Origin: a Latin derivative
meaning "Gift of the Earth."
The production of essential oils is an intricate and complex process. From plant cultivation to packaging, each step of the process requires expert skill and vigilant precision in order to produce an essential oil product with a consistent chemical profile. In turn, this ensures that the essential oil will have the expected beneficial health properties.
The production process begins with the plants themselves—which produce secondary metabolites (including essential oils) in response to their environment. Many geographic and environmental factors affect the quantity and quality of the oil produced. Important aspects to consider include geographic location, time of day, season, insect presence, weather, soil conditions, precipitation levels, and harvesting technique. Alterations to any of these factors can influence the chemical profile of an essential oil, and in turn diminish or enhance their beneficial properties.
The distillation methods used to collect essential oils are of equal importance for ensuring a quality oil product. Steam distillation, expression (also known as cold pressing), and solvent extractions are widely used in the essential oil industry today because of their demonstrated ability to produce high quality oils. Distillation is a time intensive process that requires careful attention to detail. Even minor deviations from the optimal system conditions (time, temperature, pressure) may decrease the total yield, damage the delicate chemical structure of essential oil constituents, or cause improper ratios of volatile aromatic compounds to be extracted.
Each batch of oil should be thoroughly tested for potency and purity using a complex standard of quality testing procedures. To maintain the quality of the product, essential oils should be securely packaged in glass bottles and stored away from direct sunlight or temperature extremes.
You should have completed Module 3: Essential Oil Production, before beginning this module.