Essential oils are soluble in fatty/vegetable oils. Because of this, vegetable oils are known as carrier oils. Essental oils should almost always be diluted using a carrier oil usually in a ratio of about 2-5 drops of essential oil for every teaspoon of carrier oil. Carrier oils and essential oils often combine in a synergistic way, creating a mixture that can be more therapeutic than just applying each oil individually. Synergy is a very important concept in aromatherapy. Recipes often have specific instructions because of this.
Anyone interested in the therapeutic medicinal values of essential oils must always seek out genuine, authentic essential oils which are obtained from plants - basically the essence of the plants themselves. Authentic plant essence from an appropriate plant has therapeutic value and that is what we should always try to obtain when we acquire essential oils. "Nature Identicals" are nothing new under the sun and are not appropriate for use in aromatherapy. In the words of Daniel Pénoël, "I'd rather have a single drop of genuine essential oil than a 55-gallon drum of junk product."
According to David Stewart, "The vast majority of essential oils (over 95%) are produced for flavor and fragrance and do not fulfill therapeutic standards." - (The Chemisty of Essential Oils Made Simple pg. 9) When you stop and consider all the items in today's society that contain flavor or fragrance... most all of them getting the flavor or fragrance from a synthetic essential oil... ninety five percent starts to seem like a reasonable number. Synthetic oils are produced as cheaply and crudely as possible so it also seems sensical that such oils would have non-existent therapeutic value.
Be suspicious of any oils marketed as "therapeutic grade" or "FDA approved" or "ISO approved", "FMA", "GRAS", "AFNOR" etc. For a detailed write-up about these pitfalls please see a thorough article, The Quality of Essential Oils, written by Jade Shutes.
Its important to realize that for centuries the concept of "Perfume" always referred to a plant essence or a mixture of plant essences! (or perhaps an animal essence in the case of musk) It wasn't until around 1860 when humans started "engineering" scents in a laboratory. The "engineered scents" didn't really start to become publicly known until the 1880's to 1890's and even then they were sort of in "the trial stages". So any pre-1900's reference material that you might find in this website that speaks of perfume is likely talking about genuine essential oils. For a detailed definition of "Perfume" (1878 style) please read the entry in Chambers Encyclopaedia
Furthermore, pure plant essences were commonly used and studied within the field of pharmacy in the 1800's. There are plentiful accounts of the use of essential oils in pharmaceutical journals during that time.
Most essential oils are incredibly concentrated (75-100 times more concentrated than in the plant). Never put essential oils into the eyes as there is little anyone can do for you after that. Only in rare circumstances should oils be applied directly to the skin. In the event that an oil mixture is too strong, or should an accident occur, the single best way to rescue yourself is to immediately apply a carrier oil to the affected area. This will effectively "wash" the essential oil out of your skin. In severe cases wash off the carrier oil with soap and water and repeat. Grapeseed oil or olive oil will work fine for this purpose.
A key point about essential oils is this; usually less is better. Often we believe that if some is good then more must be better. This is not the case with essential oils. Having said that, essential oils are often quite forgiving on the body and mixture mistakes rarely lead to serious consequences.
In my experience, mixtures often take time to bind effectively. There's sort of a "get to know each other" time that needs to occur before a mixture should be applied to the skin. This time varies from seconds to days per mixture and is only learned through experience. ( I wish some chemistry nut would do some dedicated research into this... ) Furthermore, I have found that mixing oils in a dish and then pouring them into bottles often gives better results than pouring the oils into a bottle seperately, one at a time.
Essential oils have differing rates of absorption, generally between 20 minutes and 2 hours. An oil's "note" will play a role in this. Consider this when bathing directly following a massage as some oils might be more effective if they have time to "soak" into your skin for awhile. Personally, I go to the sauna often and I have found that some mixtures have quite nice effects in the bath after direct application. Let experience guide you.
A Sense of Smell
Essential oils are most effective via inhalation or absorption through the skin. In my research I have found that the areas of the body which are most permiable are the palms, the soles of the feet, the insides of the wrists, the insides of the ankles, the rear base of the skull, and, by far, the most permiable human tissue is the female breast. Oils applied to these areas of the body will go into the blood stream quicker than when applied to other, less permiable areas.
When oils are inhaled they have a direct path to the brain (see brain drawing) and an instant effect on the body. Ingestion of oils is much, much less effective because gastrointestinal juices destroy many of the oil's delicate therapeutic properties. Information about ingestion varies wildly from "never do it" to "eat almost anything you want". I suggest doing research on a specific oil if you desire ingestation. I don't ingest oils and don't recommend doing it.
Essential oils are often enjoyed via inhalation. Unfortunately, our sense of smell is often reduced considerably because of the chemical world we live in. One walk down the detergent isle at the local super-megaplex grocery store should have anyone gagging for air, yet most folks can walk down it without even flinching. Something seems amiss...
One big way to improve the sense of smell is to stop using any chemical-type product on our bodies or clothes. If a product has Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, aluminum, titanium, dyes, or perfumes, it should be avoided at all costs. There are alternatives to those products and often quite nice and inexpensive ones!
Another big factor in our sense of smell is zinc. If the body is deficient in zinc, our sense of smell suffers. The zinc/smell connection has been proven scientifically! (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/zinc-000344.htm) Natural sources of zinc are always the best way to suppliment and some foods include oysters and beans. Any zinc suppliments in pill form should always be taken with copper because the body cannot assimilate one without the other. A great suppliment outlet is www.vitaglo.com.
It is said that some of the following foods incorporated into a regular diet will benefit the sense of smell: asparagus, chile peppers, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, onions, and pomegranate.
One last note; industrial chemicals are very often pawned off as "essential oils". Industrial chemicals smell "funny" and these counterfeits can easily be recognized by someone with a trained nose. Industrial chemicals are everywhere, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, deodorants, lip balms, makeup, air "fresheners", laundry detergents, and of course, your local "aromatherapy" shop. At first it can be difficult to know what is real and what is not. Industrial chemical companies stand to make huge profits by counterfeiting real plant substances. Some simple guidelines to help determine if an oil has been harvested from a plant follow:
One way to help check essential oils for authenticity is by doing a spot test. Most essential oil suppliers will have samples on display. Take a tissue with you and place a small drop of the sample oil onto the tissue. If the liquid disperses within a few minutes and leaves no stain on the tissue then you at least know that it has not been diluted with a carrier oil (a dirty trick some suppliers like to pull). Conversely, if the oil you are interested in is a 3% blend in a carrier oil, say Melissa 3% blend, then there better be a slight stain on the tissue after a few minutes...
To quote Aromatherapy Science (pg 78): "The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (1989) recognised 884 poisonous substances (many synthetics from petrochemicals) from 2983 chemicals used in the fragrance industry. Of these, many cause cancer, birth defects, CNS disorders, allergic respiratory reactions, skin and eye irritation." A little further down on page 79 we find: "Perfumes and fragrances are recognised as triggers for asthma by the American Lung Association and several other organisations concerned with respiratory health. The vast majority of materials used in fragrances are respiratory irritants and there are a few that are known to be respiratory sensitisers. Most have not been evaluated for their effects on the lungs and the respiratory system." And: "Patented chemicals are not tested until the patent expires, which may be after 17 years."
Chemical copies are dangerous and usually contain no therapeutic value. The reason is because of synergy. One plant oil can have over 100 known organic chemicals all working together in harmony in perfect ratios to each other. Scientists often cannot even determine all of the phenomes in plant oils much less copy them and patent them and further, sell them for a profit. In addition, a specific species of plant oil will have varying characteristics dependent upon plant part harvested, extraction method, specific habitat, and time of harvest. So, plant oils are about as natural and unique as human beings. Furthermore, nature has had thousands of years to figure out these mixtures and ratios. Scientific research and cloning is extremely insufficient by comparison.
Besides, why buy the fake one when you can get the real thing?
- If all of the oils in a shop are the same price... they are chemicals. Leave immediately.
- If the product is sold in stores like "The Body Shop", "The Face Shop", or "Walmart"... it's almost certainly a chemical.
- If the store also sells perfume products... there's a 90% chance that the essential oils are chemicals.
- Oils kept in clear bottles will not protect authentic, genuine essential oils from damage caused from light.
- Be wary of any large sized company. If they don't have information about the harvest places and times of the crops for the oils, consider shopping somewhere else.
- Stay away from any bottles that say "nature identicals", "perfume components", "perfume agents", "perfume constituents", "perfume", "isolates", "reconstitutions", and anything ending with "aroma" such as "Lemon Aroma", "Rose Aroma", "Violet Aroma", etc. In addition, I will also stay away from anything that has an "x" in the botanical name. Examples being: Lavendula x augustifolia, Mentha x piperita, Pinus x sylvestris, etc. What the "x" effectively means is that "yeah, there may be some of that in there (along with other stuff too)". The "x" seems to be more and more of a popular trend these days...
- Serious shoppers should always ask at least the following questions:
|1. ||What is the botanical name of the plant from which the oil came?
|2. ||What part of the plant was distilled?
|3. ||Which method was used to distill the plant? -- See Extraction Methods
|4. ||Was the plant naturally grown and harvested for the purpose of producing an essential oil? For example, if we are interested in Lemon oil, if the lemon peels came from lemons which were sprayed with pesticides then the lemon oil is going to also have pesticides in it - You know - The company says, "Oh, yeah, we're a "Green Company"! We make lemon juice (from pesticide sprayed lemons) and then use the peels to make Lemon essential oil!" - great for their profit margin to be sure but perhaps not so great for you, the aromatherapist... Furthermore, if the plant was a GMO then it won't produce an authentic genuine essential oil. If the oil was produced for the perfume industry or for the flavor industry then its likely not one very suitable for aromatherapy.
|5. ||Is there a Gas Chromatograph / Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) report for this oil that I can look at / have? If the vendor doesn't know what that is then that is bad... This shows that the seller has a very limited knowledge about essential oils... If the vendor knows what a GC-MS report is but doesn't have one to show you, well, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If the vendor can show you / give you a GC-MS report for the oil that they are selling then they are certainly more prepared and likely more knowledgeable about their product. They may even be somewhat skilled at reading the report and be able to tell you more about the oil from looking at the report. In addition, the report should have a date on it and this will give you a pretty good idea as to the age of the essential oil which is important when you think about shelf lives. --- However, a GC-MS report for an oil absolutely does NOT mean that the essential is genuine and authentic... For some examples of GC-MS reports which are incorporated into articles please see the reference page. For a better idea of what GC-MS is please see the following PDF Document -- this deals with food and flavor but still provides some good info about GC-MS. For a very detailed write-up of GC-MS please see the work done by S.E. Stein. For GC-IR equipment please see this application note from Spectra Analysis.
~ Last Update ☆ ~~ May 8, 2011
~ The Recommended Fine Print ~|
All information, suggestions, and opinions shown on this website are for educational purposes only and do not replace
medical advice nor are they intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease or health problems.
I am NOT a doctor and never, ever want to be one! I am not responsible for any of your health choices!
Information given here has not been evaluated by the US FDA nor by any other U.S. governing body to the
best of my knowledge nor does it replace the advice of any licensed health-care professional.
Your health is your responsibility!! Peace out. ~ Jonn ☆ ~~