Moore, James Alexander Department of Chemistry, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware.
Last reviewed:March 2021
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- Characterization and analysis
- Variability from plant sources
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A volatile, fragrant oil obtained from plants. Essential oils are distinguished from those known as fixed oils, which are mainly triglycerides of fatty acids. Essential oils have been obtained from thousands of plants (Fig. 1) and are designated and defined by the plant species and sometimes the geographical location. The sources of these oils are diverse, including flower petals (for example, rose and jasmine), spices (for example, cinnamon and ginger), pine oil and turpentine, and citrus fruit peels. Compounds present in the juice that may contribute to the distinctive flavor of a fruit or berry are not, strictly speaking, components of the essential oil. Chemically, essential oils are extremely complex mixtures containing compounds of every major functional group class. The oils are isolated by steam distillation, extraction, or mechanical expression of the plant material; often, only certain parts, such as roots, buds, leaves, or flower petals, are used. See also: Distillation; Extraction; Fat and oil; Pharmacognosy
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