Understanding Essential Oils and Attars: How They're Made and Why They're Good for You

Understanding Essential Oils and Attars: How They're Made and Why They're Good for You

Our Body Butter Melts are scented with essential oils, attars, and fragrance oils.

Essential oils are all-natural and are distilled from botanics like plants and flowers.  Often times, essential oils have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, so they're often used in homeopathic and Ayurvedic remedies. 

Steam distillation is the most common extraction method for essential oils, but some raw ingredients require cold-press, solvent or CO2 extraction. In the steam distillation method, depending on the plant or flower, the end result is both essential oil and floral water which are further filtered down before they become commercially ready to use.

Inhaling the aromas from essential oils can stimulate areas of your limbic system, which is a part of your brain that plays a role in emotions, behaviours, sense of smell, and long-term memory. This can partly explain why certain smells can trigger memories, emotions, and nostalgic feelings. Essential oils are also frequently used in aromatherapy since the limbic system is involved in controlling several unconscious physiological functions, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Some popular essential oils are lavender, frankincense, and peppermint.

Attar, also known as ‘ittar’ or ‘itra’ is derived from a Persian word ‘itr’ meaning ‘perfume’. Like essential oils, attars are a product of flowers, herbs, or barks. These oils are usually extracted via hydro or steam distillation as well. The oils are generally distilled into a wood base, such as sandalwood, and then aged. The aging period can last from one to ten years depending on the botanicals used and the desired scent. With techniques and traditions passing down through generations and the painstaking 'analog' methods artisans still use, attars are simply unmatched in their uniqueness, feel, and how long they last.

One of the best places to learn about attar is the village of Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh, India, since they're known for their perfume culture. The ancient, slow distillation practiced in Kannauj by attar artisans is called deg-bhapka. The process consists of a copper deg—built atop its own oven and beside its own trough of water—and a bulbous condenser called a bhapka, the receiver, that looks like a giant butternut squash. When a fresh supply of flowers comes in, the craftsmen put pounds of flower petals into each deg, cover it with water, hammer a lid down on top, and seal it with mud. They light a wood or cow-dung fire underneath, then fill the receiver with sandalwood oil—which serves as a base for the scents—and sink it into the trough. The deg and bhapka are connected with a hollow bamboo pipe that carries the fragrant vapours from the simmering pot into their sandalwood oil base. The last step involves collecting the oil, pouring it into another vessel called a patela, and heating it again to produce the final fragrance.

Some popular attar fragrances are Bulgarian rose, agarwood/oud, and amber.

In contrast to both essential oils and attars, fragrance oils are synthetically compounded, and should not be confused with the 100% natural essential oils. However, all the fragrance oils used in our Body Butter Melts are are paraben-free and phthalate-free which makes them safer for you and the environment.