Common Essential Oil Myths Busted!

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by Amber M. LaBorde

The dawn of the Internet age opened up a whole new and ever-expanding informational highway that has liberated many and also, unfortunately, misinformed many.

Anyone who wants to have a blog, website etc. can have one and they can post just about anything they want to these sites. No matter how well intended these bloggers are, many are putting information out there that is incorrect, and sometimes even dangerous.

Although essential oils are natural, don’t ever underestimate their power to heal and even their power to harm. Essential oils should never be approached without caution and much understanding as to their safe application.

Essential oils are highly concentrated chemical compounds.  HIGHLY CONCENTRATED is the key piece here. 

To give you an idea of this: it takes between:

•      150-250 pounds of Lavender flowers and top leaves to make one pound of oil

•      20 pounds of lemon peels to make 1 drop of oil

•      Approximately 12,000 pounds of delicate rose petals to make one pound of oil

•      Approximately 1,000 pounds or 3 million jasmine flowers to make a pound of oil

•      Around 250 pounds of peppermint leaves to make one pound of oil

•      One drop of peppermint oil is equivalent to drinking 26-28 cups of peppermint tea

Would you be willing to sit down and eat 20 pounds of lemon peels…what would that do to you? Are you willing to drink 26-28 cups of peppermint tea in one day?

The combination of growing interest in alternative therapies, including essential oils, combined with the internet, has made it possible for some very misleading information to be published. Let me help you out by shinning some light on some of these myths while giving you some facts to help clear things up!

There is only one truly pure and superior essential oil brand…….

There are many quality brands of essential oils at a variety of price points. Brand name and price tag do not necessarily mean higher quality and purity. When checking out an essential oil company, see if they offer batch-specific GC/MS reports (these detail the chemical profile of every essential oil sold). Then, find out how the botanical material is sourced and how fresh it is to the company from their supplier. That should give you a good idea of the company and its standards. Choosing an essential oil brand usually comes down to doing your research, checking your budget, and going with your gut.

Make sure the essential oils you use are therapeutic grade…….

The term “Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils” is a potentially misleading claim.  There is no governmental agency or generally accepted organization that "grades" or "certifies" essential oils as "therapeutic grade," "medicinal grade," or "aromatherapy grade" in the U.S.  There is no formally approved grading standard used consistently throughout the essential oil industry.   Initially, ‘therapeutic grade” meant that an essential oil was distilled to contain the correct chemical constituents to produce the therapeutic effect of a specific essential oil.  What, exactly, does "therapeutic grade" mean?  It means nothing, in fact it is simply a term tossed around to impress. Young Living Essential oils trademarked the term “Therapeutic Grade.”  Therefore the use of this term is in violation of a trademark.

Let’s get one thing straight: the term therapeutic grade provides marketing weight rather than signifying that the oils meet a regulated quality standard. A helpful Facebook page called Essential Oil University, unaffiliated with any oil company, is dedicated to busting essential oil myths like this one. The author of the page, Dr. Robert Pappas, explains:

  “There seems to be a misconception that there is some kind of independent body that certifies oils as therapeutic grade, but to this date there is no such body, at least not one that is widely recognized. Does this mean there is no such thing as therapeutic grade? No, but just realize that any therapeutic grade standard out there right now is an internally derived company standard. Now this standard may be an overall great standard and perfectly acceptable to me or any other analyst or aromatherapist out there but it just needs to be noted that it’s not an independent standard.” 

All true essential oils are therapeutic by nature. In order for an essential oil to not be therapeutic, it wouldn’t be an essential oil at all. It might be a synthetic fragrance oil, a reconstructed oil, or a highly adulterated oil, but it won’t be a true essential oil.

Some companies use the term therapeutic quality to mean genuine, unadulterated, pure essential oil with nothing added or taken away. So if you see the term used, ask the company exactly what they mean by it to get a better idea of their standards.

So long as you use a pure essential oil, you can freely ingest it and use it undiluted…….

Essential oils are extremely concentrated substances that demand careful use.

The benefit of highly concentrated substances is that you can use a small amount of it and dilute it in something else. Essential oils are no different. Even the purest of oils, in the vast majority of situations, should be diluted in a carrier oil before they’re used. The type of oil you use (meaning the plant material), not the brand, and where you are using it determines how carefully it must be diluted.

As an aromatherapist, I can’t begin to describe how very concerned I am with the trend of freely ingesting essential oils, be they dropped into water or placed in a capsule. In fact, if you’re going to ingest them, especially long-term, you need the guidance of a professional to prevent any internal organ or tissue damage. If you must go this route be sure to consult a trained Aromatic Medicine Practitioner.

By the way, water and oil don’t mix. When you drop an essential oil into water, it doesn’t freely disperse like an herbal extract. It floats on top and hits the sensitive tissue in your throat and mouth, potentially causing irritation and/or burns!

Essential oils are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and around or on infants and young children…….

No one would ever suggest that an unborn baby, infant, or young child should have an adult medication at an adult dose. We all understand that their small, sensitive bodies could have a very negative response.

The same is true for essential oils. Many oils are unsafe to use while pregnant, breastfeeding, or around infants. As children grow, the restrictions lessen, but great care needs to be exercised. Some very common oils, like Peppermint and Eucalyptus, are known to trigger breathing difficulties in children when used incorrectly.

You can never/can always trust an essential oil brand representative…..

There’s never going to be an easy, one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to essential oil brand representatives. There absolutely are essential oil reps that make safe and accurate information their top priority. I know some of them. These people have generally gone through outside training and/or certifications to ensure they have the education needed to best help their customers.

On the flip side, not all brand consultants give factual information. It’s vital you know where an essential oil representative got his or her information before you accept it as truth and apply it. The sales rep may stand up in front of a group and teach a class, but that doesn’t necessarily make the person a trusted source of information. Before following the guidance of a brand rep, find out if the individual has gone through any training or certifications outside of what is offered by their company or team sponsor. If not, keep that in mind as the representative gives suggestions or information.

If you use a pure essential oil on your skin and it causes a rash or burn then it’s just a detox reaction…..

The plain and simple truth of this one is that if you put any substance on your skin and it causes a rash or burns, it should not have been put on your skin in the first place. This is an adverse reaction, not a harmless detox reaction. Clearly a burn, rash, or any other type of abnormal issues with your skin indicate an irritation.  In addition, a detox reaction occurs when something is taken away, not added. So, if you find yourself with a rash or a burn after using an essential oil on your skin it is your body saying to stop! This is one of the reasons why a patch test is recommended on a small area before using any substance on a larger area.

Skin Sensitization:

Unlike skin irritation where symptoms are immediate, skin sensitization develops over time, taking weeks if not years to occur.

Just because you do not have any adverse reaction now, does not mean you will not have one in the future. If you really love essential oils, you should use them with caution by diluting them appropriately so that you can continue to use them.

Factors that Increase the Risk of Sensitization

  • Applying oils neat (undiluted), or at high concentrations

  • Frequent use over long periods of time

  • Using contaminated oils

  • Using oxidized, degraded or otherwise expired oils

  • Use of oils that are known sensitizers

Pure essential oils without additives should last forever….

This is just another very ridiculous claim. Oils may seem to last for a long time but in reality, they will eventually go bad because of oxidation. All oils have a shelf life and will naturally begin to oxidize over time. Proper storage will help to keep your oils longer. Store your oils in a cool, dry place with the lids tightly sealed. Heat, oxygen and sun light can all play a part in breaking down your oils faster.

 Storing your Essential Oils:

Essential oils must be stored in dark, airtight, glass bottles. Exposure to light, oxygen, and heat will begin to break the oils down and they can become skin irritating. If oils are stored appropriately, they may last 1-10 years, although the optimum time varies. Some oil’s aromas actually improve with age, with the exception being the citrus oils – they should only be kept for one to two years. All oils need to be kept cold. The ideal temperature is 65°F, although between 45°-65° is adequate.

 ·         Citrus: 1-2 years

·         Needles: 2-3 years

·         Leaves/Woods: 7-9 years

·         Flowers 5-6 years

 Frankincense essential oil will cure cancer…..

The antitumoral component of frankincense is Boswellic acid. Boswellic acid is not found in the essential oil, but it is in the gum resin. In an article by Robert Tisserand, an essential oil expert, he states:

 “They are being told, in videos and blog posts, that frankincense oil contains boswellic acid—the antitumoral active ingredient in frankincense gum resin. But it doesn’t, and the simple reason is that boswellic acid is much too heavy a molecule to be volatile.”

 (Retrieved from: http://tisserandinstitute.org/frankincense-oil-and-cancer-in-perspective)

 I have just skimmed the surface here with all the many myths and rumors flying around, if you are ever unsure I suggest reaching out to trained aromatherapist for guidance. You can never be to safe when it comes to using your oils and using them properly!

 Amber M. LaBorde is a Clinical Aromatherapist & Co-Founder at the Wholistic Aromatics Institute. Visit www.wholisticaromaticsinstitute.com for more information.