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Volatile Oil and Fixed Oil

They are often used in aromatherapy and perfumes. On the other hand, fixed oils, such as olive or coconut oil, have a more stable nature and don’t readily evaporate. These oils are commonly used in cooking, skin care, and various industrial applications.

Understanding the differences between volatile and fixed oils is essential for choosing the right oil for specific uses, ranging from pleasant scents to cooking and skincare needs.

What is Volatile Oils?

Volatile oils is a natural plant extract known for its strong fragrance. It is composed of volatile compounds that can easily evaporate into the air. Examples include essential oils like lavender or peppermint oil.

Volatile Oils
Figure 01: Volatile Oils

These oils are commonly used in aromatherapy, perfumes, and medicinal applications due to their aromatic and therapeutic properties. When you smell the pleasant scent of flowers or herbs, you’re likely experiencing the presence of volatile oils.

They are extracted from plant parts through methods like steam distillation or cold pressing. Beyond their delightful fragrances, volatile oils often have various uses in promoting relaxation, improving mood, and even offering potential health benefits.

Volatile Oils Examples

  • Lavender Oil.
  • Peppermint Oil.
  • Eucalyptus Oil.
  • Tea Tree Oil.
  • Lemon Oil.
  • Rosemary Oil.
  • Chamomile Oil.
  • Frankincense Oi.

What is Fixed Oils?

Fixed oil is a natural plant-based oil that remains stable and doesn’t easily evaporate. Unlike volatile oils, which have strong scents, fixed oils like olive or coconut oil have a milder fragrance or are even odorless.

Fixed Oils
Figure 02: Fixed Oils

These oils are rich in fatty acids and triglycerides, making them versatile in cooking, skincare, and industrial applications. Fixed oils are usually in liquid form, like olive oil, but can also be solid, like coconut oil, depending on room temperature.

Extracted through methods such as pressing or solvent extraction, fixed oils offer long-lasting moisture for the skin, add flavor to foods, and find use in various products beyond their culinary and skincare applications.

Fixed oils Examples

  • Olive Oil.
  • Coconut Oil.
  • Jojoba Oil.
  • Sweet Almond Oil.
  • Avocado Oil.
  • Sunflower Oil.
  • Sesame Oil.
  • Grapeseed Oil.

Volatile Oil vs Fixed Oil: the key differences

Key differences between volatile oils and fixed oils:

Characteristic Volatile Oils Fixed Oils
Composition Rich in volatile compounds (terpenes, esters) Composed of triglycerides and fatty acids
Odor Strong, distinctive aromas Mild or neutral fragrance
Volatility Easily evaporates at room temperature Does not readily evaporate
Physical State Typically liquid Can be liquid or solid at room temperature
Extraction Methods Steam distillation, cold pressing, solvent extraction Mechanical pressing, solvent extraction, cold-pressed methods
Uses Aromatherapy, perfumery, medicinal applications, flavoring Cooking, skincare, massage, industrial applications
Shelf Life Relatively shorter shelf life due to volatility Longer shelf life due to stability
Examples Lavender oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil Olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil
Health Benefits Stress reduction, respiratory health, mood enhancement Heart health, skin and hair care, anti-inflammatory effects
Side Effects Skin sensitivity, respiratory irritation, photosensitivity Allergic reactions, digestive issues, potential weight gain
Biological Importance Plant defense, pollinator attraction, antimicrobial defense Energy storage, nutrient transport, seed dispersal

Why are Volatile Oil and Fixed Oil Important?

Importance of Volatile Oil:

  • Aromatherapy and Well-being: Volatile oils contribute significantly to aromatherapy, promoting emotional well-being and relaxation through their aromatic properties.
  • Medicinal Properties: Some volatile oils possess medicinal properties, including antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, contributing to traditional and alternative medicine.
  • Fragrance Industry: The fragrance industry heavily relies on volatile oils to create perfumes, scented candles, and air fresheners.
  • Flavoring in Food: Volatile oils enhance the flavor and aroma of various food and beverage products, contributing to the culinary experience.

Importance of Fixed Oil:

  • Culinary Applications: Fixed oils, commonly used in cooking, are vital for adding flavor, texture, and nutritional value to a wide range of dishes.
  • Skincare and Cosmetics: Fixed oils are essential ingredients in skincare products and cosmetics, providing moisturization, and nourishment, and acting as carriers for other beneficial compounds.
  • Industrial Uses: Certain fixed oils have industrial applications, serving as lubricants, biodiesel feedstocks, and raw materials in the manufacturing sector.
  • Alternative Energy: Fixed oils, particularly vegetable oils, are explored as potential sources for biodiesel production, contributing to sustainable and renewable energy efforts.

The Biological Importance

  • Chemical Defense Mechanism: Volatile oils serve as a chemical defense strategy for plants, deterring herbivores and protecting against microbial threats through their potent aromas.
  • Pollinator Attraction: Some plants utilize volatile oils to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, fostering reproductive processes and aiding in genetic diversity.
  • Antimicrobial Defense: Certain volatile oils possess antimicrobial properties, acting as a natural defense mechanism against harmful pathogens in the plant’s environment.
  • Environmental Adaptation: The production of specific volatile compounds can be an adaptive response, helping plants cope with environmental stresses and attract beneficial organisms for symbiotic relationships.

Biological Significance of Fixed Oils:

  • Energy Storage in Seeds: Fixed oils stored in seeds act as a concentrated energy source, providing sustenance for germination and initial seedling growth.
  • Nutrient Transport: Fixed oils contribute to the transport of lipid-soluble nutrients within plants, supporting overall plant nutrition and development.
  • Seed Dispersal Strategy: Some fixed oils aid in seed dispersal by forming a nutrient-rich package that entices animals to consume and subsequently disperse seeds.
  • Moisture Regulation: Fixed oils in plant tissues play a role in moisture regulation, preventing dehydration and enhancing the resilience of plants in varying environmental conditions.

Characteristics of Volatile Oil and Fixed Oil

Volatile Oil:

1. Odor and Aroma:

  •  Distinctive and strong fragrances.
  •  Varied aromas based on plant source.

2. Volatility:

  • Easily evaporates at room temperature.
  •  Quick dispersion in the air.

3. Chemical Composition:

  • Rich in terpenes, esters, and aromatic compounds.
  • Variable chemical profiles based on plant species.

4. Physical State:

  • Typically liquid at room temperature.
  • May exist as a mixture of volatile and non-volatile components.

5. Extraction Methods:

  • Commonly extracted through steam distillation.
  •  Other methods include cold pressing and solvent extraction.

Fixed Oil:

1. Odor and Aroma:

  • Milder or neutral fragrance.
  • Often lacks the strong aroma associated with volatile oils.

2. Volatility:

  • Does not readily evaporate at room temperature.
  •  Offers long-lasting scents if scented.

3. Chemical Composition:

  •  Predominantly composed of triglycerides and fatty acids.
  •  May contain saturated and unsaturated fats.

4. Physical State:

  • Can be liquid or solid at room temperature.
  •  Solid forms are influenced by fatty acid composition.

5. Extraction Methods:

  •   Commonly extracted through mechanical pressing.
  •  Solvent extraction and cold-pressed methods were also utilized.

How are Volatile and Fixed Oils Extracted from Plants?

The extraction of volatile oils and fixed oils from plants involves distinct methods tailored to their unique characteristics. Volatile oils, rich in aromatic compounds, are commonly extracted through steam distillation.

In this process, steam is passed through the plant material, carrying volatile compounds that condense into essential oils. Cold pressing is another method, mechanically expressing oils from citrus peels or other plant parts.

On the other hand, fixed oils, comprising triglycerides and fatty acids, are often obtained through mechanical pressing, involving the crushing of seeds or nuts to release the oil.

Solvent extraction is an alternative method, using chemical solvents to separate oils from plant materials. These extraction techniques ensure the retrieval of both volatile and fixed oils, each serving diverse purposes in various industries.

Uses of Volatile Oil and Fixed Oil

Uses of Volatile Oil:

  • Aromatherapy: Volatile oils are extensively used in aromatherapy for their therapeutic and calming properties.
  • Perfumery: Many perfumes and fragrances rely on volatile oils to provide distinctive and pleasant scents.
  • Medicinal Applications: Certain volatile oils, such as tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil, have antimicrobial properties and are used in traditional medicine.
  • Flavoring in Food: Some volatile oils, like peppermint oil, are utilized to add flavor to foods and beverages.

Uses of Fixed Oil:

  • Cooking: Fixed oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil, are common cooking oils used for sautéing, frying, and dressing.
  • Skincare: Fixed oils like jojoba oil and sweet almond oil are popular in skincare products for moisturizing and nourishing the skin.
  • Massage and Body Oils: Fixed oils are often used as carrier oils in massage and body oils, diluting essential oils for safe application on the skin.
  • Industrial Applications: Certain fixed oils find use in industrial applications, such as lubricants, biodiesel production, and manufacturing processes.

Health Benefits of Volatile Oil and Fixed Oil

Health Benefits of Volatile Oils:

  • Aromatherapy and Stress Reduction: Many volatile oils have calming properties, contributing to stress reduction and relaxation when used in aromatherapy.
  • Respiratory Health: Certain volatile oils, like eucalyptus and tea tree oil, have respiratory benefits, aiding in decongestion and promoting clear breathing.
  • Antimicrobial Properties: Several volatile oils exhibit antimicrobial properties, helping to combat bacteria, viruses, and fungi when applied or inhaled.
  • Mood Enhancement: Volatile oils, such as citrus oils, are known for their mood-enhancing effects, promoting a positive emotional state.

Health Benefits of Fixed Oils:

  • Heart Health: Some fixed oils, like olive oil, are rich in monounsaturated fats that contribute to heart health by reducing bad cholesterol levels.
  • Skin and Hair Care: Fixed oils, such as coconut and jojoba oil, are commonly used in skin care and hair care, providing moisturization, and nourishment, and promoting overall skin health.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Certain fixed oils, like fish oil (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), have anti-inflammatory properties, benefiting conditions like arthritis and promoting joint health.
  • Nutrient Absorption: Fixed oils aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), supporting overall nutrient uptake in the body.

Side Effects of Volatile Oil and Fixed Oil

Potential Side Effects of Volatile Oils:

  • Skin Sensitivity: Some individuals may experience skin sensitivity or irritation when applying undiluted volatile oils directly to the skin.
  • Respiratory Irritation: Inhaling concentrated amounts of certain volatile oils may lead to respiratory irritation or allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
  • Photosensitivity: Certain citrus oils can cause photosensitivity, increasing the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and potentially leading to sunburn.
  • Interaction with Medications: Some volatile oils may interact with medications, potentially affecting their efficacy or causing adverse effects. It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional in such cases.

Potential Side Effects of Fixed Oils:

  • Allergic Reactions: Individuals with allergies to specific nuts or seeds may experience allergic reactions when using fixed oils derived from those sources.
  • Digestive Issues: Ingesting large amounts of fixed oils, particularly in cooking, may lead to digestive issues such as stomach upset or diarrhea.
  • Weight Gain: Fixed oils are calorie-dense, and excessive consumption may contribute to weight gain if not balanced with overall dietary intake.
  • Quality and Purity Concerns: Low-quality or impure fixed oils may lead to side effects. It’s important to choose high-quality oils from reputable sources.
  • Potential Contaminants: Depending on the extraction process and source, fixed oils may contain contaminants, emphasizing the importance of selecting oils from trusted suppliers.


Volatile oils, like lavender or peppermint oil, are plant extracts known for their strong aromas due to easily evaporating compounds. They find use in aromatherapy, perfumes, and medicinal applications.

In contrast, fixed oils, such as olive or coconut oil, remain stable and do not readily evaporate. They have milder fragrances, are versatile in cooking and skincare, and are often in liquid form.

While volatile oils are prized for their scents, fixed oils offer lasting moisture for the skin and add flavor to foods. Both oils are extracted using various methods and serve diverse purposes in industries and everyday life.

By sourav