Some of the most important and valuable items obtained from plants are essential oils. With their limitless uses and priceless values, essential oils give us the best of two worlds - fragrance and indispensable natural properties.
Ancient Egyptians were the first to discover and make use of essential oils as far back as 4500 BC. They made use of these oils in cosmetics such as perfumes and in medicinal ointments, using mixtures of different herbal preparations like extracts from star anise, onion, and grapes.
Today, we make use of various different plants and flowers to extract their best properties and create essential oils that are not only fragrant but also benefit us in the best ways, medicinally and otherwise.
Here are 9 indispensable plants that produce absolutely priceless essential oils.
• 9 Plants that Produce Priceless Essential Oils
1. Bergamot Essential Oil
The bergamot orange is usually the size of an orange and is more or less like a lemon to taste depending on how ripe it is. Its colors vary from a deep green to slightly orange and the taste can also be somewhat bitter.
Bergamot essential oil is extracted from the rind of the Citrus bergamia fruit through a cold-pressing method. This process involves mechanically pressing the fruit's peel to release its aromatic oils without using heat, preserving the oil's delicate fragrance.
Renowned for its citrusy, sweet scent, the bergamot essential oil is commonly used in aromatherapy, perfumery, and as a flavoring agent. Its extraction method ensures the retention of therapeutic properties and fragrance, making it a popular choice for promoting relaxation and mood enhancement.
2. Rosemary Essential Oil
Until 2017, Rosemary was simply known by its scientific name Rosmarinus officinalis, which now remains as a synonym for the shrub. Native to the Mediterranean region, the Rosemary plant grows as a flowering shrub that produces flowers in colors that range from white to purple.
Rosemary essential oil is typically extracted through steam distillation from the flowering tops of the Rosmarinus officinalis plant. In this process, steam is passed through the plant material, causing the essential oil to evaporate. The steam and oil mixture is then condensed, with the oil separated from the water.
Rosemary essential oil is valued for its earthy aroma and is widely used as an aromatherapy oil for its potential benefits, including improved focus, stress relief, and promoting a sense of well-being.
3. Tea Tree Oil
Growing as a very dominant endemic species in Australia, the tea tree is also called Melaleuca alternifolia scientifically. These plants grow as tall shrubs and tend to thrive in rather wet regions like near streams or swampy areas. The flowers that this tree gives it the appearance of being spikey and fluffy because the flowers grow in clusters of white or cream color, shaped like spikes on the branches.
Tea tree oil is extracted steam distillation as well, from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. Fresh leaves are steamed, and the resulting vapor, carrying the essential oil, is condensed into a liquid. The natural essential oil, lighter than water, is then separated.
This method ensures the preservation of tea tree oil's potent antimicrobial properties, renowned for its effectiveness against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Widely used as aromatherapy oil and in skincare, tea tree essential oils are celebrated for their medicinal qualities, promoting skin health and providing a distinctive, camphoraceous scent with therapeutic benefits.
4. Jasmine Oil
Growing as shrubs and vines, the Jasmine plant is part of the olive family of Oleaceae. They are beloved and widely cultivated for their distinctive and highly memorable fragrance. There are over 200 species of Jasmine out of which almost all are native to warm and tropical regions.
The essential Jasmine oil is extracted from the fragrant white flowers of the Jasminum officinale plant using a delicate and labor-intensive method called solvent extraction or enfleurage.
In solvent extraction, the solvents dissolve the aromatic compounds from the jasmine flowers, and the solvent is then evaporated, leaving behind the concentrated essential oil. Enfleurage involves placing fresh flowers onto a layer of odorless fat, which absorbs the aromatic molecules over time. The fat is then washed with alcohol to extract the natural essential oil.
Jasmine oil offers various benefits, including stress reduction, anxiety relief, and mood enhancement due to its calming and uplifting properties. It is renowned for acting as a natural aphrodisiac. Moreover, jasmine oil is also used in skincare for its moisturizing and rejuvenating effects.
5. Sandalwood Aromatherapy Oil
Indian sandalwood, or Santalum album, is the source of sandalwood oil. Its aroma is widely adored and that is also what makes the source extremely valuable and expensive. In some cultures like Hinduism, the tree is also considered sacred and its aroma held in high importance.
Sandalwood essential oil is primarily extracted from the heartwood of Santalum album trees through steam distillation, much like rosemary and tea tree. Finely-chopped sandalwood is passed through high levels of steam, releasing the oil from its porous wood. The steam and oil vapor are then condensed into a liquid, with the oil separated.
Known for its rich, regal, woody aroma and many therapeutic benefits, sandalwood aromatherapy oil is valued for promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and enhancing mental clarity. The slow-growing nature of sandalwood trees and the demand for sustainable practices contribute to its high value in the world of essential oils.
6. Lemon Essential Oil
The citrusy lemon grows as a spreading shrub or a rather small tree, and this usually grows up to a height of 10-20 feet is left untouched. Lemons contain very high levels of vitamin C and soluble fiber which already make the fruit very prized for its health benefits.
Lemon essential oil is primarily extracted from the peel or zest of Citrus limon through cold pressing, a process resembling that of the bergamot. In case of the lemon, its outer layer is mechanically pressed to release the aromatic oil without the use of heat, which preserves its fresh, citrusy scent like the bergamot.
Lemon essential oil is celebrated for its versatility, commonly used in aromatherapy, cleaning products, and personal care items. Its bright, refreshing fragrance makes it a popular choice for promoting a positive atmosphere and enhancing mood.
7. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Belonging to the Myrtaceae family, the eucalyptus is a flowering plant species that usually grows as trees, and some grow as shrubs. Often called Nilgiri in India, the eucalyptus tree is valued for its medicinal properties.
Another natural essential oil that is extracted through steam distillation is the Eucalyptus oil. Fresh or partially dried leaves are subjected to steam, causing the release of essential oil-containing vapor. This vapor is then condensed back into a liquid, separating the eucalyptus oil from water and other components.
Eucalyptus oil is widely used for its respiratory benefits, helping to clear airways and alleviate congestion. Its antimicrobial properties also make it a popular aroma oil choice, in massage blends, and household cleaners, contributing to a sense of freshness and well-being.
8. Lavender Oil
Lavender is a flowering plant species part of the mint family with around 47 species under its name. It is found on almost every continent and thrives in various conditions, being cultivated not only for its beauty and scent but also for other valuable qualities.
Lavender essential oil is predominantly extracted from the Lavandula angustifolia flowers through steam distillation. Steam is passed through the fresh or dried flowers, causing the release of volatile compounds. The steam, carrying the aromatic essence of lavender, is then condensed back into a liquid. The resulting mixture undergoes separation, with the natural essential oil collected.
Beloved for its calming and soothing properties, lavender oil is widely used in aromatherapy, skincare, and relaxation practices. Its sweet, floral scent, combined with therapeutic benefits, makes lavender essential oil a versatile and popular choice for promoting tranquility, stress relief, and overall well-being.
9. Peppermint Oil
As a cross between spearmint and watermint, peppermint belongs to the mint family as a hybrid species. Initially grown majorly in Europe and Middle Eastern regions, the peppermint plant is now found in many parts of the world. Its strong scent and variety of benefits are widely renowned and adored.
Peppermint essential oil is primarily extracted from Mentha × piperita leaves through steam distillation as well. The process involves passing steam through the fresh or dried leaves, causing the release of the oil-containing vapor. This vapor is then condensed back into a liquid, with the essential oil separated from water.
Known for its cooling properties, peppermint oil is widely used for aromatherapy, massage, and in various topical applications. Its menthol-rich aroma contributes to its popularity for promoting alertness, soothing headaches, and relieving respiratory discomfort. Peppermint essential oil's versatility and refreshing scent make it a staple in natural wellness practices.