Essential oils: The by-products of plant metabolism

“It doesn’t get much greener than essential oils: when used correctly, they are among Mother Nature’s most potent remedies.” ― Amy Leigh Mercree, Essential Oils Handbook: Recipes for Natural

Essential oils are also known as Volatile oils or Ethereal oils are basically plant-based aromatic components that are made up of various chemically complex mixtures of organic compounds. The chemical nature of essential oils can be extremely intricate. Generally, these are a mixture of terpenes, phenolics, and alcohol. They also include oxygenated derivatives of hydrocarbon terpenes such as aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, esters, etc. Most of the essential oils are insoluble in water but Rose and Kewra are a few of the exceptions which are soluble in water.

How are Essential oils different from regular Fatty oils?

Essential oils volatilize when in contact with air at room temperature and possess a strong pleasant aroma and taste. While fatty oil, on the other hand, does not volatilize and lacks the strong taste and aroma of essential oils.

Since these are volatile, when put on paper essential oils do not leave a greasy stain. However, fatty oil leaves a greasy mark on the paper.

 Essential oils do not become rancid like the fatty oils but some have been observed to polymerize and deposit little solid matters such as resins and gums. Fatty oils become rancid on long exposure to air.

Essential oils can be distilled without getting decomposed. Fatty oils get decomposed when distilled. 


All distinctly aromatic plants are known to contain some type of essential oils. They occur in more than 60 families of plants particularly Myrtaceae, Apiaceae, Lauraceae, and Lamiaceae. Essential oils are mostly secreted in internal secretory glands /ducts or cells lining the glandular hairs. 

Essential oils can either be produced throughout the plant or may be restricted to specific organs for example, in plants like Rose, Jasmine, and Lavender, the oils are produced in the flowers. Similarly, in plants like Mint, Sage, Thyme, and Basil, the oils are present in the leaves.

Applications of Essential oils

Various types of essential oils are of great importance. Some of the major applications of essential oils are in pest control products, cleaning products, medications, and personal care products such as cosmetics and bathing products. Essential oils have several benefits when it comes to wound healing, rejuvenation, and relaxation. 

Health issues, such as migraines and nausea are cured of the essential oils. It is also as preservatives foodborne pathogens against in the food industries is also used in the food industries.

Essential oil such as rose oil is largely used in perfumes, scenting soaps, flavouring soft drinks, and liqueurs. It is also used extensively in making desserts globally. Rose jam is made from flowers. A preserve called gulkand is made in India. Used as a tonic and laxative.

Essential oil from Eucalyptus is used as an antiseptic, deodorant, and in mosquito and vermin repellent preparations. To relieve cough in chronic bronchitis and asthma the vapour of essential oils is inhaled. The oil used in the refinement of mineral oils by floatation method. It is also used to manufacture thymol and menthol.



Essential oils are naturally produced compounds with loveable aroma which are isolated mostly through a method of hydro-distillation which is easier to carry out the process. This process of hydro-distillation utilizes whole parts of the plants for extraction. Essential oils have medicinal benefits and are used in the treatment of different diseases like cough and cold, depression, migraine, anxiety, fungal and microbial infections, and wound healing. They are also used in the cosmetics and perfume industries.