Essential Oils Safety Quick Reference

Essential Oil Safety Quick Reference

This is just a quick post to announce my new Essential Oils Safety Quick Reference, which you can download for free!

This is essential information for anyone considering using essential oils for whatever purpose you have in mind.

Eighteen pages of safety information about essential oils. Don’t start using essential oils without referring to this safety reference first.

Download it here.


Sweet basil essential oil is extracted from the same herb used in Italian cooking

Sweet Basil essential oil, benefits and uses

Description

Sweet basil essential oil is extracted from the same herb used in Italian cooking

Sweet basil essential oil is extracted from the same herb used in Italian cooking


Sweet basil essential oil has a refreshing aroma similar to the herb used in Italian cooking – as it is, in fact, extracted from the same herb, when it is in flower. The botanical name is Ocimum basilicum. Be careful not to mix it up with Holy basil, Ocimum sanctum aka Tulsi.

Sweet basil is available in several chemotypes, the primary one may have the label Ocimum basilicum ct. linalool, whereas so-called exotic basil, which should be handled with caution, has the botanic name O. basilicum ct. methyl chavicol.

I offer sweet basil essential oil in my online shop.

Contra-indications and warnings

As with all essential oils, sweet basil essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.


Blending: Undiluted basil oil is likely to cause irritation if applied directly to skin. It’s important to dilute basil oil for use in massage or other topical applications with an appropriate carrier oil or other base at a rate of no more than 1 drop to each 2ml carrier before use. Bear in mind that this amount refers to the total eg. if you’re making an equal blend of basil, rosemary and peppermint, you would use a maximum of 1 drop of each to 6ml base.

May cause sensitisation. Do not use on sensitive skin. Not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women or children under 13 years of age. Consult your doctor before using basil essential oil if you are currently being treated for a chronic condition.

Therapeutic uses

Basil is a good expectorant. Use it in an oil burner or electric oil warmer for breathing disorders including COPD, bronchitis and other coughs, sinusitis, catarrh, colds and flu. Diffused basil oil is also helpful as an aid to concentration and mental clarity and for nervous conditions including anxiety, depression, insomnia and fatigue.

Use in a massage blend for rheumatism, cramps, muscle pain, gout, indigestion, flatulence (“wind” or “gas”), abdominal cramp and for migraine. It is also helpful used in this way for infections and to lower high temperatures. You can also use blended oil to treat earache.

Other Notes

Basil blends well with bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender, peppermint and rosemary. See note above as to proportions.


Myrtle and Lemon Myrtle essential oils, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Plant photo by H. Zell - Own wor

Myrtle. Plant photo by H. Zell – Own wor

Myrtle and lemon myrtle essential oils are both generally available and sometimes confused. Myrtle essential oil comes from the Mediterranean, but lemon myrtle essential oil is from Australia.

As with all essential oils, neither myrtle nor lemon myrtle oil should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Myrtle (sometimes called green myrtle) essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and twigs of Myrtus communis. A commercial culinary oil is also obtained by extraction from the berries.

The myrtle is an evergreen shrub which is native to the Mediterranean region. The colour of the essential oil varies according to where it was sourced: North African oil is a reddish brown colour and Corsican oil is a much brighter green.

Myrtle essential oil is antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, decongestant, deodorant, expectorant, nervine, sedative and a mosquito repellent.

Myrtle is traditionally considered to be sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. The oil lives up to this reputation by being helpful to relieve cases of erectile dysfunction and loss of libido, which accounts for its reputation as an aphrodisiac. It is also helpful as a beautifying oil, contracting and tightening skin. helping to diminish wrinkles. It is useful for blends for use on oily skin, open pores, and as a treatment for skin irritation and conditions including quite severe cases of acne. It can also be included in an ointment for haemorrhoids at a rate of 1 drop to each 5ml base.

It is an adaptogen which balances the thyroid and ovaries, and also brings the emotions into balance, relieving stress and anxiety.

Myrtle essential oil is particularly helpful in oil burners or electric diffusers for respiratory disorders especially hay fever, reducing tickly coughs at night, relieving congestion and catarrh and improving the productivity of dry coughs.

I offer myrtle essential oil in my online shop.

Lemon myrtle

Lemon myrtle

Lemon myrtle essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves of Backhousia citriodora, an evergreen tree native to Queensland, Australia which is sometimes confused with the lemon ironbark, Eucalyptus staigeriana. It has a clean lemon fragrance, being almost 98% citral.

Lemon myrtle oil is antibacterial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, decongestant, germicidal, mood-enhancing, relaxing, stimulating, uplifting and an insect repellent.

Used in an oil burner or electric diffuser it helps keep colds, flu and other airborne infections at bay, reduces sinus problems and discourages creepy crawlies like moths and silverfish.

In blends it is beneficial for acne, eczema, Molluscum contagiosum, cold sores, spots (zits) and skin infections of all kinds. It can also be used on pet bedding to deter fleas.


Four cedarwood essential oils, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

cedarwood oil sources

4 trees which are used to produce cedarwood essential oils

There are four main types of cedarwood essential oil, from two different plant families. Atlas Cedarwood and Himalayan Cedarwood are from the Pinaceae family, while Virginian Cedarwood and Texas Cedarwood are from Cupressaceae. Atlas cedarwood and Virginian cedarwood are the oils which are most frequently offered for sale.

All types of cedarwood are generally safe for use in aromatherapy, but none of them should be used by pregnant women or on children under 12 years of age. As with most essential oils, they should be used diluted with a carrier oil for use on the skin. Use a rate of 5 drops essential oil to each 10ml carrier oil or other base.

Cedarwood oils blend well with essential oils from herbs and spices: aniseed, angelica, basil, bay, black pepper, cardamom, carrot seed, celery, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, coriander, dill, fennel, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary and thyme. Remember to use no more than 4 essential oils to a blend, and that the total number of drops should be the normal 5 drops to each 10ml carrier oil. eg. if you’re blending cedarwood and rosemary into 20ml carrier oil, you would use no more than 5 drops of cedarwood and 5 of rosemary (or 6 and 4, or whatever blend you prefer that adds up to 10, since there’s 20ml carrier oil).

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Atlas cedarwood essential oil is also called Atlantic cedar, African cedar, Moroccan cedarwood and libanol. It’s extracted by steam distillation from the wood of Cedrus atlantica. You might also see an absolute or a concrete on sale.

Himalayan cedarwood is extracted from the leaves, twigs and branches of Cedrus deodara by steam distillation. The Himalayan cedar is also called deodar cedar and considered sacred. Because of this, the oil is sometimes used for spiritual purposes.

Atlas and Himalayan cedarwood essential oils are helpful for skin conditions like greasy skin, spots, zits, acne, eczema and dermatitis, also for fungal infections. It is also helpful for dandruff and to help prevent hair loss. Massage into affected areas to relieve arthritis pain, or over the whole body for stress and nervous tension. In an oil burner or electric diffuser, atlas cedarwood is helpful for coughs including bronchitis, catarrh abd congestion. You could also use it as a chest rub for the same purposes.

Texas cedarwood essential oil is extracted from the heartwood and shavings of a felled Juniperus ashei tree (syn. J. mexicana), also called mountain cedar, Mexican cedar and Mexican juniper. The fragrance is like a harsher variant of Virginian cedarwood.

Virginian cedarwood essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the timber waste of Juniperus virginiana, and is also known as red cedar and Bedford cedarwood.

Texas and Virginian cedarwood oils are used for the same purposes as Atlas and Himalayan cedarwood, but can also be used to treat psoriasis, added to shampoo for greasy hair and used as an insect repellent.

I offer both Atlas cedarwood essential oil and Virginian cedarwood essential oil in my online shop.


Poetic guide to blending essential oils

<em>Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy</em>

This is a horrible bit of doggerel, but it might help when you’re blending essential oils to remember the way the aromas blend best. If you make a blend that smells awful, you’ll just be wasting time and money, because you are very unlikely to use it.

Chamomile Roman, chamomile blue
Geranium, jasmine, lavender too
Neroli, rose and violet
These are the members of the floral set.

Palmarosa, patchouli
Sandalwood makes number three
Vetiver, ylang ylang
These oils are in the exotic clan.

Benzoin, camphor and fir needle
Frankincense, galbanum, myrrh
Add vanilla to complete the scene
Seven oils, all made from resin.

Star anise and both the bays
Black pepper, cardamom, clove
Cinnamon, coriander, ginger too
Nutmeg’s the last of the spicey crew.

Cedarwood Atlas and Virginian
Cypress and Eucalyptuses
Juniper, myrtle, rosewood and pine
Tea tree’s the final woody kind.

Angelica, basil, carrot seed
Celery, clary, fennel and dill
Rosemary, peppermint, marjoram
Thyme fills up the herbarium.

Grapefruit and lime are citrus oils.
Mandarin, lemon and orange too.
Citronella, verbena and lemongrass
Smell just close enough to pass.

Use these groups to make a blend:
Citrus and floral are good friends.
Floral and exotic make something nice.
Exotic and resin may entice.
Resin and spice can be a delight.
Spice and woody smells just right.
Woody and herbal complement.
Herb and citrus makes a lovely scent.


Top left: West Indian Bay. Bottom right: Bay Laurel

Bay Laurel and West Indian Bay essential oils, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Top left: West Indian Bay. Bottom right: Bay Laurel

Top left: West Indian Bay. Bottom right: Bay Laurel

There are two essential oils that are both sometimes labelled “Bay essential oil” without any further description beyond the botanical name. So far, so not unusual. This sort of thing is why I bore everyone rigid by insisting on quoting the latin name of every herb used in aromatherapy and herbal medicine.

The two essential oils in question here are Bay Laurel (or Laurel, Sweet Bay, or just Bay), Laurus nobilis and West Indian Bay (or just Bay), Pimenta racemosa. While there is some overlap between them so far as properties are concerned, there are also many differences.

As with all essential oils, neither bay laurel essential oil nor West Indian bay essential oil should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

West Indian bay is the oil that was used in men’s hair oil. My dad used to have some, called “bay rum”, though it didn’t have any rum in it so far as I know, and didn’t smell much like rum either. I’ve seen the scent described as “spicy and sexy”, but trust me. I never found it in the least bit sexy. On the other hand, it was my dad, after all.

Probably its most well known property is as a hair restorative (though whether it works or not I can’t say – my dad had plenty of hair, though). It is both antifungal and strongly antibacterial as well as being a decongestant, so it’s helpful for colds and flu, catarrh and sinusitis. It also relieves the pain of arthritis, cramps, headache, joint and muscle pain including sprains, and neuralgia. On top of all that, it’s also beneficial for mental exhaustion and is a memory aid.


Traditionally used as an insect repellent (particularly effective against moths), it blends well with orange, geranium and rosemary.

West Indian bay can be irritant, so should always be diluted at a rate of 1 drop max. to each 2ml carrier oil before use on the skin, and shouldn’t be used on sensitive skin or areas. For the same reason, avoid using it on children under 12.

An aromatherapist called Robert Tisserand says it may interact with pethidine, MAOIS, SSRIs and anticoagulant medications, so if you’re taking any of these, it’s probably best to use something else.

You should also avoid using West Indian bay if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or you are taking anti-coagulants/blood thinners, or if you suffer from cancer or kidney problems.

As it is toxic, it should never be taken internally, but I advise against using any essential oil internally anyway.

Bay laurel is from the same tree we get bay leaves to use in cooking. It is analgesic, antiseptic, antibiotic, expectorant and anti-spasmodic. These properties make it helpful for coughs, colds and flu, cramps, period pains, rheumatism, muscle pain including sprains, neuralgia and skin infections. It’s also a tonic, gallbladder stimulant and sedative, helpful for stressful situations and a confidence booster. Finally, it is a useful insecticide, and blends well with ginger, juniper, lavender, orange, rosemary and ylang ylang.

When used on the skin, bay laurel essential oil must always be diluted at a rate of 1 drop max. to each 2ml carrier oil. It may cause irritation and/or sensitisation, so don’t use it on sensitive skin. It is not suitable for use by children under 12, pregnant women or cancer patients.

I offer bay laurel essential oil in my online shop.


Cinnamomum camphora trees in Madagascar produce ravintsara essential oil

Ravensara and Ravintsara essential oils, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Cinnamomum camphora trees in Madagascar produce ravintsara essential oil

Cinnamomum camphora trees in Madagascar produce ravintsara essential oil

There are a number of potential sources of confusion in the aromatherapy pharmocopeia, but one that really stands out as an ongoing problem is the distinction between ravensara and ravintsara.

At first glance, you would most likely assume that ravintsara is just an alternative spelling for ravensara, or vice versa. It’s obvious from some of the information online about these two oils that this assumption has resulted in the wrong descriptions of uses in certain places, so there’s no need to be ashamed if you’re one of those that has fallen into this trap. I freely admit that I originally believed the same thing. But it’s not true.

As with all essential oils, neither ravensara essential oil nor ravintsara essential oil should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

I’ve always advised that anyone using essential oils or herbs for medicinal purposes should pay more attention to the scientific or Latin name than to the English one. Different places have common names for particular herbs and plants that may be used for a completely different species elsewhere. Oils are extracted from these plants, and it’s not surprising of they end up being labeled with the common name local to the place where the oil was extracted. This case is just one example of the difficulties that can arise when the common, rather than the scientific name is used for identification.

So let’s try and clear this up.

Ravensara essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaf of Cryptocarya agathophylla (syn. Agathophyllum aromaticum, Ravensara aromatica and R. anisata). It is also sometimes called clove nutmeg oil. Another essential oil, Havozo, is extracted from the bark of the same plant.

Ravensara essential oil is not often used, as most of the oil bearing this English name is in fact ravintsara. However, Nature’s Gift recommends it for treating shingles, herpes and other viral infections, either topically or in a diffuser. It is often used with calophyllum for external use.

I offer Ravensara essential oil in my online shop.

Ravintsara essential oil is an extract of Cinnamomum camphora– but only from trees grown in Madagascar. The scientific name on the label must say “Cinnamomum camphora ct. 1,8-cineole” to indicate it is the correct extract. If you find a Cinnamomum camphora oil which does not have “ct. 1,8-cineole” on the label, then it is some type of Camphor or Ho oil, which is toxic and not to be used under any circumstances.

Ravintsara is best used to ease breathing in asthmacoughs (including whooping cough), colds and other respiratory problems.


A Canadian balsam tree in the White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA

Balsamic essential oils, benefits and uses

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

A Canadian balsam tree in the White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA

A Canadian balsam tree in the White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA

Although the word balsamic is generally associated with an expensive gourmet vinegar nowadays, originally it meant “derived from balsam” – which is another word for resin.

There are several essential oils which include the word balsam in their names (not all of which are actually derived from resin). In today’s post I will be covering the four most commonly found, Canadian balsam, copaiba balsam, Peru balsam and Tolu balsam plus another which is sometimes called Canada balsam, Tsuga or Spruce.

As with all essential oils, none of the oils mentioned in this post should be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Note: Friars’ balsam BP is a conventional medicine prepared from Liquidambar orientalis and Benzoin sumatra extracts. It is an old-fashioned treatment for the relief of cold symptoms, usually sold in crystal form and used in steam inhalation, readily available in chemists (possibly also in pharmacies Stateside), but probably not in aromatherapy stores. As it’s not regarded as an aromatherapy product, it will not be referred to further here.

The two Canadian balsams

Canadian balsam is a name used for two different essential oils.

The first is distilled from the oleoresin collected from Abies balsamea (syn. A. balsamifera, A. phanerolepis and Pinus balsamea). Other names for this tree include American silver fir, balm of Gilead fir*, balsam fir, balsam tree, Canada balsam, eastern fir, fir balsam or just balsam.

* Balm of Gilead, also called Balm of Mecca, is an ancient remedy extracted from Commiphora gileadensis syn. C. opobalsamum. It is mentioned in the Bible but is no longer used. Its legendary healing properties and rarity have led to the name being applied to other sources of balsam, including Abies balsamea and Populus candicans.

Safety Precautions

The oleoresin is sometimes used in perfumes, and has been shown to cause dermatitis in some people. In any case, do not use Canadian balsam essential oil in large amounts – excess use may cause nausea and/or act as a purgative (a strong laxative).

Uses

Test dilute essential oil on the joint inside the elbow, leave for 24 hours and check results before using more extensively.

Before use, dilute in the usual way with suitable carrier oil if using for massage or direct application. Canadian balsam essential oil is used for asthma, bronchitis, bruises, burns, catarrh, chronic cough, COPDcuts, cystitis, depression, hemorrhoids, nervous tension, sore nipples, sore throat, stress and urinary infections.

The second oil sometimes called Canadian basalm (also spruce** or tsuga) is collected from the hemlock spruce, Tsuga canadensis (syn. Abies canadensis var. gracilis, Picea canadensis and Pinus canadensis), also called Canadian hemlock, eastern hemlock, eastern hemlock-spruce or just hemlock.

**The similarly named black spruce is extracted from Picea mariana. I offer black spruce essential oil in my online shop.

Uses

Before use, dilute in the usual way with suitable carrier oil if using for massage or direct application.

Usually labelled Tsuga or spruce essential oil, it is analgesic (pain relieving), antimicrobial, anti-rheumatic and antiseptic and is used for arthritic pain, external ulcers, muscular pain and open wounds. Another important use, resulting from research at Brigham University in 2003, is to treat breast and cervical cancer. It is the most effective treatment for cervical cancer available to the aromatherapist and ranks number three (after myrtle and sandalwood) for breast cancer.

I offer spruce (Canada balsam) essential oil in my online shop.

Copaiba balsam, Copaifera officinalis

Copaiba balsam essential oil distilled from balsam collected by drilling holes in the trunk of Copaifera officinalis trees (formerly Copaiva officinalis). Also sometimes called copahu balsam, copaiva, Jesuit’s balsam, Maracaibo balsam and para balsam.

Safety Precautions

Generally considered safe, but may cause sensitization. Before use, dilute in the usual way with suitable carrier oil if using for massage or direct application.

Uses

Before use, dilute in the usual way with suitable carrier oil if using for massage or direct application.

Copaiba essential oil is used for bronchitis, colds, coughs, cystitis, hemorrhoids, intestinal infections and stress.

Peru balsam, Myroxylon balsamum var. pereirae
Tolu balsam, Myroxylon balsamum var. balsamum

Peru balsam and Tolu balsam are different varieties of Myroxylon balsamum. Balsam of Tolu comes from M.b. var. balsamum (syn. Toluifera balsamum) and balsam of Peru from M.b. var. pereirae (syn. Myrospermum pereirae, Myroxylon pereirae and Toluifera pereirae), though Peru balsam is sometimes just labelled as Myroxylon balsamum. Both types of essential oil are produced by distillation of balsam collected from the tree.

Uses

Before use, dilute in the usual way with suitable carrier oil if using for massage or direct application.

Peru balsam essential oil is used for asthma, bronchitis, chapped skin, colds, coughs, dry skin, eczema, low blood pressure, nervous tension, rashes, rheumatism, stress and open wounds.

Tolu balsam essential oil is used for bronchitis, catarrh, chapped skin, coughs, cracked skin, croup, dry skin, eczema, laryngitis, rashes, scabies and open wounds.


Don’t try these at home – essential oils you should avoid

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Not all essential oils are suitable for home use

Not all essential oils are suitable for home use

Not all essential oils are beneficial. There are some essential oils you should avoid completely.

As I’ve said before, you should never use anything except 100% pure essential oils, and definitely not “fragrance oils”, for safety’s sake if for no other reason. Almost all essential oils will also need to be diluted with an appropriate carrier oil as well, which also reduces any chance of problems.

Of course, anything can cause an allergic reaction if you’re sensitive, so please be careful the first time you use any essential oil, especially if you already suffer from allergies of any kind.

There are some oils you should never use under any circumstances (most of these are used in manufacturing), and others that should be left to professionals. So just below this paragraph is a list of the ones you should never use. Further down is a list of the oils that should only be used by qualified aromatherapists.

For safety’s sake essential oils should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

NB: Some oils may be sold under different common names. Check the latin name. If you have any doubt, just don’t buy!

Essential oils that should never be used at home at all

Common Name Latin name
Almond, Bitter Prunus dulcis var. armara
Armoise Artemisia vulgaris
Arnica Arnica montana
Birch, Sweet Betula lenta
Boldo Peumus boldus
Broom, Spanish Spartium junceum
Calamus (Sweet Flag) Acorus calamus var. angustatus
Camphor, Brown and Yellow Cinnamomum camphora
Cassia Cinnamomum cassia
Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium
Cinnamon bark Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Deertongue Carphephorus odoratissimus
Elecampane Inula helenium
Fennel, Bitter Foeniculum vulgare var. amara
Horseradish Armoracia rusticana
Jaborandi Pilocarpus jaborandi
Mustard Brassica nigra
Nettle, Stinging Urtica dioica
Nutmeg Myristica fragrans
Oregano, Common Origanum vulgare
Oregano, Spanish Origanum capitatus
Parsley herb Petroselinum sativum
Pennyroyal, American Hedeoma pulegioides
Pennyroyal, European Mentha pulegium
Pine, Dwarf Pinus inugo var pumillio
Rue Ruta graveolens
Sage Salvia officinalis
St John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum
Sassafras Sassafras albidum
Sassafras, Brazilian Ocotea pretiosa
Savine Juniperus sabina
Savory, Summer Satureja hortensis
Savory, Winter Satureja montaha
Southernwood Artemisia abrotanum
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
Thuja Thuja spp
Tonka Dipteryx odorata
Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens
Wormseed Chenopodium ambrosioides var anthelminticum
Wormwood Artemisia absinthium

Essential oils that should only be used on the instructions of a qualified aromatherapist

Common Name Latin name
Aniseed (Anise) Pimpinella anisum
Caraway Carum carvi
Garlic Allium sativum
Melilotus Melilotus officinalis
Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus
Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus
Thyme, Red Thymus vulgaris

Whether you buy organic or not, it's important that you buy 100% pure essential oils

Pros and cons of organic essential oil

Originally published on Guide to Aromatherapy

Whether you buy organic or not, it's important that you buy 100% pure essential oils

Whether you buy organic or not, it’s important that you buy 100% pure essential oils

I’ve been asked to explain the difference between organic and non-organic essential oils, so that’s what this post is about.

Before I get into the subject I should remind you that whether you buy organic or not, it’s important that you buy 100% pure essential oils. This is the grade you should always use, because it means the oil hasn’t been adulterated with other inferior and potentially dangerous additives. You should also avoid so-called “fragrance oils” which may contain no essential oil at all, and will almost certainly include dangerous substitutes.

Remember that aromatherapy oils are medicinal, and like conventional medicines there are cowboys and counterfeiters trying to make cash out of the market by selling stuff that either has been watered down using what they might refer to as “nature-identical” chemicals or just made from scratch in some factory. They might even label their products “100% pure” or “organic” – but some lowlifes label fake heart tablets just like the real thing, too.

Please note that essential oils should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

Make sure you buy your oils from a reputable supplier. That way, you can be sure that the products you buy are what they say they are.

Needless to say, at the current state of human knowledge, the only nature identical product you can get is that actually produced naturally, not in a lab or factory. Manufactured (as opposed to real) oils might smell quite like the oil you thought you were buying, but the effects will almost certainly be totally different – they may even make a condition you are trying to treat worse.

So, to get back to the main point of this post: the pros and cons of organic essential oil. In one sense, of course, all essential oils are “organic” in that they’ve been produced naturally by plants. This is what organic used to mean when I was a kid (I’m sure that dates me, lol), but nowadays the term means a lot more – that the plants have been grown without the use of chemicals in clean soil that hasn’t seen a chemical fertilizer or pesticide for many years (the actual number of years differs from country to country).

On my herbal medicine posts, I always advise readers to grow their herbs organically. This is because, if you drench your herbs in chemicals it’s in the nature of plants to draw them in through the roots and leaves. Conventional farmers rely on this behavior, but if you’re going to use a remedy made from a plant which contains unnatural substances, the results may be completely different from what you expect.

The same applies to aromatherapy oils, which are highly concentrated extracts of plants. Normally, they’re used in quite high dilution as discussed in other posts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and get the purest variety you can find.

So that’s the pro for organic essential oils. And it’s a biggy. But what are the cons?

There are basically two: price and availability.

If you look through the lists of essential oils on sale, you’ll probably notice that not every oil is available in an organic version. This is because organic certification is quite tricky, and many oils are sourced from parts of the world where these things are rarely paid much attention to. That doesn’t mean that the oils aren’t produced using organic methods – they may be – but getting them certified as such is difficult, particularly when the oil or resin is sourced from plants growing naturally within the forest.

The other problem is that organic essential oils, even when they are offered, are almost invariably much more expensive than oils not certified as organic. This can be an important factor, particularly with the more expensive oils.

So there you have it. When buying essential oils, always buy from a reputable supplier, buy 100% pure essential oil, and if you can find it and afford it, your best choice is organic.

I’ve done my best to find a good source of organic essential oil, but despite my best effort, I can only find a few (27 at the time of writing, plus one blend). I do have a wide range of more than 300 essential oils and some 24 essential oil blends, some of which are organic, in my online store.