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Essential Oil Production in Nigeria; The Opportunities.

An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, aetherolea, or simply as the oil of the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove.

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years in various cultures for medicinal and health purposes. Essential oil uses range from aromatherapy, household cleaning products, personal beauty care and natural medicine treatments.

The particles in essential oils come from distilling or extracting the different parts of plants, including the flowers, leaves, bark, roots, resin and peels. In ancient times, Jews and Egyptians made essential oils by soaking the plants in oil and then filtering the oil through a linen bag.

Essential oil benefits come from their antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. These healing oils are rapidly growing in popularity because they act as natural medicine without any side effects.

As odorants, they are used in perfumes, lotions and other cosmetics, soaps, detergents, and other products ranging from animal feed to insecticides. As flavorants, they are present in a wide variety of foods, including soft drinks, baked products, ice creams, candy, confections, etc. As pharmaceutical ingredients, essential oils are used in dental products such as toothpaste, aromatherapy and phytotherapy products, and a large number of medicines.

There are more than 90 essential oils, and each has its own health benefits. Most essential oils blend well with other essential oils in terms of function and odor, which allows herbalists to prepare a vast repertoire of aromatic essential oil combinations.

Below is a list of essential oils that are currently being widely used and their application

Peppermint: Wonderful for digestive/respiratory function, energy, cooling, etc
Eucalyptus: Supports healthy respiration, skin, cleansing, etc
Ginger: Digestive support, grounding, cooking, antioxidant, etc
Orange: Emotional balance, overall health, cleansing/purifying, antioxidants, etc.
Peppermint: Wonderful for digestive/respiratory function, energy, cooling, etc
Lemon: For increasing energy, digestive and respiratory support, cleaning, etc
Lemongrass: Healthy digestion, supports muscles and joints, complexion, insects, etc
Lime: Cleans, detoxifies, energizes, healthy immune function, etc
Clove: Promotes cardiovascular health, oral health, immune health, etc
Black Pepper: Antioxidant; supports healthy circulation, flavoring, etc
Cardamom: Supports healthy digestion, respiratory health, cooking, etc

The process technology involves the following basic operations:

Drying: The raw materials is dried.
Weighing: The materials are weighed
Distillation: It involves extraction of the oil through steam distillation which forces the tiny intercellular pockets that hold the essential oils to open and release them.
Separation: The essential oil is separated the from the water, the film is then decanted or skimmed off the top.
Packaging: The essential oil is packaged appropriately ready for market.

In Nigeria, the currently industrial demand for essential oil is met through import. The market for essential oil is National. With a population of over 165 million people, estimated national population growth rate of 5.7% per annum and an average economic growth rate of 3.5 % in the past five (5) years, Nigeria has a large ,expanding and sustainable market for essential.

The demand for the various types of essential oils is increasing with the expansion and establishment of the food, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industry and various chemical industries.

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