Aromatherapy is a huge topic and beginners are destined to make expensive mistakes without the right information. Committing these five Aromatherapy facts to memory will save you time, money and ensure safe practices.
1. Just because something is scented, doesn’t mean it’s Aromatherapy.
This is key. The term Aromatherapy was coined by French perfume chemist Rene Gattefosse. Gattefosse spent much of his life studying the medicinal benefits of essential oils and coined the term Aromatherapy. In 1937 Gattefosse published his findings in a book called Aromatherapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones vegetales.
The practice of Aromatherapy grew out of this desire to study and promote the therapeutic value of essential oils. Despite how Aromatherapy is often marketed, it is based on much more than an idea that anything with a nice fragrance will make us feel good.
2. Essential oils are fragrant but they’re not the same as fragrance oils.
Essential oils are the pure, concentrated essence of a botanical. Essential oils can be found in the seeds, roots, resins, leaves, woods, grasses and peels of essential oil producing plants. Fragrance oils are manufactured synthetically and even though products with fragrance oils are not Aromatherapy you will sometimes find them labeled as Aromatherapy. Check the ingredient label, if fragrance or perfume is listed as an ingredient then the item is not true Aromatherapy.
The difference between essential oils and fragrance oils is like the difference between grapes and a grape flavored candy. A grape is simply a grape. A grape candy uses the flavor profile of the grape plus added sugars, coloring, and fragrance. It’s a deconstructed then reconstructed copy of the grape. There’s nothing wrong with grape candy but no one would ever confuse it with a real grape or argue they had the same nutritional value.
3. Essential oils should be used with care.
It is shocking to me how many people use essential oils without understanding their potential negative effects. Never assume essential oils are harmless just because they’re natural. Taking a little time up front to understand how Aromatherapy really works can save you from health problems in the future.
Buy yourself a good reference book and take a moment to check any safety precautions before using an essential oil. Make sure the oil is appropriate for you based on your current state of health and that you’re using the right amount. Never use an essential oil on a child that you haven’t used yourself and never expose a child to the same dosage as an adult.
4. Therapeutic Grade isn’t a real thing.
As a beginner in Aromatherapy you’re an easy target for people who’ll say anything to sell a product. Here’s what you need to remember: There is no independent system for grading essential oils. Companies can label their oils as therapeutic grade but since the claim is based on a standard that doesn’t exist, they never have to prove the oils are therapeutic grade.
The therapeutic grade concept was popularized in the multi-level marketing space then spilled over into the retail essential oil business. Consumers started asking for therapeutic grade oils and sometimes retailers went along in order to make sales. Quality is important when it comes to essential oils but there are several ways to determine the quality level of oils, don’t focus on therapeutic grade as the term really has no meaning.
5. Anyone can sell essential oils, even people who don’t understand Aromatherapy.
Anyone serious about buying or using essential oils should know that a standard Google search on pretty much any essential oil topic yields very few results offering accurate information. On Ebay and Amazon it’s incredibly easy to find perfume oils being labeled and sold as essential oils.
I don’t think people are being malicious in spreading misinformation, they just don’t know what they don’t know. As a consumer of essential oils it is important for you to realize this and take responsibility for educating yourself (see #3). Again, invest in some reference books so you can begin to discern good and bad information.
I hope these facts help you navigate your essential oil journey. Please comment if you can think of something I forgot.