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About essential oils

About essential oils

What are essential oils?

Simply stated, essential oils are a mixture of aroma chemical molecules occurring in nature.

From ancient times till modern medicine, aromatic herbs and spices were tightly intermingled and used in fragrance, flavour, medicine or for religious purposes. There was a constant search for the "heart" of the products in order to obtain the active ingredients.

Picture incense

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Toward 3000 BC, the first trace of distillation where found in Tepe Gawra which now Northern Iraq as well as in Mohenjo Daro, which is now Pakistan. Distillation vessels were vases with conical tops. The water and the oil would condense on the side of the cone wall.

In the 9th Century, Arabs and Persian alchemists were interested in the distillation of alcohol and developed the first alambic, an arabic derived name, closer to the ones we know today. Al Kindi, a physician/alchemist from Bagdad obtained Rose Essence.

During the devastating Great Plague of the 14th Century, it was found that people handling perfumed materials were immune to the plague. Cypress, Juniper, Rosemary and Thyme were burnt in hospital corridors in order to contain the spreading of the disease.

The distilled products became a specialty of the medieval pharmacies and, as of 1500, the following were well known: Cedarwood, Calamus, Costus, Rose, Rosemary, Spike, Incense Sage, Cinnamon, Benzoin and Myrrh.

Picture alambic

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They were the sublime extract, the “quinta essentia” , the “Essential” oils. hence the name!

Today essential oils are widely used for aromatherapy, space scenting, candle preparation and still they are present in mixtures for industrial uses particularly in toiletries and microencapsulated products.

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