by Amanda Box
Making “Scents” of Essential Oils
Essential oils have been around for thousands of years. Used by ancient Egyptians, these precious oils were some of the world’s first medicines! Essential oils are even mentioned 188 times in the Bible, referenced as anointing oil and used to heal the sick.
Today, essential oils have become one of the hottest products on the market… and rightly so!
As a traditional naturopath, I am delighted that people are using essential oils rather than pharmaceutical drugs to heal their ailments.
Just 10 years ago, most people had no idea that the frankincense and myrrh given to baby Jesus were gifts of medicinal essential oils! Today, thousands of people regularly use these ancient oils in their own homes!
Even with all the excitement surrounding these therapeutic oils, I must voice some concerns.
When a natural product escalates in popularity, the excitement can lead to extravagant health claims. I’ve seen this happen with many MLM (multi-level marketing) companies. They produce great health shakes, skin care products and diet products with hundreds, if not thousands, of success stories! Unfortunately, in the quest to sell more product, people make statements that just aren’t true!
This dynamic can make sifting through the propaganda to find the truth about essential oils a daunting task!
Although my degree in naturopathy required a course in aromatherapy, I am not an aromatherapist and by no means an expert. However, I have been around essential oils and aromatherapy for nearly 15 years. I used the popular Young Living brand oils and experienced their Raindrop Technique® long before they became the monumental company they are today.
I use essential oils, but I also believe in using a holistic approach towards health. I eat a healthy diet and use a combination of not just essential oils, but also vitamins, supplements and herbs. I also don’t promote any one brand or company as the “holy grail” of essential oils. I believe there are several essential oil companies that produce quality oils that can bring about health and healing in the human body.
My goal in this article is to help you feel more comfortable with essential oils. I hope I can open your eyes to their safe and effective uses. Essential oils aren’t just some sort of gimmick, but a legitimate method to bring about whole body health!
If you use essential oils but would like additional information, or if you’re apprehensive about their uses and effectiveness, then I encourage you to read on. May you gain clarity amidst the massive amounts of misinformation about essential oils.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils originate from highly fragrant substances found in specialized cells or glands of certain plants. When this aromatic substance is contained in the plant, it is called an essence. These fragrant substances are then extracted from the part of the plant that contains the aromatic essence. For example orange oil comes from the rind, rose oil from the flower, peppermint oil from the leaves, and cinnamon oil from the bark.
Once extracted, this fragrant oil is called an essential oil! The plants used for essential oils are harvested all over the world. Certain geographical regions provide the best soil conditions, climate and altitude for the plants to grow. It takes hundreds or even thousands of pounds of plant material to make a pound of essential oil! For example, it takes 150 pounds of lavender to produce just 1 lb of lavender oil! Thus, essential oils are extremely potent!
The methods used to extract the essential oils can separate quality from cheaper, less pure oils. There are four common methods of essential oil extraction:
- Steam distillation
- CO2 extraction
- Cold pressing
- Solvent extraction
Steam distillation is the most common form of distraction, and creates very pure oil. In this method, pressurized steam is circulated through the plant. The heat from the steam opens the specialized aromatic cells or glands and releases the essential oils. The oil then travels with the steam molecules through a tube into the still’s condensation chamber. As this mixture cools, it condenses into oil and water. Here, the essential oil naturally separates from the water.
CO2 extraction is similar to steam distillation, but instead of water, liquid CO2 is used. After the oil from the plant is extracted, the CO2 returns into gas. This method is sometimes preferred because of its pleasant aroma.
Cold pressing is using a non-heating pressing method to squeeze out the juice and essential oils from the plant. This is typically used with rinds of fruit like orange, lemon and lime. When pressed, the essential oil rises to the top and separates from the juice in a centrifuge.
Solvent extraction dissolves the essential oils from the plant. The result is a solid product that must then be filtered and purified. Solvent extraction produces a stronger scent called an absolute. But, the toxic chemical solvents used can leave residues in the final product. These residues can lead to skin irritations and compromise the healing capacity of the oil. The perfume industry loves this method because of the strong fragrance it produces. However, aromatherapists do not recommend the use of absolutes because they have little medicinal value.
Quality of Essential Oils
Many essential oil companies will use terms such as “therapeutic grade, aromatherapy grade, or certified” to promote their oils as superior. However, these are nothing more than marketing terms coined to promote their oils as superior to the rest.
Oils tested by a third party do not grade the oil as being therapeutic or not. The benefits of third-party lab testing reveal contaminants and variations in the chemical composition of the oil. A quality company will have their oils third-party tested on a regular basis. This assures that their customers are truly getting what they are paying for!
Don’t let marketing claims made by essential oil companies sway you. Two companies, doTERRA and Young Living, market their oils “certified” and “therapeutic grade.” Though I don’t feel comfortable with their marketing choices, I do believe these companies produce quality essential oils. I am a huge fan of some of their blends.
- I wear Young Living’s Stress Away daily.
- I also use Valor, Grounding, and Thieves.
- doTERRA’s Deep Blue and In Tune are two of my favorites as well.
Unless you are benefiting from the MLM structure of these companies, you can purchase quality oils from other companies at lower prices. Again, I hold no allegiance to one company. I wish those who make their incomes through multi-level marketing companies the best. However, for those like myself, who are only using essential oils for personal use, finding quality essential oils at the best price is important!
When looking for a quality essential oil company, it is important to look for these attributes:
- Undiluted, unadulterated pure essential oils
- The common and botanical name
- The extraction method
- The country of origin
- Safety warnings
- Recommended uses
- List of other oils it blends well with
- Lab testing for quality
Though everyone has their opinions on the best oils on the market, below are the essential oil companies I trust and believe to produce lab tested, quality essential oils.
- Aromatic International
- Essential Oil Exchange
- Heritage Essential Oils
- Nature’s Gift
- Mountain Rose Herbs
- New Directions Aromatics
- Young Living
As you can see, there are far more than two essential oil companies on the market. When purchasing single essential oils, the prices will vary between companies. I encourage you to try oils from different companies. Many of them offer small sample sizes for a very low price point for you to try. You will soon find aromas you prefer and seem to work best for you and your family!
What information have you never thought about before about essential oils?
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Amanda Box is a Traditional Naturopath and a graduate of Clayton College of Natural Health. She’s been in the health and wellness industry for over 12 years and currently practices naturopathic consulting in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Her passion is helping others achieve wellness of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t have a good local naturopathic practitioner to turn to for your personal needs, Amanda does phone consultations! She can help you with weight loss, detox/cleansing, acute and chronic illnesses, skin and body care, grocery shopping, pantry overhauls, and more! Visit her blog “My Life in a Healthnut Shell” at http://amandabox.blogspot.com/ for contact info.