Troubles with the Oils Industry

Excerpt from The Great Essential Oils Showdown – Troubles in the Essential Oils Industry
_ Posted by Adrienne

Inspiring Article. Integrative Energy Medicine Institute

Here is some of the “dark side” to the essential oils industry.
– Some of the companies actually distill at high pressure and high temperature to get more oil out faster, despite it being widely known in the oils industry that low temperature and low pressure is the way to do it.
Oils are adulterated. With chemicals, fragrances or cheaper oil. I heard from one source that CODEX allows for oils to be labeled “pure” with only 3% of the pure oil in the bottle. I couldn’t get documentation for that, but I can see it being true. You’ve seen those bottles labeled “pure vanilla extract” that have a lot of alcohol and sugar in them as well, right? The vanilla part is pure but there’s other stuff in that bottle. One oil company owner told me he once tested a health food store brand that was labeled “pure” but it tested with 75% propylene glycol.
Basically, if the price seems too good to be true, it likely is.
False certificates – One oil company owner told me that he had sold small amounts of 2 varieties of an oil to a smaller company. They asked for the certification of the more expensive oil, apparently for “verification”. Later, they ordered a large amount of the less expensive oil to sell to their customers. The first company’s owner later visited the buyer’s site and saw that the company had posted the certificate for the more expensive oil alongside the info for the “cheaper” oil they had just purchased from him. Ugh!
Just because there is a certificate doesn’t mean that is what is being sold.
“Complete distillations” or “redistillation” vs “first distillations”. While there is no official standard for how oils are distilled, here is very interesting information showing how one gets a “candy cane-like” smell when distilling peppermint oil. Apparently if you distill it at a higher temperature or pressure, or redistill, you get this same “candy”-like smell. I will refer to this later.
I have also heard about oils being reheated to make them smell more palatable. Remember we said “low temperature”?
Chemical Solvents – Some companies are distilling with solvents. No more chemical nasties, right? Ick. There are a few exceptions, but very few. You want steam distilled oils only otherwise.
Safety violations – There are some companies without good reputations in this arena as well. I will talk about this next time as well.

Click here for a List of the best books on essential oil and aromatherapy

References to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Distillations from Oils Companies
These are references to this kind of distillation that I easily found doing an internet search:

  1. “Even an oil which is quite truthfully described as pure may be of poor quality, and therefore of less value therapeutically. IF AN ESSENTIAL OIL COSTS MUCH LESS THAN YOU WOULD NORMALLY EXPECT TO PAY FOR IT, the oil may well be a third or fourth distillate from a batch of plant material which has already yielded the greater part of its properties to the first or second distillation.” Aromatherapy An A-Z, by Patricia Davis, 1988, reprinted 1994, Saffron Walden, The C.W. Daniel Company Ltd., England, pp. 278-280.
  2. “LOW PRICES MAY ALSO MEAN THE OIL IS A SECOND OR THIRD DISTILLATION OF THE PLANT MATERIAL, in which case it will have far less therapeutic value.” – from Holistic Aromatherapy, A. Berwick, 1994, Llewellyn Pub., St. Paul, MN pp. 168.
  3. sells different distillations of peppermint oils. From their site: Peppermint Essential Oil (1st distillation): This is an herbaceous, sweet smelling peppermint. It is less brisk smelling than the 2nd distillation and contains slightly less menthol
  4. From Mountain Rose Herbs’ website: “All of the oils offered by Mountain Rose Herbs are derived from the first distillation–never the second, third or fourth!”
  5. From The Herbs Place: “Oil comes from the first distillations of the raw plant material.” when referring to why their oils are therapeutic grade.

I personally spoke with several people in the EO field and this is what I have heard (of course, given the scope of this post, this is a summary only).

  1. Most plants are distilled only once because they don’t produce enough oil for multiple distillations.
  2. Peppermint is an interesting plant in that it yields more oil than most others. As such, large farms and distilleries extract a bunch of oil from the peppermint plant
    Smaller farms do a first distillation of peppermint that they sell to oils companies for the highest price.
    The peppermint is then re-distilled at a higher pressure and higher temperature for a 2nd distill, and the resulting oil is sold for less money to soap companies, and the like, that want a lower cost oil, but still desire a slightly “herby” smell.
    The plant is then re-distilled one more time at a yet higher temperature and pressure for a 3rd distill, which is sold to companies wanting the candy-cane smelling oil.
  3. Ylang Ylang is an exception to this rule. It is distilled first for a short time, yielding the most coveted “ylang ylang extra.” The distiller is shut down, the oil collected, and then it is distilled further to produce “ylang ylang 1.” (UPDATE: I just heard that most distillers don’t shut down the distiller, but merely change out the containers to keep the oil grades separate and continue distilling.) This continues to subsequently produce “ylang ylang 2″ and “ylang ylang 3.” Then, all 4 varieties of ylang ylang are combined to make “ylang ylang complete,” which is preferred by some, but is priced lower than “ylang ylang extra.”

For more information and comparaison between several essential oils companies follow these links:
- Which Essential Oils Company is Best? – Part 1
What a Good Essential Oils Company Should Have – Part 2
- Which Essential Oils Company is Best – Troubles with the Oils Industry – Part 3
- Young Living vs. doTERRA – Part 4
- Are Multi-Level Marketing Oils Worth It? – Part 5
- Distillation, Bias, Vomit and Personal Attacks – Part 6
- Announcing “the Best” Essential Oils Company – Part 7

Aromatherapy, myth or evidence-based science?

esential oil Since I first heard about it I wonder what was that about, aromatherapy? Is it worth trying? Will that work and for which ailments? Well, to find out and answer to these and many more questions I had a look at medical libraries and scientific trials on aromatherapy and their results, and you know what, after writing this article the way I thought about aromatherapy completely changed, and so you will I hope.

For those of you that have already tried it this article will give you an insight on those treatments and essentials oils about which you didn't know yet, and for those who didn't it will give you a perfect excuse to try it.

Aromatherapy is one of the complementary and alternative medicines used to treat various diseases and symptoms, because essential oils have many kinds of pharmacological actions including anti-microbial, sedative, analgesic, spasmolytic and estrogen or steroid hormone-like effects, etc. [1].

Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Lavandula
Common name: Lavender, English lavender, common lavender, true lavender, narrow-leaved

Essential oils are in fact everything but oils. Essential oils do not contain any fatty acids that will eventually justify to define them as "oils", they are purely and simply highly concentrated plant extracts that exert powerful cosmetic and medicinal properties.

Essential oils have been traditionally used to reduce body tension and emotional stress, being the most common types of essential oils are bergamot, lavender, and geranium. Some essential oils have been found to exert sedating effect, such as bergamot, lavender, chamomile, and other essential oils [2,3].

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is defined by National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States (NCCAM) as a group of diverse medical and health-care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine [8], as such, aromatherapy falls into that category, as indeed, it makes use of non-conventional methods used in traditional medicine.

In spite it is not the only way, the most commonly used method to practice aromatherapy is using essential oils from plants. An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants.

Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils or aetherolea, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove.

An oil is "essential" in the sense that it carries a distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant [7].

The most common essential oils as lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus, are distilled from raw plant material, consisting of the flowers, leaves, wood, bark, roots, seeds, or peel, is put into an alembic (distillation apparatus) over water.

As the water is heated, the steam passes through the plant material, vaporizing the volatile compounds. The vapors flow through a coil, where they condense back to liquid, which is then collected in the receiving vessel [7], more or less the same as it is done with the alcoholic beverages that are done using this traditional method.

In a study done on aromatherapy effects on menopausal women, Lavender rose geranium, rose, and jasmine in almond and primrose oils were used for massage once a week.

Eight-week massage showed a significantly lower total menopausal index than that in wait-listed controls. These findings suggest that aromatherapy massage can be an effective treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, depression, and pain in climacteric women [2,5]. Image right: #3219 by Gerold Schneider under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).

Several studies suggest that neurotransmitters 5-hydroxytryptamine and dopamine may be modulated with the anti-anxiety effect by essential oils from rose, lavender, lemon and peppermint [9,10,11]. Other popular anxiolytic oils include:

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia),
  • Rose (Rosa damascena),
  • Orange (Citrus sinensis),
  • Bergamot (Citrus aurantium),
  • Lemon (Citrus limon),
  • Sandalwood (Santalum album),
  • Clary sage (Salvia sclarea),
  • Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), and
  • Rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium spp.)

Workplace stress-related illness is a serious issue, and consequently many stress reduction methods have been investigated. Aromatherapy is especially for populations that work under high stress. Elementary school teachers are a high-stress working population in Taiwan.

In a study, fifty-four elementary school teachers were recruited to evaluate aromatherapy performance on stress reduction. Bergamot essential oil was used for aromatherapy spray for 10 minutes. Results showed that there were significant decreases in blood pressure, heart rate, [2].

Bergamot essential oil was also effective for anxiety reduction of mild depression subjects, and it also had the effect of reducing pain in cancer subjects [2,6].

Some essential oils have been found to exert sedating effect, such as:

  • Bergamot,
  • Lavender,
  • Chamomile, and other essential oils [2,3].

In spite Lemon oil is not one of the most commonly used essential oils when looking for anti-stress and sedating effects, at least one study shows how after examining the anti-stress action of the essential oils of lavender, rose, and lemon, it was observed that Lemon oil had the strongest anti-stress effect, confirming that lemon oil possesses anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects [14].

Disclaimer: The information presented in this website is not intended to prescribe or give in any way or form medical advice, recommend or diagnose. Please read the disclaimer at the button of this page for more info.

[1] Anxiolytic Effect of Aromatherapy Massage in Patients with Breast Cancer Jiro Imanishi,1 Hiroko Kuriyama,1 Ichiro Shigemori,1 Satoko Watanabe,1 Yuka Aihara,2 Masakazu Kita,1 Kiyoshi Sawai,3 Hiroo Nakajima,3 Noriko Yoshida,4 Masahiro Kunisawa,4 Masanori Kawase,5 and Kenji Fukui4 Kang-Ming Chang1, 2* and Chuh-Wei Shen1, 3 Setzer WN. Department of Chemistry, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama 35899, USA.
[2] Aromatherapy Benefits Autonomic Nervous System Regulation for Elementary School Faculty in Taiwan
[3] Carolyn LM. Releasing Emotional Patterns with Essential Oils. Vision Ware Press; 1998.
[4] McCaffrey R, Thomas DJ, Kinzelman AO. The effects of lavender and rosemary essential oils on test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students. Holistic Nursing Practice. 2009;23(2):88–93.
[5] Hur MH, Yang YS, Lee MS. Aromatherapy massage affects menopausal symptoms in Korean climacteric women: a pilot-controlled clinical trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2008;5(3):325–328.
[6] Bagetta G, Morrone LA, Rombolà L, et al. Neuropharmacology of the essential oil of bergamot. Fitoterapia. 2010;81(6):453–461.
[7] Wikipedia article on Essential oils under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
[8] Changes in Attitudes of Japanese Doctors toward Complementary and Alternative Medicine—Comparison of Surveys in 1999 and 2005 in Kyoto Kenji Fujiwara, 1 Jiro Imanishi, 1 ,* Satoko Watanabe, 1 Kotaro Ozasa, 2 and Kumi Sakurada 3
[9] Komiya M, Takeuchi T, Harada E (2006) Lemon oil vapor causes an anti-stress effect via modulating the 5-HT and DA activities in mice. Behav Brain Res 172: 240–249. [PubMed]
[10] Umezu T (2010) Evidence for dopamine involvement in ambulation promoted by pulegone in mice. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 94: 497–502. Yani Wu,#1,2 Yinan Zhang,#3 Guoxiang Xie,4,* Aihua Zhao,1 Xiaolan Pan,2 Tianlu Chen,3 Yixue Hu,2 Yumin Liu,5 Yu Cheng,1 Yi Chi,1 Lei Yao,2 and Wei Jia4,*
[11] The Metabolic Responses to Aerial Diffusion of Essential Oils
[12] Essential oils and anxiolytic aromatherapy. Buchbauer G, Jirovetz L, Jäger W, Plank C, Dietrich H. Komiya M, Takeuchi T, Harada E.
[13] Fragrance compounds and essential oils with sedative effects upon inhalation. Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Vienna, Austria.
[14] Lemon oil vapor causes an anti-stress effect via modulating the 5-HT and DA activities in mice. Graduate School of Veterinary Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Yamaguchi University, Yamaguchi 753-8515, Japan.
[15] Pharmaceutical and therapeutic potentials of essential oils and their individual volatile constituents: a review. Edris AE. Aroma and Flavor Chemistry Department, National Research Center, Dokki, El Behose Street, Dokki, 12622, Cairo, Egypt.

{1} Image: Themed herbpots -Aromatherapy- by Leonora Enking under Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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