Essential Oil Quality

2010-essential-oils

 PURE ESSENTIAL OILS

For effective therapeutic use it is absolutely crucial that only good quality, natural essential oils be used. It is worse than pointless to buy any other product, and sometimes it is downright dangerous to use them. No matter how pleasant the aroma might be, reconstituted or diluted products lack the constituents necessary to achieve good therapeutic results. The synthetic, man-made, NOT identical constituents of these oils cannot be metabolized and utilized by the body. Worse yet, they cannot be excreted effectively by the normal excretion pathways of skin, kidneys, and colon. These substances clog the cells, leaving damaging residue beyond that interferes with normal cellular functioning.

Because the largest buyer of aromatic oils is the perfume and cosmetic industries and these industries are not the least bit interested in the medicinal value of the oils, the driving criterion for the production and marketing of essential oils has been aroma and uniformity and not the maintenance of medicinal value. Growers and processors tailor their product to the buyer, naturally, and sometimes corners are cut to save money and expense.

Under the current laws, many products come under the heading “essential oils” and can be marketed as such even if they have been diluted with vegetable protein oils and even if they are deadly synthetic reproductions with a little pure oil added. In addition, because some pure oils are very expensive to produce, some companies mix two or more oils together to mimic the aroma of an expensive oil. Some of these blends have wonderful (and sometimes similar) fragrances and frequencies. If blended by someone very experienced in medicinal oils, the constituents can occasionally be matched quite closely, but this accomplishment is very rare. Natures Body Shop, has a Blend of Melissa which is very good. We also sell pure Melissa oil (like all pure Melissa oil, it is very expensive) and a Rectified Melissa which seems to have reasonably good medicinal properties. Pure Melissa oil is out of reach, price-wise, for most people. Sometimes the Blended Melissa or the rectified one is good enough, especially for the price; for really intense Antimicrobial properties the pure Melissa is required and, hopefully, one will be able to afford a little bit of it.

Unscrupulous or unknowledgeable dealers will sometimes dilute a pure essential oil in a carrier base and try to pass it off as pure and natural. These fakes are quite easily spotted because the base oil is oily, while essential oils, for the most part, are not. Most pure essential oils, when dropped on blotting paper, will absorb rapidly into the paper; a stain may remain but there will be no oily patch. A pure oil will not clog the motor of a fountain, although balsams and resins, because of their viscous nature, need to be cleaned from your fountains after each use. If a carrier oil has been added, the oil will most definitely cause problems with the motor of even your most expensive fountains. The production of pure essential oils can be very costly. This makes the cost of some good quality essential oils quite high. Some of the “blossom” oils require two to three tons of plant material to extract 1 pound of quality oil. Time of day, weather conditions, and many other factors affect the chemical composition of the oils and must be carefully monitored in order for a satisfactory medicinal-quality oil to be produced. For example; climate, altitude, and distillation methods drastically affect the amount of thymol in the final product when distilling thymus vulgaris. The amount of thymol in the finished product drastically affects how thyme essential oil can be used because thymol is very strong and quite caustic.

When buying essential oils, you should begin with shops or suppliers that are concerned with nutrition and health, rather than ones concerned with perfumery and cosmetics. Eventually your nose and your energy will become very discriminating; “good” oils will feel and smell good to you and “bad” oils will not! It is not that “good” oils will always smell pretty; it is that they will smell “right,” even if you do not care for the aroma of that particular type of oil.

UNDERSTANDING TESTS AND STANDARDS

ANALYTICAL TESTS AND TECHNIQUES

Chemical formulas denote how many atoms of this and how many atoms of that are in each component of an oil, and can be determined by the techniques used by modern chemists. But chemical formulas are only the introductory pieces of a complete analysis of any essential oil. The next things that you need to know are the percentages of each compound that are in that particular oil, and then, the actual structure of those compounds. The percentages and structures are very important!

The industry standard for analysis of the percentage of each component is the gas chromatograph (CG). There are several variations of this tool. The high performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC), the gel liquid chromatograph (GLC), and the thin layer chromatograph (TLC). These instruments separate the components of an oil into individual compounds so that the percentages of each can be measured.

There are three things that need to be understood about this technology that is so often relied on and quoted as proof that an oil is pure and up to a proper standard.

The first thing to know is that only the main components of an oil can be measured by any of these chromatographs. Most of the components of the oil go undetected and uncounted with each test. Most often the compounds that are measured and counted do not comprise even 50% of the entire oil, in many oils, and it is one or more of the trace components, which are not shown by the test, that really matter. In grapefruit oil, for instance, the component that accounts for its distinctive aroma is found in amounts of less than 1 part per billion. Trace components which the tests do not record are vital to both the aroma and the therapeutic properties of every essential oil.

Synthetic and chemically altered compounds are not going to show up in a chromatograph unless the percent of the “fake” that has been added is quite high, and then only if the technician is both very good at his job and very lucky. Only if the analysis is well done and the amount of the both the natural compound and the fake is high enough to register will the adulteration be detected by chromatograph technology.

The second thing that impacts the usefulness of these tests is that there is a lot of skill, artistry, and just plain judgment that goes into interpreting a chromatogram. There is a lot of room for error and misinterpretation. Experience and skill on the part of the lab technician greatly impacts the reliability of the results. Some labs and some technicians, of course, do a better job than others.

Third, it is so easy to fake a paper. I once ordered readouts on lavender oil from a reputable dealer three years in a row and was sent the exact same sheet each year. Perhaps I was being sold very old oil by the third year, the papers did not apply to the oil I was purchasing, or the papers were just plain “faked” to convince me that what I was purchasing was a very good oil. I say this with confidence because it is impossible to keep growing conditions so nearly identical from year to year as to produce identical results legitimately. Most likely, the same results sheet was used each year, with only the date changed, to save the money that the testing would have cost. Since they knew the growing and production procedures they had used, they were probably confident that it was a good oil. Nevertheless, I have learned to treat all spec sheets with a healthy dose of skepticism. A spec sheet does not guarantee a good oil.

The mass spectrograph (MS) is the most often used tool to analyze the structure of the molecules in an essential oil. The mass spectrograph bombards the molecules of the oil with high energy electrons which causes the molecules to separate into atoms. The atoms are then analyzed to determine the angles of the original connections and the original shapes of the molecules before the use of the spectrograph. The illustration used by David Stewart in his book, The Chemistry of Essential Oil Made Simple, is stepping on a bunch of Lego® creations and then trying to put them all back together again without even knowing how many items there were let alone the basic structure of each piece. Is this possible? Maybe, or maybe not. But here again, the skill of the technician, and his patience, has a lot to do with the accuracy of the results obtained.

To quote Dr. Stewart, it takes “an incredible amount of technological effort, mathematical deduction, intuition, serendipity, patience, money, and sweat” to identify what is the proper structure for the molecules of an essential oil. An equal amount of effort, mathematical deduction, intuition, etc., will have to be put into identifying and analyzing an oil to determine if the structures in a particular oil are, in fact, natural and not synthetic, man-made, non-living and non-healing fakes.

STANDARDS AND TESTING

We shall try to make this complicated topic simple, maybe, and fairly brief.

There is no government agency in North America who publishes any kind of standard for non-synthetic essences. The United States Pharmacopoeia Convention (USPC) was founded in 1830 to set basic standards for the medicinal preparations of that day. At that time, a large portion of the remedies prescribed by doctors were herbal in nature and included a few essential oils. At that time essential oils and herbal products could be marketed as “USP grade.” This grading system and label has not been in use for a long time, but there is pressure being applied to reestablish grading standards. The USPC today is mainly concerned with echoing every opinion of the FDA relating to vitamins and nutritional supplements.

The USPC today is also responsible for the standardization of medical formulas. There is another organization which sets the codes for additives, coloring agents, binders, syrups, carrier oils, and other non-active ingredients. These two organizations have recently merged in theory, and now covering both the active and inactive ingredients in prescription and nonprescription drugs. They also set the standards for dosage amounts and the forms the dosages should be in. Since 1995, their work has been expanded to include dietary supplements, medical devices, and other health care products, including tests, procedures, and labeling requirements. The National Formulary branch of this joint organization is lobbying to place botanical medicines under their jurisdiction. In fact, the NF is currently devising standards for growing, distilling, and packaging essential oils. There are those who think that this could be a good thing. Before making up your mind, let us look at the standards set by some European countries and their inherent limitations.

AFNOR (Association Francaise de Normalization) is a French agency that sets standards for, among other things, essential oils. The ISO (International Standardization Organization) in Geneva, Switzerland and the EC (Eurpoean Community) has adopted the AFNOR standards.

AFNOR authorities are quick to point out that their standards are meant only to be a baseline profile of some of the compounds, and the amounts of those compounds, that should be contained in an essential oil if it is to be labeled as a therapeutic grade oil of a particular species. Let us use peppermint (Mentha piperita) oil as an example. To be labeled as Mentha piperita according to AFNOR (or ISO or EC) standards, peppermint oil must contain 35-45% menthol, 10-20% menthone, 4-9% methyl acetate, 3-7%-1.8% cineole.

The above percentages sound straightforward enough, right? But there is a serious problem here. It is that there are only four compounds listed and monitored, out of the hundreds of compounds present in the complete, natural essential oil of Mentha piperita. This fault is the same for all AFNOR standards on all essential oils; AFNOR standards usually look at no more than 6 compounds for any particular species. This leaves plenty of room for an unethical company to substitute man-made “fakes” for both these basic compounds and the ones not monitored at all. Because synthetics are so much cheaper to produce they are sometimes even added to a suitable filler oil in the listed proportion and then sold as a natural oil with no living, growing plant ever involved in the process at all. They still meet the AFNOR standards and, if well-crafted, can be difficult to detect until your “nose” has become quite sensitive. These “fakes” are worthless as healers; only God can make a tree or a plant capable of healing the human body. Only life begets life!

In addition, in the United States and many other countries at this time, a product need only have a small percentage of natural (non-synthetic) material in it to be labeled as “natural.” As explained above, being labeled as “natural and meeting the AFNOR standard” does not in any way indicate whether the compounds in the labeled oil are natural or synthetic, and does not tell you anything about its therapeutic value. The AFNOR standards will guarantee you the fragrance and taste of peppermint (or whatever oil you are referring to), but it does not guarantee that the oil has any healing properties at all. To achieve the healing properties that you need, you must allow time and space for God and the plant to complete the creation process, and then you must harvest, distill, process, and package the oil appropriately. The oil will then contain hundreds of constituents, most of them in trace amounts that are measured in fractions of percents. It is often the trace amounts that are responsible for both the aroma and the therapeutic properties of an essential oil.

There is nothing wrong with producing perfume or cosmetic grade oils. The problem comes from labeling them as pure therapeutic grade essential oils when they are not. This mislabeling is fraud. Adulterated or chemically altered oils do not have the same healing properties as pure essential oil.

CERTIFICATIONS

There are many certifications available for essential oils. Some of these certifications are recognized by certain governments by not others. More often they are applicable to a particular geographical area, rather than by a specific country. Recognition of a certification is determined more by the influence that an organization has in a certain geographical area.

Some certifications require inspections on the growing conditions, harvest procedures, and processing methods. Other certifications only involve paperwork and money. Even among the certification programs that requires on-site inspections, there is a great deal of variation. In the worst cases, being issued a certificate is based on a one-time visit; a better scenario require, not annual, but periodic visits.

There is no certification that I am aware of that guarantees that the certified oil is a good oil. Certifications are helpful when making decisions about which oils to sample if you are about to make a major purchase. The more reliable approach is to purchase from suppliers who are known to be reputable.

Some essential oil companies do their own certifications, by whatever methods they may choose.

You should use only pure therapeutic grade essential oils (and why not to use laboratory produced “fakes”).

SHELF LIFE

In order to understand the shelf life of a particular oil you must first determine which category of scented oils the oil belongs to. So let us take a moment here to discuss these basic classes of oils.

1) ESSENTIAL OILS

In the vernacular of the industry, true essential oils are those products that are the result of distillation. The methods used in the distillation process have a huge impact on the final quality of the essential oil. Distillation methods should be given close attention.

2) CITRUS OILS

Oils derived from the fruits or the rinds of citrus fruits are cold pressed or expeller pressed, not distilled. They are commonly referred to as “essential oils” all over the world, but in a technical sense they are not since they are not processed by distillation.

3) ABSOLUTES

Oils extracted by chemical solvents, rather than distilled or expressed, are referred to as absolutes. The phrase “chemical solvents” can make you think that someone has “messed up.” This is not necessarily true and certainly not true of most solvents used to extract essential oils. To produce an oil with all of the properties that you value when working With Jasmine, Neroli, Onycha oils, and some types of Rose, solvents are necessary. The properties of the oils do not “pull” any other way and the solvents used are ones that can then be removed most easily and completely. Additionally, the best medicinal properties of these plants would not survive the heat of the distillation process.

4) CARRIER BLEND OILS

The oils referred to here are the ones which, by British standards and wording are called an “essential oil,” but are really at least 95% carrier oil with the remaining 5% being pure therapeutic grade essential oil. This dramatically changes the properties of the oil and certainly impacts the shelf life of these “massage” oils. The essential oil deteriorates until the healing properties are just not there and the carrier oil itself goes rancid after a short time.

The various categories of scented oils above are impacted differently by such things as heat, cold, light, and air. They also work differently in diffusers and when placed in water and have their own characteristics when absorbed into the body.

5) OLEORESINS

Oleaoresins such as Myrrh and Opponox are solid at normal room temperatures. To extract the oil they are heated and solvents are added. They are then filtered to remove dust and debris that was captured when they hardened into their natural state. The final step in their production is distillation.

HEAT

It is a basic law of chemistry that chemical changes, if a change is going to occur at all, happen faster at higher temperatures.

DISTILLED ESSENTIAL OILS

When talking about the first category above—true essential oils—you do not need to be concerned at all if such oils are temporarily exposed to high temperatures, even up to the 140 F which is found in vehicles on a hot day. True essential oils are the product of distillation at higher temperatures than 140° F. They are substances that were created by high temperatures.

Each oil has a point at which the lightest components separate from the rest of the oil. However, when the bottle is returned to lower temperatures, these components condense, becoming liquid again, and then mix back into the rest of the oil with their chemical composition unaltered.

From a practical standpoint this means that if your pure distilled oils get too warm, leave the lids on until they have cooled back down. This separation of the lightest components is what makes steam inhalation of essential oils effective.

Storing the distilled category of oils at room temperatures is sufficient to preserve their quality short-term. Most oils store the very best at temperatures between 55° F and 60º F.

EXPRESSED CITRUS OILS

Citrus oils can be damaged by temperatures in excess of 100° F. This sensitivity has a lot to do with the molecular size of some of the components. The larger the molecule the more likely it is to break down as temperatures rise. The plants used to make expressed oils produce molecules which are larger than those found in plants that are used for making distilled oils. The larger molecules have little or no fragrance in their complete, non deteriorated state, but as they break down they produce a variety of smells, usually unpleasant. Both the fragrance and the therapeutic properties of citrus oils would be altered by the heat of the distillation process, so an expeller method is employed. This distinction also applies to all blends of essential oils with citrus ingredients. Having deeper note oils like sandalwood and myrrh included in the blend stabilizes the larger molecules of the citrus oils. Oils with deeper notes slow, and even prevent, this breaking down process. Expressed citrus oils include Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Mandarin, Orange, and Tangerine. Citrus oils need to be stored at temperatures below 100° F. If they ever get too hot, let them cool before opening the bottle.

ABSOLUTES

Absolutes are slightly more sensitive to heat than expressed citrus oils. It is best to keep them at cooler temperatures; at least no higher than normal room temperature. For maximum quality you should read the labels of your blended oils and be aware of the categories of the oils contained in them. Or you can just make it a habit to keep all of your oils at no warmer than moderate room temperatures.

CARRIER OIL BLENDS

This designation refers to oil “blends” that consist of a carrier-type oil to which an essential oil has been added. There are many otherwise reputable companies that are participating in this practice. It is certainly cost effective for them to do this as carrier oils are less expensive than the majority of essential oils. There are those who claim that adding a little bit of carrier oil causes only an insignificant amount of damage and the trade-off for convenience and ease of application is worth it. We do not agree!! Logically, the reason citrus oils and absolutes breakdown is because of the larger molecules (proteins, amino acids, etc.) in them. Adding carrier with their larger protein molecules can only increase the rate of breakdown of these oils. While the addition of essential oils slows the breakdown of the molecules in the carrier oil (they do not smell rancid as quickly), the therapeutic properties of the essential oil are still altered as the larger molecules break down. There are studies that back this position up very soundly, but every day, practical experience with these diluted oils has been enough to convince us.

It is best to keep your carrier oils separate and mix them together as you use them.

The only possible reasons that I can see for the practice of mixing pure oils with carrier before the time of sale are:

1) That the oil would be a little easier to apply in a hurry over a large area, and

2) Since carrier oils are cheaper than essential oils, more profit could be made by their sale. We believe that the profit factor is the bottom line here, since mixing as you use them is not that difficult or inconvenient.

FLAMES AND CANDLES

The heat of a candle, flame, or heat ring is in excess of 300° F. This will be damaging to your essential oils of any type. Using heat to vaporize oils is said to cause the most volatile compounds to disperse into the air first with the heavier molecules dispersing later. Is this the problem? No. The volatile components of any oil always disperse into the air first anyway; heat just makes this more pronounced. To minimize this effect, try placing your oils in distilled water and then over the source of heat. Candle warmers work well if used in this way. Just leave out the wax, use distilled or spring water, and add your oils to the water. The problem is that heat destroys some of the therapeutic properties of the oil.

COLD

Even extremely cold temperatures do not damage the therapeutic properties of oils. They may become congealed, waxy, or even semi-solid. If your oils get cold, do not apply any heat to warm them up. Just keep the lids on and let them warm up gradually to room temperature. They will be just fine.

LIGHT

Essential oils of any category (distilled, expressed, or absolute) should be stored in dark-colored bottles, in specially lined metal containers or in hard plastic of very specific specifications. Exposure to light causes the small molecules of an essential oil to polymerize. Polymerization means that the light sets in motion the processes by which the small molecules of the essential oil bind together to make larger molecules. Since it is the small molecular sizes that enable essential oils to penetrate tissues and enter cells as well as diffuse into the air, the creation of large molecules makes the oil less therapeutic in erratic ways. Put very simply, light will eventually destroy an essential oil by chemically altering it into a substance that is neither aromatic or therapeutic. A few minutes, or even a few hours, of exposure to light will not substantially alter the makeup of your oils; exposure to light over days, weeks, and months will destroy any essential oil.

AIR

Exposure to air is the most damaging thing to worry about with an essential oil. When an essential oil is exposed to air the most volatile components, the high notes, are often lost. Essential oil bottles for daily use are small in size and typically come with a dropper cap that minimizes the circulation of air into the bottle when the screw down top caps are off. Nevertheless, with most essential oils, you can smell the aroma of the oil the minute you remove the outer lid. Make it a habit to put the screw top lids back on each time you use an essential oil. Do not worry over much if they are off for a few minutes, while you are applying the oil, but do not leave a bottle open if you can avoid it. If you have removed the hard plastic, push-in applicator section of the cap, do not leave it open any longer than is absolutely necessary.

The second thing that happens to an oil through exposure to air for an extended period of time is that the oil begins to oxidize. Oxidation is the taking on of extra oxygen atoms by the molecules of the original substance. When this happens to metal you get rust. When this has happened to an essential oil, there will have been changes in the molecular structure and the compounds present in the oil.

Store essential oils intended for long-term storage in larger bottles with ordinary phenolyic non-dropper caps. The bottles should not be opened every day. Use the larger bottles to refill the smaller bottles that you will use every day. Each time a bottle of essential oil is opened, the oil inside is exposed to light, air, and contaminants. For the best therapeutic quality and to keep the high notes intact, the lid needs to remain on the bottle as much as possible.

WATER

Most of the components of essential oils do not mix well with water. They will either float or sink, but they will not mix in. This is only a problem if a drop of a strong oil comes in contact with some sensitive part of your anatomy. I use essential oils in the bath frequently. I love it and have had no serious incidents. I do believe that the frequency of the essential oil in the water creates a homeopathic effect, magnifying the best properties of the oil. Water is an amazing way to utilize the therapeutic properties of essential oils.

In summary, only people who are using adulterated, synthetic, or oils to which carrier oils have been added need worry about shelf life. Some references in the British school of thought recommend throwing away all your oils every six months and purchasing a fresh bunch. Such a recommendation may be appropriate for oils that are 95% carrier oil, but certainly does not apply to pure aromatic oils that were properly distilled. It does not even apply to expressed oils. The fact is, that some oils actually improve with age if properly handled and stored.

Stored properly, the shelf life of pure essential oils is longer than is generally believed. Some oils found in the tombs of Egypt are still wonderfully viable. Remember, however, that oils are sensitive to the ingredients in cosmetics, soap, shampoos, etc., and can be damaged by light, air, and heat if not properly handled. They should also be stored away from electrical appliances.

SECURITY SCANNERS

Will x-ray scans in an airport damage your essential oils? The answer is probably yes, but the damage will be minor and whatever damage occurs is easily repaired, and by the oils themselves.

Being subjected to x-rays and other high frequency electromagnetic energy is not a big problem for essential oils. What can happen in an oil is that a few molecules that took a direct hit may fracture into pieces. Fragmented molecules are called free radicals, and as we have been told, free radicals are not good things to have floating around in your body. Because they are unbalanced electrically they will grab up electrons and atoms from your tissues to complete their structures and bring them back to a balanced state. This process accelerates the aging process, damages organs and tissues, and sometimes causes cellular mutations that are the fore-runners of cancers. Your tissues and organs need their electrons and atoms! They don’t need to become unbalanced themselves because fractured molecules are racing around scavenging from others to make themselves better balanced.

Percentage wise, in an oil, there will not be many damaged molecules from passing through an x-ray scanner. This is because essential oil molecules are small and have spaces between them, to begin with. And the atoms and electrons are in constant motion. It is like they are all traveling around the neighborhood, visiting, at high speeds. It is this “traveling” that gives an oil its frequency. Only a few of these traveling molecules will take a direct hit.

Antioxidants are substances that remove free radicals from our bodies and neutralize their effects. Essential oils are among the best antioxidants. Some of them are nearly off-the-charts in their free radical removing capabilities. What this means to the damaged molecules of an x-rayed oil is that the broken-apart pieces, with the help of the undamaged molecules, will immediately begin to repair and rebuild themselves.

If you pass your oils through airport security, just give them a little time and they will repair themselves. I have always felt this (and the muscle test has consistently confirmed it).

Essential oils have the capability of repairing themselves and cleaning up free radicals within themselves, just like they clean up free radicals throughout your body and help to repair you!

CARRIER OILS

Carrier or base oils are often applied in conjunction with an essential oil. The common industry term for carrier oils is fixed oils. These oils are made from vegetables, nuts, or seeds and often have therapeutic properties of their own. The carrier oils used in therapeutic settings should be cold pressed rather than produced or processed by chemical methods. This is an important distinction, as some of the carrier oil will be absorbed into the body along with the essential oil. Some of the more common carrier or base oils are: Almond, Grapeseed, Sunflower, Olive, Jojoba, Safflower, Apricot, Avocado, Borage, Carrot, Coconut (both fractionated and whole), Corn, Evening Primrose, Wheat Germ, and Arnica.

Carrier oils are used for several different reasons. One major reason is because pure essential oils are often too concentrated to be applied undiluted to the skin. Adding essential oils to a carrier oil also allows the oil to be spread over a larger application area and to be absorbed more evenly. Many essential oils are quite expensive, and because they are so highly concentrated, one or two drops may be all that you need. The use of a smaller quantity of essential oil is often more beneficial than a larger quantity and is certainly less likely to cause any type of reaction. It is usually more beneficial to apply an oil more frequently—every 4 hours or so—than to apply more at the same time.

One of the needs for carrier oil when using essential oils is explain this way. Imagine putting an alcohol-based primer on hot asphalt prior to painting it. That would be almost impossible since the alcohol would evaporate almost before it touched the road. Essential oils behave in a similar manner. They are made of several different constituents, some of which evaporate at lower temperatures and faster rates than others. Place these essential oils on the skin (90 – 95 degrees) and the higher, more volatile notes dissipate before they can be absorbed. A carrier oil stabilizes the essential oil, holding onto all the constituents until they can be absorbed. The chemical composition of the oil remains intact.

LIGHT CARRIER OILS CAN BE USED BY THEMSELVES (100%)

SWEET ALMOND

Sweet almond oil is easily the most popular carrier oil for many reasons. Almond oil is inexpensive and absorbs into the skin quite quickly Almond oil is rich in vitamins A, B, and E, all of which are beneficial nutrients for healthy skin. Almond oil is light enough to be used as a make-up remover. It opens the pores, ensuring that all makeup is easily removed. Almond oil, heated, can be used in place of more expensive, commercially available hot oil treatments for dry hair and scalp. This is one of my favorite uses for almond (and Coconut) oil.

Almond oil contains, along with the vitamins mentioned above, heart healthy fats, potassium and folic acid. Besides using almond oil as a carrier oil when applying essential oils, perhaps replacing some of your cooking oil with almond oil might be a good idea. I use mostly solid Coconut oil for cooking because I like the slight Coconut flavor it provides. I use almond oil from time to time where the flavor of Coconut might not be appropriate or desired. Almond oil is such a delightfully light carrier oil that is can be used all by itself, 100%.

APRICOT KERNEL

Apricot kernel oil is light in color with a pleasant, slightly nut scented aroma. It is appropriate for all skin types, but especially effective for sensitive, inflamed, dry, or prematurely aging areas. Apricot oil is readily absorbed by the skin and leaves very little greasy residue. It is generally non-irritating, making it appropriate for children and infants. There are reports of the benefits of apricot kernel oil for treating mild sunburns.

GRAPESEED

Grapeseed oil is another excellent choice as a carrier oil. Grapeseed, like almond, is nourishing to the skin and can be used for hot oil hair treatments in the same way as almond oil. Grapeseed has astringent qualities that help to tighten and tone the skin. Grapeseed is emollient enough to be beneficial for the treatment of minor sunburns and rashes. Of course, adding an essential oil or two greatly increases the benefits.

The one drawback, as far as I am concerned, with Grapeseed oil is that it is absorbs quite a bit more slowly than sweet almond oil. It also has a slightly stronger aroma—not unpleasant and mild enough that it is usually well-covered by the aroma of the essential oils. Grapeseed needs no additional carrier oil added to lighten it.

SAFFLOWER

Safflower has a very nice weight and consistency for use as a carrier oil. Safflower is a good natural source of linoleic oleic acid, which rejuvenates damaged or dry skin. I rarely use it, however, because safflower oil tends to go rancid rather quickly if not refrigerated. When refrigerated or mixed with a more stable carrier oil such as fractionated Coconut oil, a shelf life of about a year can be achieved. Even mixed, refrigeration is recommended. I don’t generally like applying that much cold to my skin!

FRACTIONATED COCONUT

Fractionated Coconut oil is another popular choice. Like almond oil, Coconut is inexpensive, absorbs quickly, has almost no aroma at all and has the added advantage of a long shelf life at room temperature without rancidity. For those of you who like a little bit of chemistry information—this liquid form of Coconut oil has had the smaller fatty acids and the long-chain triglycerides removed. Without these ingredients there is a very, very slow rate of oxidation. This is a carrier oil that does not go rancid, even in the summer months!

Other advantages of fractionated Coconut oil include: odorless and colorless; absorbs readily into the skin, leaving not residue; does not stain clothing and easily washes out of clothing and bedding; although absorbing very quickly, liquid Coconut oil is an excellent skin moisturizer; rarely aggravates existing skin problems such as fungal or bacterial infections; does not clog pores

Fractionated Coconut oil leaves the skin feeling smooth but not greasy. I believe that fractionated Coconut is one of the best carrier oil products available. I love it and the solid Coconut variety!

SOLID (VIRGIN) COCONUT OIL

Non-fractionated Coconut oil is solid at normal room temperatures and white in color.

When you put a small amount into the palm of your hand, the heat from your hand immediately melts it to a liquefied form, making it very easy to use as a carrier oil. It absorbs a little more slowly than the fractionated variety but leaves the skin feeling silky smooth.

There are innumerable claims made for the benefits of virgin Coconut oil, used both internally and externally. My personal experience bears out every one of them that I have had experience with (or had the need of). This is an amazingly healthy choice for skin care, scalp health, and as a cooking oil. Coconut oil nourishes the skin, preventing wrinkles, sagging skin, dryness and flaking. Coconut oil complements the anti-bacterial properties of essential oils by adding its own unique properties and is healing to the skin in its own right. Coconut oil is said to prevent protein loss in hair and provide other necessary nutrients for optimal hair health. Outstanding among the benefits are: aids in digestion, helps maintain healthy bacterial cultures in the intestinal tract—including controlling candida overgrowth, helps maintain proper blood sugar levels, remarkable for pancreatitis and Alzheimer’s as well as liver and kidney disorders, and strengthens the immune system.

TAMANU

Tamanu is a wonderfully effective carrier oil because it has cytophylactic properties of its own—meaning that it promotes the formation of new cell growth and the elimination of dead cells, thus accelerating wound healing. Tamanu is also known to possess anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antimicrobial properties. Tamanu should be considered as the carrier oil of choice when working with eczema or psoriasis, burns, acne, dry or scaly skin, diaper rash, diabetic ulcers and in relieving pain from sciatica, shingles, and arthritis. Although tamanu oil is thick and dark in color, when applied to the skin it is readily absorbed and leaves no oily residue.

ARGAN

Argan oil is known in some cultures as “The Tree of Life.” Argan is an exquisite newcomer to the carrier oil world. Argan is most renowned for being rich in natural tocopherols (vitamin E) and because it contains rare plant sterols not often found in other carrier oils. Several sites report studies whose initial findings seem to indicate anti-cancer properties for these natural sterols. These sterols are uniquely combined in Argan oil to make it anti-inflammatory. This makes it a great choice for use with essential oils for arthritic conditions, to increase circulation, and to strengthen the immune system.

The properties of this oil make is useful for skin conditions with good results being shown with stretch marks during pregnancy. This oil should be considered for use with scarring, eczema, psoriasis, acne, and scars resulting from acne. Besides possessing healing properties, this oil is reported to be extraordinarily protective of skin, hair, and nails. It protects the skin from weather and provides a disinfectant layer.

HEAVIER CARRIER OILS

USED AS A PERCENTAGE WITH THE CARRIERS LISTED PREVIOUSLY

Some carrier oils are rarely used by themselves. Their characteristics, usually oiliness and rate of absorption, make them better as part of a blend of carrier oils with their proportions kept somewhere between 10% to 20%. Some of these oils are Apricot Kernel, Avocado, Borage, Carrot, Evening Primrose, Black Cumin, and Jojoba. Very dry skin or skin that has been severely traumatized can greatly benefit from the use of these oils as part of a carrier.

AVOCADO

Avocado oil is a rich heavy oil that penetrates deeply into the skin. It is rich in vitamins A, D, and E, all wonderful skin nourishing vitamins. Like all good carrier oils, avocado contains oleic and linoleic acids. Avocado oil is excellent for use with dry or aging skin, with eczema or psoriasis, and for sun or wind damaged skin. Avocado oil is said to have a sufficiently high sterol content to be useful as a carrier when using essential oils for joint and muscle inflammation and pain. Avocado oil is quite light and absorbs reasonably quickly so is sometimes used by itself on particularly damaged skin patches. Generally, however, it is used as a percentage in a carrier oil mixtures.

OLIVE

Olive oil has some outstanding properties when applied to the skin. One exceptional quality is that it attracts external moisture to the skin while still permitting the skin to release toxins through sweat. Olive oil is soothing to inflamed skin, encourages the shedding of dead skin cells, and releases sebum from the skin. The drawback to olive oil is that it is quite heavy and absorbs less readily into the skin. When used as a carrier oil, several minutes must be allowed to pass before clothing can be placed back on the body. Olive oil is also more difficult to remove from clothing and bedding than some of the lighter carrier oils.

BLACK CUMIN

Black Cumin (Nigella sativa) oil is sometimes referred to as an essential oil because of the methods by which it is produced and the size of its molecules, but it is more properly classified as a carrier oil. Black Cumin is variously called Fennel Flower, Nutmeg Flower, Roman Coriander, Black Caraway, and just plain Blackseed. The plant is, in fact, not a Cumin at all!

Scientific research into the individual components of this oil indicate that it protects from histamine-induced bronchial spasms, explaining its use both internally and as a carrier oil for asthma, bronchitis, and coughing. Black Cumin is used for rheumatism and related inflammatory diseases and to increase milk production in nursing mothers. Black Cumin makes an excellent carrier oil for skin conditions such as eczema and boils.

INTERNAL CONSUMPTION

Black Cumin, like the carrier oils referenced in this section, is too “heavy” to be used alone. It is best mixed about 1 part Black Cumin to 4 parts of Almond, Coconut or Grapeseed oil.

Reported internal uses for Black Cumin seed oil (for your information only). Black Cumin seed oil, ingested, has been used as a digestive aid (flatulence, colic, indigestion, and constipation), as a medicine for colds, asthma, bronchitis, deep coughs, headaches, toothaches, and infections. Black Cumin is also used traditionally for circulatory ailments, to strengthen the urinary system and aid in the removal of toxins and excess fluids. This oil is also used as an immune stimulant, and to clear lymphatic congestion. It is listed in many texts as a nervine for the relief of nervous exhaustion, tiredness, debility, insomnia, lethargy, and migraine headaches. I have no experience with the internal consumption of Black Cumin oil but it is recommended by some in protocols for hepatitis.

The presence of beta-sitosterol, an anti-tumor sterol, gives credence to its traditional use in treating abscesses and tumors of the abdomen, eyes, and liver. Studies show that Black Cumin is effective in treating opioid dependence; researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia have used that one ingredient, thymoquinone, to block pancreatic cancer cell growth and killed the cells by enhancing the process of programmed cell death (apoptosis). These studies are in the very early stages, but are showing great promise, perhaps as a preventative for those at risk for cancer.

JOJOBA

While Jojoba is traditionally categorized as a vegetable oil, it is more properly labeled as a liquid wax. Jojoba absorbs deeply and reasonably quickly into the skin. Its properties closely resemble the natural sebum within human skin and helps to balance the skin’s natural moisturizers. Jojoba oil contains natural anti-inflammatory properties making it an excellent addition to carrier oils that will be used for arthritis or pain.

Jojoba is a very stable oil with a very low rancidity factor. It has the reputation of extending the shelf life of other carrier oils to which it is added. It is a bit too heavy for use by itself, except on a small patch of skin, here and there. It is wonderful when added as 10% to 15% of a carrier oil blend.

SUNFLOWER—REGULAR AND HIGH OLEIC

Sunflower carrier oil contains linoleic acid, oleic acid, lecithin, carotenoids and has a high vitamin E content. High oleic sunflower oil has at least 82% oleic acid, giving it greater emollient properties and a longer shelf life. Sunflower oil restores proper moisture balance in skin, whether the problem is dryness or excessive oiliness, while providing a protective barrier that resists infection, especially in premature infants. Sunflower oil is reported to be helpful for bruises and with leg ulcers. This oil is quite heavy and rarely used by itself; best as a small percentage of a carrier oil composite blend.

WALNUT

Walnut is very high in linoleic acid and antioxidants. It is used to repair damaged or dry skin and to prevent wrinkles. It is best used as less than 15% of a carrier oil composite blend. Walnut oil contains an anti-oxidant, ellagic acid, which research—still in early stages—is reporting and showing an ability to detoxify several compounds that have been linked to the development of certain types of cancers. High anti-oxidant concentrations have been shown to help fight the signs of aging as well.

Walnut oil, when taken internally (why not just eat walnuts?) creates an increase in the strength and resilience of blood vessels and improves circulation. It accomplishes this by preserving the function of the endothelial cells which line the walls of the blood vessels. This reduces hardening of the artery walls. Hardening of the arteries is considered a major contributor to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Walnut oil has a short shelf life and must be kept refrigerated and stored with a tight lid. Walnut oil is certainly not recommended for persons with a nut allergy of any sort without extreme care and caution.

INFUSED (SOAKED) OILS

There are many wonderfully healing medicinal plants. When these plants are soaked for a time in a basic carrier oil such as Almond or Grapeseed, their medicinal properties are added to those of the carrier and the essential oils being used. Creating specialty carrier oils in this way provides a wide range of healing benefits.

Generally these oils are created in lighter carrier oils, such as Almond oil, and can be used 100% by themselves, just as their base oil would be used.

ARNICA

Arnica oil (at least the one sold by Nature’s Body Shop) is made by soaking Arnica blossoms—fresh, whenever possible—in almond oil. Arnica oil is used with amazing result for injuries where bruising, swelling, and/or inflammation are present.

Arnica oil is said to cause swelling in exposed muscle tissue, so it is not used on open wounds or deep abrasions except in homeopathic form. Arnica is one of my favorite healing plants and should be in every first aid kit!

CALENDULA

Calendula is one of the best vulnerary (good for the healing of wounds) plants ever. Calendula is anti-inflammatory. It is useful for vein health and circulatory issues such as varicose veins, spider reins and bruises. Calendula is one of the best healers for skin rashes, hives, eczema and psoriasis, leg ulcers, and bed sores that are difficult to heal. Using the appropriate essential oil, coupled with the healing properties of calendula infused oil as a carrier, provide a “double whammy” of healing. Some examples would include: Innocence for diaper rash or stretch marks; Timeless for a facial skin conditioner; BactoPlus or Purity on insect bites; and Beneath for the pain of shingles. Calendula would also be good used with Helichrysum on recent injuries to prevent or minimize scarring.

MULLEIN

Mullein has been used for centuries because of its outstanding medicinal properties. The herb mullein grows in dry, barren places. Following the ancient law of signatures, this would indicate that mullein is an herb for respiratory conditions, especially those where the lungs need “drying out.” Mullein also has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmodic properties, thus increasing its value in respiratory ailments and is certainly recommended for use as a carrier oil with these conditions.

Mullein oil is one of the ingredients in EO for use with ear aches and infections. Mullein is often added to herbal poultices to provide emollient and healing properties and to offset the astringency of some anti-infectious herbs. The infused oil can be used in much the same way.

Mullein oil, as a carrier oil, should be used when applying oils to the chest for infections, coughs, and congestion. It can be used in the ears, alone or as part of the EO recipe, to relieve the pain of ear infections and fight the bacterial involved. It can also be of benefit as a carrier oil when working with inflammation and pain. Mullein is gentle enough to be used on babies for diaper rash and for cracked nipples with nursing mothers.

ROSEHIP

The main properties sought for when using rosehip oil are the vitamins A and C and anti-oxidants. These two vitamins are cytophylactic, meaning that they aid cell regeneration and the sloughing off of old dead cells and cellular waste products. These properties make rosehip oil an excellent choice for anti-aging and for the treatment of damaged skin cells including burns and scars. The combination of anti-oxidants and vitamin C brighten the skin and reduces or removes skin discoloration. The anti-oxidants found in rosehip oil also make it a natural anti-inflammatory. Rosehip oil is excellent for dry, chapped lips.

WHEAT GERM VIRGIN AND REFINED

Wheat germ oil is pressed from the germ of the wheat kernel. Although the germ of the wheat kernel accounts for only 3% of the weight of the actual wheat grain, the benefits of wheat germ oil stem from the fact that it contains almost 25% of the total proteins, vitamins and minerals of the whole wheat grain.

Wheat germ oil is the richest source of vitamin E that can be obtained from a vegetable oil. Wheat germ oil also contains high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin D and is rich in protein and lecithin. These constituents make wheat germ oil popular for external application for any type of skin problem. Wheat germ oil is used quite often as an ingredient in health care products for the skin.

The benefits of wheat germ oil are predominantly in skin conditions. It also works effectively as a carrier oil to help heal burns, skin ulcers, psoriasis and eczema. Wheat germ oil is beneficial for the general health of the skin as it improves the circulation of blood in the skin. It also helps the skin cells that may have been damaged due to the sun. Wheat germ oil helps with conditions like dermatitis and scarring. Wheat germ oil is known for its high level of antioxidant properties. Because of this, it helps in preventing the skin from showing the signs of aging.

Wheat germ oil, especially the virgin unrefined one, is a very sensitive oil that tends to degrade if not stored with extreme care. Wheat germ oil should be kept refrigerated and certainly not exposed to extreme temperatures. Heat can turn wheat germ oil rancid very quickly. If kept refrigerated the shelf life of wheat germ oil can be extended for a few months.

Refined wheat germ oil is lighter in color than the virgin variety. It is also less sensitive to heat and has a longer shelf life. It is the one usually preferred as a carrier oil. It should be remembered, however, that refining always removes beneficial properties.

INTERNAL CONSUMPTION

There are many benefits with wheat germ oil as a supplement. One of these is the improvement of overall heart function. Research has shown beneficial effects from a constituent called octacosanol and specifically policosanol in improving cardiovascular functions. Policosanol has been found to be effective in controlling production of cholesterol by the liver. It is believed to raise the level of ‘good’ cholesterol and reduce that of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Other benefits of wheat germ oil include its antioxidant properties and its effect in strengthening the immune system and restoring overall health.

LINIMENT INFUSED OIL

LN—Liniment infused oil—contains the herbs Comfrey, Arnica, St.John’s Wort, Lobelia, Calendula, Angelica Root, Valerian Root, Ginger Root, and Cayenne. These herbs, infused in Almond oil, create a carrier oil which is amazing for injuries, bruising, inflammation, and the general pain and soreness that accompany injuries.

The addition of lobelia in this infusion helps to deliver the other healing herbs to the area of concern quickly and relieves pain. The Arnica works on sore, tight muscles and helps to reduce swelling of injured areas. Arnicas is not usually recommended for use on open wounds but in the small percentage that exists here we have never had any problem over the course of many years. Comfrey is probably best known for its healing ability for bones and tissues, but it is also very helpful for chest congestion. Cayenne works on the blood and is very effective at improving overall circulation. With increased circulation comes better oxygenation and healing.

Using LN oil as a carrier oil topically for injuries would be especially effective when coupling it with essential oils such as HealMe, Beneath, Circulate, Relaxation and Warmer.

SHEA BUTTER

Shea butter is high in fatty acids which makes it a great skin moisturizer. The high lipid content nourishes the skin, penetrating through the first layer of the skin to hydrate and add to the skin’s elasticity. Shea butter has been reported to have a slight ability to absorb ultra violet radiation, giving it a limited capacity as a sunscreen and as a protection from sun damage to skin. Shea butter becomes liquid and melts at body temperature, making it easy to use as a carrier oil. Shea butter is absorbed into the skin quickly and acts as a “refatting” agent, hydrating and plumping dry, wrinkled skin. Its biochemical nature allows it to bind well with water which accounts for shea butter’s ability to treat dry skin.

WATER

When dealing with a fungus (foot or toe nail variety) the use of a carrier oil is not recommended. The large protein molecules may “feed” the fungus, making matters worse. Place a drop or two of oil into a bowl of water and soak the feet. The water will carry the oil up under the nail bed and make it more effective. Putting a drop or two of essential oil in the tub is an excellent way to move oils deep into the body. This is especially true of pain relieving and anti-inflammatory oils. There is no better way to relax than a bath with a favorite emotional or relaxing essential oil. Placing a few drops of essential oil into a spray bottle filled with water is an excellent way to diffuse an oil into the air.

SALVES AS CARRIERS

Plant-based salves, are also excellent mediums for applying essential oil. The essential oils should, as always, be added to small portions of the salves and always added as close to the time of use as possible. Salve as it has proven so miraculous for the healing of burns and injuries.

CASTOR OIL

Castor oil for internal use has both strong advocates and equally strong opponents. That is likely because the castor bean contains both healing properties and properties that are strong to the point of being destructive. The benefits of castor oil can almost always be achieved by topical application and, in my opinion, it is much safer to use castor oil that way.

SOME INTERESTING STUDIES

~An Indian study in 2011 found that castor leaf extract showed better antibacterial activity against both ~Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria that Gentamycin (their standard of comparison).

~A 2010 study found that castor oil packs were an effective means of decreasing constipation in the elderly.

~A 2009 study found that castor oil effectively relieves arthritis symptoms.

~A 1999 study found an increase in T cells over a seven hour period after the application of castor oil.

~Interestingly, according to the American Cancer society, “Oncologists now use castor oil as a vehicle for delivering some chemotherapy drugs to . . . metastatic breast cancer and other tumors. Unfortunately, the vehicle sometimes causes problems of its own, including allergic reactions. This has prompted a search for substitute carriers.”

My own experience with castor oil, applied to the bottoms of the feet, is that it acts as a potent general cleansing agent for the body. While I appreciate the healing benefits of castor oil, this is one I would use with caution and judgement.

YET ANOTHER REMINDER

Never mix your pure essential oils into a carrier oil and then store them that way! The therapeutic properties of the oil break down rapidly when mixed with vegetable protein oils and you are left with a massage oil of lower quality that does not even smell as good as the original essence. Instead, place a small amount of the carrier in the palm of your hand, then add 2 to 4 drops of the essential oil and apply. Following this method allows your essential oils to stay vibrant for long periods of time. It also makes your bottle of essential oil last much longer.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only, it is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or, diagnose any disease or condition. Nor is it intended to prescribe in any way. This information is for educational purposes only and may not be complete, nor may its data be accurate.

As with all essential oils, never use them undiluted. Do not take internally unless working with a qualified and expert practitioner. Keep away from children. If applying an essential oil to your skin always perform a small patch test to an insensitive part of the body (after you have properly diluted the oil in an appropriate carrier.

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