Posted by Admin on July, 27, 2011
In today’s world, where almost every product is adulterated, we are skeptical of each and every market product we use. If we talk about fragrant oils, our concern remains the same. Our mind gets preoccupied with the queries akin to: “Is this oil authentic?” “Does it have natural or artificial fragrance?” “Are the harmful chemicals used during their extraction?” “Is the product I’m using safe?” The answers to these complex questions depend upon the type of oil we use.
Now, let’s look at the extraction process of “essential oils.” These oils are usually extracted through the process of steam distillation, and sometimes hydro-distillation of plants, flowers and other natural resources. However, essential oils of fruits like grapefruit and orange are extracted by putting forth the pressure on their skin. Moreover, “absolutes” are those perfume oils, which are attained by solvent extraction. There is another method of extraction which is even environment friendly: CO2 extraction method.
Let’s briefly discuss the methods under consideration one by one. Firstly, the steam distilled oils, widely used in the process of aromatherapy, are obtained by the high-temperature contact of hot steam and the plant material to take apart the fragrant oils. Because the enormously high temperature can eliminate the subtle fragrance molecules, steam distillation method is not successful in case of perfume oils.
Secondly, the process of hydro-distillation is comparatively a gentle one. In this process, firstly the plant materials are boiled in the water, the consequential steam is collected as well as reduced, and the fragrant oils are eventually taken apart from the condensed water. The conventional Indian perfumes are hydro-distilled only. However, most of them in today’s times are synthetic.
Both the distillation methods are unsuccessful in case of some flowers. Solvent-extraction is used in such cases. As already mentioned that “absolutes” are those perfume oils which are attained by solvent extraction, one should also know that these absolutes are extremely concentrated, since no heat is involved in this process. In addition, the quality of absolutes depends directly upon the quality of solvent which is used. The use of inferior solvents is clearly apparent in the eventual absolute: we can smell the solvent even after it is converted into an absolute and even after its dilution into the water. Flowers such as Rose and Lavender are available in both absolute and essential oil form.
Fourthly, the environmental friendly CO2 method uses neither heat nor solvents or toxics. Its eventual oil is closest to the original plant material as CO2 method uses the pressure from natural carbon dioxide in its extraction process. Although the oils extracted from this process cost more than any other method, but they undoubtedly work beautifully in pharmaceutical industries, aromatherapy and perfume industries.
Note: Never forget to dilute absolutes and essential oils before using them. People with chemical sensitivity should use natural perfumes attained from essential oils, and other people can simply choose as they like it.
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