What are essential oils?

Production, composition and analyses

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that are used for their aromatic and therapeutic properties. On this page, you can learn about the production, composition and analyses of essential oils.


Essential oils are the fragrant and volatile components of medicinal plants, herbs, flowers, fruits and seeds. These components are usually found in special oil cells, glands or ducts within the plant. The plants produce these oils for various reasons: as pheromones to attract certain insects, as repellents for other insects, as a form of protection against disease, etc. 

The amount of oil produced also varies considerably from plant to plant. This has a direct influence on the price of some of the volatile oils. Some oils are very expensive, because it requires a large number of plants to produce a relatively small quantity of oil. A good example is rose oil, for which specially grown roses are needed. By contrast, orange oil is relatively cheap, because it can be obtained from the peel of ordinary oranges, which is a waste product in the fruit juice industry. Below you can find some other comparisons:

To obtain one kilogram of essentials oil, you need 1000 kg of helichrysum (immortelle), 150 kg of flowering lavender tops, 50 kg of lavandin super or 6 kg of clove buds.


Most ancient civilisations were already aware of and making use of the beneficial properties of essential oils. Historical documents from India and China describe how essential oils were being used many centuries ago to improve people’s health. The Greeks and Romans also used to regularly enjoy the sensual and relaxing pleasure of fragrant oil baths and massages. The ancient Egyptians made use of essential oils like incense and myrrh for the embalming of the dead. However, it was not until the start of the 20th century that the foundations for modern aromatherapy were laid by the Frenchman Gattefossé. He discovered that lavender oil was able to quickly heal a wound on his hand, which inspired him to look more closely at the properties of other essential oils.


How are essential oils produced? At Oak organic, essential oils are obtained from plants using two traditional production methods.

Slow and complete steam distillation at low pressure

In this method steam is passed through a distillation chamber containing the plants. This causes the plant cells to burst open, so that the volatile and aromatic essences are absorbed and carried along by the steam, allowing them to be condensed into liquid form when subsequently cooled. This liquid is composed of two separate elements: the hydrolate – the water containing the water-soluble aromatic molecules – and the essential oil – the non-water-soluble aromatic molecules, which are (usually) lighter than water. This allows the oil to float to the surface of the water, so that it can be decanted and stored.

Cold pressing

This method of production is used primarily for citrus fruits. The peel of these fruits is often rich in essential oils. After the pressing of this peel, the oil is filtered.

Quality guarantees

Oak organic maintains the very highest standards of quality. Our products are 100% pure, natural and organic. Here you can read more about the composition of our essential oils and about the thorough analyses and strict quality controls to which they are subject.

The quality of Oak organic

Aromatherapy in practice

Essential oils can be used in different ways: internally or externally and via diffusion or massaging into the skin. It is important to always use the right dose and to follow the safety recommendations with care.

How to use essential oils

Discover these essential oils