Essential Oil Myths

ESSENTIAL OIL MYTH #10:
Company X or Company Y is the only company in the world who sells pure or therapeutic grade essential oils.

FACT: There are many companies in the world producing pure essential oils. But finding those companies may not be the easiest of tasks, and even if you find them, they may not be selling their product in small retail bottles. As a general rule, the farther down the supply chain you go the less likely you are to be getting pure product. There are a lot of companies out there selling essential oils and most of them have no ability (or in many cases no desire) to do the necessary quality control to verify what they are getting from their supplier before they pass it on to their customers. Additionally, pure does not necessary equate with good quality. A pure oil can be distilled incorrectly or could have been obtain from a particular variety of plant species that was not ideal. Furthermore, with regards to therapeutic grade, we need to be diligent at discerning what the claim really means. 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 its not an independent standard. In the end, for most people who don’t have access to their own GC/MS, it all boils down to who do you trust to give you the pure oil. If a company has a history of misinformation and questionable ethics then its probably not a company whose “therapeutic grade” standard would really carry much weight.

ESSENTIAL OIL MYTH #9:
Essential oils are complex mixtures containing hormones, vitamins and other natural elements are the most oxygenating substances on earth.

FACT: This kind of statement has always left me scratching my head. Sometimes it is also stated as “….EOs are the most OXYGENATED substances on earth.” Whether its meant to be OXYGENATING or OXYGENATED the statement is just plain wrong. Yes essential oils contain oxygen but that doesn’t equate to be “oxygenating” or the “most oxygenated.” Those of you taking my Chemistry of Essential Oils course already know that, 99+% of the time, when we are talking about essential oil molecules, we are concerned only with 3 elements of the periodic table: Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. The molecules in essential oils are mainly mono and sesquiterpenes and their oxygenated derivatives. Essential oils are volatile organic liquids. There are absolutely NO HORMONES (at least not human hormones) OR VITAMINS in essential oils. In addition, of these 3 most common EO elements, Oxygen is the LEAST frequently occurring. If you are just counting types of atoms in the essential oil molecules, Hydrogen is the most prevalent atom followed by Carbon, then Oxygen (again just counting numbers of atoms, not a weight comparison). A large percentage of all essential oil molecules are hydrocarbons (monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes) and don’t even contain Oxygen at all. When the molecules do contain Oxygen, the ratio typically ranges from 1 or 2 atoms of Oxygen to say 10 to 17 atoms of Carbon and 18 to 26 atoms of Hydrogen (for the most common cases of oxygenated mono and sesquiterpenes). Furthermore, the Oxygen in essential oil molecules is BOUND OXYGEN not really available to be delivered in the form of free oxygen radical or oxygen molecules (of course there an infinitesimal amount of dissolved oxygen molecules in just about any liquid but this is insignificant) and thus not very “oxygenating.” It is still unclear to me what the basis for these claims concerning essential oils are coming from and would love to know the literature sources that the claimants are citing as their support. I could go on more about this topic but Robert Tisserand has already written an excellent response to the “Oxygenating” myth on his website, so rather than re-invent the wheel I will refer all of you to read his comments at the link below.

ESSENTIAL OIL MYTH #8:
The best quality essential oils come from the “first pressing” or first distillation of the plant material.

FACT: First let me say if you are using terms like “first pressing” then you’ve really got some catching up to do on your essential oil education. Most all essential oils are steam distilled, in fact this is inherent to the very definition of an essential oil. The only oils that are considered to fall under the definition of the term “essential oil” and are not produced by steam distillation are the citrus oils, which are cold pressed from the citrus peel (and if its done properly there would not be any oil left in the peel for a second pressing LOL). So when one refers to the so called “first pressed” essential oils they does not even portray an accurate method of production of almost every essential oil out there, since almost every oil is produced by distillation, not by expression. Please avoid this “pressing” terminology unless you want to just sound like a complete novice to the field. When the pressed method is applicable, in the industry we use the terms COLD PRESSED or EXPRESSED to describe the production of citrus oils (some citrus are also distilled but that’s another issue). So this brings us to the whole issue of the claimed “multiple distillations” of the same plant material. Consider this quote from a popular blog:

“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.”

I hate to be harsh here but what an utter load of pure NONSENSE!!! First let me say that I live in Indiana, one of the largest mint producing states in the country. I have visited mint distilleries and farms on several occasions (see the photos in the latest album that a posted of my last trip to a northern Indiana farm in 2011). NOBODY STEAM DISTILLS THE MINT MORE THAN ONE TIME!! The plant is distilled for basically 2 hours and its done, no more oil is coming out so they shut the still down. Its absolutely ridiculous to think that the distiller, after watching his oil come over, seeing that his oil level is not growing, shuts the still down and then later thinks to himself “gee, I bet if I fire this still back up (wasting thousands in feul and labor) we can get some more oil out of that spent mint leaf we distilled yesterday.” Where do people come up with this stuff?? Now the MINT OIL can, and often is (thank God), taken for some further redistilling and/or fractional vacuum redistilling that can take place to further improve the quality of the oil by removing nauseating components of the whole oil (just tiny amounts of very bad smelling components get removed in this process). But NOBODY distills the mint biomass a second or third time. This is generally true, not just for mint, but for essential oil distillations in general. When people say things like this it just makes my head explode! And when I tried to explain it to the person posting this rubbish she basically did not believe me because her “research” of talking to retailers of essential oils apparently was of higher credibility. If people would just use some common sense they could look at this kind of misinformation and come to the conclusion that none of it makes sense. From an energy standpoint, why would anyone plan to shut down their distilling process just to start it up again later? The amount of energy required to get massive amounts of water boiling and enough steam generating to liberate the oil from large vats of biomass is quite astonishing and costly. Why not just keep distilling and just start colle
cting the oil produced at the tail end of the distillation in a separate container, if you want to collect what you think might be a different quality at the end of the run than at the beginning (by the way this is done with Ylang Ylang oil which is why there are the different grades of extra, I, II, III and complete). But aside from ylang ylang most all essential oil distillations are collected in one combined lot. And the only time I have ever seen a distiller shut down his process and restart it later was because of mechanical problems, running out of fuel, or just getting too physically tired to continue (in the case of sandalwood for example the distillation can go on for more than 24 hours and oil is still in the wood). I hope that this post will finally do some damage to this myth that has been circulated for decades now and we can finally put it to bed. Please share this post with as many people as you can and firmly admonish anyone who continues to state that “my oils only come from the FIRST distillation.” Yeah right buddy, just like everybody else’s oil. LOL

ESSENTIAL OIL MYTH #7: Essential oils are the most powerful living substances on earth. They are the heartbeat of the plant kingdom, the most life-giving substances we have in the world today. They represent in plants what blood represents in humankind.

FACT: Sorry to disappoint but essential oils are not alive. I would like to see anyone go through a 212+ degree distillation process for a few hours and come out alive on the other end LOL. The plant material is certainly not alive after the distillation so I am not sure how anyone could believe that the oil is alive. Essential oils are a collection of volatile organic molecules, not living entities. Furthermore, since they themselves are not alive, the oils do not give life to anything (but this is not to say they don’t help the plant survive). Lets just look at this logically and break it down. In order for A to give life to B, it follows that A must predate B in its timeline of existence. This is not the case for essential oils. Plants don’t start producing essential oils until a certain point in their development. The oil does not give life to the plant, the plant, at some point, starts producing the oil. As for being the “heartbeat of the plant kingdom,” Most plants don’t even produce essential oils so where is their heartbeat? Finally, as I have said here before essential oils do not have the same function in the plant that blood does in the human body. Our blood primarily performs the function of circulation and transport of oxygen and nutrients to the all the cells and organs of the body. Essential oils do not play this role in the plant. The truth is that essential oils are an end product of the plants metabolism and emitted by the plant not circulating within the plant like blood in the body (see magnified picture of oil sacs on peppermint leaf). Think about what some of the end products are from human metabolism and, if you want a more accurate analogy, well you get the idea. Not such a romantic or marketable tag line to be accurate about this issue though. But this does not mean that these end products, these secondary metabolites known as essential oils, are not extremely useful for the survival of the plant as well as being extremely beneficial to humans. Its unfortunate to me that the people who created these nonsensical and inaccurate slogans regarding essential oils feel that they are necessary in order to sell product. When people just use the oils they get hooked, the oils sell themselves, people don’t need to be fed a bunch of airy fairy nonsense to fall in love with them. This idea of essential oils being the life blood of the plant has been around quite a while, in fact I think the alchemists might have believed the same thing (remember their belief in the “quintessential” which is where the term essential oil comes from), but hopefully we have progressed beyond 16th century knowledge and I would love to see a more responsible marketing approach in this day and age. However, I fear it may be a while before we can get everyone to let go of this one, it just sounds so darn good to the ears!

ESSENTIAL OIL MYTH #6: If you use a pure essential oil on your skin and it causes a rash or burn then its just your body detoxing.

FACT: They tell me this is a myth that quite a number of people are spreading but its hard for me to believe that there are people out there who are actually accepting this as a viable explanation. But I guess there must be a significant amount of people believing it because a number of you have asked me to address this. I suppose it comes from the desperate attempt for people to come up with some kind of positive explanation for any adverse reactions that natural products might cause us. I mean we all know that if something is natural that it must be good for us, right? Let’s just think about this logically for a second. Let’s imagine you rub poison ivy on your skin and you get a really bad rash. Is that just your body detoxing? Of course not. Come on people, if you get a rash or burn from putting something on your skin its because its IRRITATING YOUR SKIN. Furthermore, this “detox” explanation seems to ignore the very definition of what it means to detox. Generally, a detox reaction is a response that the body undergoes when it has something TAKEN AWAY from it. Think of the body of a drug addict “detoxifying” during the withdrawal process as he tries to get off the drugs. But in the case of using an essential oil on your skin we are ADDING something new to our bodies that your body has no prior experience with, any bad reaction could not logically be classified as a detox reaction. A rash or burn from an essential oil is basically your skin screaming at you “hey, stop that and stop it now!” This is why you should always do a patch test on a small area of skin and wait a while to see what happens before you go all crazy and start bathing yourself in an essential oil that you have not used before. I know many aromatherapist recommend that you dilute the essential oils in a carrier oil for skin use. But no matter what concentration you use them at you should still do a patch test first for any new oils before moving on with the oil. Remember these are very concentrated solutions of organic molecules, let’s be safe rather than sorry.

Comments

  1. Giselle says:

    Interesting that in reality many of these myths come from doTerra and YL consultants.

    • I’m a supporter of doTERRA oils here to dispel these myths and although many consultants share these myths, these myths started with many of the books written about aromatherapy by authors that are not associated with doTERRA.

      Ultimately, the aromatherapy education and material needs to be updated and reformed. Thank you for visiting our site!

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