Difference Between Attar & Essential Oil

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Essential oils are the volatile oils extracted from botanical matter

through steam distillation or hydro-steam distillation. Cold Pressed

citrus oils are also generally categorized as essential oils too, even

though those are technically ” expressed oils ” and not ” essential oils ” ,

but since their constituents are mainly volatile, unlike other expressed

vegetable oils (which are ” fixed oils ” ) they get to be called essential

oils too without the term being incorrectly applied.

Essential oils are hydro- or steam distillates from aromatic plants or plant parts containing steam volatile compounds. They can be isolated by other methods also.

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Attar has long been considered as one of the most treasured of material possessions and Prophet Muhammad (Sallahu alaihi wassalam)has stated Attar as one of the most beloved of gifts given to mankind.

Traditionally in the Eastern world, it was a customary practice of nobility to offer Attar to their guests at the time of their departure.Even Today, attar in beautiful Ittardan is a part of Eid decoration at homes. People offer their guests attar as a sign of love and brotherhood.


Attars are madIn India attars or Ittars are popular body perfumes which are sold in small, attractive bottles at a high cost. As far as I know, attars are made by distilling different flowers in specific proportions and capturing their essences in fixed oils such as sandalwood essential oil. They are then matured by different methods before they are marketed. They are given fancy names. In india, Kannauj near kanpur in Uttar Pradesh province is the seat of attar manufacturing. Each company managed by a family has their own secret formulas with flowers, wood, roots of plants and  tree particles and their base is mostly Sandalwood oil. Sometimes,Attar may contain some synthetic aroma like the “White Musk” . Since obtaining the deer musk requires killing of Musk deer, nearly all musk fragrance used in perfumery today is synthetic, sometimes called “white musk”.

In Muslim World Perfume is more Synonymous with Attar. Attar are also known by the name Perfume Oil as they are Concentrated and need just a dab.Attar are much better than alcohol based Perfumes as they last longer. Attars have no side effects if directly applied on the skin or clothes and they may have therapeutic effects, but alcohol based perfumes cannot be used in a therapeutic way. They might be harmful due to the use of alcohol. Sometimes ,Attars can be more affordable and cheaper than other Perfumes because they are so concentrated that a small bottle will last the regular user several weeks or even months.

A major difference between alcohol based perfumes and attar is that  attar is worn directly on our body. The inside of the wrist, behind the ears, the inside of elbow joints, back of the neck and a few other parts of our anatomy are directly dabbed with attar.While  Perfumes containing alcohol evaporates away quite fast and most of them are not safe to be applied directly on the Skin.Given its natural derivation, Attar lasts a long time. Body heat only intensifies its smell



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Absolutes are the volatile oils extracted from botanical matter through

solvents (these can be organic solvents or synthetic solvents). One

reason this method is employed is to extract the volatile oil from

certain delicate aromatic material that will not yield an oil through

distillation (for example – jasmine blossoms). It is also sometimes used

with botanical material that does yield a steam or hydro-steam distilled

oil (for example rose or lavender) because it extracts a higher volatile

yield (more of the oil) than steam and hydro-steam distillation does.

Also the finished product has a different scent.


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Hydrosols (a.k.a. hydrolats) are the by-product waters collected in the

Florentine Flask during the steam and hydro-steam distillation

processes. They have micro-dispersed particles of essential oil in them,

as well as the water soluble constituents of the plant material (which

are not found in the essential oil as the oils contain no water soluble

constituents). They are NOT the same as distilled water that was infused

with oil and then filtered, which is what many ” floral waters ”


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Then you have another volatile oil product called CO2’s – which are

volatile oils extracted from botanical matter with supercritical carbon

dioxide. Within that realm there are ” selects ” and ” totals ” , and those

are differentiated by the amount of pressure used in the production

process. Different pressures will give different results due to the

amounts of soluble materials from the botanical matter found in the end

product. The processes of making CO2’s is a relatively new and expensive

process. It yields some very lovely oils – without the use of solvents.

Those are becoming more popular in the world of food flavorings and

slowing coming into the world of Aromatherapy.



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