What Is an Essential Oil?

Age Recommendation: 9+


An essential oil is a hydrophobic liquid that contains volatile aromatic compounds from the various parts of plants. That sounds pretty confusing, right? Let’s break it down and see if that helps.


Essential oils are hydrophobic, which means they are repelled by water. If you try to mix an oil with water, the oil will just sit on top of the water without mixing in. You can try this at home by pouring a few drops of your favorite doTERRA oil into a small glass of water. You will see that the two do not mix because the oil is hydrophobic and tries to stay away from the water. Simple enough, right?


Now for the second part: essential oils are volatile aromatic compounds. Volatile means that the oils can change their state of matter (solid, liquid, gas) quickly. This characteristic assists in the distillation of most essential oils. Because they are volatile, they can quickly turn from a solid to a liquid state during the distillation process. Volatility is also what makes the oils so potent. When you open a bottle of doTERRA essential oil, you can quickly and easily smell the powerful aroma. This is because there are millions of microscopic molecules that evaporate and spread out into the air as you are inhaling the oil. In other words, the volatile molecules quickly go from a liquid state to a gaseous state.


Third, aromatic means that something has a distinct and often pleasant smell. For example, the lavender plant is aromatic because the flowers on the plant have a specific floral and powdery smell that so many people enjoy. Each oil has a specific aroma that is determined by the part of the plant it comes from and its chemical makeup. Think of the smell of your favorite essential oil. That is the aroma.

The term aromatic also refers to the aromatic ring, which is composed of six carbons in a particular formation. This ring makes up the structure of many essential oil components.


Lastly, a compound is a mixture of two or more elements. An example of a compound is water, because it is a mixture of the elements hydrogen and oxygen. Essential oils are made of many different pieces and parts. Additionally, not all compounds have a distinct smell. For example, water doesn’t smell much like anything. That is why essential oils are identified as aromatic compounds, to clarify that the oils have a particular smell depending on the plant they come from.

These aromatic compounds can come from many different parts of a plant, such as the flowers, seeds, roots, leaves, and stems. In fact, you can even get many different essential oils from just one plant! Our Wild Orange oil comes from the orange rinds of the oranges, while Petitgrain comes from the leaves and twigs, and Neroli oil comes from the flowers on the bitter orange tree. Even though all of those essential oils come from the same type of tree, they each have a distinct aroma. Each part of the tree has a specific chemical makeup that decides what the essential oil will smell like and what benefits it has for us.


Essential oils have been used for thousands of years in a variety of physical and emotional applications. doTERRA continues to provide the purest and most potent oils that can be used in skin care products, aromatherapy, food preparation, health solutions, and more. When you break it down, essential oils are not too difficult to understand after all! Once you understand what essential oils are and where they come from, you can begin to understand the countless benefits we can receive from incorporating them into our daily lives.


Recommended reading ages are given as suggestions and a starting point when reading dōTERRA Science for Kids content. You have a better understanding of the needs of your child and what level they are currently working at. Feel free to adjust content to better suit the individual needs of your child.

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