Essential Oil Myths

Myth #1: There is an independent body that certifies essential oils as Therapeutic Grade.
The truth is that there are MANY company-developed therapeutic grade standards. The problem is, which one do you trust…

The truth is that there are MANY company-developed therapeutic grade standards. The problem is, which one do you trust? It’s important for people to realize that all of these standards are INTERNAL standards developed by companies selling oils and may or may not include quality control by a third party lab. Furthermore, if a third party lab is used, does this lab really know what they are doing? It's also important to know what the company defines as being "therapeutic grade." Does it simply mean that the oil is pure or does it mean something beyond purity and carry with it a quality standard as well? Let's face it, an oil can be pure as the driven snow but still be low quality, I see this on a daily basis in the samples I analyze for my clients in order for them to make good buying decisions. Judgments about essential oil quality take more than just good chemists and good equipment, they require many years of experience in odor evaluation and knowing what specific minor components are desirable in an oil, not just focusing on the major components.

Most essential oil aficionados understand that there is no independent standard for “Therapeutic Grade” that is universally recognized. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to even pin down exactly what the word “therapeutic” means on a practical level in the first place, at least in any quantifiable respect. And while you may not like the promotion of all the Therapeutic Grade standards by various companies, it’s not really correct to say that “there is no such thing as Therapeutic Grade” because technically companies do have the freedom, and perhaps a legitimate need, to construct any type of grading system they want. It’s just important to be aware that these grading standards are largely just marketing ploys by most companies. Rather than say “there’s no such thing as Therapeutic Grade” I think a better response to those promoting their various grades would be to say "while many companies promote their own therapeutic grade standard, one should be aware that there is no universally accepted independent body that certifies essential oils as therapeutic grade." That is a fair statement that is factually correct and nobody can refute. Using this language will not cause dialog to shut down between those on the MLM side and those on the more traditional side of aromatherapy, remembering that we always want to keep an open dialog for the purposes of educating those who have only been educated by their suppliers.

Myth #2: Pure, unadultured essential oils with no synthetics added should last forever.
Another ridiculous claim by people who understand basically nothing about chemistry…

Another ridiculous claim by people who understand basically nothing about chemistry. I am not sure I know of anything that will last even as long as the earth remains, with perhaps the exceptions of diamonds and human ignorance LOL. The truth is that while the oil may last in the sense that it "exists" for a long time, there is no question that most oils, pure or otherwise, will eventually go bad due to oxidation reactions that are unavoidable unless you could somehow store them in an oxygen free atmosphere (basically impossible for most people). Even if stored in an inert atmosphere there is still the possibility of some EO molecules reacting with themselves over long periods, changing the oil, many times for the worse.

Most oils do degrade with age due to oxidation but there are some oils, such as sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, etc. that actually get better with age, at least to a certain point (I am not sure anyone knows what sandalwood looks like after say 5000 years and I am pretty sure well before then the oil would "resinify" and become solid). Its typically the heavier oils that are high in sesquiterpene alcohols that get better with age. However, most oils, especially the citrus oils and the blue oils will degrade with age (at least within human lifetimes). Citrus oils are especially prone to degradation due to the high levels of limonene which oxidizes relatively easily. Even very small amounts of limonene oxide formation can totally destroy the odor of a once good citrus oil. In addition, wax formation in citrus due to monoterpene polymerization is also quite common over time. For this reason its best to go through citrus oils within a year, if possible.

In the case of the blue oils we see evidence of oxidation when the blue color becomes green over time. This is due to the degradation of chamazulene, the hydrocarbon responsible for the blue color in things like German chamomile, blue tansy, yarrow, etc. Its for these reasons that I always recommend that people refrigerate any of the blue oils and be sure to always keep a minimum amount of airspace in the bottle that you are storing these oils in so that the "greening" effect will be slowed down. Of course keeping airspace to a minimum is a good practice for all the essential oils but its absolutely crucial for the blue oils and for citrus oils.

One unfailing principal of science is that of naturally increasing entropy which relates to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. All things naturally head towards maximum entropy (disorder). Entropy is inescapable on this earth, and we all know it takes constant energy to fight against this natural degradation of all things. Left alone, things don't naturally become more ordered over time, we all know this whether or not we are familiar with the term entropy. Entropy is why you cannot create a perpetual motion machine, why your houses naturally get messy over time, why your car engine eventually breaks down, why your body eventually can no longer sustain itself and you die and why the earth must eventually come to an end.

Infinity symbol, with the words: nothing lasts forever.
Myth #3: True therapeutic lavender (lavandula angustifolia) should have no detectable camphor. Any level of camphor in lavender essential oil would indicate a mix of lavender and lavandin.
The truth is that while indeed the camphor should be low (less than 1%) there is almost always a little bit of camphor in true lavender oil…

The truth is that while indeed the camphor should be low (less than 1%) there is almost always a little bit of camphor in true lavender oil, its basically unavoidable. I have analyzed literally thousands of samples of true lavender oil, including many samples I that have distilled myself and I can tell you, as any other analyst who knows what he is doing will tell you, that if small amounts of camphor are not present then it would be an EXTREMELY unusual exception. Honestly, I cannot even say that I have ever seen a lavender without some small amount of camphor, at least not that I can remember.

Lavender Blooms

Lavender Blooms

If you do your research you will find that the ISO spec for lavender lists the acceptable camphor up to 1.5% , depending on origin, and the British Pharmacopoeia lists camphor at max 1.2%. My standard at EOU is that camphor, 1,8-cineole and borneol should all be about 1% or less in true lavender essential oil. My standard is based on samples taken from all over the world as well as from many distillations that I have personally done on many different varieties of Lavandula.

Just to give anyone interested a typical example analysis, the picture below is of a certified organic lavender that I recently analyzed for a customer. As you can see the peak at 26.435 shows camphor present at 0.25%. Also, if you want peer reviewed literature references showing that camphor should indeed be in lavender, just login to my EO Chemical Reference database and you will see plenty of detailed reports, with journal citations, confirming exactly what I am talking about.

Lavender Analysis (GC)

Lavender Analysis (GC)

Myth #4: Essential oil vibrational frequencies range from 52 MHz to 320 MHz. Essential oils have the highest frequency of any natural substance known to man and will increase the frequency of our bodies.
Please don't fall into the old frequency trap that has been circulating around the internet since the 1990s…

Please don't fall into the old frequency trap that has been circulating around the internet since the 1990s. The problem with all this is that 99% of people don't understand quantum mechanics well enough to be able clearly see through the scam, or if they do suspect its a scam they don't have the background to articulate why Its a scam so they just don't comment at all. It is well known in science that molecules are constantly absorbing and emitting electromagnetic radiation of various types and many different frequencies. But the way that the typical eo frequency scam is described makes no scientific sense at all. I think part of it started as a way to sell high priced and useless frequency measuring equipment.

A frequency is simply a cycle per second. From quantum mechanics we know that electromagnetic energy is typically measured by looking at the wavelengths of electromagnetic waves used to cause various energy transitions between quantum states. These wavelengths can be translated to frequencies through a simple equation (frequency of the electromagnetic energy is the speed of light divided by the measured wavelength). Molecules emit and absorb energy in various forms resulting from electronic, vibrational and rotational energy level transitions. If your going to talk about vibrational frequencies then its necessary to understand some basic chemistry and quantum mechanics which I will attempt to explain below without getting too technical.

Vibrational energy in molecules refers to the the vibration of bound atoms within a particular molecule. For example, if we look at a very simple molecule like carbon dioxide, we can measure the vibration or frequency of what is referred to the carbonyl stretch (the stretching motion of the double bond between the carbon and the oxygen atoms). The larger the molecule is the more vibrational motions it will have. Molecules in essential oils would have many different bond vibrations going on because even the smaller molecules (monoterpenes) consist of 10 carbon atoms and 16 hydrogen atoms. Thus all essential oil molecules would have many different vibrations going on simultaneously and each different type of vibrational motion in each different bond would have its own characteristic frequency. These vibrational frequencies in molecules are measured using infrared (IR) spectroscopy because energy in the IR range of the electromagnetic spectrum is what is required to cause these vibrations. The magnitude of Infrared radiation is in the 10,000,000,000,000 to 400,000,000,000,000 Hertz range!

So, as you can see, it would be impossible to characterize an essential oil or even a single essential oil molecule as having a single vibrational energy frequency. Furthermore, the energy of vibration in molecules is way higher than the 52 Mhz - 320 MHz (52,000,000 - 320,000,000 Hertz) range claimed by the people selling the eo frequency measuring devices. In fact, that low energy range would be in the radio waves region and below.

In short, if you are promoting EOs as being effective because of their frequency, my recommendation to you would be to seriously consider rethinking this strategy because as people become more and more educated in this field you will only end up looking foolish by such language.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Myth #5: Essential oils were used in Biblical times and even found in King Tut's tomb.
Of course aromatic materials were used in Biblical times for various medicinal, religious and ceremonial purposes…

Of course aromatic materials were used in Biblical times for various medicinal, religious and ceremonial purposes but these materials would not have been essential oils, at least not by todays definition of being steam distilled products. This would have been impossible given that steam distillation had not yet even been discovered! Most people attribute the discovery of true steam distillation to a Persian scientist named Avicenna (Ibn Sina) in the 11th century. There was certainly no steam distillation over 2300 years earlier in King Tut's time. Aromatic products used during these ancient times would have been of a crude solvent extracted nature using fats and pressed oils and the like and would not have been very concentrated (not to mention that extracted products yield very different chemistry than distilled products) and therefore their use cannot really be related to how we should use the steam distilled essential oils of today.

Stained Glass Window
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.
They tell me this is a myth that quite a number of people are spreading but its hard for me to believe…

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.

And if you are using the term detox reactions to refer to the sweating out of toxins, well think again. The old ‘sweating out’ toxins myth cannot apply since it's physiologically impossible. This is because toxins (skin cell debris, bacteria etc.) lodge in the pores of plosebaceous units and not in those of sweat glands

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.

Picture of the Villian Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy (© 2005 DC Comics, Inc.)

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. EOs are the "Life's Blood" of the plant and they represent in plants what blood represents in humankind.
Sorry to disappoint but essential oils are not alive…

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! 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? I am not really sure what that statement is supposed to mean, I guess somebody just thought it sounded marketable and ran with it. Concerning the "life blood" claim, 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 glands on Roman chamomile 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. I realize it wouldn't be as marketable to use a tag line like "the excrement of the plant" but that would be more accurate than the "life's blood." 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!

Plant under a microscope
Myth #8: The best quality essential oils come from the "first pressing" or first distillation of the plant material.
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…

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 pressing. 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 (you can see some photos of one of my visits in the album entitled "Mint Farm in Northern Indiana"). NOBODY STEAM DISTILLS THE SAME MINT LEAVES 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 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 collecting 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

Myth #9: Essential oils are complex mixtures containing hormones, vitamins, minerals and other natural elements are the most oxygenating substances on earth.
Whether its meant to be OXYGENATING or OXYGENATED the statement is just plain wrong…

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 there.

Myth #10: Company Y is the only company in the world who sells pure or therapeutic grade essential oils.
There are a lot of companies out there selling essential oils and most of them have no ability…

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. Some of the company standards that I have been privileged to access have in fact even been quite exceptional in some cases, surpassing the conventional standards of ISO, etc. 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 the leader of a company has a history of misinformation, arrest records for practicing medicine without a license, getting sued for injuring people by improper use of essential oils, using the names of credible people inappropriately for personal gain, and questionable ethics in general then its probably not a company whose "therapeutic grade" standard would really carry much weight with the aromatherapy community at large and should also not be taken seriously by an educated EO consumer.

Myth #11: When you don't like the smell of an oil it means your body needs that oil
Some oils, like wine or beer are an acquired taste…

Our bodies generally tell us when we need something or should stay away from something, especially when it has to do with things that can harm us. In fact, the ability to smell was probably among the most valuable of senses to early humans and those who had a good nose along with the intelligence to listen to their nose had a competitive advantage for survival over those who lacked such ability. The ability to smell and know when a plant is poisonous or when food was spoiled would have been paramount to survival in early humanity. To say that if you don't like the smell of something it means your body needs it is basically saying that the built in protective system that God gave us (our ability to to smell and recognize odors) is flawed and the opposite of what it should be. Of course the converse to this is not always true, we can be conditioned to like things that are not good for us, usually because man has used chemistry to manipulate odors in his favor, such as adding synthetic flavor and odor enhancers (synthetic versions of things found in nature) to fast food that is not so good for us. But when our bodies are telling us to stay away from something we should generally listen.

We should also all remember that sometimes we might not like an oil initially just because its different and something we haven't smelled before, but with more experience we end up loving an oil. Some oils, like wine or beer are an acquired taste. When I first smelled Roman chamomile I hated it, but now its one of my favorites. Apparently I was not ready for it when I first smelled it. When our bodies are ready to accept things it will generally let us know. But there is nothing to be lost by listening to our bodies when it tells us to stay away from something, give it time and if it changes then fine but if its a permanent adverse reaction we should not try to force things.

Women holding her nose
Myth #12: REAL essential oils without additives DO NOT Freeze because there is no water in them. If there is no water left and nothing is added to an essential oil like peppermint, it shouldn’t freeze.
The truth is EVERY essential oil will freeze (just as every other liquid on earth will) if you get the temperature low enough and water has nothing to do with it…

The truth is EVERY essential oil will freeze (just as every other liquid on earth will) if you get the temperature low enough and water has nothing to do with it. There are several oils that will freeze in a household freezer and some in the refrigerator and still others that are solid at room temperature. Every oil has a different freezing point and many times we see crystallization of a single component that is a solid at room temperature in pure form. So when the temperature is reduced it's not uncommon to see such solid components start to fall out of solution if their concentrations are past the saturation limit of any given temperature. In the ridiculous example of peppermint being published on the internet by the gullible robots who know nothing about chemistry, we see they are claiming that if a peppermint oil solidifies in a household freezer then by all means it must be bad. Apparently the misinformed don't understand that that the main component of peppermint oil is menthol. Menthol in pure form is a glass-like needle crystal (see picture) that can easily crystalize in a freezer from various mint oils if the level of menthol is past the saturation point at any given temperature. High menthol is typically a desirable attribute of a good peppermint and the higher menthol mints will have a sweeter, cleaner aroma and, as a result of this higher menthol, are more susceptible to crystallization at lower temperatures. An inferior low-menthol mint oil will not show crystallization in a freezer because the menthol is not past the saturation point in that temperature range. The menthol in peppermint can range from 30-50%. Mint oil that has menthol content in the upper 40s (getting close to 50%) can crystalize in a household freezer, while cheap 33% menthol Indian peppermint, like the one that the MLM reps are saying is the good peppermint, can't crystalize because its so inferior in its menthol content that it would take a much lower temperature to solidify (and I know for sure that its low grade Indian oil because I have actually analyzed it). Of course this company portrays an image of having US grown peppermint, but at least a few lots have been nothing put pure Indian material that is less than half the cost of US peppermint.

Some other common examples of natural oil components crystalizing in at freezer temperatures are things like cedrol in Texas cedar wood oil, menthol in corn mint oil, methyl thujate in giant arborvitae wood oil, nepetalactone in catnip oil and thymol in thyme oil just to name a few. There are some oils that will crystalize merely in the refrigerator, for example rose oil from Bulgaria has waxy hydrocarbon components that will solidify giving the oil a solid gelatinous appearance. And then there are even some steam distilled oils, for instance Zadravets oil from Bulgaria (Geranium macrorrhizum) and Orris root (Iris pallida), that are completely solid at room temperature.

These are just a few examples of oils that solidify at sort of the normal ranges of everyday accessible temperatures, but make no mistake, EVERY essential oil will solidify at some point, even the low quality peppermint oil that didn't freeze in the misinformed examples would solidify, its just that the freezer used in the "experiment" did not go down to low enough temperature and probably needed another 10 to 20 degree drop before solidification would occur.

To the people spreading the nonsense I would like to recommend that you stick to muscle testing and zyto scanners and let those of us who understand real science handle the chemical explanations because you are making yourselves and your company look bad.

Menthol Needles

Menthol needles, or as I like to call it "crystal menth"

Myth #13: The order in which you blend the oils in an aromatherapy blend changes the chemistry and the odor of the blend and makes a difference therapeutically.
The truth is that as long as you are mixing each oil in the EXACT same percentage in each trial, the order of blending each component would almost never reveal a significant effect…

For the chemistry of a blend to be different depending on the order of the mixed ingredients there would have to be chemical reactions taking place at each stage of the blending to cause such differences. But since most essential oils contain components that are common to many different oils, gladly this is not typically a possibility under normal conditions. Think about it, if these reactions occurred upon mixing different oils then one would also expect to see the molecules within a single oil reacting with each other, under normal conditions, in very short periods of time as well. Wouldn't that be a tragedy!

The truth is that as long as you are mixing each oil in the EXACT same percentage in each trial, the order of blending each component would almost never reveal a significant effect. When people do claim to notice differences in blends based on order of component addition, its typically because they do not have the ability to conduct the experiment with quantitative accuracy. For example, it would not be a scientific experiment to do various blends using drops of essential oil from orifice reducer bottles or even by counting drops from a pipette. The reason being that drops are often drastically inconsistent, even when using the same oil with the same dropper. The only way to accurately put together the blends is to use a digital scale, I recommend one that can weigh out to at least 0.001 gram. If all the components are added to blend in the exactly the same amount each time the blend is made and the components mixed thoroughly then the odor and chemistry should be identical each time, regardless of order they were added to the blend.

This is not to say that its impossible for blending order not to play a role in differences in the blend if the blend is done under unusual circumstances. For example, if you add ingredients A and B together and let it set for days then add in ingredient C you could very well perceive some odor differences compared to doing the same blend in reverse order because you have given the blend some time in between adding ingredients for very minor chemical reactions to occur, maybe some oxidation etc. could also be a factor. But even under this scenario, the chemical makeup on the GC will be almost identical even though very minor reactions could have occurred to affect minor aspects of the odor. In most cases, when people are just blending at home, a few oils in a matter of a few minutes, the order of blending will not matter at all, assuming you have the ability to be consistent in each ingredient during each trial. But since most people don't have digital scales, they will most likely see differences in the same blend from trial to trial, even if they ALWAYS blend the oils in the exact same order. This is just due to the inaccuracies of formulating with drops.

Just to prove the point experimentally, I did a quick experiment and documented it by video. In the experiment we blended 3 oils (Frankincense, Lavender and Tea Tree) in different order, but using the same amounts by weight each time and then analyzing each blend by GC/MS and showing that the blend is chemically identical in each trial. The results below are from two different trials (out of the 6 total possibilities) where you can clearly see that the chemical composition of each blend is the same (within the error of the instrument, I could literally run the exact same sample twice on the same instrument and get the same small differences in the percentages as shown for these two trials). The final picture shows a blown up region of the chromatographs superimposed on one another showing that all the peaks line up exactly in each trial. The odor of each blend was also identical.

For some fun we did the following short youtube video summarizing the experiment. The next time someone tries to tell you that the order of blending matters just send them this video link. Enjoy!

Frankincense + Lavender + Tea Tree (GC Analysis)

Frankincense + Lavender + Tea Tree (GC Analysis)

Tea Tree + Frankincense + Lavender (GC Results)

Tea Tree + Frankincense + Lavender (GC Results)

GC Peaks
Myth #14: The FDA has determined that a product need contain only 5% essential oil in order for it to be labeled as a 100% pure oil.
This statement, seems to have originated from reps of an MLM that has been characterized by spreading this kind of misinformation for a very long time…

The FDA has not made any such determination concerning essential oils. This statement, in various forms (depending on the source you will see numbers ranging from 2 -10% being claimed) seems to have originated from reps of an MLM that has been characterized by spreading this kind of misinformation for a very long time. Let's just think about it for a second, if you have repeated this nonsense or posted it on a website, do you honestly think a government organization like the FDA, if they were going to issue a standard or statement concerning essential oil purity, would only require an oil to be 5% in order to be called 100% pure? Really? A quick google search will take you directly to the FDA website which explains what they regulate . But even more importantly, let's say that some company labeled their essential oil bottle "100% pure lavender oil" and it only actually contained 5% lavender oil, the company would easily loose any product misrepresentation lawsuits aimed at them because it would be quite easy to prove that the label did not match what was in the bottle.

People, you have to start questioning everything nowadays because there is a certain segment of the population who does not care about fact checking and will basically believe whatever they are spoon fed by their gurus and repeat it like parrots, especially if it helps their sales numbers. Before any of you go spreading any information out there without doing some fact checking (outside of the organization feeding you the "facts" who is also selling you something), you might want to pause for a minute and reflect upon what you are doing. If you decide to spread information publicly it is your responsibility to check it out and verify it before putting it out there. If you can't verify it then don't repeat it, it's that simple. If you put something out there without doing some checking to verify and it turns out to be false then what you have done is equivalent to lying. At the very least its spreading false gossip, which I personally believe is the same as lying, even if you don't know its a lie, because you haven't done due diligence to check it out. It is amazing to me how many "religious" people who claim to be so against lying or spreading gossip for religious reasons will not think twice about posting some crazy nonsense on their Facebook page, website or mass emailings without doing even a single google search to try and figure out if what they are about to spread is actually true.

Don't many of us have that "crazy uncle" or other relative who is constantly spreading emails with headlines like "New legislation requires a microchip in the brain of every newborn by 2025" or similar craziness? Then we do a simple google search and in 30 seconds send them a link to snopes or some other myth debunking site that shows clearly why its not true. These kinds of emails are so annoying to the thinking person I wish that these people could see how they are coming off to anyone with half a brain. It's so unnecessary and they could have saved themselves from looking like a tool by just by spending a little effort to check things out.

Don't be that relative. Think. Verify. Act. If you have been a part of spreading this misinformation, atone for it now by sharing this note!

Picture from SNL, with the question: 'Is this WIFI organic?'
Myth #15: A synthetic molecule is different than the same molecule made naturally.
That's right, you read it correctly, its not a mistake and know its going to be hard for some of you to accept that this is in fact a myth…

That's right, you read it correctly, its not a mistake and know its going to be hard for some of you to accept that this is in fact a myth, but I assure you it most certainly is. But, as always, there is more to this story that just leaving it there without further explanation and the truth really takes nothing away from the specialness of essential oils over synthetic fragrances.

First, we need to accept and understand that a molecule has no "knowledge" of the pathway by which it was created and how it behaves in any system is a function of its structure. A molecule of say L-menthol (the main component of peppermint essential oil) will behave EXACTLY the same in any environment whether that molecule of L-menthol was made by the peppermint plant or the BASF Chemical plant. Molecules are simply 3 dimensional arrangements of atoms held together by shared electron densities that we call bonds. When 10 carbon atoms and 15 hydrogen atoms come together in the arrangement shown in the picture we have L-menthol, regardless of who or what orchestrated the atoms coming together in this arrangement. L-menthol is L-menthol because of its structure. The structure is what defines the molecule, not its source.

Now, for the rest of the story. Yes its true that isolated individual molecules are universally the same regardless of who are what synthesized them. But this in no way means that essential oils can be re-constructed, molecule by molecule, in a lab. The reason this is so is because of the vast complexity of essential oils. Essential oils are almost always a collection of hundreds of molecules when you look at all the minor and trace components. The problem becomes infinitely more complex when you consider that almost every one of those components has an enantiomeric form to worry about as well. So, for example, while peppermint oil consists of 40-50% L-menthol, there is also a small amount of its mirror image (D-menthol) in there as well. Not to mention that menthol has not one, but 3 chiral carbon atoms, so when you consider all of the diastereomers (things like iso-menthol, neo-menthol, neo-iso-menthol) and their mirror images there are a total of 8 menthol isomers to worry about! And this is just the molecular system of menthol, trying to exactly recreate the correct ratios of every enantiomer and/or diastereomer of every molecule in an essential oil would be a monumental task that is basically impossible from a practical standpoint.

So, the thing to take away from this is that there is nothing magical about a molecule simple because its made in "nature" (a meaningless term to be because what is not natural? Basically, if it exists its natural, you cannot separate man from nature). The "magic" if you will, is in the complexity that plants construct their molecules that humans in a lab cannot even come close to reproducing, at least not yet. Understanding the science doesn't it make it any simpler or less interesting, in fact, if you really understand whats going on, you realize that things are how incredibly complex and intricate things are and the more you know, the more you know you don't know about the universe. The complexity is the real magic.

3D Image of a molecule
Myth #16: If a company puts "not for internal use" or "for external use only" on their bottles then its an indicator of low quality or adulterated oils.
The truth is that putting the above disclaimers on bottles not only doesn't indicate anything about the quality of the oil…

The truth is that putting the above disclaimers on bottles doesn't really indicate anything about the quality of the oil. I know of many companies who put this on their bottles purely for legal protection reasons. In today's litigious society, I can hardly blame a company for not wanting the liability of potentially losing a lawsuit because someone ingested an excessive amount of essential oil. This has nothing to do with purity or quality.

You can have the highest quality and most pure oil in the world but if you drink a whole bottle of oil, guess what, its going to cause some damage (yes this has happened before). These oils are very good organic solvents and should be respected as such. Is one drop of peppermint oil in your water going to kill you? Of course not. But with more and more people doing crazy things with the oils companies have to protect themselves from uneducated consumers who could potentially abuse the product.

Picture of a young women about to drink from an essential oil bottle
Myth #17: The essential oils of birch and wintergreen contain the compound methyl salicylate which is also found in aspirin.
no essential oils contain anything found in aspirin…

The truth is that no essential oils contain anything found in aspirin. Aspirin is the chemical acetylsalicylic acid and has the structure shown below.

Structure of acetylsalicylic acid

Structure of acetylsalicylic acid

Wintergreen and birch oils on the other hand contain about 99% methyl salicylate (see structure below) which has some structural similarities but is not the same chemical as aspirin and does not behave the same way.

Structure of methyl salicylate

Structure of methyl salicylate

Chemistry in biological systems is very specific, even molecules that are much more similar in structure than methyl salicylate and aspirin can have drastically different effects in the body. This is why it's so important to get the chemistry right when discussing and educating people about essential oils.

Myth #18: Clary Sage oil contains estrogen or has estrogen like properties.
This is yet another claim apparently made by people who lack a fundamental understanding of chemistry…

This is yet another claim apparently made by people who lack a fundamental understanding of chemistry and how molecules work in biological systems. As any sophomore biology or chemistry major in college knows, molecules in biological systems work the way they do because of VERY specific “hand-in-glove” type relationships between active molecules and receptor sites in the living systems. Molecules are three-dimensional structures and many times this perspective is lost to the untrained eye looking at two-dimensional representations of these structures on paper. The structure of the molecule basically determines whether or not it can perform the action of interest, this is why 3D computer molecular modeling is so vital in the drug discovery field. If a molecule doesn’t have the right shape and size to fit where it needs to fit, then its not going to be a candidate to meet the specific need that is being researched.

Having said the above, let’s look at some chemical structures and hopefully anyone can plainly see why its impossible for clary sage oil, or any essential oil for that matter, to act as an estrogen in the human body. There are three main estrogens in humans known as estrone or E1, estradiol or E2 and estriol or E3. All three of these molecules belong to the general class of molecules known as steroids. Steroids are defined by the four joined ring structures which include three six-membered rings and one five-membered ring arranged as in the structure shown below which is known as estradiol. Think of all steroids as three hexagons and one pentagon joined together, they must have this basic structure to be a steroid with the specific steroid of interest being defined by the various functional groups that are attached to this basic quad-ring system. Without this basic backbone structure, the molecule cannot be a steroid, nor can it behave as a steroid would in biological systems.

So why is clary sage oil said to have estrogen like properties? It all has to do with a component found in the oil called Sclareol. So why is sclareol not a good candidate to have estrogen like properties? First of all sclareol is actually a very minute component of the essential oil of clary sage despite some authors claiming that sclareol is present in clary sage oil at 1.6-7.0%, an utterly ridiculous claim. Almost all steam distilled clary sage oils on the market (I would say 99.9% of them) have less than 0.5% sclareol content. As sclareol is a relatively heavy molecule, its really very difficult to get sclareol above that level with conventional steam distillation. To get the level higher, some proprietary distillation processes have to be implored and most companies will not go to that trouble because the sclareol is a valuable precursor to a very important molecule in the synthetic fragrance industry and not deemed important to the essential oil.

Secondly, if we look at the structure of sclareol shown below we will see that it actually has very little in common with the structure of any of the estrogen molecules, E2 being the one that it would have the most in common with because both are what we would call “diols” meaning there are two alcohol groups. Sclareol is not a steroid but what would have to be termed a diterpene diol, not even remotely close to the necessary steroidal backbone.

In comparing the structure of sclareol with that of any of the steroidal estrogen structures we can easily see that sclareol lacks the quad-ring system that define steroids, in fact there are only 2 ring structures in sclareol, making it nowhere close to a good fit in any receptor site that would be accepting of any of the estrogens. Furthermore, the two alcohol groups in sclareol, which likely play a key role in how the estradiol molecule reacts once attached to its receptor, are in very different proximity to one another compared to estradiol. Remember, molecules in biological systems have very specific ways, based on three-dimensional structure, in which they interact to accomplish their designed tasks. Hopefully, even without a chemistry degree, anyone can see that, based on the structural parameters of both systems, there is no way that sclareol could ever perform the function of estrogen in the human body.

In summary, I think the chemical evidence is pretty clear that sclareol is not a steroidal estrogen, does not mimic the function of any estrogen molecules, does not stimulate estrogen production (why would it?), and would not appear to have any mechanism by which it can “balance hormones” at least not by a pathway that has anything to do with estrogens. If you see anyone making these types of claims, simply ask them to site the research that can propose a chemical mechanism that is remotely plausible to accomplish any of these tasks. I don’t think they will be able to produce anything credible to support the claims. If clary sage oil does actually work in any of the above capacities then it has to do it by some other mechanism, unrelated to how estrogens perform in the body. I am not saying that it’s impossible that clary sage can have some of the effects that have been claimed, but just be aware that its not really possible that the oil can mimic estrogens or that the oil contains estrogen like molecules.

Myth #19: Herb X is good for treating Ailment Y, therefore the essential oil from Herb X must also be good for Ailment Y.
This would literally be like saying “A nice juicy steak from a cow has a lot of great protein, but I don’t like meat so I am just going to collect the sweat from the cow and drink that to get all the protein I need.”…

Unfortunately there are many proposed uses for essential oils in popular culture that are based solely on how the herb for that oil has been historically used. Let us look at the logic of making such assumptions solely on the basis of chemistry. As we all know, everything ultimately boils down to chemistry!

It’s very important for people to understand that the essential oil makes up only a tiny minority of the overall chemistry of the plant that gets distilled. The EO is composed of the smallest, most volatile molecules in the plant that are not soluble in water, primarily terpenes and derivatives thereof. The herb, on the other hand, contains many other types of molecules, both water soluble and non-soluble. The real truth about plants and the molecules in them that are most useful to humans, is that the really good stuff, the really hard hitting chemically active parts of the plant that most effect humans ARE NOT IN THE ESSENTIAL OIL. Does this mean essential oils are not useful? Of course not. But most plant bio-actives, the really serious ones, are the molecules that are too large and too heavy to come over in a steam distillation process. Essential oils certainly have their therapeutic place, but they don’t contain the types of molecules that can do things like directly fight cancer for example, at least not in vivo (of course many essential oil molecules can destroy cancer cells if you put them in contact in a petri dish, but so will many synthetic aroma chemicals and that is a totally unrelated scenario than fighting cancer in the body). Essential oils are not drugs, but other heavier molecules in plants certainly can be, cannabis is a perfect example. The cannabis essential oil, while it has its own very nice therapeutic uses, contains no cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.) which are the real heavy hitters in terms of biological activity and are, in fact, natural drugs (change the actual physiology of the body). This is why one cannot get “high” from inhaling the vapors of diffusing or burning cannabis essential oil.

Because of the vast differences in the chemistry of the whole herb versus just the essential oil portion of a plant, one should NEVER take the properties of the herb and assume that the essential oil will have the same properties. This would literally be like saying “A nice juicy steak from a cow has a lot of great protein, but I don’t like meat so I am just going to collect the sweat from the cow and drink that to get all the protein I need.” Of course sweat does not contain any significant amount of protein, as it is mainly water, so this would be a preposterous notion. Obviously the real protein, the most useful stuff to our bodies, is in the meat of the cow. This does not mean that there can’t be some overlap between the essential oil and herbal medicine, we all know that smelling fresh lavender flowers can have a relaxing effect, just as the essential oil has a relaxing effect, this is because the lavender flower contains the essential oil and it’s the essential oil that you are smelling when you smell the flower. But I promise you, and please don't try this at home, you will have an entirely different experience if you eat 5 grams of lavender flower versus drinking 5 grams of lavender essential oil. In fact, the latter would not be a good idea at all!

So you might be asking, what options are available then if the medicinal use of the herb should not be ascribed to the essential oils? Well, if you really want some sort of concentrated extract that will the have herbal medicine properties of the plant in a more useable form, there are products available that would be more appropriate, such as CO2 total extracts. If you are not familiar with CO2 extracts then please see my previous note on the subject for more information, What are CO2 Extracts?. Going back to our cannabis example, it would only take a very small amount (1/10 of a gram) of a cannabis CO2 total that was extracted from a high THC strain to literally knock you on your, well...... you know, and you will likely feel the effects for more than 12 hours. Of course ingesting 0.1 gram of the essential oil would do basically nothing to you other than leave a very bitter taste and dissolve some of the mucous in your mouth leaving it dry (remember essential oils are very good organic solvents). The essential oil has its value, but has to be used in the appropriate manner, and not like the herb or the CO2 extract. In the case of cannabis essential oil, it is found that using the oil in conjunction with the CO2 extract, or even in conjunction with cannabinoid isolates, in vaping applications increases the overall effectiveness in both medicinal and recreational uses. Research has shown that the terpenes of he essential oil bind to the cannabinoids in ways to enhance the benefits, which has lead to extreme interest in cannabis essential oil as of late. Some refer to this as the “entourage effect.” In summary, essential oils are beautiful products that can enhance our lives greatly, but we should be clear in our understanding of the limits of their uses. Essential oils are not drugs and they are not to be assumed to have the properties of the herbs from which they come. Everyone should do thorough research before using essential oils, herbs, and especially CO2 extracts as they are vastly more potent than the herb from which they come. Hopefully people will share this note with their friends who are using essential oils so that we can stop this age old myth from continuing to perpetuate.

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