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What is an essential oil? An introduction to essential oils, absolutes and perfumery

Let’s get down to it. Essential oils are quite literally the essence of the plants they come from. They are concentrated liquids containing the parts of the plant that attract pollinators, deter pests, and essentially, smell nice.

Essential oils are made from flowers, trees, herbs, spices, shrubs, shoots and all sorts of greenery. But they don’t just smell ace. They’re full of goodness for your mind, body and soul, and it’s for that reason they’ve been used for centuries for all things from religious incense, to medicine, to food flavouring.

Essential oils are used in hundreds of everyday ingredients. They are often dismissed as ‘smellies’ you buy in vials and keep in a cupboard above the sink, but they are so much more than that. You’ll find them in laundry detergent ingredient lists, in the posh candles you decorate the house with, in the treats you eat, the perfumes you spritz, and in the remedies you use to fight a cold. All in all, they’re pretty amazing.

One of the most common uses for essential oils is in perfume. The fragrances we scent our lives with are often clever combinations of essential oils put together in much

the same way as an artist constructs a painting with colours and inks. The word perfume comes from the Latin per fumum, which literally means by smoke – the oldest method of extracting perfume from plants.

Essential oils can be made from hundreds of plants, which means there’s a huge variation in their look, texture, colour and, smell, not to mention in the extraction methods used to obtain them.

The method used to obtain an oil depends on the flower or plant it is extracted from. Each method yields a slightly different product, either an absolute, concrete, butter or essential oil. Regardless of texture though, they all have wonderful benefits for your body and mind.

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