One of my readers asked me about the veracity of this statement. This post is dedicated to you Ms. Inquisitive.
Most essential oil consumers are familiar with this catch phrase. It has become ubiquitous to the essential oil consumer culture. The reality is there truly is not an essential oil for everything. Essential oils can greatly support mental, emotional, and physical health when used correctly. Essential oils, hydrolats, and infused oils can be immensely supportive of building connection through relaxing the hyper-vigilance of the individual who has experienced trauma. Using the appropriate infused and essential oil in a massage blend not only supports the recipients ability to relax but also helps build bonds of connection between the loved one giving the massage and the person receiving it. For those that are sensory avoidant or sensitive a hydrolat blend of calming botanicals can greatly support their emotional needs.
Part of me truly wishes there was an essential oil or essential oil blend to solve all of life's challenges. The sustainability part of me knows if there was such an ability it would ravage the earth far beyond any damage we've seen to date.
Essential oils come from plants. Essential oil consumers from home users, to aromatherapist, to aromatherapy practitioners need to be aware of and connected to the reality of that. We must look at the big picture here, which sadly we haven't had to do in the US for more than a few generations. If we continue to ignore the reality of the environmental needs of medicinal aromatics then we will continue to over consume to the point that they become extinct.
Just as many American's have no idea where their food comes from, who produces, or who grows it, and under what conditions it is produced or grown. This has it’s own environmental impact on the planet, those processing the food, and the people consuming the food. The same is even more true for essential oils because of the sheer mass of plant material needed to produce a single drop of essential oil.
Essential oil consumers cannot afford to be so far removed from the process of getting that precious and potent drop of essential oil into the bottle. The planet and its people cannot afford to continue in the darkness of being uninformed and over consuming such a potent botanical resource.
Before it's a drop of essential oil it is first a plant or part of a plant. Many experienced essential oil consumers are familiar with the statistic that it takes over fifty roses to produce one drop of rose essential oil. This is why true rose essential oil retails for over $200 for a teaspoon. Sadly some people sell rose absolute as a pure essential oil at the same price so you really have to know your supplier is credible or understand the science behind the GC/MS reports before you pay that price. Anytime you see rose for a ‘too good to be true’ price, it’s either rose absolute, synthetic rose, or diluted rose.
The process of producing an absolute involves extracting the fragrance from the botanical through the use of organic solvents like hexane or toluene. The absolute process is one method of getting the scent from delicate flowers that cannot withstand the heat necessary to undergo the steam distillation process. Rose is one of the few delicate floral plant sources that can be processed via steam distillation. However, steam distillation has a much lower yield of production than an absolute. This is why properly labeled absolutes are cheaper than pure rose steam distilled essential oil.
A synthetic rose is created in a lab and is a mix of various industrial chemicals that when combined smell like rose. The end result is a little “too rosy”, you know that scent of rose candles and rose eau de toilet. It’s cloying and sticky and overwhelms your senses. When the average person smells a pure rose essential oil of quality for the first time, they hardly recognize it as rose because all they’ve ever experienced is the cloying and overwhelming synthetic rose.
A diluted rose is where somewhere in the process, someone took a percentage of rose essential oil and pre-diluted it with carrier oil. This happens at various strengths depending on the plant matter and the retailer.
We hear a lot about endangered animals and we should, we need to be informed so we can take preventative measures before it’s too late. We rarely if ever hear stories of endangered plants in the media. We need to be just as informed about our medicinal and aromatic plants.
There are many recent events that highlight the importance of the need for essential oils consumers to be conscientious of their consumption of all essential oils because the reality is they’re highly potent and we really don’t need to use very much at all to get their benefit. Climate change is one factor of critical importance in essential oil and food production. The impact of climate change is being observed all over the world.
For example, in 2015 Madagascar experienced a significant drought, while in 2016 they experienced a cyclone. Madagascar is the leading producer of vanilla beans. Vanilla beans are used in aromatherapy, perfumery, and food production. The price of vanilla beans jumped from $100 US/kg in 2015 to roughly $600/kg currently.* Prices are expected to continue to rise into 2018 and potentially beyond that depending on how mother nature treats Madagascar over the next couple of years, and Madagascar’s ability to recover from these events.
This truth is not limited to vanilla. We see shrinking availability of raw materials for many aromatic plants. Resins and tree based essential oils of frankincense, sandalwood, myrrh, palo santo, rosewood and especially agar wood. Most of my readers haven't heard of agar wood. It is so endangered that there are armed guards where the trees grow to protect the trees against poachers; just as Madagascar has had to hire guards to protect the vanilla beans.
People all over the world use botanicals to support their health. It’s imperative that those of us who consume products produced with essential oils do so mindfully and judiciously.
Some judicious ways to use aromatic plants include using hydrolats which are produced at greater volume during the distillation process. A colleague of mine just distilled for the first time and yielded just over a liter from the pound of plant matter she used.
Another option is infused oils, where a small amount of plant matter is placed in a container and covered with a clean carrier oil then allowed to infuse for the appropriate period of time. I just decanted two aromatic infusions this week. I had a quart of Rosa damenscena (rose) and a quart of Matricaria recutita (German chamomile). From each quart I was able to decant 20 ounces of infused oil. I used just a few ounces to plant matter to fill the jars before adding the carrier oil. I will use these in my blending to subtly layer the scent for some clients, and in place of essential oils with my clients going through chemotherapy.
I grow some of the plants I use aromatically. I do not distill anything myself because of the sheer volume needed to initiate that process. I have three different rose bushes but I would need thousands of rose bushes to distill rose. I grow Helichrysum italicum (Helichrysum), Matricaria recutita (German chamomile), and Lavendula angustifolia (Lavender). I have enjoyed learning more about these botanicals since I’ve added them to my garden but I need to completely rebuild the infrastructure of my garden if I want to ever reach the point of distillation at home. I’m having that work done this year and hope to be able to plant several of the medicinal plants I work with next year to distill my own hydrolats. I will let you know how the process is going.
Until then, please think of “There’s an Oil for That” phrase in these terms. If there were an essential oil single or blend for every problem that troubles mankind we wouldn’t have oncologist-treating cancer. We wouldn’t have a need for psychiatrist to prescribe psychiatric medications to manage bi-polar, or schizophrenia. Essential oils can be supportive to many physical, mental, and emotional health issues. They are not a magic bullet. They’re one tool of many that should be used with the same level of respect and caution with which one uses prescription medications.
The selfish side of me wishes I were wrong. I wish there truly was an essential oil or essential oil blend for “that”. If there were I wouldn’t be worried about my dear friend who is battling metastatic cancer. I would just whip up a blend and know she was going to be fine.
The environmentalist side of me is glad there isn’t an essential oil or essential oil blend for “that” because it would ravage the earth as we know it. Remember proper dilution of essential oils depends on the age and health of the person using the essential oils as well as the essential oil being used. Working with a certified aromatherapist or clinical aromatherapist practitioner will ensure that you’re using essential oils judiciously.
©2017 Cynthia Tamlyn-CCA
DISCLAIMER THIS BLOG IS FOR INFORMATIONAL & EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN DOES NOT CONSTITUTE, PREEMPT, OR SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE NOR IS IT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, CURE, TREAT, OR PREVENT DISEASE OR HEALTH ISSUES.ALWAYS CONSULT WITH A QUALIFIED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE USING OR APPLYING ANY OF THE SUGGESTIONS CONTAINED ON THIS BLOG.ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.