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What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a soothing, natural way to achieve a real sense of personal well-being. The word "aromatherapy" was created in 1937 by Rene-Maurice Gattefosse (photographed here in the 40's) who, after being severely burned, decided to use the lavender essential oil to relieve his pain. The positive results he got pushed him to focus on the properties of plants
Several writings of the ancient world relate the use of plants to treat a range of problems. For example, Hippocrates, the famous figure of medicine, recommended the mint to calm passions.
In the light of modern science, aromatherapy is considered a complementary medicine, alternative or traditional. However, several scientific studies examine the properties and uses of essential oils and some hospitals are beginning to use aromatherapy to complement the care of patients in palliative care.

Aromatherapy is based on the use of two types of oils; essential oils and carrier/vegetable oils. A carrier oil is an oil extracted from seeds, nuts or fruits (rich in lipids) of a plant. They are used to dilute the essential oil before applying them to the skin. An essential oil can be extracted from flowers, leaves or fruits of a plant and are highly concentrated. They are mainly used diluted in massage including soles of the feet, wrists and temples, or sprayed into the air.
If you would like to learn more about aromatherapy there are many books and websites available or courses of study, you can undertake.

Please note; seek medical advice before use if suffering from any medical conditions or allergies. Always conduct a patch test before using any new product. Naissance does not recommend or promote self-medication.

Methods of Extraction

Extracting carrier/vegetable oils

Depending on the part of the plant which is used to extract the oil, it could have different method of extraction. For example, an oil can be extracted by cold pressing, oil maceration or solvent extraction. However, when extracting oil from the seed or the nut of the plant, cold pressing is the preferred method to maintain all the beneficial properties.

Cold pressing
This process is used for most carrier oils but also for some essential oils (usually citrus oils which are extracted from the peel). This process ensures that the resulting oil is 100% pure and retains all the properties of the plant. The cold pressing process does not need an external substance as with some other methods. The seeds are crushed and pressed to force the oil out. Though the friction caused by the pressure does increase the temperature of the product, this is not high, and manufacturers must keep the temperature below a certain point for the oil to be ‘cold pressed’.

What are the steps?

1. The process begins with the filtering stage, in which the seeds are passed through a series of spaces with air propulsion systems. This process removes any impurities.
2. Milling: The nuts, seeds, or fruits are ground into a paste using heavy granite millstones or modern stainless-steel presses.
3. Pressing: The semi-solid paste is slowly stirred, which encourages the oil to separate from the solid parts. Once this happens, pressure is applied to force the oil out. It is one of the most important moments of the whole process, since this pressure may increase the temperature of the ‘dough’. If it exceeds a certain temperature, the oil may lose some of its properties.
4. Filtering: The pressed oil goes through a series of filters that separate small pieces of peel or pulp of the fruit from the oil. The filtering process involves passing the oil through a cloth or paper to ensure that all impurities are removed from the oil.
This method of oil extraction requires a lot of fruits and seeds (e.g. for one litre of Argan oil up to 30 kg of seeds will be used), the discarded parts do not go to waste as they can be used for animal feeds or fertilizers.
5. Once the filtering process is complete, a decantation process is carried out. Any remaining sediment is separated from the oil by the simple force of gravity. Thus, a 100% pure and natural oil that retains all its properties will be obtained.

Oil Maceration

The maceration process is where the oils are extracted from plant material by steeping or soaking in a solvent, which is usually a carrier/vegetable oil and adding Vitamin E to protect the oil and extend the shelf life.

What are the steps?

1. Firstly, the plant material e.g. flowers, leaves, etc. is finely cut or crushed to ease the release of the molecules of the plant’s compounds.
2. The material is then placed in the base vegetable oil, put in a warm place and frequently stirred for up to three weeks.
3. The resulting vegetable oil, known technically as a macerate or infusion, is then strained off or filtered and stored in containers.
4. Solid residue (Marc) is pressed to recover any remaining liquid.
5. Strained and expressed liquids are mixed.
6. Liquids are clarified through filtration or subsidence.
The maceration method is used to produce several oils suitable for therapeutic massage e.g. St. John’s Wort, Calendula and Arnica etc.

Solvent Extraction

Generally, all oils start off with a pressing method, the hexane extraction is used as a secondary extraction process. The seed cake which is the material left from the first pressing is dissolved in hexane and then the oil is distilled out, bringing the yield up by around 5-10%.

Steam Distillation

The most common method of extraction for essential oils is water or steam distillation,
The plant material is placed in a specialized container and exposed to high pressure and hot steam, which cause the oil to evaporate and then condense back into liquid form in a collecting vessel.
1. The plant material is placed inside a still and heated with water and brought to a boil.
2. During the process, steam passes through the plant material while a gentle pressure is applied causing the essential oil to be released from protective sacs.
3. The steam containing the volatile essential oil is run through a cooler and then condenses creating two separates layers.
4. The essential oil rises to the top separating itself from the water. When the oil is heavier than water, then this sinks to the bottom.
5. The essential oil is then collected and the water containing water soluble volatile components of the plants is called hydrosol which is milder than the essential oil.