A Case for and against Essential Oils

You know the adage, “everything in moderation.” When it comes to eating, losing weight, and using essential oils, maybe not.  The term moderation is defined as “restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses; temperance.” It takes information, will, wisdom, and clarity to make proper choices when confronted with the need to exercise moderation.

The use of essential oils, when it comes to a person suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) drop-essential-oil-400, in particular, requires tuning into his/her illness/condition. The cause(s) of the intolerance to a scent is often unknown.  Other factors may be at play.  It requires isolating an exposure with controls in place (for example, room temperature, level of exposure, air circulation, and the like to be kept as a constant) to see how the body and brain sensations respond.

Because exposure to pollutants of many kinds are in the air, products, households, including dust, it is difficult to singularly target the cause(s) of one’s illness/condition. The medical standing advise is to avoid exposure to those things that you know affect you and to become an expert on you!

Since it has been determined by medical experts that MCS is a progressive condition, a person with MCS (MCSer) can one day enjoy many scents from essential oils to only a few without a side effect or reaction, and then to none. By the time none are tolerated, we can suspect multiple body organs have lost their filtration system that once recognized safe and non-safe toxicity. What is recognizable about the illness/condition is as follows:

  • the problem is ongoing (i.e., chronic and not a “one-time” event
  • the same symptoms are reproducible with repeated exposure to the same trigger(s)
  • progressively, affected by many different triggers
  • improvement takes place when triggers are absent (time of exposure and from exposure can vary).


Back to toxicity levels, essential oils and other chemical compounds can have toxicity levels that can be deemed safe to humans in general. The governing term is “in general.”

Yet, when it comes to a voluntary program for regulatory purposes from a manufacturer, it is important to not rely heavily on the disclosure of ingredients from a manufacturer (for example, their Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)).  You will not find out the actual chemical(s) (usually synthetic) that is used, because the industry can cover that information by using only the term “fragrance.” They claim that their fragrance is proprietary.  Why?  So that they cannot be sued?  That is another story altogether, and it is not pretty.  Nevertheless, always be familiar with the hazards of a product BEFORE you start using it. You should look at a MSDS, match the name of the chemical on the label of the container/package to the one on the MSDS, know the hazards, understand safe handling and storage instructions as well as understand what to do in an emergency.

A startling example of an MSDS, Proctor & Gamble’s Febreze Fabric Refreshner, check out the information sections on (1) hazards identification composition/ingredients, (2) first aid, (3) toxicology, (4) ecological, and (5) exposure controls for personal protection. Is it honest, does it hide behind the veil of regulatory controls? Regarding known ingredients–water, ethyl alcohol, fragrance, and odor eliminator derived from corn.  Let’s stop at “ethyl alcohol” for sake of brevity: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) labeled ethyl alcohol “immediately dangerous to life and health” in 1994 when Democrat President Clinton oversaw safety and health research! The VOC’s in the fragrance and odor eliminator are veiled by the MSDS  statement “Product complies with State and Federal regulations for VOC content.” Inadequate disclosure for the informed consumer!

The medical standing advise is to avoid exposure to those things that you know affect you and to become an expert on you!

Everything, including our body, is made up of a matrix of chemicals. Our focus here is on the use of essential oils to heal, derived from Mother Nature’s bounty.  As we can expect not all essential oils are equal. Some manufacturer’s use different processes to extract oil from plant matter. But that is neither here nor there. What is important is to learn which essential oils are the best and the purest in the market place, because there are unethical people who dare fraudulently label their product an essential oil when they actually are using synthetic chemicals.

Aromatherapy salons have been the latest craze. However, beware. Ventilation is important. Prolonged exposure to heightened scent levels of essential oil can prove toxic. Again, know that level of moderation for you to be safe. Know that they are not regulated.

When it comes to aging, exposure to scents should be reduced.  Again, we are making reference to the gradual atrophy of the filtration system of an aging body.

If you still dare to enjoy an essential oil, here are two links to start your journey:

Dr. Mercola’s &   doTerra

Other companies worth considering are–

Aura Cacia  |  doTerra  |  Dreaming Earth Botanicals  |   Eden Garden  |  Heritage Oils  Mountain Rose Herbs  |  Native American Nutritionals   |  Natural Oils North American Herb & Spice  |  NOW |  Organic Infusions  |  Plant Therapy  |  Rocky Mountain Oils  | Starwest Botanicals  |  Young Living
So, what is an essential oil? Basically, it is a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted.  Specifically, the oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. These oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, aetherolea, or simply as the oil of the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove. An oil is “essential” in the sense that it contains the “essence of” the plant’s fragrance—the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived. The term essential used here does not mean indispensable as with the terms essential amino acid or essential fatty acid which are so called since they are nutritionally required by a given living organism. dna
Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam. Other processes include expression, solvent extraction, absolute oil extraction, resin tapping, and cold pressing. They are used in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps and other products, for flavoring food and drink, and for adding scents to incense and household cleaning products.
Historically, essential oils have been used medicinally throughout history. The earliest recorded mention of the techniques and methods used to produce essential oils is believed to be that of Ibn al-Baitar (1188–1248), an Al-Andalusian (Muslim-controlled Spain) physician, pharmacist and chemist. dna
 DISTILLATION:  Most common essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, tea tree oil, patchouli, and eucalyptus are distilled. Raw plant material, consisting of the flowers, leaves, wood, bark, roots, seeds, or peel, is put into an alembic (distillation apparatus) over water. As the water is heated, the steam passes through the plant material, vaporizing the volatile compounds. The vapors flow through a coil, where they condense back to liquid, which is then collected in the receiving vessel.

dnaMost oils are distilled in a single process. One exception is ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) which is purifed through a fractional distillation.

The recondensed water is referred to as a hydrosol, hydrolat, herbal distillate, or plant water essence, which may be sold as another fragrant product. Popular hydrosols include rose water, lavender water, lemon balm, clary sage, and orange blossom water. The use of herbal distillates in cosmetics is increasing. Some plant hydrosols have unpleasant smells and are therefore not sold.dnaEXPRESSION:  Most citrus peel oils are expressed mechanically or cold-pressed (similar to olive oil extraction). Due to the relatively large quantities of oil in citrus peel and low cost to grow and harvest the raw materials, citrus-fruit oils are cheaper than most other essential oils. Lemon or sweet orange oils are obtained as byproducts of the citrus industry.

Before the discovery of distillation, all essential oils were extracted by pressing.dnaSOLVENT EXTRACTION:  Most flowers contain too little volatile oil to undergo expression, but their chemical components are too delicate and easily denatured by the high heat used in steam distillation. Instead, a solvent such as hexane or supercritical carbon dioxide is used to extract the oils. Extracts from hexane and other hydrophobic solvents are called concretes, which are a mixture of essential oil, waxes, resins, and other lipophilic (oil-soluble) plant material.

Although highly fragrant, concretes contain large quantities of non-fragrant waxes and resins. Often, another solvent, such as ethyl alcohol, which is more polar in nature, is used to extract the fragrant oil from the concrete. The alcohol solution is chilled to −18 °C (0 °F) for more than 48 hours which causes the waxes and lipids to precipitate out. The precipitates are then filtered out and the ethanol is removed from the remaining solution by evaporation, vacuum purge, or both, leaving behind the absolute.

Supercritical carbon dioxide is used as a solvent in supercritical fluid extraction. This method has many benefits, including avoiding petrochemical residues in the product and the loss of some “top notes” when steam distillation is used. It does not yield an absolute directly. The supercritical carbon dioxide will extract both the waxes and the essential oils that make up the concrete. Subsequent processing with liquid carbon dioxide, achieved in the same extractor by merely lowering the extraction temperature, will separate the waxes from the essential oils. This lower temperature process prevents the decomposition and denaturing of compounds. When the extraction is complete, the pressure is reduced to ambient and the carbon dioxide reverts to a gas, leaving no residue.


FLORASOLS EXTRACTION:  Florasol is another solvent used to obtain essential oils. It was originally developed as a refrigerant to replace Freon. Although Florasol is an “ozone-friendly” product, it has a high global warming potential (GWP; 100-yr GWP = 1430).  The European Union has banned its use, with a phase-out process that began in 2011, to be completed in 2017.  One advantage of Florasol is that the extraction of essential oils occurs at or below room temperature so degradation through high temperature extremes does not occur. The essential oils are mostly pure and contain little to no foreign substances.dna

For more information on essential oil properties, go here.  As Westernized consumers, we need to pay attention and stop taking safety and health for granted.  Identify responsible manufacturers/producers of consumer products.
dnaFor a list of essential oils, go here.
There are dangers found in Mother Nature, but Mother Nature offers the same dangers at measured levels for health and healing. Here are some of the dangers:

The potential danger of an essential oil is sometimes relative to its level or grade of purity, and sometimes related to the toxicity of specific chemical components of the oil. Many essential oils are designed exclusively for their aroma-therapeutic quality; these essential oils generally should not be applied directly to the skin in their undiluted or “neat” form. Some can cause severe irritation, provoke an allergic reaction and, over time, prove hepatotoxic.

Some essential oils, including many of the citrus peel oils, are photosensitizers, increasing the skin’s vulnerability to sunlight.

Industrial users of essential oils should consult the MSDSs to determine the hazards and handling requirements of particular oils. Even certain therapeutic grade oils can pose potential threats to individuals with epilepsy or pregnant women.

FLAMMABILITY:  The flash point of each essential oil is different. Many of the common essential oils, such as tea tree, lavender, and citrus oils, are classed as a Class 3 Flammable Liquid, as they have a flash point of 50–60 °C.

GYNECOMASTIA:  Estrogenic and antiandrogenic activity have been reported by in vitro study of tea tree oil and lavender essential oils. Case reports suggest the oils may be implicated in some cases of gynecomastia, an abnormal breast tissue growth in prepubescent boys.[35][36] However, these claims have been challenged, and the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety has dismissed the claims saying, “Since the hormonal active ingredients of Tea Tree Oil were shown not to penetrate the skin, the hypothesized correlation of the finding of 3 cases of gynecomastia to the topical use of Tea Tree Oil is considered implausible.”

HANDLING:  Exposure to essential oils may cause a contact dermatitis. Essential oils can be aggressive toward rubbers and plastics, so care must be taken in choosing the correct handling equipment. Glass syringes are often used, but have coarse volumetric graduations.  Chemistry syringes are ideal, as they resist essential oils, are long enough to enter deep vessels, and have fine graduations, facilitating quality control. Unlike traditional pipettes, which have difficulty handling viscous fluids, the chemistry syringe has a seal and piston arrangement which slides inside the pipette, wiping the essential oil off the pipette wall.

INGESTION:  Essential oils are used extensively as GRAS flavoring agents in foods, beverages, and confectioneries according to strict Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and flavorist standards. Pharmacopoeia standards for medicinal oils should be heeded. Some oils can be toxic to some domestic animals, cats in particular.[39] The internal use of essential oils can pose hazards to pregnant women, as some can be abortifacients in dose 0.5–10 ml, and thus should not be used during pregnancy.

PESTICIDE RESIDUES:  There is some concern about pesticide residues in essential oils, particularly those used therapeutically. For this reason, many practitioners of aromatherapy buy organically produced oils. Not only are pesticides present in trace quantities, but also the oils themselves are used in tiny quantities and usually in high dilutions. Where there is a concern about pesticide residues in food essential oils, such as mint or orange oils, the proper criterion is not solely whether the material is organically produced, but whether it meets the government standards based on actual analysis of its pesticide content.

PREGNANCY/INFANTS:  The use of essential oils in pregnancy is not recommended due to inadequate published evidence to demonstrate evidence of safety. Pregnant women often report an abnormal sensitivity to smells and taste, and essential oils can cause irritation and nausea.

TOXICOLOGY:  It cannot be stressed enough that there is a median lethal dose for common oils.


On a personal note, as an MCSer, I use a Frankincense blend when my lymph nodes become inflamed from an exposure.  At night, I apply it on my feet and behind my ears to help calm my mind as well.
I spray peppermint essential oil (diluted in water) on me when entering a store that, undoubtedly, will be fragranced by chemicals on product and sometimes an air freshener. The peppermint has a way of diffusing the chemical to help zap a headache and drowsiness.  It has a way of controlling odor. Moreover, when added to a diffuser, it provides relief from stress, depression and mental exhaustion.  There is something uplifting about peppermint and will leave you refreshed. This is also effective when your are feeling anxious and restless.
Right now, these are my survival medicine that are working for me.





From a Yellow Canary of the 21st century, living in our disabling biosphere

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