Salespeople sometimes use studies as support for their medical claims for products like essential oils. These studies are taken out of context. The fact that a product or an ingredient is being studied as a cancer treatment for example, does not mean it should be used *as* a cancer treatment.
Salespeople (and some poorly educated practitioners) sometimes take the herbal use for a botanical, and apply those same properties to the essential oil.
The uses and safety concerns for a raw herb/flower/seed are often not the same as those for the essential oil. The uses and safety concerns for a water extract or an alcohol extract from a botanical are also often not the same as those for the essential oil.
Not convinced? There is a seed which produces an oil we use for its many healing properties. It is used in food and skincare products. “Centuries ago, the plant was referred to as “Palma Christe” because the leaves were said to resemble the hand of Christ. 1.”
And how about this…a product from the waste material from processing the seeds (aka beans) “has been used experimentally in medicine to kill cancer cells. 2.”
Sounds like a win win, doesn’t it! If some of these MLM salespeople had access to this – they’d tell you to take this product internally because “it has been shown to kill cancer cells!”
Problem. The seed is the castor bean. The oil is castor oil. The waste material being studied? Ricin. Not familar with Ricin?
“Just 1 milligram of ricin is fatal if inhaled or ingested, and much less than that if injected. Eating just 5 to 10 castor seeds would be fatal.
Once poisoned, there’s no antidote, which is why ricin has been used as a chemical warfare agent.”
So something that kills cells in a petri dish…may also kill a person. And just because one product from a plant may have a safe and appropriate use in cosmetic or medical care, does not automatically mean that other products from the exact same plant are even safe, much less effective for the same purposes.
Essential oils are defined as “a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.”
Vocabulary of Natural Materials (ISO/D1S9235.2), The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
There are books and companies who promote the use of essential oils in a way that reinvents historical fact. There were no essential oils used during Biblical times. The Wise Men did not bring Baby Jesus essential oils. Jesus’ feet were not anointed with essential oil, nor did he anoint others with essential oils.
Essential oils were not used in Ancient Egypt, nor are they found in the Pyramids.
“Since essential oils are produced by distillation, and distillation was invented in the 10th century by Persians, it could be said that aromatherapy began 1,000 years ago.” roberttisserand About Aromatherapy
The oils referred to in the Bible are infused oils, not essential oils. The Bible also refers to incense – which is also a completely different product than an essential oil.
Because if someone is going to lie about historic fact, in order to sell you something – what other lies will they tell in order to sell you something?
And because the history of safe use of an infused oil does not demonstrate the same safety when applied to the essential oil.
And those four Thieves blend you also may have read about? They ALSO were not using essential oils! This is historical FICTION!
The story goes something like this… four thieves in France protected themselves from the black plague with cloves, rosemary, and other aromatics while robbing victims of the black plague, but who never got sick. “When captured, they were offered a lighter sentence in exchange for their secret recipe.”
This “Thieves oil blend” usually includes Clove, Cinnamon Bark, Rosemary, Lemon and Eucalyptus. There was no Eucalyptus available in France in the 15th Century! This story is historical fiction. The thieves were probably using a botanical vinegar and not essential oils.
But it makes a great story and plenty of companies sell their version – the legitimate companies refer to the story as legend or myth. The ones to watch out for are the ones who refer to the story as if it is historic fact, or who advise topical or internal use!
Neal’s Yard Remedies/NYR Organic deserves to be applauded for allowing the Facebook discussion to play out to a natural end rather than deleting my comments, and especially for following up with the following letter: