Essential oils are the “essence” of a plant, a gift from the earth, distilled and prepared to bring the power of nature into your home.
Inside many plants—concealed in roots, seeds, flowers, bark—are concentrated, highly potent chemical compounds. These natural compounds are essential oils that give a plant its scent, protect it from hazardous environmental conditions, and even assist it with pollination, among other important functions and benefits.
Lavender essential oils can be found in microscopic glands on the outside ring of flower petals (the calyx), the inside ring of flower petals (the corolla), the leaves, and on the stalks and branches. There are various developmental stages for Lavender flowers, and the ideal time for harvesting Lavender essential oil is when the flowers are in full bloom, that is to say fully developed. At this stage, the flowers at the top of the stem will have already burst open, the lower half will begin to open up as well, and almost the entire flower head is open. Harvesting Lavender before it fully matures means the oil will not retain as high a quality as it could potentially have. Whereas, the more shrivelled the flower petals on the stem, the more volatile molecules it loses and the weaker the fragrance becomes.
How is it extracted?
Essential oils are generally extracted by steam distillation (as we do with the lavender flower heads), or by mechanical expression when the oil content of the plant material is high (e.g. citrus peel oils), or by solvent extraction when the oil content is too small for expression or cannot withstand the high heat of distillation.
Once extracted, Lavender Essential Oil is stored in ultra-violet light protected glass bottles to prevent the oil from breaking down into its various constituents – a common practice in bottling red wines for similar reasons. Interestingly enough, some change does occur in the bottled essential oil, resulting in its “mellowing out” over time, again rather like a red-wine. Indeed we make it a standard practice to age all our Essential oil for at least a year to reap the benefit of this natural phenomenon.
Dilution of Essential Oils
Topical use of essential oils may induce a sensitivity response, especially on young or sensitive skin.There is 3 main classifications of oils for topical use:
· Neat. These essential oils can be applied topically without dilution on most people.
They are considered mild and generally do not induce skin sensitivity. Lavender
falls in this category.
· Dilute. These essential oils should be diluted with a carrier oil before topical application. They have a high proportion of constituents that are especially potent, such a phenols. Cinnamon, Clove and oregano falls in this category.
· Sensitive. These essential oils should be diluted before use on young or sensitive skin. Examples of “sensitive” oils are peppermint, ginger, eucalyptus, wintergreen, and black pepper.
How do I store the essential oils?
The short answer... sealed tightly and kept in a cool, dry, dark place. Heat, light, and oxygen will degrade your valuable essential oils. A cool closet is the best storage place.