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Vitamin vs. Enzyme, Essential Oil vs. Essential Fatty Acid
Posted: September 24, 2007
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What is the difference between an essential oil and an essential fatty acid?
An essential oil is any concentrated, hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. They are also known as volatile or ethereal oils, or simply as the "oil of" the plant material from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove. The term essential indicates that the oil carries distinctive scent (essence) of the plant, not that it is an especially important or fundamental substance. Essential oils do not as a group need to have any specific chemical properties in common, beyond conveying characteristic fragrances. Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation.
Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are fatty acids that cannot be constructed within an organism from other components, generally all references are to humans, as there are no known biochemical pathways capable of producing them. They can only be obtained in the diet if they are to be incorporated into human biological processes. The term refers to those involved in biological processes, and not fatty acids which may just play a role as fuel. As many of the compounds created from essential fatty acids can be taken directly in the diet, it is possible that the amounts required in the diet ,if any, are overestimated. It is also possible they can be underestimated as organisms can still survive in unideal, malnourished conditions. There are two families of EFAs: ω-3, or omega-3 or n-3, and ω-6 , or omega-6, n-6. Fats from each of these families are essential, as the body can convert one omega-3 to another omega-3, for example, but cannot create an omega-3 from scratch.