Is Your Essential Oil Collection Doing More Harm than Good?

Updated: May 10

As we're becoming more aware of the all-powerful currency and how we exchange services, sustainability is in the minds of consumers and business owners alike. Sustainable is the "all-natural" label when it comes to beauty products and, specifically, essential oils. Just like "all-natural" doesn't meet certain standards to ensure quality and purity, how does sustainability compare? Let's take a look at the definition for clarity:


According to Merriam-Webster,

sustainable (adj.):

1: capable of being sustained

2a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged


Did you know it takes a gargantuan 242,000 rose petals to bottle only 5ml of rose oil?!


With that statistic alone, it raises several questions. How are the crops harvested? Where and when are they being harvested? Are the methods of agriculture and testing being measured? Is this information shared with the general population? The community from which the plants/herbs originate, are they compensated for fairly and provided with decent living measures (education, healthcare, etc)? How are the essential oils extracted and stored? Do agricultural methods interfere with indigenous sacred practices? Are the plants/crops grown endangered or threatened?


"Growing the substantial quantities of plant material needed to produce essential oils results in a monoculture style of farming, with large swaths of land dedicated to a single species" - Mindy Green, MS, RA, RH (AHG)

When a business claims to be "sustainable," what does that entail? As a business measures a performance, profit is bound to come up. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with offering a service or product that utilizes natural resources; the concern is towards how the natural resources are utilized. A framework called the triple bottom line of accounting measures performance in three areas: financial, social, and environment. Here's the catch: Which of the three areas are actually measurable? That's right, only one. It's difficult to track the performance of the social and environmental impact. Because of this, business takes advantage and mold the terms to the terms of their business, thus one business's standards of sustainability will vary with another business. (1,2)


Establish Your Bottom Line

This tiny loophole is closing, slowly but surely. Firstly, we as consumers must be held responsible for the fact check before investing in a business that claims to be sustainable. With the resources available to us now, there is no excuse to not do research. Organizations and associations such as the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, United Plant Savers, American Herbal Products Association, and Seed Savers Exchanges, are just a few of the bunch that lay down a clear foundation as to how what business actually follows sustainable guidelines and how to distinguish for yourself a sustainable service or product, especially essential oils.


These guidelines are crucial for essential oils, to ensure the agriculture is economical and environmentally safe, thus improving customer satisfaction and the quality of the essential oils. Here's what to keep an eye out for as a consumer:

In-Store

  • Check the label for the botanical name of the plant

  • Check for expiration as nature doesn't last forever

  • Read the ingredients to make sure it's pure and it contains no additives (fragrance oils, preservatives, etc)

  • BONUS: Organic and fair trade certifications to ensure quality and justice for workers

Online

  • Read the endangered species list before purchase (there are several available online, this is one of several)

  • Testing results are available such as GC/MS via third party and safety data sheets.

  • Preferably steam distilled, as that would retain most of the botanical compounds

  • Clearly states all claims and can prove them, i.e. sustainable goals, measures, and progress is outlined

  • BONUS: Educates others about sustainable goals


Beware of terminology, such as "therapeutic" and "clinical" grade. They simply serve a marketing tactic, as there is no current standard in place to regulate essential oils as such. Alternatively, you may use hydrosols in the replacement of essential oils. At an essential oil distillery, you essentially (no pun intended) create two products: the oils pressed out of the botanicals and the water that is separated from the botanicals. The water, also known as hydrosols contains the same compounds on the plant in a less concentrated amount. If one of your endeared essential oils happens to be a floral, you may experiment with floral essences, which is a solution of water and/or oil infused with florals via the solar rays or light boiling; thus, infusing the liquid with the vibrational frequency of the flower.


Now that you know the meaning of sustainability from a business perspective, define that for yourself, as a consumer and business owner. The goals and values of Asili Apothecary match the hands behind the creations, as they are one and the same. You can read more about it here. Set goals as to what you would like to achieve as a business or what information you're going to seek to understand as a consumer. Proceed to apply such goals. The global essential oil industry is growing rapidly; estimated sales for 2020 total $11.67 Billion USD. May we not make the same mistake as the industrial era, cutting paths and crossing legal laws to reach a goal for the sake of convenience (or rather to attain a trend and certain level of "health", in the case of essential oils). Such mistakes to be made with essential oil manufacturing will be a detriment to our environment, threatening the forests and the vast ecosystem that lives within the forests.


Shop Our Collection


You can smell great and be worry free! Store-bought perfumes and fragrances are created with an abundance of toxic chemicals and carcinogens that can disrupt hormonal function and create reproductive issues. Especially great for those who are sensitive to chemicals (headaches, dizziness).





Essential oil perfumes offered in three scents: JOTO, CALM, and RAHA.

1) JOTO, "warm" in Swahili

> Potent, warm, invigorating, spicy

sandalwood resin-infused grapeseed oil, 100% pure essential oil blend (ft. frankincense)

2) CALM

> Relaxing, floral notes

vanilla-infused grapeseed oil, 100% pure essential oil blend (ft. vetiver and lavender)

3) RAHA, "ease" in Swahili

> Floral, pungent

vanilla-infused grapeseed oil, 100% pure essential oil blend (ft. clary sage)

Perfume Making

Aromatherapy and perfumery is so fascinating; I'm not an expert but I love sharing healing in this aspect, especially as a gift.


You can convert the essential oil roller into a homemade perfume! Here are some calculations to consider:


  • the size of the perfume bottle

  • percent of alcohol concentration

  • size of the essential oil rollers


The size of the essential oil rollers are 10ml; what's more important is the concentration of them. 60 percent carrier oil to 40 percent essential oil is the current concentration I use when making essential oil rollers. For the sake of this example, let's say the size of the perfume bottle is one ounce (30 milliliters). The alcohol concentration varies from 5 to 25 percent. I personally gauge a bit higher due to the amount of oil in the recipe, but this is up to your discretion to experiment with! You will need a kitchen scale, as measuring out the drops in grams is helpful for conversion purposes.


So for the one-ounce bottle, you'll need:


  • 22.5 grams, oil mix (i.e. 60% carrier oil, 40% essential oils)

  • 7.5 grams, alcohol (I explain what kind of alcohol to use for perfumery here)


There are several conversion calculators online you may use in lieu of doing to calculation yourself. As a chemist in training, you'll find me crunching the numbers before any formulation!


Have you made a perfume? Share you experience below; let me know if you'd use the conversion generator or crunch the numbers!


REFERENCES

1,2. Galentin, E (2015). LEARNING TO DEFINE SUSTAINABILITY: LESSONS FOR ESSENTIAL OIL CONSUMERS. The Herbal Academy of New England. Retrived on 2 Jan 2019 from https://theherbalacademy.com/define-sustainability-lessons-for-essential-oil-consumers/


http://www.sustainablebabysteps.com/essential-oil-company.html



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About

The herbalist, chemist, and medicine maker at Asili Apothecary, Gloria created this space to facilitate healing and learning for yourself and those around you. The apothecary and homestead is based in Fayetteville, NC. Gloria enjoys time with her family and Mother Nature.

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