In ancient Greek, Ghenea (γενεά) means origin, birth, generation. It is used to describe the beginning of things, something at the early days.
Gea was the Earth, but also cultivated fields and inhabited land. The Earth is a caring mother, a primordial creature who takes care of us and provides us with everything we really need. We live on grounds we have to learn to listen to, and rediscover through fresh eyes.
This is the philosophy behind Ghenea, a Cooperative of Sammarinese Olive Growers (Cooperativa Ovicoltori Sammarinesi, COS) brand, which promotes the local agriculture of medicinal plants, the production of essential oils and their derivatives.
Born in 2020 from the will of COS members, Ghenea aims to restart from the Earth, rediscover a forgotten world made of fragrances, colors and emotions.
Since remote times, humans utilized plants to take care of their body and health: in ancient Egypt (4500 BC), essential oils were used in the embalming process, making the most of their antiseptic and antibacterial properties. In Africa and pre-Columbian America, oils were employed during ceremonies and sacred rituals. Around the year 1000 AD, the Arabs created an alembic to distill oils, and soon became masters of this form of art.
Essential oils are liquids and their density is higher than the one of water. This is why they float and are not soluble in it.
The preparation of essential oils is a delicate and challenging process, since the aim it to extract the more frail elements of the plants, without altering the product. Different methods can be employed to obtain essential oils. The most simple one is cold pressing, although it has limitations because it can only be used for citrus fruits peels. A much more common approach that has been used since ancient times, is steam current distillation: thanks to the presence of a heat source, the components of the plant evaporate. Their temperature is then reduced by passing the vapor through a cooling coil, allowing for condensation and transformation into liquid. This is how aromatic water (hydrosol) and essential oil are obtained.
The yield varies depending on the plant. For example, to make 1 kg of lemon balm essential oil, 9000 kg of plant are required. For the same quantity of oil, 4000 kg of rose petals, or 150 kg of lavender flowers are needed.
STEAM CURRENT DISTILLATION
In order not to compromise on quality and yield, the distillation process takes place immediately after the harvest. Shortening the interval between these two steps is crucial to prevent fermentation, which could compromise the essence of the oil or alter its fragrance.
- The freshly harvested plants are placed in an airtight canister;
- A boiler then generates steam, which is pressurized into the lower portion of the container;
- The steam runs through the plants to vaporize the volatile oils within them;
- The mixture of vapor and oil ascends and reaches a cooling coil, through which its temperature lowers, allowing for condensation to occur;
- The aromatic water and oil are collected in a container, where they naturally separate due to their difference in specific weight: the oil above, and the water below.
Essential oils are best preserved in dark, glass bottles. These should be full and sealed when not in use, as air and light can cause oxidation, which may compromise the intensity of the fragrance and cause slight changes in color.
The ideal temperature for storage is below 15°C (or 59°F).
There are multiple uses for essential oils. These can be propagated in the environment using an appropriate aromatherapy diffuser, or applied directly on the body, preferably externally. According to Chinese medicine, skin and nose are connected to the lungs, as if they were a whole organ.
It is discouraged to apply 100% pure oils on the skin due to their high concentration.
They can be diluted in other vegetable oils, such as almond, olive or argan oil, or any other oil of choice.
- Aromatherapy diffuser;
- Footbath or full body bath;
- Oral use;
- Massages (diluted in other oils).
Bibliography: Dr. Leonardo Paoluzzi, Phytos Olea, Morphema Editrice, 2003