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What are Volatile Oils?

By Mandi R. Hall
Updated May 21, 2024
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Volatile oils are also known as essential oils, ethereal oils, or aromatherapy oils. These products are most commonly used for aromatherapy or perfumery. Made completely from plant products, volatile oils are composed of chemical compounds that make up specific aromas. These aromas are generally created by pressing and steaming plants and flowers. They may also be manufactured via cold-pressing or solvent extraction.

Volatile oils have numerous uses. Many such oils may be applied topically in small doses, preferably with the aid of another product. Massage therapists or other salon employees may utilize the fragrance from volatile oils to calm and relax clients. When used in these cases, the perfume oil is often added to a more gelatinous type of oil, namely massage oil. Volatile oils alone are much too concentrated to be applied all over the skin.

If the essential oil isn’t used in the massage lotion, it may be used as an air diffuser. Aromatherapists, aestheticians, and those who practice alternative medicine may use oils this way. As the aroma of various plants or products is breathed in, it enables the nervous system to relax. In doing so, anxiety and stress may be reduced. Lavender essential oil, for example, is widely known to have a calming effect.

With the proper knowledge and handling, essential oils may be directly inhaled. Thought to have many medicinal properties, the inhalation of various herbal oils may soothe common ailments. Coughs, headaches, and queasiness may be cured by inhaling therapeutic oils. As always, a physician's advice should first be heeded.

Citrus volatile oils are popular due to their relatively low prices. They are also more extensively distributed. The process to produce citrus essential oil such as grapefruit, lemon, or orange, is much simpler than the process for producing many flower oils or herbal oils. This is because the rinds may be pressed mechanically in a process called expression. The process of expression was used long before distillation.

Citrus-scented volatile oils are quite potent, as are various other essential oils. Unlike perfume, essential oils are created without unnatural additives. Also, while perfumes are often combinations of various scents, essential oil is the product of one plant product’s aroma. Mint, eucalyptus, patchouli, cedarwood, rose, and orange oil are some of the more popular volatile oils on the market.

It is important to note that essential oil should be used sparingly. Those with skin issues or those who may be pregnant may be highly susceptible to possible allergens or toxins if they apply the oils to their skin. Additionally, while volatile oils may be added to many food products, it is best left to professionals.

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