The hundreds of thousands of plant species on the Earth today share important characteristics that link all plants together. Most plants are land-dwelling and stationary due to an intricate underground root system anchoring them in place. They also share many commonalities in their anatomical structure including stems, flowers, leaves, needles, wood, fruit, and seeds. Plants are usually green in color thanks to green pigments found within specialized cellular organelles called chloroplasts. In addition to coloring plants, chloroplasts are where the complex process of photosynthesis takes place. Photosynthesis is the set of chemical reactions that allows plants to make all of their own food from only carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight. Despite these commonalities, the size, shape, texture, and color of each species of plant varies widely.

Apart from their structural similarities, many plants are linked together by the production of secondary metabolites, including essential oils. These compounds have important defensive properties (such as warding off insects and herbivores), allow the plant to heal itself if injured, assist in reproductive processes, and many other significant benefits. It is important to remember that not every type of plant produces essential oils and not every type of essential oil produces meaningful health benefits. In those plants that do produce essential oils, the oil is synthesized in tiny specialized glands. Here, the oil can be stored for future use or excreted as necessary. The amount of secondary metabolites produced by a plant varies throughout the day, seasons, and year based on environmental conditions and predatory threats.

For thousands of years, the aromatic compounds produced by plants have been both anecdotally and scientifically demonstrated for their many benefits. A basic understanding of botany is critical to identifying when plants are most likely to produce essential oils and which parts of the plant are involved. Understanding botany will further allow appreciation of the intricate processes required for distilling essential oils and how each step of the process contributes to the consistency of the oil’s quality as well as the overall yield. Essential oil distillation is a technical process requiring expert eyes and trained hands, but if performed correctly, the product will have consistent benefits capable of transforming human health and wellness in an all-natural, effective way.

You should have completed Module 2: Botany, before continuing with this module.

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