We are unlikely, in today’s world, to find myrrh or frankincense or cinnamon packed as precious cargo and transported by camelback across a sandy dessert trade route on its way to sheiks and sultans; but that touch of decadent luxury is exactly the feeling evoked by just a few drops of precious essential oil rubbed into our skin, or diffused into the air around us.
Modern methods of obtaining precious oils have come a long way since caravan days. Science, in the form of carefully monitored growth and harvesting practices and scientifically monitored distillation and production standards, has multiplied both the quantity and the quality of aromatic oils and brought them within reach of ever larger numbers of consumers.
Exactly what are essential oils? Simply put, they are the product of select flowers, leaves, bark, seeds, stems, or roots, carefully reduced under pressure to produce drops of pure liquid. It can take, for example, up to 12,000 rose blossoms to produce a 5-ml bottle of essential rose oil.
Modern folk, it seems, enjoy the ancient scents just as much as did the ancient folk themselves. It isn’t just roses that are used to create essential oils. Think of geraniums perhaps, or lavender, lemon, or vanilla bean, relaxing, stress-busting aromas.
Or something different, perhaps; cinnamon, sage, white fir or basil, the sort of mix that spices up the air around you for an energizing atmosphere. Consider eucalyptus for its bracing, cleansing effect.
The earliest uses of essential oils included medicinal applications and beauty treatments. Oils were used for anointing, as in crowning a new king. They were – and still are – used in food preparation.
Oils have always been used in skin and beauty treatments. The Greeks used them in aromatherapy and massage therapy; the Romans used them for personal hygiene. They are natural disinfectants.
Today, we continue many of these uses, albeit it in with our own twist to the finished product. We include oils in cleaning formulas, in soaps and lotions, in cooking. They are included in nutrition and weight-control supplements. Some essential oils have antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties.
An essential oil massage is still the ultimate luxury, and wintergreen oil is still a treatment of choice for toothache. Diffusers of all sorts disseminate delicious aromas wherever we desire. Truly, today’s user of essential oils and oil blends can enjoy the luxuries of a king.