Essential Oils vs Fragrant Oils


There is a significant difference between pure essential oils and fragrant oils.
Essential oils are concentrated essences/oils obtained from true plant parts and are generally 70 times stronger than the plant itself.

Fragrant oils are synthetic chemical scents that are produced by blending aromatic chemicals. They may or may not contain some essential oil.

Fragrant oils are man-made to duplicate or copy the smell of the plant i.e. the leaves, the flower, the wood etc. Because essential oils are concentrated due to their extraction process they smell similar to the plant part but stronger, and in some cases, don’t smell like the plant at all. A good example of this is to smell Rose fragrant oil and compare it to Rose absolute or Rose Otto. Many people prefer the smell of the Rose fragrant oil because it smells like a fragrant rose out of their garden. Rose absolute or essential oil is very intense and only one drop of oil diluted in 20 ml of a fixed oil is required to smell like a rose . 

It is usually the synthetic fragrances that cause ‘allergies’ in people when using perfumes or soaps. It is important that people be able to clearly distinguish between fragrant oils and essential oils.
 
Fragrant oils generally only have a common name displayed on the bottle and these can range from Lemongrass, Lavender, and Peppermint to blueberry, mango, dewberry, rainforest, etc. Fragrant oils can be used to scent potpourris, soap and candles, etc. They have no therapeutic value. It is possible that they may cause irritation to people who suffer from sinus or asthma or suffer from allergies etc. 
Essential oils are extracted from plant material via such methods as steam distillation, expression, and solvent extraction. Through the makeup of their chemical constituents they can have antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-viral properties, anti-inflammatory properties that aid in the treatments prepared for clients. Their  therapeutic value is extensive and they can be used in a variety of way.

Lavender (Lavendula officinalis) essential oil can be used ‘neat’ on the skin for slight burns; applied to the temples to ease a headache. Lavender fragrance oil smells like the lavender bush and has no therapeutic value.


Perfumes:
‘The birth of modern Western perfumery as we know it today occurred during the 1411 century with the discovery of alcoholic extraction techniques. Before that time, perfumes had been based on fatty or oily materials which did not allow the finesse afforded by alcohol or synthetics. Many modern perfumers consider that it is impossible to make a good perfume without the use of synthetics or alcohol.’

On the other hand, synthetics can have a flat and two dimensional quality, whereas natural essences are more full-bodied and complex. In addition, many people are sensitive to certain chemicals used in modern perfumes and toiletries, which can cause skin allergies, headaches, or other side effects in sensitive individuals.’

Most commercial perfumes are diluted in alcohol; a typical eau de cologne contains no more than 3-5 per cent aromatic material, usually synthetic. Home-made perfumes are best made up simply of pure essences, which last longer and may be used neat on the skin or in the bath, etc.’

‘A skilled perfumer can identify some 30,000 different odours, but to begin with it is best to become familiar with a few common oils and develop from there. By initially keeping to a maximum of three or four oils per blend it is possible to keep in touch with their individual scents and qualities, and then slowly build up a personal vocabulary of odours.’

‘The exotic perfume ‘Shalimar’ by Guerlain contains among its ingredients Peru balsam, benzoin, opopanax, vanilla, patchouli, rose, jasmine, orris and vetiver as well as rosewood, lemon, bergamot and mandarin.’

 
In the art of blending (for perfumes), balance is everything. In his book ‘The Art of Perfumery’, Charles Piesse was the first to draw an analogy between odours and sounds. To create a perfect “bouquet” of odours, he chose scents that combined to create a harmonious chord and added other scents to act as half-notes.’  
Modern perfumery still uses Piesse’s terms to describe the art of blending, although in a simplified form. The perfume should be a perfect balance between the top, middle and base notes. The top notes are immediately apparent – the ones that are light and fresh – and are the most volatile ingredients. The middle note lies at the heart of the fragrance, and usually forms the bulk of the blend – typical middle notes are florals such as lavender, rose or geranium. The base note gives depth to the fragrance and acts as a fixative for the more volatile components – typical base notes include oak moss, benzoin or patchouli.’
 
‘To gain familiarity with the different essences and to develop your sense of discrimination, test oils individually. Do not smell essential oils directly from the bottle. Always use a strip of blotting paper. ‘

‘When an aromatherapist is preparing an essential oil blend for a client, such remedies are allied to the patient’s state of health and mind. Blends evolve and change during the course of treatment in a subtle interaction between oils, blender, and patient.’

Reference Material:
The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless


You may also be interested in reading :
‘Some advice on products made with fragrances’

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