Essential oils have been around for thousands of years. We can see 188 references to them in the Bible alone, the most famous being Frankincense and Myrrh of course. Also two of the most expensive.
There is documented evidence as early as 1550 BC that the ancient Egyptians were using oils both for treating ailments and for their aromatic scents. They were using an infusion method; – steep it in there for long enough and the oil itself will be “flavored” by the plant that’s in it. This will not produce as potent an essential oil as the steam distillation method used today, (which was in fact discovered by the Romans,) but it is a method that you can do yourself at home and that, for cooking purposes, is most effective.
High quality steam distilled essential oils can be pretty expensive, for example 1 pound of pure Melissa oil sells for $9,000-$15,000. Although that sounds exorbitant, one must realize that to produce that 1 pound of oil you need 3 tons of plant material. Plus you only use a tiny drop at a time.
Why use essential oils? A nutritional deficiency within the human body (which is the cause of most diseases,) is basically due to an oxygen deficiency within the cells. Essential oils are lipid soluble and are capable of penetrating cell membranes, even if those membranes have hardened because of an oxygen deficiency. The essential oil contains oxygen molecules that help transport nutrients to the starving human cells. By providing the oxygen needed, they also work to stimulate the immune system. They are also very powerful anti-oxidants and have been shown to destroy all tested bacteria and viruses while simultaneously restoring balance to the body.
You can find many websites dedicated to educating you about essential oils and their uses – which are many and varied. You can start with these if you like, I personally use both: http://roberttisserand.com
The latter, although it has my name at the end, is full of Neals Yard Remedies information and links to their 35 years of essential oils and herbs knowledge.
You can use EOs topically – directly onto the skin, aromatically – diffused into the air, or internally in small doses (Robert Tisserand ONLY recommends this application for cooking, NOT for self healing, unless administered by a qualified Doctor)– either taken in a vegetable based capsule, a drop in your water or tea, or you can use them in your cooking, which is what I’ll talk a little about now.
One 15 ml bottle of essential oil contains approximately 250 drops of oil. When you consider that a buying a sprig or two of fresh rosemary in a supermarket will set you back $3-4 and you may only get to use it once or twice, then 8 or 9 cents for one single drop of essential oil, which lasts for an eternity if stored correctly, seems like a worthwhile investment to me. (Price quoted is based on current prices for Rosemary oil from NYR organics and from DoTerra.) Prices do vary from oil to oil and company to company, so it can be worth your while to shop around.
DO read the label! There should only be one ingredient – the essential oil itself. If there are any other oils listed, that means it has been diluted in a carrier oil and if there are any other ingredients on there, do not touch it with a barge pole!!
You only need one or two drops of a true essential oil to flavor an entire dish. For example, I used a drop of coriander oil and basil oil to flavor some cous cous in our restaurant last year. People loved it! And just those two drops was enough for more than 6 servings.
I have added a drop of peppermint oil to chocolate cupcakes – delightful! Wild Orange oil to fudge. Lavender oil to shortbread cookies. I often use one drop of Thyme, Oregano, Basil and Rosemary in lasagna, pasta sauces, casseroles, etc. It’s just so much easier than dealing with fresh herbs and so much more flavorful than dried. Try adding a tiny drop of peppermint oil to your lemonade – simply divine – I cannot drink it any other way now.
The recommendation is when adding it to cooking, to use a toothpick to dip into the oil and to stir it through the dish. (This is especially true of peppermint – it is STRONG!) That way you don’t get such a concentration in just one area, which with non-saucy dishes (such as the cous cous) is very useful. It also helps you to control the amount used. It is very easy to get carried away shaking drops into a dish, particularly when it is often difficult to see if any has actually gone in or not. Another method would be to use a small pipette.
Add a drop, stir it, TASTE IT! If you need another drop, go ahead, but please taste it first as you really don’t want it to end up overpowering and you will be amazed at how little you need. And remember all the other benefits you get from essential oils too. It really is a win win.