Are Your Essential Oils Permeable? 4 years ago

Someone recently asked me if a certain brand of essential oils was "permeable" like the brand that their MLM was selling. At first I was confused and then thought maybe I just heard them wrong and so I asked them to repeat the question. Low and behold I did hear them correctly the first time and my only response was "Permeable???? You might as well ask me if the oils have fairies in them."

Permeability is not a characteristic that is applicable to an essential oil. The definition of permeability is as follows:

capable of being permeated : penetrable; especially : having pores or openings that permit liquids or gases to pass through

Cell membranes are permeable, not essential oils. The question seems to be part of a marketing ploy and one that's not really well thought through. Apparently no one is really contemplating the absurdness of the semantics. In order for something to be permeable, or semi-permeable as in cell membranes, there has to be some kind of barrier that will allow particles or molecules of a certain size through the membrane while blocking out objects of anything larger than the "holes" in the membrane. To say an essential oil is permeable is a ridiculous statement because it would be the OBJECT of what is being permeated.

But if a certain brand wants to say that their essential oils are capable of PERMEATING cell membranes in the body, well, thats really not a point of differentiation between a good oil and a bad oil because if a particular oil is capable of permeating anything then ANY brand of that particular oil would also be capable of permeating that same thing, regardless of the quality. So, for example, if your research says that brand A lavender oil permeates a particular cell then so would brands B, C and D, as long as those brands are also lavender oil. In fact, the ability to permeate a membrane is really only a function of molecular size and so you would not even have to have actual lavender oil to demonstrate the same permeability. As you may know, linalool and linalyl acetate make up about 70-80% of true lavender, depending on origin. You could literally take an equal part mixture of linalool and linalyl acetate, from synthetic or natural sources, and show the same or better level of cell membrane permeability. Assuming such permeability occurs at all (another issue altogether).

In short, the permeability of a cell membrane to essential oil molecules is not a function of the quality of an oil but a function of the size and shape of the molecule trying to permeate the membrane. Not only is this marketing tag line absurd when you consider its current grammatical form, but even when you give the originators the benefit of the doubt on their questionable linguistic skills it still doesn't matter because the issue of cell permeability has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with essential oil quality.

As annoying as stuff like this is, at least it gives people with a reasonable amount of critical thinking ability a way to weed out the EO zombies who are trying to sell to them products with scientific sounding terms without ever understanding what they are saying in the first place. So let this tag line be a red flag to anyone who is cornered by an aggressive glassy-eyed rep trying to sell you with claims like "our essential oils are the best because they are permeable!" When you hear this you know to run the other way, regardless of what company is making this claim.

Sign up for the EOUdb for more education opportunities.