One of the very first
lessons I learned in my aromatic journey was 'know what to
ask for'. Being curious, I asked, ‘what exactly
does that mean?’ The reply (from my professor at Purdue,
Jim Simon, who is now at Rutgers)… “Know how to identify what it
is you want to purchase”.
Even today, when some customers call, they are still
not educated on what the differences are between essential oils,
absolutes, resins, carrier oils, infused oils or fragrance oils.
Allow me to shed some light on this.
* Essential Oils:
An essential oil is a product obtained from natural raw
material, either by: distillation with water or steam or from
the epicarp of citrus fruits by mechanical processing, or by dry
distillation. They are concentrated extracts and should
never be used ‘neat’ (directly) on the skin.
Essential Oils are found in:
- The flowers, leaves, bark, wood, roots, entire plant or fruit
* Vegetable Oils (Carrier Oils):
Vegetable oils work to benefit skin and health.
They are produced from nuts and seeds, producing oils, butters
and fats. For example: Sweet Almond, Sesame Seed, Shea
Essential oils are usually blended with some type of
Carrier oil before applying to the skin or skin care product.
* Fragrance Oils:
Fragrance oils are made out of synthetic material.
This came to pass because essential oil scent would vary from
year to year depending on the weather conditions. (Too much
rain, too little rain would stress the plant). Especially
for the perfume industry, they needed to ensure that the scent
was identical every time they produced a fragrance.
More and more the trend today is to ‘go back to basics’
and Natural Perfumery is making a big come back.
So, you’re looking for a certain essential oil?
No worries... just be sure that the following basic information
is on the bottle:
- Essential oil: Lavender
- Botanical Name: Lavendula angustifolia
- Country of Origin: France
The ‘botanical name’ and ‘country of origin’ are what identify
the essential oil you are looking for, it’s 'fingerprint' if you
Lavender - Country of Origin could be France or Bulgaria
Rose Otto - Country of Origin could be Bulgaria or Turkey
Vetivert - Country of Origin could be Haiti or India
The scent will vary due to country of origin.
Rose Absolute Morocco - Rosa centifolia
Rose Absolute Bulgaria - Rosa damascena
The above not only have different countries of origin, but also
have different botanical names, be sure to identify the product
you are looking for as it will affect the scent of these
Some essential oils have many subspecies - i.e.:
Eucalyptus citridora (this has a lemon scent)
Eucalyptus globulus (the most common)
The examples above show that - ‘what you want’, ‘what is in the
bottle’ and 'knowing the botanical name' is crucial.
Which 'chemo type' do you require?
Depending on the properties you desire, you will need
to understand the composition of the essential oil. The
‘chemical constituent’ or the three (3) major classes of
essential oil constituents:
* monoterpenes and their derivatives (monoterpenoids)
* phenyl propane derivatives
* sesquiterpenes and their derivatives.
We can get into some chemistry here, however, for the
purposes of this article this is an overview. It would be
advisable to get to know the different properties and why you
would choose them.
For a little overview:
Essential oils with Linalool are found in Coriander seed,
Lavender, Clary Sage, and linalool chemo type of Thyme.
Properties associated with monoterpene alcohols:
• strong antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties
• vasoconstrictive properties i.e. menthol, linalool, geraniol
can make the site of application feel cold.
• Tonic and general stimulant properties
• Sedative properties
Properties associated with sesquiterpene alcohols:
• Antiviral properties
• Farnesol found in i.e. rose and chamomile is an excellent
bacteriostatic. It is well suited to skin care and
deodorant products, as it is know to inhibit, rant than kill,
growth of bacteria.
• Tonify muscles and nerves
Properties associated with phenols:
• very powerful antimicrobial properties
• skin and mucous membrane irritants
• general tonics and stimulants
• stimulants to the immune system.
We are all in the business to sell our essential oils.
However, there is much marketing hype that exists. When
you see: aromatherapy grade, therapeutic grade, etc., to the
best of my knowledge, there is no such grading system in this
What else would be helpful in purchasing your essential oils?
- Distillation date – when the material was actually
distilled. Some essential oils have a longer shelf life then
others. Be sure to store properly (cool, dry, dark areas) and
tightly close the cap to extend shelf life.
- ‘Batch’ or ‘Lot’ number is important if there is an
issue with the order. However, it's not always available.
This way the seller can pinpoint the batch and identify it more
readily. (If this is not available, the distillation date
- Organic – You should be given the certifying program
(i.e. Ecocert, NOP, etc). This may vary from country to country.
Some customers prefer only organic, others have
no preference at all. Cost is a factor, due to organic
oils being more costly. (due to all the strict farming
laws and paper work).
As a side note: I would prefer all citrus to be organic
if possible. The oil for this is cold pressed from the
rind where the pesticides are sprayed.
The key is to be an informed buyer.
- Read the labels
- Essential oil & Botanical Name
- Country of Origin
- Organic / wild crafted / conventional
- Lot or Batch Number
Start a sample box. Samples are important to
compare different country of origin, and different suppliers, as
well as different years. I have aged Patchouli from 2000
that is wonderful, as you know; some oils just get better with
Breathe in the wonderful aroma and know that you 'get what
you ask for'.
Books in my Library are many, but my ‘most used’ and favorites:
Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin by Stephen
The Essential Oils by Ernest Guenther (Vol I thru VI)
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia
Liquid Sunshine / Vegetable Oils for Aromatherapy by Jan
visit Rosanne's web site:
All views expressed in the
articles on the
"All Natural Info" page are those of the various authors, they are
presented here for your enjoyment and enlightenment. These views
do not necessarily represent the views of SharAmbrosia or the "all
natural beauty" website.
Visit Our Reading Room
© SharAmbrosia. All rights reserved.