What do you know about essential oils? They have been around for thousands of years and, people have used them for a variety of reasons, mostly for natural cures compared to the option of the pharmaceutical industry’s single-focus pills. There is more to them than a general superficial inspection would reveal. While there are benefits, there can also be detriments. However, the future, in combination with infusing current natural oils with other plant natural oils/extracts such as cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp, is promising indeed. Let’s look. However, before you begin reading, lease note this is a lengthy article, is also free of ads, and my scientist nature came out a little in it.
How long have essential oils been around?
Essential oils have for years, been extracted by distillation, which was practiced in ancient times. How ancient? Paolo Rovesti discovered earthenware distillation apparatus, the production or extraction of aromatic oils by means of steam distillation, has been known for 5000 years (Schnaubelt, K., 2002). During the fifth century AD, the famous writer, Zosimus of Panopolis, refered to the distilling of a divine water and panacea – the cure all. Even through the early Middle Ages and later, a crude form of distillation was known and was used to prepare distilled aromatic or ‘floral’ waters (Catty, 2001). It is the author’s opinion that this was the beginning of perfumery since these distillates were used in perfumes of the time, as well as digestive tonics, in cooking, trading and aromatherapy.
Additionally, an extensive trade of odoriferous materials is known to have occurred in the ancient Orient and ancient Greece and Rome. Although the oils used were not essential oils per se, “… they were obtained by placing flowers, roots, and other plant material into a fatty oil of best quality, warming the glass bottles via sunlight containing these mixtures and finally separating fragrance oil from the solid constituents” (Guenther, E.,1982).
In 900 AD, the famous child prodigy Avicenna, from Persia who wrote many documents on plants and plant uses, as well as instructions for massage, was credited with refining the process of distillation by improving the cooling system. Ironically, cooling systems are still a problem area in extraction today.
Despite years of evolution in distillation, which advanced significantly in the mid-1960s, the process of distillation for plant essential oils is still the most common process for extracting essential oils from plants and has changed little in the last 50 years. Even distillation of the new CBD oils uses the same processes and, they have experimented like former researchers and have been driven back to the standard methodology of extraction principles. In other words, there is a right way and cutting corners, compared to the needed product quality, is not an option. Thus, the advantage of distillation is that the volatile components can be distilled at temperatures lower than the boiling points of their individual constituents and are easily separated from the condensed water or solvent. I’ll talk a little more about this later.
What is an essential oil?
In basic layman terms, it is a natural oil generally obtained by means of distillation (enfleurage, expressed oils, steam, solvent such as alcohol, fractional distillation and percolation, CO2, or phytonic) that maintains the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted. Many say that this is the ‘essence’ of the plant. Each plant is unique, and a plants aromatic compounds give the essential oil from the plant its characteristic essence/fragrance. As an example, the characteristic fragrance of lavender or lemongrass or, the strong fragrance of the hemp plant, which come from terpenes within the plant material.
After a plants essential oil(s) are extracted, they are generally combined with a carrier oil to create a product ready for use. There is much controversy in this area because the way the oils are made is important, because essential oils obtained through chemical processes are not considered true essential oils.
Some Benefits of Using Essential Oils
You may wonder why we care about the benefits of essential oils and why it could be worthwhile to make it a habit of using them. So, read on.
A great many people are turning to essential oils because they have great anecdotal, as well as limited research (the latter is quickly changing) evidence that supports the claims that many make. Also, it is well known that pharmaceutical drugs have, in more cases that we admit, dangerous or detrimental side effects. These side effects can cause serious bodily harm. You have all viewed the ads on TV talking about a drug and the side effects is has – your ears may fall off, darkening of the stool, kidney issues, don’t take it if you have this or that and worst of all, potential suicidal tendencies. While I am being a bit facetious, who would want to take a drug that has such side effects? Thus, more-and-more people are turning to more natural and holistic approaches for healthcare. By using natural remedies to heal ourselves we can be free of the worries of unwanted side effects.
It is not surprising therefore, that one of the safest and most effective forms of alternative medicines is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses plant-based essential oils to provide the mind and body with numerous health benefits. These oils are typically inexpensive and free of harmful side effects. Even better, they work very quickly as the oils get absorbed through the skin and lungs. This has been proven with many essential oils, as well as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – a crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis), and CBD.
What Is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic essential oils derived from plants to enhance well-being of one’s physical and or psychological health. Likely, it has been used longer than distillation processes, centuries minimally, as an alternative medicine that safely and effectively treats a wide variety of ailments. Once the natural oils in certain plants are extracted and distilled, the result is a very concentrated product packed with healing benefits. Essential oils used in aromatherapy trigger responses in the brain that send healing signals to the body. These oils can balance out hormone levels, heal digestive disorders, and dramatically reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Scientific studies have shown that aromatherapy is a completely legitimate form of medicine. By inhaling essential oils, nerves in the nose trigger powerful brain responses. Similarly, topical application allows these essential oils to quickly enter the bloodstream by being absorbed through skin tissue. As an example, in studies performed at both Vienna and Berlin Universities, researchers discovered that sesquiterpenes, a natural compound found in essential oils of frankincense, cedarwood, patchouli, and sandalwood, can increase oxygen levels in the brain by as much as 28 percent (Nasel, 1994). Please note that many articles report this study as 1992, which is in error. The author is Christian Nasel, who has 87 research publications (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Christian_Nasel). His pertinent publications in this area are Nasel et al., 1993; Nasel et al., 1994; and Stimpfl et al., 1995. What is worth noting is how long ago this research was performed. In comparison, research on CBD has been conducted in Israel since 1937 due to industrial hemp being illegal to grow in the U.S. at that time, until recent passage of the U.S. farm bill.
During selection of essential oils, it is important to look for pure and natural products. Oils that contain synthetic chemicals and dyes will not be nearly as effective. But, beware, a great many advertise their products as such and well, they will be found lacking.
How Good are Essential Oils and CBD?
I have had experience for a long time in the research of this industry and the evidence by people who have used these types of products. This example is from a close friend in which I have witnessed the outcome. He has been using essential oils for years and lately, combined essential oils treatment with CBD. He is a veteran who has had serious trauma to his body through an automobile wreck and falling off a roof, as well as PTSD. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (a bacterium with antibiotic resistance – MRSA) has plagued him after nine surgeries. There have been recurring infections, as well as accompanying skin lesions and acne. He has treated these with 60 different essential oils (a wide array) and oil blends offered by both doTerra and Young Living. By using these combinations of oils, he has not had any infections and his skin has improved dramatically! He also suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in which he was unconscious for 10 minutes along with a blown ear drum from impact. The diagnosis after being stabilized in ICU for two weeks at the University of Utah Medical Center was that a rather large blood clot formed in a ventricle and needed attention. His choice of therapy was using mainly helichrysum, which can pass through the blood brain barrier along with frankincense, copaiba and balsam fir.
His recovery was complete with no side effects at all, which is incredible considering the severity of a major TBI in your late fifties and having had previous TBI’s and side effects! He chose to not use the big pharma drugs, going the alternate route of natural oils. A staggering testimony of them. He has not only fully recovered from this event but has realized many other health benefits from a steady, targeted use of essential oils! His sense of being, along with increased focus and clarity, have served him well. Again, I have witnessed these results personally! Not only that, but he is one of the most physically active and energetic people that I know. His physical mechanics are improving as he ages, even after experiencing these events! He has recently increased his CBD therapy and has experienced significant improvements in mood, inflammation, and in managing stress all the while recovering in record time from a very recent fall from a roof that separated his shoulder with multiple fractures to the collar bone. What do you think he used to cope with the pain? He used only aspirin in addition with the essential oils and CBD; he didn’t use any pharmaceutical pain killers!
I believe this example that I have shared about my friend reveals the truth that both CBD and proper use of essential oils can produce verifiable results and should be strongly considered in maintaining and improving one’s health without any known side effects when used properly.
How Are Essential Oils Be Applied?
There are two basic methods of using essential oils – by aromatherapy and topically.
Aromatherapy can be applied in many ways depending on the condition that you want to treat. The topical use of essential oils has been found effective in treating skin ailments and mood disorders. Some essential oils, especially CBD tinctures, have been widely found as beneficial when ingested. As an example, by swallowing peppermint essential oil, you can relieve gas and stomach cramps. Other essential oils can be used as flavoring agents that offer nutritional value, which include lemon essential oil as an example and that adds flavor to water while providing the body with vitamin C.
Essential oils contain tiny molecules that are much more easily absorbed into the body than other types of oils, so when an oil is used on the skin, the body rapidly obtains the benefit of the oil. Therefore, it is also important to follow safe usage guidelines, even for topical use. I recommend diluting any oils that are used on skin with a safe carrier oil and consulting with a qualified aromatherapist or functional medicine doctor before using topically, especially on children.
Essential oils can also be diffused into the air. This process is known as aromatherapy (discussed above) and provides the benefits of the oils as they are inhaled. There is evidence that the oils are absorbed into the blood stream when inhaled. Some research has shown that aromatic use is more effective that internal use, and it is certainly much safer.
If you are using aromatherapy to address a psychological imbalance such as stress, depression, or anxiety you may wonder how an oil can affect the brain? As with the research by Nasel et al., cited above, the results have been found to be positive. Essential oils for anxiety and other brain imbalances are delivered through diffuser or a hot bath or, in the case of CBD tincture, by holding under the tongue for a couple of minutes to help relieve stress and anxiety naturally according to a very large amount of anecdotal evidence. In aromatherapy, by simply breathing the oil in, you will receive the benefits that this oil can offer on a psychological level.
Aromatic scents work in two methods. First, smell is a powerful sense, which often reminds one of good times while relieving nerves, stress, and anxiety. Second, the chemicals inhaled enter the bloodstream and can help balance hormone levels. The best (and most popular) method for using these oils is the diffuser. An oil diffuser doubles as a humidifier, allowing healing essential oils to enter your body while you sleep.
When applying essential oils topically, some oils require a carrier oil. For example, tea tree oil is highly effective in treating fungal infections and inflammation but may be mildly irritating to more sensitive areas of the skin such as the eye area and the genitals. In this case, a carrier oil may be required.
What Is a Carrier Oil?
A carrier oil is an oil in which the essential oil can be diluted. By diluting your essential oil in a carrier oil, it may then easily be applied to the skin. For example, you do not just want to put pure essential oil on your skin as a topical as it can often lead to rashes and other complications. Thus, the carrier oil, it infused with a specific set amount of essential oil. An example is CBD hemp tincture or body cremes that have a certain amount of CBD in the product, such as 1,000 mg total. This 1,000 mg is mixed into the carrier oil or product. Thus, carrier oils will generally reduce skin sensitivity and increase absorption through skin tissue. There are several different carrier oils from which you may choose, including coconut, jojoba, olive, avocado, and almond. There are also others, but these are most common. And, it’s important to know their characteristics when mixing with essential oils.
Main Benefits of Essential Oils
It’s important to experiment, as different carrier oils may affect your skin differently, especially since we are each biochemically unique. For instance, if you are using an essential oil to treat acne, test out a few different oils on a small section of your face to see how your skin reacts. It is never wise to apply over a large area until you know how you will react to it.
Improve Mood and Set a Positive Atmosphere
Scents are powerful stimuli that directly enter the brain, triggering intense emotional responses.
By inhaling essential oils, your brain will signal certain emotions that can leave you feeling energized, optimistic, and hopeful.
These oils can be added to a hot bath or used in an oil diffuser to create a positive atmosphere inside your home.
• Eucalyptus essential oil is a natural stimulant that can help you wake up more easily in the morning and can improve overall mood.
• Grapefruit essential oil gives energizing boost to help start the day.
• Orange, jasmine, sandalwood, and vanilla essential oils enhance mood and promote optimism.
• Rosemary essential oil reduces stress, enhances positive feelings, and improves cognitive brain function.
• Jasmine essential oil reduces stress and increases alertness.
Benefits of Essential Oils for Relaxation and Sleep
Studies have shown that aromatherapy is useful in treating psychological disorders such as stress, depression, and anxiety. You may use these oils in an oil diffuser or a hot bath or apply these oils topically to emotional trigger points throughout the body including the neck, the elbows, behind the ears, and the backs of the knees.
• Bergamot essential oil is a natural anxiety remedy, shown to encourage relaxation and lower blood pressure and heart rate, as well as to slow down breathing patterns that tend to elevate during moments of anxiety.
• Clary sage oil can reduce anxiety and depression; it is a natural mild sedative that has even been shown to reduce seizures. Clary sage oil can balance hormone levels and is incredibly useful as a treatment for PMS symptoms.
• The use of lavender essential oil has been shown to be highly effective as an anxiety reducer. Studies have also linked the use of lavender essential oil to a decrease in depression symptoms, as well as to reduce symptoms of PTSD and postpartum depression. It also is a powerful sleep aid.
Certain essential oils have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that, when applied to the skin, can reduce irritation and inflammation. These oils may either be applied directly to skin or used with a carrier oil.
• Peppermint essential oil can be highly effective digestion inflammation and reduce inflammation of the intestines resulting from digestive disorders.
• Rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils can reduce inflammation of the sinuses and throat associated with colds, as well as open congested airways and clear clogged sinuses.
• Rosemary essential oil can provide itch relief and dramatically reduce irritation for an itchy scalp.
• Tea tree oil is effective in treating acne and skin inflammation and reduce redness associated with inflammation as well.
• Thyme essential oil works well as an anti-inflammatory and to reduce respiratory inflammation when inhaled.
Benefits of Essential Oils for Pain Relief
Aromatherapy can significantly reduce pain, as the oils can be absorbed through the skin. The topical use of essential oils in the treatment of pain is completely safe and works quickly.
• Chamomile oil can quickly relieve pain related to the digestive system and for menstrual cramps, as well as being an effective pain relief treatment for lower back and muscle pain.
• Ginger, frankincense, and myrrh essential oils may provide quick relief to the muscles, joints, and tendons for arthritis pain.
• Helichrysum oil can heal damaged muscle tissue and reduce pain associated with illnesses such as fibromyalgia.
• Lavender and rosemary essential oils have been shown to greatly reduce tension headaches and migraines. Best results appear to be application of these oils directly to the temples and on either side of the nose, the inhalation sends quick pain relief, as these oils are received by the brain in seconds.
• Peppermint essential oil can instantly relieve pain associated with gas when ingested, as well as nausea and indigestion.
Prevent Certain Illnesses and Boost the Immune System
Many essential oils have anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent the development of certain illnesses. Aromatherapy can also improve the immune system, as essential oils that are breathed in enter the lungs and are then absorbed into the bloodstream.
• Cinnamon, eucalyptus, oregano, sage, and frankincense essential oils have been shown to boost immune system function when inhaled.
• Clove essential oil boosts the immune system function in patients with Lyme disease.
• Eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree essential oils can prevent colds by keeping passageways clear of congestion and bacteria.
• Garlic essential oil is a can be ingested to retard/fight off various fungal, viral, and bacterial infections.
• Oregano oil (a powerful antibacterial) can be ingested to heal infections throughout the body, preventing them from developing into more serious conditions.
• Tea tree oil is a powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal that can prevent cuts and fungus from developing into severe infections.
Heal Skin Irritations
Certain essential oils have very good anti-inflammatory, as well as antibacterial properties, which makes them a highly effective natural method to healing skin irritations of all kinds. When applied topically to the skin, these essential oils quickly get absorbed into the deeper levels of skin tissue and promote healing.
• Basil essential oil can reduce itching and irritation associated with insect bites and eczema.
• Carrot seed essential oil can be applied to the skin to help prevent skin damage. This will reduce sunburns effectively.
• Lavender essential oil helps heal cuts quickly when applied to the skin directly. The antibacterial properties of lavender essential oil hasten the healing process.
• Lemongrass essential oil is an effective facial astringent that eradicates acne and significantly reduces the appearance of large pores.
• Rosemary essential oil can reduce skin irritation on the scalp and face by working as a gentle anti-inflammatory.
• Tea tree essential oil can effectively reduce pimples and blemishes by killing the bacteria on the face that causes acne. It can also reduce eczema and provide quick relief to insect bites and sunburn.
More is not always better!
Essential oils are extremely potent, and it is important to use as little as needed, not as much as possible. When a few drops of an oil used topically or aromatically will work, using more or consuming it internally is not only unnecessary, but may be harmful. Another concern with modern essential oil use (especially the overconsumption that often accompanies regular internal use) is the long-term sustainability of essential oils. Since a tremendous amount of plant material is needed to extract the oils, their long-term and widespread use could potentially create supply problems as well as a potential negative, global environmental effect.
Differences in Quality
The quality of essential oils on the market varies greatly. Essential oils can be quite expensive, but a high-quality essential oil takes a large amount of plant material to produce and is highly concentrated. But, the percentage of the parent oil in the plant is the key to how much a plant will produce of the oil and how much, in pounds, is needed to produce a fixed amount. As an example, a hemp plant with 7% CBD content requires 32 pounds of plant material to produce 1 kg of crude oil. However, if that same plant material is 15%, only 15 lbs of plant material are needed to produce 1 kg of crude oil. But, regardless of the quantity, the amount of solvent needed to extract it is the same. The 15% material will generally be better quality and it puts a responsibility on the farmer to be a good agronomist, so the manufacturer begins with the best product. Many inexpensive essential oils are available commercially but are altered with other oils or do not pass third party testing because of their inferior quality. High quality oils should be produced without chemicals and come from organic plants that grow in their natural environment.
Common, Favorite Essential Oils
From research it appears the most commonly used and favorite essential oils include frankincense, lavender, lemon, lime, orange, peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree/melaleuca.
Where to get essential oils – top 10 companies from 2018
You will find most of the companies in the following list are reputable and stand by their products. While there are other companies, the following have been often cited for good products, despite some consumer complaints.
• Young Living
• Mountain Rose Herbs
• Plant Therapy
• Rocky Mountain Oils.
• Edens Garden
• Plant Guru
• Radha Beauty
• Aura Cacia
• NOW Foods
Wherever you buy essential oils, you should always ensure they conform to:
• List any precautions and contraindications (pregnancy, medications, etc) for each of their oils
• Not altered or adulterated in any way
• Organic- as pesticides can be more concentrated in essential oils
• Sourced from the native region for each plant
Detriments of Essential Oils
Essential oils have been around for a long time but have a greater trend on social media feeds today. You’ll find many supporters and many nay-sayers about their benefits. But there are some unsafe components.
Some essential oils may cause burning when exposed to ultra-violet (UV) lighting. Thus, if you’re planning a day at the beach, ensure at least 12 hours once a photosensitizing oil has been applied to your skin. Depending on the essential oil and length of exposure to the sun, skin reactions from certain oils can range from mild discoloration to severe swelling, blistering/burning, and sores. Make a note that some essential oils that may cause sun sensitivity include grapefruit, lemon and lime, cumin, and bergamot essential oils (Burnett, 2014). This is not a complete list.
Pregnant woman and mothers who breastfeed should use essential oils with caution. When they are used, essential oils should be heavily diluted with either water or a carrier oil, like coconut oil, jojoba oil or avocado oil. However, Rosemary and Lavender should never be used on pregnant women or babies under one year of age, even when diluted. Reducing risk is always important. Essential oils should be treated like any medicine and kept out of reach of children of all ages. It is recommended that infants and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid the following oils, among many others: basil, parsley seed, sage, tarragon, and wintergreen.
Despite their benefits, there are many essential oils that can irritate the skin when applied undiluted. As an example, a drop of peppermint oil on the back of the neck or the temples can help alleviate a headache, migraine or even nausea when used properly. However, it can also cause skin irritation, burning and itching when applied undiluted. Like applying a cleaning solution to a carpet, to avoid irritation of the skin, it is best to test a small spot on your skin before applying the oil, even when it is diluted with a carrier oil or water. Thus, it is important not to assume that every essential oil is safe to apply directly on the skin. A few of the oils that can cause skin irritation and itching include lemongrass, peppermint, citronella and bay essential oil.
Other detriments include the fact that essential oils aren’t typically safe for pets unless recommended and consulted by a specialist because the active chemical compounds found in some essential oils can be very toxic to most animals. They can trigger allergies, skin sensitivities, and can interfere with the dog’s natural body processes.
People with pre-existing health problems, especially the very young (under 8) and old (over 65) can suffer some side effects from inhaling certain oils. It is suggested that those with pre-existing health conditions like asthma or heart problems do not use essential oils unless working with a trained and experienced Aromatherapist.
Only long-term and devoted essential oil supporters take essential oils orally. The practice of consuming essential oils was designed to be done under the care of an aromatherapist trained in that form of therapy. Doing so is so dangerous that certain toxic oils can even cause miscarriages when swallowed. Also, oils like pennyroyal and wintergreen are extremely poisonous if swallowed and can cause death. Other oils can become extremely irritating if they have gone past their shelf life.
Avoid Essential Oils That Come in Plastic Containers
Essential oils should not be stored in plastic bottles or containers, as they can eat through plastics when they are undiluted. Over time even diluted oils can degrade plastics by breaking down the plastic, which also destroys the oils value. Not only should essential oils not be stored in plastic containers, they should not be applied to plastic surfaces in the home.
Methods of Extraction
This article would not be complete if I did not reveal more detail on the extraction of essential oils. I previously mentioned the extraction methods at the beginning of this article but will list them again and explain each. As I was developing a better science to extract CBD from hemp flower, I experimented with these methods as well, especially since I had learned most of them in college. Through this experimentation is how I made significant achievements in extraction of CBD from hemp. Why? The reason is simple – the principle of each extraction method is transferable if you’ll focus on the science. Focus on science first and the money will follow! Only by understanding all of these processes will you become good at essential-oil extraction.
What are the Methods of Extracting Essential Oils?
There are many ways to extract essential oils; the most common are:
• Expressed Oils
• Steam Distillation
• Solvent Extraction
• Fractional Distillation and Percolation
• Carbon Dioxide Extraction
• Phytonic Process
Enfleurage is perhaps the oldest methods of extracting essential oils but rarely used these days due to its high cost. It involves placing the flower petals on a layer of glass that is first spread with a thin layer of fat called “chassis”. The volatile oil diffuses into the fat, then the fat is collected, and the oil is extracted from the fat using alcohol. Evaporation of the alcohol leaves behind the concentrate called the absolute. This is a time-consuming process, but was, for a very long time in the early days, the only way to extract delicate flowers like jasmine.
When oils are taken from the rind of fruits they are called “expressed oils”. This method is cold and does not involve any solvents or heat. Most citrus oils are extracted in this manner including grapefruit, lemon, lime, and orange essential oils. These are not technically considered essential oils for this reason, but they are therapeutic oils. The most important thing to consider with cold pressed oils is the source of the crop since citrus fruits are constantly sprayed with pesticides, which can become concentrated in the oil!
Steam distillation has been used for hundreds of years and remains one of the most favorable methods of extracting essential oils today. Technically, if it not extracted using steam distillation or cold expression it is not considered a therapeutic-grade essential oil. There are three different steam processes; in all the methods, steam is used to rupture the oil membranes in the plant and release the essential oil.
This method works through the steam carrying the essential oil to a condenser where it re-liquefies with the lighter essential oil floating to the top. The water and oil are then separated. The water portion is referred to as the hydrosol, hydrolat, or flower/floral water. The oil portion is the essential oil!
The essential oil distilling equipment including the condenser, separator and cooking chambers can all have an enormous impact on the quality of the oil. It is not about what you have as much as how you correctly use the equipment you have. More importantly, the distillation temperature and pressure are critical! Despite everything appearing correct, the process can still produce oils that do not meet AFNOR Standards. So essential oil distillers must have the knowledge and expertise to know how to produce therapeutic grade essential oils. This also means test, test, test.
Solvent extraction is a method of extracting essential oils that is dominated by the perfume industry until recently where it has gained much notoriety in the CBD industry. Technically this extraction does not produce therapeutic-grade oils because chemicals such as hexane, acetone, di-methylene-chloride and others are used in the process! And, it produces a crude-oil form of the essential oil, which requires further distillation. The plant material is immersed into the solvents to become a thick substance called “concrete”. This material or crude becomes thicker as evaporation of the solvent continues. The oil particles are released when the concrete substance is then mixed with alcohol. Once it is separated out, the chemicals remain in the oil and the oil is used by the industry either to make salves and ointments or for further distillation to make additional retail products. These are perfume or aromatherapy grade oils and are not therapeutic grade!
This is a favored extraction process because it requires less time and expense because the oil is cut with solvents and can increase the oil production volume significantly. These oils are commonly used in bath oils and gels, candles, shampoos, toothpaste, fly/bug spray, and air fresheners, as well as balms, salves, tinctures, etc., and make up about 98% of the oils sold in health food stores, retail outlets and aromatherapy suppliers. As a processor, it is important to know what you’re doing. When you begin to use cheaper solvents, you get less quality products.
As an example, in the CBD industry and others, it’s much cheaper to use hexane or heptane rather than food-grade alcohol such as ethanol (ETOH). This is because once an ETOH manufacturer uses their allottment amount of volume for manufacture, an excise tax is placed on the ETOH, almost doubling its price. Because of this, a great many manufactures use hexane, and especially heptane mixed with ETOH as the solvent for extraction because it’s about on-third the price of ETOH (typically about 95% purity). However, incomplete evaporation in some of these cases and when using other solvents can result in small, residual amounts of benzene in the product due to incomplete evaporation, which is extremely health detrimental. Additionally, energy costs and wear and tear on distillation equipment is increased due to increased heat requirements for evaporation. This, long-term, is why it is simply better to use purer solvents to begin with, specifically ETOH. This is also why you, as the reader, need to know more background about distillation processes so you’re better informed for essential oil and CBD product selection. After all, it’s all about your health not the manufacturers revenue stream!
Percolation and Fractional Distillation
Fractional distillation separates the volatile oil in different fractions or portions at various boiling points. This is used in oil refineries for distillation of petroleum products and is not suited for therapeutic-grade essential oils. Percolation is one of the newer methods of extraction for essential oils. It is like normal distillation, but the equipment is literally upside down! It has been used successfully in France but sometimes an emulsion is produced that cannot be separated out, so until it can be further developed you will not see it on a large scale.
Supercritical Fluid Extraction (Carbon Dioxide Extraction)
Supercritical fluid extraction or carbon dioxide extraction is also a newer solvent extraction process that uses carbon dioxide at very high pressure. The carbon dioxide is injected into the tank where the plant material is contained and acts as a solvent to extract the oil. It is injected at such a high pressure that the gas liquifies and reduces to a very cold temperature, thus the term supercritical (-40 to -80° F). Carbon dioxide is a colorless and odorless liquid and can be completely removed; however, at this time there is insufficient research to verify if there are any effects of using this procedure. Additionally, the distilling/extraction equipment is very expensive. In comparison, ETOH is FDA certified, at specific concentration levels, as a food grade alcohol, which already has a policy associated with it use. It is, therefore, why I favor ETOH, over other methods and because it is gentler on plant materials, delivering a better full-spectrum product with all plant compounds remaining in a more natural state.
Phytonic Process of Extraction
The Phytonic process is a one of the newest methods of extracting essential oils using non-CFCs (non-chlorofluorocarbons). It is also called Florasol Extraction and the oils are referred to as phytols. It’s a little more complicated so I’ll spare the reader for now.
What will the future hold?
When I look at the future of essential oils, I look at it not only from the aspect of current essential oils, but from utilizing current essential oils and other plants, infused with cannabidiol (CBD) that reacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The combination of combining both has unlimited market potential.
Recent studies indicate the global essential oil market is on a trend to reach about $12 billion by 2022. In comparison, the same market for CBD is set for $20 billion. However, current pundits are incorrect because they are not involved in the latter industry such as me. Despite this, the USD current value of essential oils is approximately $6 billion, which indicates a longer-term trend of 10% per year.
This growth is primarily based on a growing consumer awareness regarding the health benefits associated with natural and organic ingredients in personal care, beverages and household products. This is combined with the desire to go more natural and away from manufactured pharmaceuticals. The continued trend of moving away from synthetic ingredients should ensure a year-on-year demand growth. However, the risks associated with dealing with natural products will also increase. This may well lead to ad wars between essential oil groups and big pharma. But, as with the CBD industry, the cosmetic industry who did a whopping $541 billion globally last year, is now, having talked with one of their strategists who just had a major industry meeting, poised to jump into both markets. The cosmetic industry will begin to infuse more of their cosmetic products – lotions, perfumes, cremes, etc. with essential oils and CBD and have already set concentration levels and price points in the recent strategy session (June 2019).
Therefore, while the industry is set to grow rapidly, there will likely be a huge supply and demand problem, i.e., there is a growing demand that must be met with a growing supply. To ensure that we do not face future supply issues we need to continue to invest in projects at grass roots level, by trying to grow products in different countries and regions that reduce the risks of being dependent on any one area for one product. This is key. Also, much of the information, especially in the CBD industry for expected supply is based upon the records from the departments of agriculture from each state. A grower applies for a hemp permit to grow a specific acreage of the commodity. After speaking with over 50 farmers recently, many have permits for larger acreage, but have decided to plant much less. For example, one farmer purchased a permit for 300 acres, he planted 8. This is a widespread issue. However, the departments of agriculture will report the entire permit acreage, and this is what pundits use to determine flower production of the crop. But, direct conversations with farmers belay that optimistic number. What it really means is that perhaps only as much as one-third of the permitted acreage applied for will be planted. If you then, couple that with a great many farmers who will not plant this year due to severe losses last year, there ‘will not’ be a ‘glut’ of hemp flower on the market Fall 2019!
Based on my work in water, energy, and food security in which I wrote the first text and reference book on the subject of water security, a greater diversity of supply sources will be needed to meet the demand. Also, let’s look at this example.
Food shortages are at the threshold in many areas due to weather hazards that have curtailed production along with increasing demand due to population growth. For oils such as citrus and others – because they are a by-product of the fresh market, this will create supply problems ahead so, likely expect to pay more for the oils if the suppliers do not look forward and develop a strategy to thwart this problem. I have developed just such a strategy for the CBD industry.
The simple facts are that the global population is growing and, the essential oils industry is growing, whether it be for natural health to replace big pharma, a more natural ingestion of products, the growth of aromatherapy, etc. For both areas there will be a supply shortage. Since the advent of CBD in combination with other oils, Europe has become a leader in the market, but their production base is limited. That will not bode well for supply in the future if their production strategy is not up to the task to meet demand. Thus, the demand for the products, including infusion in them from everything from natural drinks to hamburgers to lotions and tinctures, balms and salves is on the road to a collision course for production supply shortage versus satisfying demand.
If you’re going to want or need a good supply of essential oils, you may wish to begin to manufacture your own on a small scale. Why? It has been my experience from growing crops and developing strategy for water, food, and energy security around the world, that there is very little long-term strategy going on, except companies thinking about just the money that can be made in the essential-oil market. In the end, the supply will collapse because of lack of strategic focus and the consumer will likely be left shorthanded or unable to afford the product.
References (foundational-partial list)
Burnett, C. (2014) Safety Assessment of Citrus-Derived Peel Oils as Used in Cosmetics, Cosmetic Ingredient Review, Personal Care Products Council.
Catty, S. (2001). Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (1995). Basic Principles of Steam Distillation. Retrieved August 18, 2005, from http://www.fao.org/docrep/V5350e/V5350e13.htm.
Guba, R. (2002). The Modern Alchemy of Carbon Dioxide Extraction. International Journal of Aromatherapy 12 (3), 120–126.
Guenther, E. (1982). The Essential Oils. Melbourne, Fl: Krieger Publishing.
NTP. (2000), Lemon Oil, Lime Oil, National Toxicology Program, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Nasel,C, Nasel,B., Buchbauer.G., Samec.P., Heimberger.K. and Schindler.E. (1993) Alteration of cerebral blood flow caused by inhalation of fragrances (abstract). Neuroradiology, 35, 50.
Nasel, Christian & Nasel, B & Samec, P & Schindler, E & Buchbauer, G. (1994). Functional imaging of effects of fragrances on the human brain after prolonged inhalation. Chemical senses. 19. 359-64. 10.1093/chemse/19.4.359.
Abstract: Beside olfactory or trigeminal stimulation of chemosensory receptor-cells some results in published literature suggest that fragrances show a direct effect on the brain. The effect of the fragrance 1,8-cineol, which was described in literature as ‘stimulating’, on regional and global cerebral blood flow (rCBF and gCBF) in the human brain after prolonged inhalation was investigated. The results show an increase of global-CBF without preference to primary or secondary olfactory centres after an inhalation-time of 20 minutes.
Stimpfl, Thomas & Nasel, B & Nasel, Christian & Binder, R & Vycudilik, W & Buchbauer, G. (1995). Concentration of 1,8-cineol in Human Blood During Prolonged Inhalation. Chemical senses. 20. 349-50. 10.1093/chemse/20.3.349.
Schnaubelt, K. (2002). Biology of Essential Oils. San Rafael, CA: Terra Linda Scent.