What Are Essential Oils?
When you hear the words “essential oils,” you may think of aromatherapy. The term “aromatherapy” is becoming such a marketing buzzword that the actual meaning of the term has been obscured. Aromatherapy is more than just smelling something that makes you happy. Essential oils (the volatile oils of plants) have physiological effects on humans and other animals. In many countries, aromatherapy is used with other healing techniques to treat a variety of illnesses.
Essential oils are the collected volatile oils of plants, while fragrance oils are synthetic (or created) fragrances. Essential oils are used for fragrance as well as their therapeutic properties. Fragrance oils often mimic the scents of plants, but although a synthetic fragrance oil might smell nice, it has no therapeutic benefit.
Whether or not soap is an effective method of delivery of aromatherapy is still debated in the soapmaking and aromatherapy communities. Some experts on essential oils insist that the therapeutic benefits of essential oils are lost during the soapmaking process. Heat is considered the enemy of the therapeutic efficacy of essential oils, and all soapmaking methods involve heat. Other experts on essential oils think there is still aromatherapeutic value in the essences when they are used in a soap recipe.
Soap may or may not be an effective delivery for aromatherapy, but essential oils can definitely contribute natural fragrance to handmade soap. Lavender soap, for example, has been a favorite around the world for generations. The sweet, herbal, and lightly floral scent of lavender essential oil helps create a soothing bathing experience.