understanding therapeutic grade essential oils and their benefits


The Fearmongers – Essential Oils Safety Part 2

Essential oil safety seems to be a huge topic with widely varying answers, and with a rapidly growing interest among those who seriously wish to use them for therapeutic purposes, it is a valid question.  However, it does not need to be nearly so confusing, and certainly does not need to deter people from enjoying the benefits of high quality therapeutic grade oils. It is important to understand the different schools of thought in the application of essential oils.  The German model relies primarily on inhalation as a way to receive the benefits of essential oils.  The British model takes a very conservative approach of using very diluted oils for massage.  They have a long list of oils which they believe should NEVER be used for any reason, and generally frown upon applying the oils neat (undiluted) or taken orally unless under the direction of a licensed healthcare professional. The French model, however, embraces application of essential oils through both neat (undiluted) and diluted topical application, internal use through ingestion and suppositories, and inhaling or diffusing the oils.

Most Aromatherapists in the U.S. are trained according to the British model, and the prominent National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) relies heavily on this school of thought.  Generally, they do not recognize therapeutic grade oils but tend to adopt safety precautions that do not distinguish between the many classes and grades of oils available, and make the assumption that the general public is likely to come to great harm using essential oils if they do not adhere to this very conservative philosophy.    Much of the fear-mongering results when these ideas are posted widely on various blogs and forums as broad generalizations and promoted as being widely accepted by leading authorities.  The inherent implication is that any other school of thought is automatically wrong regardless of reasoning.  Unfortunately this very narrow approach has little basis in fact and is very confusing for those who are simply and honestly trying to learn what essential oils may have to offer. One often repeated theme is advising people to purchase only from small dealers and not from MLMs or large corporations due to integrity or quality concerns.

Here is what Dr. Daniel Pénoël, M.D. one of the foremost authorities on the therapeutic use of essential oils has to say about Young Living, the world’s leading essential oils company which also happens to be MLM:

“Many companies have jumped onto the “aromatic bandwagon” solely for commercial reasons.  They simply do not know the meaning of “genuine” when it is implied to essential oils.  They market products that are made solely for what I call “recreational fragrancing….” 
     Gary Young, the founder and president of Young Living Essential Oils, understands the huge difference ….  His goal has been to create a means for producing therapeutic-grade essential oils-oils of the very highest quality-on a very large-scale.  While in most cases emphasis on quantity means decreasing quality, this is NOT the case with Young Living!
     To be able to certify completely the high-grade of his oils, Gary Young has also taken the ultimate step: He has developed his own farms and his own distillations techniques to guarantee the therapeutic quality he seeks.  He has become a true pioneer in developing these operations in the United States.  I wish everyone could see firsthand the Young Living aromatic farms.  From the nurseries, the fields, the distilleries, the lab, and the production department, it is an incredible and unforgettable experience!  Everything Rose-Marie and I wanted to see was shown to us, without concealing anything or any place.  For example, we saw the Bulgarian Rose essential oil with its special wax seal, the hallmark of a genuine essential oil superb quality.
     As always, I brought my own therapeutic-grade essential oils for the seminar, but I had no problem using the Young Living oils as well.  I found them to be top quality, definitely deserving the term, “therapeutic grade.”  Young Living was the first company to import the new Australian essential oil called “Rosalina” (Melaleuca ericifolia) to North America.  It was imported from one of the highest-grade, organic producers in Australia and sold out in just two days-a testament to its superior quality.”  Dr. Daniel Pénoël, M.D

Another common theme in fearmongering is that all representatives of MLM essential oil companies recklessly recommend, advocate and prescribe unsafe practices and uses of essential oils for the sole purpose of trying to sell the oils or sign up distributors.  It is interesting that many of these generalizations often come from small private aromatherapy practitioners who stand to gain customers of their own products and services by frightening them away from the MLM companies.  Sadly, these kind of practices are harmful for all essential oil companies, and for everyone who wishes to enjoy essential oils.

In fact, Gary Young of Young Living was the first health company leader willing to actively work with the FDA to achieve full compliance.  Young Living was audited by the FDA in January of 2015 and was the only health company in 7 years to receive a grade of 100% compliance for the company website and materials.  Young Living is actively working to make its members aware of what they can and cannot say while sharing their products to remain in compliance with FDA rules.

The truth is that a wide range exists in both MLM and large and small companies of experts truly knowledgeable in the many uses of essential oils.  Whether the company is large or small, MLM or not, really is not the defining factor.  It is also not accurate to portray that independent distributors who practice applying certain oils undiluted or ingesting them orally are doing so out of blatant ignorance and/or greedy motive, or that all or even the majority of respected authorities frown on such practices.  Such a philosophy completely ignores the French model of teaching about essential oils, which has been in existence much longer than the British model has, and is sustained by a large body of current and ongoing scientific research which has worldwide respect.

Aromatherapists aligned with NAHA and the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA) continue to warn loudly about undiluted application or oral ingestion and imply that anyone advocating or daring to do this without the explicit guidance of a licensed healthcare professional is engaging in something highly dangerous. While it is true that essential oils can be very potent and powerful when properly grown and distilled for therapeutic purposes, they are not drugs.  If an essential oil is on the FDA GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) List, this means they have a very long history of safe use when used as intended, going back more than 50 years.


Influential author and educator Robert Tisserand is often widely regarded as the father of modern aromatherapy, and to him we are certainly indebted for the English translations of Gattefossé’s Aromatherapy, the first aromatherapy book written by Dr. René-Maurice Gattefossé  in 1937, as well as Dr. Jean Valnet’s 1964 book, The Practice of Aromatherapy, which Tisserand also translated.  A native of Great Britain, Tisserand began practicing spiritual healing on his friends at the age of 17, and was fascinated the next year when his mother returned from Paris with an autographed copy of Valnet’s book.  He began selling essential oils out of his bedroom apartment four years later, and founded his essential oils company in 1974.  He still serves as a consultant for this company, now known as Tisserand Aromatherapy. His 1977 book, The Art of Aromatherapy, became an international best seller.  Later he become increasingly concerned with essential oils safety and his most recent updated version of Essential Oil Safety:  A Guide For Health Care Professionals is widely considered the go to book for answers.  Although Tisserand himself is neither a physician nor a chemist, and in fact does not claim any degree on his website, his intensive research and years of personal experience with the use of essential oils have gained him a worldwide reputation.  He has won many awards and presented at numerous conferences.  Tisserand, who came to the U.S. in 2000,  generally represents the more conservative British view, however even he notes in the first edition of his Essential Oil Safety, “We are aware that a book such as this could have the effect of presenting essential oils as generally dangerous substances – this is certainly not our intention. On the contrary, there are several instances where we have shown that supposed dangers do not in fact exist.  The majority of essential oils turn out to be non-hazardous as they are used in aromatherapy.”   Many aromatherapists have placed undue emphasis on Tisserand’s safety statistics without fully understand the context.  He notes, for example, that the text is largely drawn from the toxicology reports from the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials.  In other words, the safety issues apply primarily to oils of fragrance grade.  The testing was also mainly done using the LD50 levels for laboratory mice or rats.  This means that the test rodents are given increasingly large doses until half of the ones tested die – that dose is considered to be LD50.  These doses, incidentally, are generally much larger even than a human would use (consider a human weighing maybe 150x as much as a large laboratory rat) let alone a dose that might be appropriate for something as small as a rat or a mouse.  Tisserand states, “Toxicologists increasingly acknowledge that giving excessive doses of a substance to a genetically in-bred mouse living in a laboratory may not have great relevance to the human situation.”

Yet, numerous postings from the aromatherapy community continually refer to cases of poisoning and fatality from self-dosing of essential oil, yet none of them ever cite the source  where the records of all these so-called poisonings and fatalities from essential oils may be found.    If one searches for these, it is very difficult to find anything.  One however is a study published in the Feb 2001 Paediatrics & Child Health Journal .  This simply reviewed charts of calls to the Ontario Regional Poison Information Center, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto between Dec 1995 – March 1997.   Reading through the article, it is evident that virtually all of these cases referred to very young children accidentally ingesting various cold remedy products such as cough syrup or vapor-rub, composed of synthetic or lab-created ingredients or isolated chemical components of essential oils.  It really does not refer to even fragrance grade aromatherapy oils, much less pure unadulterated natural oils of therapeutic quality.  Most of these involved “camphorated” products or cold remedies  with menthol and eucalyptus – note that all of these are synthetic, laboratory engineered products which, even if they contain any real essential oil it is combined with many other synthetic chemicals.  Even so, of 244 calls made by parents and caregivers, only 29 callers reported the child actually showing any symptoms while at home, nevertheless a total of 76 children were referred to an acute care facility. None of these 76 children died and all cases resolved spontaneously.  Only two children briefly experienced seizures, one a 14 month old boy from ingesting an unknown quantity of 20% camphorated oil and a 19 month old girl from ingesting 50 ml  of Vick’s VaporRub (an amount comparable to more than 3 large 15 ml bottles of essential oil), but these also fully recovered without any lasting effects.

Tisserand notes that virtually all cases of serious poisoning from essential oils result from ingesting undiluted oils in quantity much higher than therapeutic doses.   Of the few cases he is able to cite, most refer to over the counter preparations such as cold remedy products, yet the essential oil is invariably blamed as the culprit even though it is invariably synthetic or lab created and combined with many other synthetic chemicals.  For example, Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) which contains 98% Methyl salicylate and thus is often pointed to as one of the most toxic of oils, began to be widely adulterated and created synthetically more than a hundred years ago.

Dr David Stewart, PhD, author of more than 200 publications including the excellent book, The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple,  is also a Registered Aromatherapist (RA) with the nationally recognized Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC), which is endorsed by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists (NAHA), of which he is a member.  He has also served on advisory committees to the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). He has testified as an expert on health matters before state legislative committees, U.S. congressional committees, medical licensing boards and courts of law throughout the U.S. as well as in Canada.  Dr. Stewart earned his PhD in Geophysics, which employs techniques  and knowledge  of chemistry, mathematics, and  physics in studying nature of the earth and its environment and understanding the complexity of dynamic behaviors.  He has won many awards and presented lectures around the world and has appeared on television in 44 countries.  Dr. Stewart provides an excellent understanding of the chemical differences between natural and synthetically created oils, as well as explaining the important relationship of numerous minor trace components in the whole pure oil which laboratory chemists cannot duplicate.  While it is true that all synthetic or laboratory manipulated forms of Wintergreen oil or Methyl Salicylate are highly toxic, the whole pure oil properly distilled for therapeutic effect, and used correctly is not.  Also, as Dr. Stewart explains, the true pure oils are easily metabolized by the body and do not cause harmful cumulative effects in the way synthetic substances do.

That said, it is important to understand that blanket generalizations are almost always misleading.   The British model generally states that ALL oils should ALWAYS be diluted and NO oils should EVER  be ingested or applied neat.  This belief is so firmly adhered to among those who follow this model that it is widely reported that MLM companies advocate blanket advice to ingest or apply neat any oil you want whenever you please  just because they may have encountered a representative of an MLM has provided information on a particular instance where a particular oil might be used neat or ingested.  This simply is not a fair nor accurate statement.  

The Essential Oils Desk Reference  (EODR) published by Life Science Publishing for instance is a massive work detailing specific information on the therapeutic oils offered by Young Living.  This includes safety precautions, recommendations for dilution, and the FDA GRAS list and guidelines for when and how certain oils might be used as a dietary supplement. It is an excellent and valuable resource for anyone genuinely interested in learning about essential oils,  however, followers of the British model will generally not even consider it, believing oral ingestion or neat applications should not be advocated under any circumstance. NAHA members and followers also state that Raindrop Therapy, developed by Gary Young in the 1980s and which calls for the neat application of specific oils dropped on the spine  undiluted in keeping with the French model, is highly dangerous.  The Raindrop practice does call for neat use of certain oils for which dilution is normally recommended in other applications, but it is necessary to view this in the context of its particular usage rather than automatically dismissing it as “wrong” or “dangerous” because it deviates from the British model. 

In order to perform the Raindrop Technique on others, one must become a Certified Raindrop Technique Specialist which involves a minimum of 72 hours of intensive training including formal classes.  Board Certified Raindrop Specialists must undergo 164 hours of training.  Additionally, for those not already having some type of certification as a healthcare professional which would license them to legally practice massage, additional training and licensing to become a Licensed Spiritual Healer is required.  Those who practice Raindrop must agree to use only Young Living essential oils for this purpose to ensure that oils adulterated with potentially harmful chemicals are not used.  Young Living does more quality testing of their essential oils than any other company, conducted at both their own laboratories and confirmed by third-party labs, and they maintain a strict “Seed to Seal” quality commitment, monitoring the entire planting, growth, harvest, distillation, and bottling phases regardless whether the oils are grown at their own farms or by some of their worldwide partners.  

It interesting that so much passion is stirred up by this topic among aromatherapists of the British model who insist such practices are completely unsafe,  when toxicity of many commonly used cosmetics and skincare products is far more widespread.  An article in The Huffington Post for example, reports over 10,000 toxic ingredients typically found in favorite beauty products, many of which are described in this Guide to Less Toxic Products.  In a new study, Environmental Defense found several favorite makeup brands contain toxic heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead which are not listed on the labeling.

It is also interesting that if consumer safety is the true and genuine concern, that such effort is being made to frighten and discourage people away from exploring therapeutic uses of essential oils.   In the paper Death by Medicine by Gary Null, PhD; Carolyn Dean MD, ND; Martin Feldman, MD; Debora Rasio, MD; and Dorothy Smith, PhD, shows the number of in hospital patients having adverse reactions to prescribed drugs is 2.2 million per year, and further, the total number of deaths caused by conventional medicine is 783,936 per year – which makes the American medical system the leading cause of death and injury in the U.S. 

Essential oils can be used very safely with a little care and common sense.   Since different people have different levels of sensitivity, caution is always advised to learn how your body may respond to different oils.  It is important to seek relevant safety and usage information specific to a particular oil and the company you are purchasing it.  Even if an oil is pure, there may be different species and sometimes different chemotypes of the same species resulting in major differences of the chemical constituents.  Adulterated, Extended, Synthetically derived,  or “nature-identical” oils do NOT behave the same or have the same safety considerations as a genuine pure oil properly grown and distilled for maximum therapeutic benefit.  And, just because an online store provides a link to download the GC/MS or other quality test for a particular oil is not necessarily any assurance that it is an actual test of the particular oil you are buying.  Most quality oils are distilled in small batches and tests can differ widely according to batch, source, growing conditions, distillation parameters and a variety of other factors so these would have to be updated far more frequently than would be practical to be an authentic representation of the results for a particular oil you receive in most cases.  For those who have a health condition, and/or questions about safely using an oil for a particular circumstance, consulting one’s healthcare professional is certainly recommended.  Essential oils are not drugs although they are very powerful and can have many beneficial therapeutic applications when carefully produced for this purpose.

For more information on the leading essential oil companies, their history, testing, and quality standards, check out the 45 page Young Living/DoTerra report

If you like this report and would like to make a small donation to help defray the costs of time and research, you may click the donate button here:

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and this information is for educational purposes only and not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. 

Scare Tactics – Internal Use of Essential Oils – Safe or Not?

Many blogs, Facebook posts, and emails are currently making the rounds, warning against taking essential oils internally. One for example, provides the comparison of drinking a single drop of chamomile oil to drinking 30 cups of chamomile tea in a day, and of course you wouldn’t drink that much tea so why would you drink a drop of the oil? First of all, let’s be clear. Essential oils are very concentrated, it is true. However, even assuming you know the source, and that the oil is pure without synthetic additives, a great many factors affect their therapeutic properties and actions. Seeds must first be carefully identified and selected from the correct species. Optimal conditions for planting, soil, weather, growing and harvesting are necessary, not to mention correct distillation procedures. Oil distilled from the same plant can have very different properties depending whether it is distilled from needles or leaves, bark, stems, buds, fruits, or flowers. Wide variation may also result if you simply harvest it on a different day or different time a day, or if you use different distillation parameters.

Chamomile tea is generally made from steeping the dried flowers and leaves in hot water. Is the chamomile tea you are drinking even the same species as the essential oil in question? Did it even come from the same locality? German Chamomile essential oil is steam distilled from the flowers and Roman Chamomile from the flowering tops. If you think about this at all, you will quickly realize that steeping a few dried chamomile flowers in hot water for a few minutes is hardly the same thing as the complicated process of correctly extracting a pure therapeutic oil through steam distillation. The fact that the oil is more concentrated really has nothing to do with it – you wouldn’t drink 30 cups of water in a day either!

The FDA has a very long list of essential oils on their GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) list, and/or listed as Flavoring Agents (FA), most of which were added due to a long history of safe use prior to 1958, which of course assumes it is really the pure oil. For that, you have to know who you are dealing with. But the essential oil dealers who do put synthetics in their oils are no worse than all these other companies putting the stuff on grocery shelves for you to consume, or the Pharmaceutical companies patenting these drugs. You just have to use common sense, know your supplier, and if you are serious about using essential oils, it is good to consult knowledgeable experts and try to learn everything you can.

When you begin to understand what it takes to produce some of these oils, you begin to realize there is no way some of these places offering them for extremely cheap prices can even be pure, much less therapeutic, but we have also been unfortunately conditioned to think cheaper is better. But you get what you pay for, and when it comes to your health, things like essential oils and natural supplements and healthy foods are important; you are not saving money by wasting it on cheap oils. Then there are those who, admitting the FDA has such a list of GRAS essential oils, complain that the dosages are not also listed. However, essential oils are not drugs. We are, unfortunately, very conditioned to trusting all these synthetic prescription drugs as safe, and we believe items in the grocery and drugstore are safe for human use and consumption, because we assume if they were not, the FDA or someone would not allow them to be there for sale, or would not allow doctors to prescribe these drugs. So it is funny how we trust those things but tend to be afraid of natural things.

Well, it is right to be cautious  with the essential oils because you want to be sure it is what it says it is and not something adulterated with harmful synthetics or chemical additives (which is common among essential oils you may find for sale in the health food store or other online places, even though the label may claim they are “pure” or “therapeutic”). Most of these do say NOT to take them internally, and that causes people to be afraid. But often the reason for these disclaimers is  because they know or suspect the oil they are selling as “pure” is not really pure but has harmful chemicals in it, and they of course don’t want to get sued.  So they would like to give you the impression that the oil itself is not safe rather than admit they adulterated it, or don’t have enough confidence in the testing they are able to afford, to be sure it is not.

According to the National Capital Poison Center, there were more than 17,000 cases of poisoning reported for children under 6 during 2012. Cosmetics and personal care products topped the list with 2692 cases, followed by pain medications with 1760. Other top causes in descending order included cleaners, foreign bodies, topical medicines, vitamins, antihistamines, batteries, plants and mushrooms, antimicrobials, arts and crafts, pesticides, and finally cough and cold medications with 419 cases. For adults 20 and older there were more than 13,000 cases reported with pain relievers topping the list at 2705, and sedatives and hypnotics second with 1966 cases. Following in descending order were cleaning substances, cardiovascular drugs, antidepressants, alcohols, food products/poisoning, pesticides, cosmetic and personal care products, antihistamines, stimulants and street drugs, and finally hormones and hormone agonists with 593 cases. Essential oils are not on either of these lists. Although essential oils are not drugs, it is true that they are very potent, concentrated substances and need to be treated with respect. Young children are quite capable of ingesting almost anything they can get in their mouths. This could range from anything like bugs, dirt, garden or household plants, unsecured medications, personal care products, and cleaners, to small parts of toys or other objects. A 1953 article by J.O. Craig discusses cases of toxicity in Edinburgh and Aberdeen occurring in the 20 year period between 1931-51. Of 502 cases of childhood poisoning, 74 were said to involve volatile oils, and of 454 deaths involving poisoning, 54 were said to be caused by volatile oils. The death of anyone is a tragedy, and any deaths involving children are especially heartbreaking. 

Whether or not essential oils may be safe to ingest is not the real question. Virtually everyone keeps large quantities of all kinds of substances in their homes which, if accidentally ingested by a child, could be potentially very harmful, even lethal. These may include all kinds of prescription or over the counter medications, vitamins, soaps, cleaners, perfumes, cosmetics, and the child’s own toys. People need to be responsible and vigilant where children are concerned, plain and simple. One case described by Craig refers to a five-year old boy being given a teaspoon of camphor oil for a cold when the mother said she had intended to give him olive oil. It seems more likely that she was confusing camphor oil with castor oil which was a common home remedy and since the boy got sick she was afraid to name either camphor or castor and said she meant to give him olive oil. The child experienced vomiting, sleepiness and confusion, but although he was admitted, no specific therapy was given and he fully recovered without any ill effects within 24 hours. Other incidents refer to Oil of Wintergreen or Methyl Salicylate, and Oil of Turpentine. It appears that most if not all of these cases involved synthetic versions or chemicals, and all cases were accidental with large quantities consumed. As very concentrated and potent substances, essential oils have a long history of needing only a single drop to a very few drops, however they are used.

Many of the warnings being passed around seem to imply that people are recklessly drinking essential oils by the bottle and that serious illness or fatality from use of essential oils, particularly ingesting them is a common thing. Some suggest that anyone who advocates ingesting an essential oil is only trying to get you to go through bottles of essential oil faster so they can make more money. This kind of talk has no real basis in fact and only serves to scare people unnecessarily.

The FDA states there are over 2 million Adverse Drug Reactions and 100,000 deaths each year. These are drugs properly prescribed by doctors and used as intended. They are the 4th leading cause of death overall, killing more people than pulmonary disease, diabetes, AIDS, pneumonia, accidents, and automobile death. As for money, at least 11 major pharmaceutical companies brought in more than $85 million apiece during 2012. This number pales in comparison to the huge payoffs the FDA is collecting, however. The Prescription Drug User Fee Act of 1992 authorizes the FDA to collect fees from companies that produce certain human drug and biological products. PDUFA established three types of user fees – application fees, establishment fees, and product fees. According to the FDA 2012 PDUFA Financial Report, in FY 2012, FDA collected $699.8 million in prescription drug user fees, spent $636.9 million in user fees for the review process, and carried a cumulative balance of $178.5 million forward for future fiscal years. 

A 2012 article in the Huffington Post points out many food additives that are causing a host of health problems, even numerous fatalities, which the FDA has failed to protect us from even when large bodies of evidence about harmful effects continues to mount. In fact, when the safety statistics of essential oils is compared with these food additives and prescription drugs, incidence of adverse reaction to essential oils are quite rare, and when sifted down usually prove to be caused by one of the following: 1) fragrance grade oils of questionable purity and quality 2) synthetic, adulterated, or extended oils, and 3) isolated compounds. Pure essential oils have a very long history of safe use going back thousands of years. Given these statistics, the idea that certain individuals or companies are trying to encourage a harmful practice of ingesting oils to get customers to consume a few more drops of oil each month so they can rack up large profits is rather absurd.

That said, since very few truly pure therapeutic grade essential oils exist while increasing numbers are labeled as such, it is well to be cautious. Individuals are all different and may respond to oils differently, so it is a good thing to get familiar with each new oil to try to learn how your body responds. It is also important to understand that synthetic, adulterated, or extended oils, or isolated compounds are simply not the same as a pure oil. Even when the oils are pure and properly distilled, there are often different chemotypes and there may be considerable differences in oils that were grown in different localities, or sometimes even different batches. A few companies, such as Young Living do have high quality therapeutic grade oils, many of which are on the FDA’s GRAS list and have been safely ingested by thousands for many years as a dietary supplement. I personally use several regularly for internal use and have never had any problems with internal use of these essential oils which have been listed by the FDA for dietary supplement. Young Living carefully oversees the entire Seed to Seal process at all of their nine farms around the world, as well as the many produced by partner growers in other worldwide locations. Young Living rigorously tests all oils in their own labs which have some of the most extremely sophisticated testing equipment in the entire world. In addition, all oils are further tested by highly regarded third-party labs for verification. Thus they are able to produce batches of oil year after year with a high degree of consistency. Young Living also offers a wide range of training with many books, introductory classes, and training sessions regularly held across the country so people can easily learn and direct others to appropriate materials on the safe and beneficial use of essential oils.

If you have questions about internal use of essential oils, consulting your doctor or healthcare professional is always recommended, especially for those who have health conditions and/or may be taking prescription medications. Do your research and first of all make sure you are dealing with a reputable company who has a long track record of high quality standards and has the means to personally monitor all phases of the growing and distilling process of their own or partner producers, and who conducts rigorous testing. While many feel that dealing with smaller companies is safer, be aware that a number of the smaller companies usually have far fewer resources and funding at their disposal to carry out extensive testing or personally monitor the growers and distillers who supply them.

Do your homework and be sure your supplier does have an active relationship with their growers and distillers and are not simply repackaging and selling you oils they broker simply by placing phone or online orders without any real knowledge of how the oils they are selling are grown and distilled. If you wish to use oils internally, be sure you buy from a supplier who is confident enough regarding the quality of their oils to be able to definitely tell you how their customers are using the oils, point you to supporting educational material, and not simply offer some vague response like “we cannot say, it is up to you whether you want to ingest the oils.” Be sure to carefully research any oil you may wish to use internally, and that you understand the properties of the specific oil you are using and that you follow the recommended use guidelines and are fully aware of any potential concerns that may arise, and know what to look for.

Oils taken internally should always be diluted by taking with food, such as a drop taken in at least 4 oz of liquid, a spoonful of honey, piece of bread, etc.  They may also be taken by placing in clear vegetable capsules, and diluted with olive oil, for example, adding 2-4 drops of the essential oil and filling the rest of the capsule with olive oil.  However, this may vary depending on the oil being used and what you are using for.  Be sure you have done adequate research and know the recommendations for the specific oil you are using.  

In closing, it may be said that safe use of essential oils or any other product you would consume or apply topically is always something you should pay attention to, and not just assume that it is safe because it is available for purchase.  It is important to pay attention and to realize that not all oils are created equal and while oils from one company may be safe, oils from another may not.  Know your source.  Also make sure you have information specific to the species of oil and the supplier you are getting it from.  Avoid all oils which may have synthetic additives and do not simply rely on a label that says “pure”, “organic”, or “therapeutic”.  It is important to understand that synthetically manipulated oils and compounds are not the same as pure unaltered oils and they do not work in the same way.  Although some Aromatherapists see no difference in the safety of synthetic vs natural compounds, the isomers (shape or arrangement of the molecules) are not the same.  Synthetic versions are also lacking in many minor trace components which may seem unimportant, however they can have a huge impact on the property of the whole oil.  For example, as Dr. David Stewart points out in his book, The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, sulfur compounds probably occur in most essential oils but usually in concentrations of only one part per million (ppm) to less than one part per billion (ppb). These are too low to be detected by Gas Chromatography, however they will almost always affect the fragrance of an oil. The scent of grapefruit is caused by a sulfur compound thioterpineol, a tiny amount of less than one ppb. Dr. Stewart explains that one ppb is equivalent to five drops in an olympic swimming pool – yet its presence dominates the scent of grapefruit.  This is just one illustration of why these minute components can be very critical to how an oil works and while laboratories can isolate a few of the main molecules, they cannot reproduce the myriad of components that occurs in the natural oil.  These minor components can govern many different properties of the whole oil, and thus safety of a synthetically altered oil or a lab created synthetic copy of one of its compounds is entirely different in safety than the natural substance.

Your supplier should be able to provide substantial information on their quality and testing standards.  Organoleptic testing (touch, taste, smell) is simply not enough, there are very few people in the world who have the natural ability and added training to be an expert “Nose” in regard to essential oils.

At the same time, there is no reason to use scare tactics.   Sources of pure, therapeutic grade essential oils do exist, and genuine oils of this class used within their recommended guidelines can be very safe as well as beneficial.

To  learn more about different therapeutic grade essential oils and their properties and safe use, please visit The Oil Well

For more information on the leading essential oil companies, their history, testing, and quality standards, check out the 45 page Young Living/DoTerra report

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and this information is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.


The Truth About Wintergreen Essential Oil

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), is not a mint in spite of its strong flavor that is often popular in chewing gum toothpaste, and mouthwash.  It is actually a member of the Ericaceae, or heather family which has nearly 12,000 species among its members.  Wintergreen has origins in both China and North America and is steam distilled from leaves and bark.   It is an anticoagulant, antispasmodic, highly anti-inflammatory, lowers blood pressure and has analgesic/anesthetic properties beneficial for all types of pain.  Its leaves were chewed by Native Americans to increase respiratory stamina.  It was also used as a substitute for Black Tea during the Revolutionary war.

Wintergreen contains over 90% Methyl Salicylate, which is a powerful  pain reliever and which led to its artificial manufacture as an ingredient in creams and liniments more than 150 years ago.  Gradually, synthetic Methyl Salicylate began to replace pure and natural Wintergreen Oil because it is less expensive to produce.  It is still frequently identified as “oil of wintergreen” on labels, even though it is synthetic.  However, the pure chemical Methyl Salicylate is very different from pure and natural therapeutic grade Wintergreen essential oil.  Even though Methyl Salicylate is the dominant component of Wintergreen essential oil, accounting for over 90% of its makeup – the properly distilled essential oil still contains hundreds of other trace biochemical compounds which affect its balance and therapeutic properties.  Moreover, natural Methyl Salicylate as found in pure Wintergreen essential oil is easily absorbed by the body, is not toxic, and does not accumulate in the system.  Synthetic Methyl Salicylate does accumulate in the body, and can reach toxic levels.  It is important to understand that most over the counter drugs are not reviewed and approved by the FDA, but they can be marketed if they comply with applicable regulations and policies.  This results in confusion on both sides of the issue as many people are unaware of the possible risks of synthetic “oil of wintergreen” or Methyl Salicylate  in popular over the counter joint and muscle creams – at the same time, much information is circulated that all Wintergreen essential oil is dangerous and toxic, an opinion held by many Aromatherapists.

Methyl salycylate is the same ingredient in aspirin, and wintergreen essential oil would be considered toxic for adults if they consumed 30 ml at once – not surprising since this would be the equivalent of taking 171 aspirin.  For children, a proportionately much smaller dose, 10 ml, would be toxic.  However, all true pure essential oils are very potent, especially if properly distilled for therapeutic properties and require only one drop to at most a very few drops at a time for any person.   In these minute quantities it is considered by the FDA as a Flavoring Agent or Food Additive, and safe for that purpose, but common sense is required. Essential oils should be kept out of reach of children, the same as any medications or personal care products which could be accidentally ingested.  One should also be aware that its blood-thinning properties may be enhanced if used in conjunction with aspirin or common blood-thinning drugs such as Coumadin (Warfarin).

For topical use Wintergreen is considered a hot oil and should be diluted, one drop essential oil to four parts vegetable or other carrier oil.  As much of the Wintergreen oil sold is either synthetic or extended with synthetic additives, special care should be taken to obtain it from a trusted dealer of pure therapeutic grade essential oils.

For more information on the leading essential oil companies, their history, testing, and quality standards, check out the 45 page Young Living/DoTerra report

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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and this information is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.