Essential Oils & Why Quality Matters
Today I want to talk about something that comes up quite often in the holistic healing field; essential oils. Everyone has an opinion on them, weather you use them or not isn't as important as the kind you use if you do. Essential oils are super popular and you can, literally, find them everywhere. Even Walmart. :(
While it might seem like all essential oils are the same, I can assure you, they are not. So instead of talking about brands, I want to talk about safety!
When I first began looking into essential oils, the prices floored me! I ended up going to a local health food store to buy my first bottle, and I felt like I scored when it was a bottle of Lavender for $8! When I smelled it, it did smell weird, it had a heavy scent of rubbing alcohol (tip: RED FLAG!!) So I started to look up more about essential oils and what was good vs bad. I very quickly realized that my lavender oil was just wasted money. What I had really purchased was a $8 bottle of synthetic fragrance (labeled as “essential oil”), which was packed with toxins and chemicals that were known to be harmful to our body. UGH!
Just so you know, there is this really weird thing about marketing with essential oils. Basically, as long as the company selling the oils has even a tiny single drop of pure essential oil in their otherwise toxic bottle of synthetic fragrance, they can go ahead and call it, label it and sell it as an essential oil. Pretty crappy, huh? So, when you think you're getting a great deal on that bottle of essential oil, you're probably just throwing your hard earned money away, like I did, on something that will do more harm than good.
When I started learning more about essential oils and studying them, then later using them as a holistic healing tool in my practice, I was adamant about only using synthetic, toxin, chemical free oils. I believe in the true healing power of pure essential oils, and have seen the many benefits they do provide when they are derived from the pure essences of the plant.
WHAT ARE SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES EXACTLY?
Synthetic Fragrance oils are primarily made from petrochemicals and attempt to duplicate the smell of a specific plant. By taking apart the unique chemical compound of a pure essential oil, chemists create a "Frankenstein" fragrance. Back in a 1986 report by the National Academy of Sciences reports that 95 percent of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and include benzene derivatives, aldehydes and many other known toxins and synthesizers capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions. See, no bueno!!!
HOW HARMFUL ARE THESE FRAGRANCES?
Over 60% of what you put on your skin, the largest organ on your body, gets absorbed into your blood stream, and unlike your kidneys and liver that act as your body’s filter, the skin has no filter at all. On average, about 80% of fragrances are comprised of these possibly harmful artificial chemicals and in some cases, 100% of a formula can be synthetic!! When the skin absorbs these artificial chemicals in a few ways: by direct application, by contact with fragranced items, and by exposure to air containing fragrances that can accumulate in your body and even internally. They can trigger allergic reactions, migraines, asthma attacks, nausea, eczema, and a whole host of other sensitivities.
Here are the top, most harmful, compounds found in synthetic fragrances:
- Phthalates- This popular fragrance preservative found in many commercial fragrances is usually highly concentrated and is a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Adverse health effects may include damage to liver/kidneys, infertility issues in men and women.
- Parabens- A commonly used type of synthetic preservatives in many fragrances, they also can interfere with the production and release of hormones and cause many of the problems listed above. Please avoid any product that list these to "ingredients" or simply "Fragrance" on the package.
And did you know, that even after banning methylene chloride (a well known carcinogen that also causes autoimmune disease) back in 1989, an EPA study two years later listed the chemical as one of the 20 most common chemicals found in fragrance products. This isn't just in tiny essential oil bottles, this in lotions, shampoo, perfume, make up, etc. And then in a 2001 study, the EPA reported that synthetic fragrances were shown to cause "possible mutagenic and genotoxic effects." Synthetic fragrances have also been shown to contain hormone disruptors which are linked to abnormal cell reproduction and may result in tumor growth.
Aside from all these possible and very real health concerns, the biggest drawback of a synthetic fragrance oil vs a natural Essential Oil is that the manufactured scent does not contain the therapeutic properties of their counterpart plant based Essential Oils, thus the true benefit and purpose of aromatherapy is lost. The synthetic version of any Essential Oil only attempts to mimic the aroma and not the medicinal properties transferred from the plant material itself. So you’re getting a nice, harmful, scent and nothing else. For some this may be enough to enhance your mood, but for me the synthetic fragrance just isn’t as appealing as it once was before I knew about purse essential oils and all of the benefits the provide.
This is why it is so very very VERY important to know, trust and understand where your oils, and other products you use on your body, care coming from. If you want to learn more, or would like a recommendation on which oils to use, please leave a comment or send me an email!
xxo - N