Thursday, October 15, 2009
Comparing Essential Oils with Chemical Fragrance Oils in Consumer Products: How and Why to Spot the Differences
Aromatherapy effects of dynamic natural plant essential oils cannot be duplicated by man-made chemical fragrance oils. Aromatherapy is a branch of plant medicine that has nothing to do with synthetic fragrances. However, because the health-promoting properties of true Aromatherapy are desirable, many companies use cheaper chemical fragrance oils that do NOT carry these benefits, but will mislead customers (knowingly or unknowingly) by using the terms aromatherapy or aroma to make it seem like they are the same thing. The most offensive promotion I have seen was an "herbal soap" made with chemical fragrance oils rather than herbal essential oils. In order for a product to have genuine aromatherapeutic properties is must be made with unadulterated plant essences, plant infused oils, or other plant based ingredients. Products labeled for example as "Lavender Fragrance Oil" you may assume are synthetic. A product made with Lavender essential oil will be labeled as such.
How can you tell if you are smelling a pure essential oil product or natural perfume? There are various ways to test an undiluted oil or essential oil for purity, but when it comes to diluted oils in body or or home fragrance products your nose is also a fine judge. When you smell a product made with pure essential oils you should feel drawn to inhale deeply. In contrast when smelling a chemical substitute you may feel like you want to immediately cease inhalation or even hold your breath. Just think of a trip down laundry or home fragrance aisle at the supermarket, which is often overwhelming for people even without chemical sensitivities. Using personal body products with chemical fragrances such as these may contribute to stress on the liver and development of chemical sensitivities over time.
In addition it is noteworthy that certain plant scents cannot be stabilized. Natural perfumery expert Mandy Aftel notes in her book Essence and Alchemy that following florals cannot be produced naturally: Freesia, Honeysuckle, Violet, Tulip, Lily, Gardenia, Heliotrope, Orchid, Lilac, and Lily of the Valley. Also you may find the following fruity 'flavor oils' in various lip balms, but I can assure you they are not essential oils. These are Cherry, Watermelon, Apple, Raspberry, etc. Citrus fruits flavors however can be condensed from collection of the essential oils from outer peel.
Lavender photo by Photo by Heron 15:46, 11 Jul 2004 (UTC). This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.