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Do organic and other essential oils live up to the hype?

A bundle of thyme, ready to process into essential oils
A bundle of thyme, ready to process into essential oils
Wikimedia commons/Evan-Amos

Essential oils became a trendy lifestyle fad hot on the heels of aromatherapy. These highly concentrated oils usually extracted from aromatic plants like herbs, flowers, spices and citrus came into vogue, disappeared for a while, and are now a hot item again.

Essential Oil Saturation

One only has to Google "essential oils" to find page after page of dealers of "theraputic grade" and other essential oils: Young Living, Puritan, Bulkapothecary, New Directions, Mountain Rose Herbs, Rocky Mountain Oils, Nature's Kiss, DoTerra, Silky Scents and more line page one. A search for "essential oils dealers" turns up 4,650,000 results! Essential oils are BIG Business.

History & Health

Proponents of essential oils are always quick to point out the use of these oils dates back to ancient times and can be found in many cultures, even mentioned in the Bible. What is rarely mentioned is the average life span in Biblical times was roughly 20 - 30 years (or 45 to 47 years for those who reached age 10) in spite of the availability of those essential oils.

This is much shorter than the average life span today which raises questions as to how effective essential oils are compared to clinical ingredients and modern medicine. Life expectancy remains low in many of the Asian and Middle Eastern countries which export essential oils, which is a conundrum for those who push essential oils.

How Effective Are They?

For use on top of the skin, essential oils can act as humectants, and they can sooth minor irritations. The wrong oils can also aggravate irritations. Oils are comedogenic, so they can clog pores. Some essential oils do kill bacteria on the surface of the skin, and there is some evidence some lipids can help exfoliate skin in a less aggressive fashion than scrubs. However, oils with citrus photosensitize the skin and should not be used when going outdoors.

Don't Eat the Daisies

Before ingesting any essential oils, it is a important to speak with a doctor. Although essential oil manufacturing usually uses fewer harsh solvents in the process than in years past, the process is not always as "pure" as organic dealers would like consumers to think. In addition, some essential oils can be toxic to the liver or kidneys when ingested.

Expensive to Buy--Cheap to Make

Essential oils can be quite costly to purchase. However, many of these same oils are relatively cheap to distill at home using the relatively simple and effective water-and-steam distillation process. To do this, there are actually stills which can be purchased just for the preparation of good-quality oils at home. The stills themselves are not cheap, though. Thankfully there are other options to making essential oils at home using distilled water as well as olive oil, rapeseed oil and other oils to create essential oils at home.

We will look at how to create essential oils at home using distilled water in Part II and with oil based methods in Part III of this series.

Note: Home-made essential oils are not rated as "therapeutic grade" and should not be ingested. However, these home methods are often similar to those used in ancient times, and there was no such thing as "therapeutic grade" in ancient times.


See: National Skin Care Examiner * Rodan + Fields Examiner * Skin, Health & Beauty on Facebook * SkinHealthBeauty * Rodan + Fields Products

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