what is an essential oil?

essential oils
This weekend a dear friend asked me what the difference was between a fragrance oil and an essential oil, my answer was that a fragrance oil was manmade and an essential oil was made directly from the plant. This lead to more questions and a trip to wikipedia so I thought I’d do some further homework.

The definition of essence is the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, that determines its character. How lovely that sounds. For a more physical definition; an extract or concentrate obtained from a particular plant or other matter and used for flavoring or scent.

An essential oil is a concentrated essence of a plant usually achieved through steam distillation or cold press process. Essential oils are exclusively made with botanical matter where as fragrance oils are synthetic and are chemical recreations of scents.

How essential oils are made is quite fascinating. I found the following YouTube video demonstrating steam distillation of the essential oil from geranium leaves. The author is distilling the leaves in his kitchen at home. Essential oils home made – steam distillation of geranium oil

My intention is to use as few ingredients as possible when making soap and to have those ingredients be as natural as possible in the process so that the end result is both easy on the environment and gentle to the skin.