Saturday, October 24, 2015

Making Sense of Grade and Quality Designations of Essential Oils

There is a lot of misinformation about the "quality" of essential oils. The internet seems to provide as many definitions and explanations as it has websites on the topic. Unfortunately, most of this is just clever marketing designed to make you believe that "their" essential oils are the best, or purest, or highest quality on the market. 

Let's deal with the easy part first. An essential oil designated as "certified organic" means the plant from which the essential oil came was grown under certain conditions and standards, and, that these conditions were monitored and checked out by an independent third party. The United States and Canada have different respected bodies, but, they pretty much all meet the same criteria. Some examples of reputable designations are Ecocert and Oregon Tilth, as well as USDA Organic. There are others. These agencies monitor the activity of the growers and ensure that their standards are met. Getting these designation involves monitoring, and, consequently a hefty fee for the service provided.

Other terms that are used to describe the conditions under which the plants are grown include "wildcrafted", "unsprayed", and "cultivated without chemicals". In all fairness, some of these products are indeed of an organic nature, but, without the designation, you have no way to be sure that the organic standards are met. Getting the organic designation is expensive, and small growers, who are often the best kind, may not be able to pay the large fees required for official designation and stay competitive. Although these products are very attractive, you have to accept that the growers definition of organic and yours may be different. The oils from these plants are not regulated, and therefore, not able to be certified.

Now for the more complicated designations. You will hear various companies talk about their oils being "therapeutic grade", "pure" grade, "aromatherapeutic" grade, "perfume" grade, or designate their oils with numbers. Some of these terms are trademarked, and offered only by a certain supplier. But, there are NO unified definitions for any of these terms. They are a marketing tool only. To quote Steve Borden, a Compliance Officer for Essential Wholesale and Labs (an excellent supplier of many aromatherapy items in the United States):

 "I am not aware of any regulatory agency that defines, monitors, or enforces any such standards. Provided that there is no false advertising involved, a seller is just as free to market their products with these descriptions as consumers are to be attracted to them. So if you are buying a Lavender I, II or III you need to understand that this is strictly a marketing ploy by the supplier to sell a similar product at a potentially higher price.  There may be little to no difference in the chemical makeup or aroma of that oil.  Don’t be fooled by these terms, either an essential oil is pure unadulterated or it is adulterated.  It is either certified organic or it is not."

So, there you have it. Like so much else in life, purchasing essential oils is definitely a "buyers beware" kind of deal.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Can Aromatherapy Improve Health?

There is a lot of misinformation about what aromatherapy is....and, what it can do. Right off: aromatherapy is NOT nice smelling dish soap. It is the use of natural plant extracts, called essential oils, that are used in a therapeutic manner so as to achieve balance in body, mind, and spirit.

Brown University  (Providence, Rhode Island) noted in a recent review of 18 aromatherapy studies that "odours can affect mood, physiology and behaviour." It can do this, because nerves that carry odour signals to your brain communicate directly with areas involved with emotion and learning. It may explain why aromatherapy can do the following:

(1) The scent of grapefruit dampens food cravings. This study was done at Osaka University, in Japan. Grapefruit is one of the oils used in eScential Wellness' Food Craving Tamer Inhaler (

(2) Lavender, sandalwood and sweet orange can relax a person, and may reduce anxiety. One study found the scent of these oils reduced anxiety in breast cancer survivors; and another found that the scent of lavender reduced the pain of needle injections for children who had had tonsillectomies. Yet another study provided evidence that sniffing lavender, roman chamomile and neroli calmed anxiety, improved sleep and stabilized blood pressure in heart patients who received stents to open blocked arteries in the heart. eScential Wellness Anti-Anxiety inhaler contains lavender, and other, proven anti-anxiety scents not mentioned in these studies. (

(3) The scent of rose essential oil leads to deeper, longer sleep. (Japan's Mie University Graduate School of Medicine.)

(4)Rosemary improved memory (U.K's University of Northumbria)

(5) Peppermint oil, inhaled post surgery, reduced nausea. (See eScential Wellness' Nausea Relief Inhaler

Next post, I will provide some ways to incorporate these oils into your life, and, provide some safety information. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Safely Using Essential Oils

I give workshops throughout the year, and, I am always alarmed at the amount of misinformation that exists about the proper use of essential oils.

Because essential oils are derived from plants, so are "natural," and they have been used for literally millennia, people often assume they are safe. Not necessarily so.

They should never be ingested. They should always be diluted...a lot! before being applied to the skin. Occasionally, someone will have a sensitivity to an oil and develop a skin reaction, even if the oils were indeed diluted before use. There is nothing in existence that is incapable of provoking an allergic reaction in a sensitive individual. Sure, some substances are more likely than others to cause a problem, but even very "safe" products can cause reactions in some people. Very few essential oils have been tested in the same way, and with the same intensity, as pharmaceuticals. Yet people willingly swallow, apply and diffuse essential oils...even around children and pets.

Children, with their undeveloped immune systems, immature livers, thinner skin and smaller body size and mass, can be particularly sensitive to essential oils.

There is the small possibility that an applied essential oil could react with another medication a person is taking.

Even quality, pure essential oils vary in their components, so, what is in one bottle may not be in the next one.

Always err on the side of caution.

Less is more!

Some guidelines:

(1) Never ingest essential oils
(2) Dilute essential oils if you are applying them to skin. 18 drops in 1 ounce (30 mls) of carrier oil is a 3% dilution and should be safe for adults
(3) Evidence is accumulating that essential oils should not be used around children under 6. Even diffusion. Ever, For any reason.
(4) ABSOLUTELY avoid eucalyptus and peppermint oils around children. They have an ingredient (1,8 cineole) that has been implicated in respiratory collapse in young children.
(5) If any discomfort, irritation, rash or redness appears on the skin after applying an essential oil, wash it off gently with lots of water and mild soap. Do not continue use. See a doctor if the irritation persists, or, if there is any change in your breathing.
(6) Keep all oils safely locked away from young children
(7) Ingestion can cause damage to the esophagus, stomach and liver. NEVER SWALLOW AN ESSENTIAL OIL. Some oils can cause seizures if taken internally (like sage or camphor). Some are just plain poisonous (like pennyroyal.)
(8) Dogs have very sensitive noses. There is speculation that using essential oils on dogs is unkind. If they are annoyed by the scent, they cannot escape it or wash it off. And, even if YOU can't smell the oil, it is very likely the dog can. I would avoid using essential oils EVER on pets.
(9) Consult a certified aromatherapist if you have questions on the safety of essential oils. Sales people are NOT usually certified aromatherapists. Verify this before accepting advice
(10) Even the best trained aromatherapist is NOT a physician. Always consult your own doctor for diagnosis and advice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Can Essential Oils Be the New Antibiotics?

The Jan. 26 edition of "The Atlantic" printed a lengthy article about the search for antibiotic replacements. As so many bacteria have become resistant to existing antibiotics, farmers are turning to plant extracts to keep animals healthy.

The reality is that essential oils have many antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Research supports their use to alleviate health conditions such as migraines, nausea, and some of them can even kill cancer cells (in test tubes.) Although work done to date has only taken place in the lab, findings are encouraging that they may have a role to play in keeping animals healthy. At this time, about 80% of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals to keep them healthy in the crowded and less-than-ideal conditions in which the animals are kept. A lot of the antibiotics used to help animals grow are also used in people, to fight illness.

Unfortunately, this overuse has allowed bacteria to grow resistant to the antibiotics. This means they are no longer effective in humans. The article goes on to explain that recent studies are promising. Chickens fed a mixture of oregano, cinnamon and chili peppers were able to stay disease free, but not have any side effects, nor cause bacteria to become resistant. A multi-year study at the United States Department of Agriculture is investigating the role that essential oils might play in reducing the widespread use of antibiotics in animals for prevention of disease (rather than treatment of existing illness.)

Lots of studies are underway. There are pitfalls: people are reluctant to change from existing methodology, and, there is no ability of pharmaceutical companies to make money from essential oils, so, money is not being channeled into research.

The article is lengthy, but fascinating. If you want to read more, click here: