Essential Oils | Where Do They Actually Come From?

Essential Oils. Where do they actually come from?

I get this question a lot. Do essentials oils come from the inside of a plant? Are they crushed out of the leaves, stems, flowers, etc? And why are some cold-pressed while others have to be steam-distilled?


Last month I had the privilege of teaching a class on essential oils in downtown Waxhaw – at a little store that sells products, handmade by over 25 artisans from North and South Carolina. This is something I addressed, for the first time in a group setting. I never really questioned the idea myself, or thought about what the oils look like beyond the stuff I see in the bottles on my shelf … and because I never really had a reason to care, it never occurred to me that I could find out.

But recently I did some research online, and found something incredible.


{A microscopic image of an essential oil sac on a lavender plant}

It’s incredibly amazing to think that these little oil sacs are *all over* the stems, leaves, flowers, etc. on various plants.

Sometimes the oil sacs can be removed easily – in the case of lemon or orange peels {and other citrus fruits}, they can be removed simply by pressing or crushing {cold-pressed method}. Most essential oils require a low heat method to soften and loosen the essential oil sacs {steam-distilled}.

Not all plants have essential oils.

It’s true … some do and some don’t. You won’t find essential oils on a comfrey plant, or a calendula flower. But you will find them on lemon peels, lavender buds and eucalyptus leaves.

The term ‘essential oil’ can legally refer to a lot of other things. For example, there is no such thing as pure Almond Essential Oil – yet google Almond Essential Oil and you’ll find lots of them on the market! Check out this post on the difference between pure essential oils, absolutes, CO2 extracts, isolates, etc.

Check out some of these other frequently asked questions on Essential Oils.


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