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An ongoing series of informational entries

Knowing Your Ingredients: Essential Oils

With so much overwhelming information about "Natural" products, and how we should be choosing these natural ingredients; the facts can easily get lost. Let's start with some basic information about the skincare and herbal industry... Did you know that there is no regulations on the term 'Natural'? That means that the very products your using, thinking you are doing your body good by avoiding chemicals and preservatives; in fact may very well include these ingredients. Now, I'm not trying to scare anyone into not using one brand or another. I just want to give you an overview of some basics and why we choose to operate our business the way we do.  Lets start with the topic of essential oils...

Essential oils are all the rage now. But do you really know what's in the bottles you use? where it came from?  How the herb was distilled to make the oil? These are questions that many of us don't think about. We assume that the companies we are buying from have our best interest in mind... well, while some companies do have their customers interest in mind, many do not. How do you know the difference? Before you go tossing out your entire stock of oils lets look at the basics of how essential oils are made.

We as humans, have been using essential oils since around 1800 B.C. But what is an essential oil? It's the very essence of the plant that creates it. The very smell a plant has is part of its essence. Every plant and herb has a unique essence or 'Life force'  in it. through trial and error we, humans have learned how to extract this and use it to our benefit. Each plant has its own properties, that we can use to our benefit, and the amount of each plant used to make essential oils varies from plant to plant. This is why cost for individual oils varies dramatically. lets take a look at a few common essential oils:

Rose Essential Oil: Did you know that it takes 242,000 rose petals to make one 5ml bottle of essential oil?  Rose essential oil has many helpful properties. It's a great addition to skincare and can aid in cell turnover; making it great for maturing and sensitive skin. It also has great emotional benefits as well. It has long been used to help with emotional grief, sadness, depression, and nervous tension. The best kind of rose essential oil to get is one that has only rose (Rosa damascena) listed as an ingredient.  

Lavender Essential Oil: It takes approximately 3 pounds of lavender flowers to make 15ml of essential oil.  Lavender has great properties that make it a go to ingredient in skincare products. I has great antiseptic properties! It also is great for emotional well-being. It is used commonly to help with sleep, anxiety, depression. It's also great addition to bug repellents! Sadly, it is one essential oil that has been grossly misrepresented in the industry. Often times it's hybrid cousin is used as an addition to or in place of true lavender. Lavandin (Lavandula hyrida, L. hortensis) is often used to dilute lavender or replace it entirely in some products. While it has it's place in the herbal industry in its own right Lavandin does not have the same properties and true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, L. officinalis). If you see it listed as the ingredient in lavender essential oil than the oil is not true lavender oil, and thus will not have the same properties and benefits. 

Tea Tree Essential Oil: Tea tree oil is made by steam distillation of the tea tree's leaves and twigs. It is often an ingredient in hair care and acne products. It has a tendency to be irritating to the skin, so diluting it with a carrier oil may be required. Tea tree has many properties that make it beneficial for many uses. It has great antiseptic and fungicidal properties, and it can clear the stuffiest of noses with one sniff! True tea tree essential oil will have Tea tree (Melalueca alternifolia) listed as its ingredient. Often times this is not the case... You may find that instead, ti-trol or melasol is listed instead. As with the case of lavender essential oil, if you want the benefits that tea tree has to offer, make sure your buying true tea tree, and not its cousin substitute.

Frankincense Essential Oil: In its natural state, frankincense is a resin. it is made into an essential oil through steam distillation.  Frankincense is a great essential oil to have on had. One of its best qualities is its ability to help magnify the properties of the essential oils it is blended with. It is a great addition to skincare products. It has anti-inflammatory properties; that make it great for sensitive and maturing skin.  It's also has also been used to help combat stress, anxiety, and emtional support. Frankincense essential oil should only have frankincense (Boswellia carteri) listed in its ingredients. 

While these are just a few common essential oils used, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to make sure you are getting good quality essential oils.

any essential oil you purchase should have the ingredients clearly listed on the bottle. It should only have the plant listed; for the essential oil. In some cases this may be the scientific name. the best way to extract essential oils from their plant parts is through steam distillation or extraction. if your bottle lacks a clear list of ingredients, or the list has more than the plant you're expecting to get or a variation the the name; than its a good bet your not getting the true essential ol you thought. Often times chemicals are added to dilute essential oils. Some companies do this because they can sell their oils at a cheaper cost, or because it saves on their bottom line.  Don't expect to get the same effects from an oil that has been chemically distilled. You may walk away thinking you are allergic to that essential oil, when in fact it's a reaction to the chemicals added and not the plant.  A good rule of thumb, if the company is upfront about their methods of extraction, and they have their ingredients labeled on their bottles so you know what you're buying then its a good bet they are a reputable company. 

Its also good to look at where these companies are acquiring their plant matter from. In some cases, such as sandalwood, some companies are illegally obtaining it from other countries. If that's the case they have no clue what they are really purchasing and you end up with the product of their ignorance. 

Lastly, if the price for an essential oil seems too good to be true, it probably is. I'm not telling you what companies you should or should not purchase your oils from; I just want you to have the information to know what you are buying. I know I have learned a ton about the essential oil industry since I started back in 2016; and i still find myself learning something new all the time. For the essential oils in our products, I follow the above guidelines and also try to purchase from reputable U.S. based companies. I know as the trend grows with essential oils you find different people telling you different ways of usage. Ingesting oils is NEVER safe! We see these benefits and think 'more must be better'. No, essential oils are so potent that a few drops is truly all you need to reap the benefits from the plant. Always follow proper usage rates when using oils. As with any product or ingredient; if you have an allergic reaction, stop using the product immediately. It may not have anything to do with the product itself, but simply an allergic reaction to an ingredient within the product. Just as some people have seasonal allergies or food allergies, some people can be allergic to one or more ingredients in the products they are using.