When people see me using essential oils on Tiger (my one and a half year old), I am often thrown a few weird looks or approached by some brave or outgoing individual whose interest was sparked. Often, I get “what are those,” or “is that like, one of those essential oil things?” One comment I hear pretty frequently is “My friend uses those on her baby and loves them, but when I googled it there was too much conflicting info for me to feel comfortable using them.” Essential oils are a very broad topic, and there are many concerned mothers and opinionated aromatherapists raging their views all over the internet, so who should you trust?
No one. Trust no one.
Always research & always come to your own conclusions. It’s important to never accept someone’s view for truth simply because they seem qualified or because it’s convenient. Knowing why you believe what you believe (having an informed opinion) is essential to being a self-aware human.
This is a blog of my compiled research & what led me to my own convictions regarding:
oils during pregnancy & labor, general essential oil safety, essential oils and children under 3, and ingesting essential oils.
A few basic guidelines for personal research:
What was the number one rule for citing your sources for papers in grade school? No wikipedia or other “unreliable sources.” If you really want to have enough information to decide for yourself, you must crack open a few books.
This can be a bit tricky since essential oils are a new subject to the Western world. A little digging is required.
Don’t always discriminate sources based on the title the author holds. Education and our modern school system do not always go hand in hand. I can read all the literature on nutrition that’s recommended on a certification reading list and become very knowledgeable on the subject without paying for a piece of paper saying “I’m good at this, you can trust me.” Who are the ones writing the textbooks and pioneering the field? Inventors, creators, and observers, many of whom began the research in the particular field that others are becoming certified in.
The four areas of essential oil study are History, Chemistry, Modern use, & Medical Research. Let’s dig in!
Most of my history research came from the internet via aromatherapy institutes, books on the reading lists from the institutes, and online courses. Of course, direct access to ancient writings such as the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus is not very helpful to you or I, unless you happen to be fluent in German, so we need to refer to the scholars who broke it down.
This article has great references to ancient Egyptian, Indian, and Traditional Chinese writings on essential oils and other historic references.
This article has a world timeline of essential oil references including ancient application technique, the invention of steam distillation (our modern and more efficient way of processing an oil), and the “come back” of essential oils in modern France years before it’s introduction to the US.
One of the biggest essential oil myths is that the oils referenced in the bible were fatty oils such as olive or palm. This is simply un-true. Ancient archeology uncovered a distiller in Pakistan 6500 years old. In Egypt, 350 liters of essential oils were found in King Tut’s tomb, and there are over 200 references to essential oils – frankincense, myrrh, hyssop in the bible.
The History of synthetics plays a huge role in purity and production of essential oils in the west! During the early 50’s essential oils had an “awakening” in the US. Both essential oils and synthetic chemicals came in to play around the same time.
…starting when chemists discovered they could make molecules in the 1870’s. When synthetics are introduced things got interesting. By 1942 (WWII) international trade shut down and synthetics “caught on” because it was cheaper to produce synthetic chemicals than the real deal. Since international trade was banned and the majority of essential oils were produced internationally, oils became unavailable and were substituted with “fragrance,” 90% of which was produced by Procter & Gamble. Nearly all preserving, fragrance, and flavor became synthetic. In 1960 the eo market almost died, but 1985 was the turning point. Today 90% of distilleries from Egypt, France, etc. are gone due to lack of interest in family farming.
I have yet to find a publication connecting the dots between the history of synthetics and the introduction of essential oils to the western world, but when you research one or the other & combine the timelines for yourself it really puts the western view of essential oils in to persepective.
Many chemistry textbooks dive in to the history of synthetics, but the Age of Molecule by Nina Hall is a great ebook referencing the 19th and 20th century synthetics impact on the West. She is not holistic and this resource does not contain a lick of alternative medicine or essential oil knowledge.
In your research you will find that EO’s were pioneered in the US only very recently, and Gary Young of Young Living was the large-scale pioneer, bringing the essential oil knowledge of other cultures to the West through years of traveling, research, study, and personal analysis.
Learn about the thousands of different constituents of an essential oil and what each constituent does. Plant chemistry is important because without it no one can tell the difference between therapeutic grade oil and perfume grade. Which is why it’s important to seek out oils from distilleries/distributors who have a history in knowing plant science, not just marketing.
Do not be fooled by the propaganda from new oil producers. There is a difference between a therapeutic grade oil and a therapeutic grade claim, and there is a therapeutic standard. If a distillery isn’t growing their own crops, using pesticide free protection, fluoride free water, and using a non invasive technique to distill the oil, the medical constituents in each individual plant will mutate. This text in Life Science publishers’ Pocket Reference put’s this into perspective: “Even though an oil may be labeled “basil” and come from Ocimum basilicum, it can have widely different therapeutic actions depending on its chemistry. Basil high in linalool or fenchol is used for its antiseptic properties; however basil high in methyl chavicol is more anti inflammatory than antiseptic.” The distillation & extraction process is unique to each different plant & will have dramatic effects on their chemistry and medicinal action.
A breakdown of how Young Living set the standard for growing, distilling, and producing our therapeutic grade oil can be found on the “Seed to Seal” website.
A good place to start on becoming more familiar with a plants molecules and bioactive compounds is the textbook Phytochemical Dictionary: A Handbook of Bioactive Compounds from Plants, Second Edition.
My favorite book by far on the Chemistry of Oils and how they act in our bodies is Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple by Dr. David Stuart
The knowledge I gained from plant chemistry was all it took for me to realize where my oil come from mattered. I choose Young Living because they are the only company who can say they own every farm their oils come from and allows anyone (even non members) to explore their farms. No pesticides, no fluoride water, no hybrid seed, no mineral deficient or over used soil. This company was founded by a naturopath doctor who has devoted his entire life to studying plant compounds and molecules and how to properly distill each individual plant to keep those compounds intact in its oil. If a company is “certifying” their own oils themselves based on criteria that they set, not some outside regulator or standard, you can bet those aren’t what you want. An oil can be aromatically pleasing, but have no therapeutic value. In the US an “essential oil” only has to contain 3% pure essential oil to be considered marketable. Most oils produced in the US are synthetic.
Modern use (philosophical differences)-
It’s important to know the philosophical differences between the various methods of application. (Inhalation, topical use, and ingestion)
The Aromatherapy Global Online Research Archives explains these differences well while busting some common toxicity myths.
While studying these philosophical differences, keep in mind that most regions have more respect for ancient and traditional medicines than our western culture. Some of these regions (from non-westernized European countries like New Zeland to rural villages in Asia) are actually healthier than the majority of westerners by leaps and bounds. The infant mortality rate is a huge indicator of the socio-economic well-being and public health conditions of any country. Nutrition, cleanliness, and overall health (eczema, gluten intolerance, allergies, digestion problems, depression, anxiety, ADD, diabetes, heart problems, nerve issues, etc.) are also huge indicators.
Another important detail to research is how these regions view detox. Common skin reactions to plants like rashes or pus cause fear mongering among aromatherapists and western doctors, on the contrary, these reactions are simply viewed as “detox” symptoms by holistic practitioners.
Your body has filters on a cellular level. Just like a skin pore, they can become clogged & need to be cleaned. Dirty cell receptor sites (“pores”) will fill with foreign chemicals from bath products, pharmaceuticals, synthetic food, and city pollution. The body will naturally start to dispose of these toxins or “push them out” when the poisoning is stopped via sweat, bowel movements, “skin irritations” like pus or acne. That’s how fever works; the body naturally decides it’s had an overload, so it’s time to sweat. Most doctors now understand the importance of letting the body experience a low grade fever without intervention. Even though detox is a natural process, because there is plenty of cemented junk which has accumulated over time, your body may need a little push (essential oils are a great way to help your body with this natural process because they contain compounds which clean cell receptor sites). Clean by Dr. Junger is a great place to start your detox research.
Many medical practitioners will advise patients to stop using an oil or plant product if a skin irritation occurs. This is viewing plant medicine the same as synthetic medicine, which I believe is a mistake. Again, this western view of comparing plant medicine to synthetics only reflects the history I mentioned earlier; oils were introduced to the West during the time when science began to “replace” natural with synthetic, believing synthetic to be superior. Going back to chemistry and becoming familiar with constituents- Monoterpenes like carvacrol, thymol, eugenol can cause skin irritations because they permeate the skin quickly. Slow it down with a fatty oil. Just because an oil may burn doesn’t make it toxic. People with fair or damaged skin, vascular issues, or small veins are more prone to skin irritations. No body is the same.
I would also encourage you to read any study which makes claim to disprove eo safety with a critical mind. Look for what kind of oil was used (synthetic vs organic), look for what the eo was tested on (almost always lab rats…some breeds commonly used as lab-rats have DNA issues in their genetics and are already highly prone to disease). What was it fed (genetically modified fruit, hybridized grains or wheat, soy)? Also consider amounts and proportions the animal was exposed to or injected with (anything is dangerous in large doses, even carrots or apples).
There are also plenty of aromatherapy institutions who support more methods of use than inhalation. Here are a few:
NYU Medical Center
University of Minnesota
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
University of Maryland
When I realized the FDA isn’t shutting down oil companies I further steered in the direction that essential oils are generally safe. In fact, Young Living oils made the FDA’s GRAS list (generally regarded as safe for consumption). It is a fact that the pharmaceutical companies are taking a hit as the demand for natural and holistic remedies increase, so it would only make sense that the FDA would jump on any reason to lock up essential oils and throw away the key. If infants were dying from oil exposure, oils were causing asthma attacks, or even death, the FDA would be shutting these companies down in a heartbeat like they do other supplemental companies and cannabis oil producers like Rick Simpson.
My all time favorite resource is the online medical journal PubMed.com. This journal is widely known and respected in the science and medical community, and easily accessible. This source can be used to find studies on essential oils for specific health ailments. Sometimes the results/conclusions are hard to understand without a medical background, but they are often followed by shorter summaries which are easier to grasp. Try searching for terms like “cancer,” and “frankincense oil,” or “frankincense oil and cancer.” Mix it up. (Hint: if you are uncomfortable with using essential oil or alternative medicine without your doctors consent, bring her a pile of your PubMed studies & ask her what she thinks!)
Other helpful sites:
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
National Center for Biotechnology Information
Association for the International Research of Aromatic Science and Education
I don’t discredit personal testimony. I believe the FDA has made it illegal to easily share essential oil testimony simply because it hurts pharmaceutical profits. Should bold claims be made by wholesale representatives such as “this will cure your cancer!” be legal? Probably not. However even as a wholesale representative of an essential oil company who profits from personal oil sales, I should absolutely have the freedom to say an essential oil cured my own cancer, if it did. That being said I take personal testimony’s for what they are- not medical advice, not instruction, just what an individual knows to be true for themselves.
For testimonies I love YLsearch.com.
I referenced Dr. David Stewart’s book Chemistry of Essential Oils, but left out his informational website, which is also filled with oily sciencey goodness.
Other Personal research…
The Missing Link by Gary Young
Introduction to Essential Oil Chemistry by Peter Minke PhD
Comparison of 13 essential oils
Lemongrass, Eucalyptus and Tea Tree Oil
Multi-resistant strains + Multi-resistant strains
Thyme and yeast
Monoterpines + Prevention
Monoterpenes D-Limonene and Perillyl Alcohol
Studies in the works: Hsueh-Kung Lin We followed up on patients taking high dose frankincense oil for their end stages cancer. Although their cancers at this stage were not “reversible”, their blood markers for monitoring liver and kidney functions remained within normal ranges after 3-5 months of oral ingestion. These data will become available once we can reverse end stages cancers. March 2, 2014 at 9:25pm
Ulcers + Oregano oil
Vetiver + ADHD
Bergamot + Anxiety
Studies in the works: Hsueh-Kung Lin By the way, we are following patients taking “high” doses of Ocotea and Copaiba essential oils for their blood markers. These patients are taking between 50-80 drops a day, and will go for 6 months. These data will become available once these case studies are completed. March 2, 2014 at 9:27pm
Hsueh-Kung Lin We are planning to have continued 9-month octoea ingestion without interruption. The patient is out of all medications at this point. If the 6th month results are good, we will go ahead to publish the results, along with blood markers for liver and kidney functions. Our current plan is to have the patient to take another 3 months, and go off Ocotea. We would like to see whether patient’s glucose and A1c can remain normal without medications and Ocotea. If we can maintain normal ranges for these parameters, we will publish another follow up paper at 18 months following Ocotea ingestion, along with blood markers. At this point, we got a good result at 3-month, and are waiting for the 6th month results. We will report the case study and provide the dosing schedule to everyone, hopefully after a 6-month follow up. March 3, 2014 at 7:12pm
Conclusion? I hope this has helped you decide what is right for you and your family. We love our Young Living oils & came to our own conclusion that they were not only a great alternative to common household and beauty chemicals, but also an incredible source of wellness, vitality, and “cell food.” We have never been healthier. If you’d like your own collection of oils I recommend Young Living’s Premium Starter Kit! It’s an amazing offer just for newbies that comes with 10 of our most commonly used “every day oils,” a home diffuser for aromatherapy, and a lifetime wholesale membership. This link will walk you through it.
P.S. When you join my team be expecting a welcome phone call from me & a little something something in the mail to help you break in your new collection.
Disclaimer I do sell young living, but I do not make any claims that my product may treat, cure, or prevent any specific health issues.