential oils can vary greatly in quality and price. Factors that can affect the quality and price of the oil include the rarity of the botanical, the country of origin and growing/climate conditions, quality standards of the distiller, and how much oil is produced by the botanical.