Last week, we discussed lipid oils and talked about them being molecules that are made up of long chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Today, we'll look at what essential oils are and talk about some of the ways they're different from lipid oils.
Essential Oils are volatile oils found in different parts of certain aromatic plants - flowers, seeds, leaves, roots, stems, sap, or wood. They are 'essential' to the plant in that they help protect and heal the plant. While they can provide beneficial therapeutic properties for humans, they are not 'essential' for human survival like the Essential Fatty Acids of some fixed oils are.
Essential oils are made up of, on average, 100 different chemical components which have short carbon chains. As a result, they have relatively low flash points (the temperature at which vapors from the oils will ignite), and they evaporate fairly rapidly. They are aromatic because as they evaporate, they give off an aroma, or scent. The evaporative nature of essential oils means that
if you put a drop of essential oil on a cloth, you'll smell the vapor until the oil has evaporated, and because it has evaporated, it will not leave a stain.
So evaporation, volatility, aroma, and chemical structure/composition are what make essential oils different from fixed oils. Next week's blog will more directly compare fixed and essential oils.