Essential oils

Posted by R. Berg on March 03, 2003

In Reply to: Essential oils posted by janes_kid on March 03, 2003

: "essential oils" is a common phrase among people who deal in aromas. Definitions often say describe something, perhaps an oil, with an aroma that is the product of "distillation".

: Does anyone know how the word "essential" got into smell business?

By way of these meanings of "essence": "a. An extract of a substance that retains its fundamental or most desirable properties in concentrated form. b. Such an extract in a solution of alcohol. c. A perfume or scent" (American Heritage Dictionary). The essential oils of cinnamon, bay leaves, various mints, and so on are the natural chemical compounds that give those plants or plant parts their characteristic smell and flavor. For example, the essential oil responsible for the flavor of cinnamon is cinnamic aldehyde. Essential oils are volatile--they evaporate readily at low temperatures.