Essential oils have experienced a huge surge in popularity in recent years – and for good reason with their wide-ranging benefits for treating all sorts of ailments, use in beauty products, household cleaning and beyond. While just about everyone has heard the talk, not everyone knows all there is to know about the oils, which is why we’ve gathered together some facts that many may be unfamiliar with.
1. Essential oils are produced naturally, which means they can’t be patented
There’s a good chance that at some point, you’ve wondered why essential oils aren’t used more often. After all, they have such a wide range of benefits and come without side effects when used properly – unlike pharmaceuticals, which often have a long list of pretty frightening side effects.
The bottom line is that essential oils are natural, which means that can’t be patented. As such, you’ll never see an essential oil in a pharmaceutical medication, and you can expect that the vast majority of traditional healthcare providers will never recommend them as an alternative to drugs.
Perhaps the main reason is that because essential oils can’t be patented, pharmaceutical companies won’t waste their time and money studying them. To date, most of what we know about essential oils has been passed down through thousands of years of actual use and experimentation, though there have been some scientific studies conducted that have proven certain benefits of some oils.
2. Essential oils aren’t oils
Essential oils aren’t oils; they’re highly concentrated plant constituents that possess potent medicinal and cosmetic qualities. Confusing, right? They aren’t technically oils because they don’t contain fatty acids, which is what makes up an actual oil.
3. Essential oils and fragrance oils aren’t the same things
Many people are under the impression that essential oils and fragrance oils are one in the same, but they’re anything but. In fact, one of the best clues to an oil being synthetic rather than natural is that it uses the word “fragrance” or “perfume.” Don’t be fooled by the term “natural fragrance” either – natural in this instance has no meaning at all.
4. An incredible amount of plant is required to produce essential oils
Essential oils don’t come cheap, and that’s because it takes an incredible amount of plant to produce them. The quantity may decrease or increase depending on the type, but consider that just one pound of lavender oil requires over 150 pounds of lavender flowers, and more than 250 pounds of peppermint leaves are needed to make a pound of peppermint essential oil. In one of the most extreme cases, it takes at least 4,000 pounds of Bulgarian rose to produce a pound of essential oil. No wonder, right?!
5. Essential oils aren’t that expensive when you consider their shelf life
When properly stored in a dark glass bottle in a cool, dry place, essential oils last for at least five years, and often as long as ten years. And, considering that the oils are extremely concentrated, taking just a tiny amount for any application, they usually last for a very long time. If you do the math, you’ll discover that essential oils are a real bargain. Do keep in mind that there is one exception: citrus oils tend to have a reduction in potency after two years.
6. ‘Therapeutic Grade’ is a marketing term
Buying Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil probably sounds like a good idea if you’re searching for a high-quality essential oil, but the term doesn’t mean anything at all. It started as a marketing concept back in the 1990s, and today, just about every company selling essential oils states that its oils are of “therapeutic grade,” as a way to present its products as the best on the market.
7. You can tell a high-quality essential oil from a cheap knock-off
If Therapeutic Grade doesn’t tell you which brand to buy, what should you look for? There are some clues to look for in any essential oil. The oil should include its common name, Latin name, country of origin, part of the plant processed, the extraction method, and how it was grown. When you have the oil in hand, you also need to utilize your senses – and not only your nose but your eyes.
To test your oil for purity, place just one drop on a piece of white paper (computer printer paper is ideal) and let it dry. If an oil ring is left behind, it’s not a pure essential oil. There are exceptions, as some oils are deeper in color and heavier in consistency and can leave a slight tint behind, though it shouldn’t be greasy. Those exceptions include sandalwood, patchouli oils and German chamomile.
8. Essential oils can work quickly
Because essential oils are lipid soluble, which means that they’re capable of going through cell walls, oils can start working in as little as 20 minutes time.
9. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better
If you notice a wide fluctuation in price between brands with the same type of essential oil, most likely the far less expensive will be the one that’s lower in quality. However, if there is just a small variation in cost differences, the highest priced isn’t necessarily the highest quality essential oil, it’s just the highest priced. While you should understand that you will need to pay for quality (and, therefore the most optimal benefits), realize that there is little difference in quality between the more “typically priced” essential oils.
If you want to save money, purchase cheaper oils that you plan to use for non-therapeutic purposes, such as those used to make a natural household cleaner, for example. When it comes to your body, don’t skimp on quality – look for an ethical supplier that sells organic essential oils that are grown without the use of toxic fertilizers or pesticides.
10. Essential oils aren’t regulated or certified by the USFDA
There is no U.S. government agency that certifies or regulates essential oils – and, there are no quality controls for the oils in the United States whatsoever. If someone tells you different, they’re mistaken or possibly outright lying. Marketers have the freedom to say or do whatever they want to sell you their product; exaggerating, or lying, isn’t against the law. It’s up to you to be the smart consumer and know exactly what you’re buying. In general, that sales rep doesn’t care whether or not an essential oil is going to benefit you, their only goal is to get you to buy from them.
11. Not ALL essential oils have to be diluted
The majority of essential oils do need to be diluted before use to avoid a potentially dangerous reaction, but there are some exceptions to this. Those acknowledged by experts as safe to use undiluted, though sparingly, include: tea tree essential oil, German chamomile essential oil, lavender essential oil, rose geranium essential oil and sandalwood essential oil.
12. Less than one percent of the entire plant species population produces essential oils
In the plant kingdom, there are more than 250,000 different plant species. Of those, there are about 450 plant species that produce useable essential oils, though just 125-150 can be used in Therapeutic Aromatherapy. Many of the others are used in perfumery and other industries.
13. Essential oils can boost your confidence
If you have a job interview, a big speech, or another important event that requires confidence, essential oils are a great tool to have. You can smell of confidence by using oils like rosemary or jasmine. Jasmine is known to help calm nerves, and it’s also used as an antidepressant as its uplifting properties help to produce a greater feeling of confidence and optimism. Rosemary not only helps to improve memory retention, but it also offers stimulating properties that fight mental fatigue and physical exhaustion. Other good essential oils for boosting confidence include bergamot, orange, and grapefruit.
14. The history of essential oil from 3500 BC to today
Dating back to 3500 BC, Egyptians were the first people to take advantage of aromatherapy and aromatic herbs and included their use for religious purposes, cosmetics, and as medicine. By 377 BC, the wisdom of the Egyptians spread to the ancient Greeks. In fact, Hippocrates, the most well-known physician of the time, was said to use essential oils to treat his patients.
It was in the 10th century, after the fall of the Roman Empire, that the Arabian Empire followed the Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese teaching of oils. It was during this time that Persian physician Avicenna perfected the distillation process of essential oils. In more modern times, French chemist and perfumer Rene Maurice Gattefosse learned that small amounts of the oils could be absorbed by the body and interact with its chemistry – in 1910, he used lavender oil to treat a burn on his hand.
In the 1950s, essential oils began to be used in massage therapy, and two decades later, the use of essential oils became a major part of alternative and holistic health treatments.