I am enrolled in a perfuming course through the Online Perfume School and am loving it as it has expanded how I think about aromas beyond what they smell like. Aroma has the power to evoke emotions and memories, but when you sit with an aroma or a blend, you can start to draw upon other sensory experiences such as the color of the aroma, its temperature, associated imagery, or how it sounds whether it be a particular sound or even music. Our sense of smell is one of our most powerful sensory experiences.
Perfumes are made using different types of ingredients. They can be made using natural essential oils only or they can be made adding fragrance oils and aroma chemicals in addition to essential oils. I recently wrote a blog titled Essential Oils vs Fragrance Oils where I explored the differences between natural and synthetic components of perfumes and colognes.
There are three primary ways to create perfumes and colognes.
Some recipes on the internet will recommend using vodka for alcohol-based perfumes, but it is important to use a denatured (non-drinkable) perfumer's alcohol (SDA 40B), especially if you are looking to sell your creations. Perfumer's alcohol is a combination of Ethanol, T-butyl alcohol, and Bitrex (Denatonium Benzoate.) In the United States, you will have to get a special permit in order to not only sell your perfumes, but to also purchase larger quantities of perfumers alcohol. In most cases, the limit is 5 gallons per year without a permit.
There are several different formulations that can be used to create different types of perfume based on the percentage of fragrance and perfumer's alcohol as a base. For one fluid ounces (30 ml) here is a general guide of fragrance to perfumer's alcohol ratio. It will be most helpful to have a set of graduated cylinders to measure by ml. I recommend blending by weight, but you can also make notes on drops used.
When you make a spray perfume mixed with perfumer's alcohol, it is recommended to let it sit for up to a month for the fragrance to really meld into its final form. You can always use it right away, but the fragrance may change over time.
I use a blend of Jojoba oil and beeswax to make solid perfumes. If you are looking for a vegan alternative to beeswax, you can substitute Candelilla Wax, but it has a much harder consistency than beeswax, so you will need to adjust the formulation accordingly.
I use 10 ml roller bottles for perfume oils, in which case I use about 20-25 drops of the fragrance blend, plus 10 ml of a carrier oil like jojoba or sweet almond oil.
Perfume blending techniques
It is essential to understand the fragrance note of each component in the blend whether it be an essential oils, fragrance oil, or aroma chemical. Typically, they are arranged in a pyramid of Top notes, Middle or Heart Notes, and Base Notes. Top notes like citruses will evaporate more quickly, but will often be the first aroma that you smell when the perfume is applied. Middle notes are the heart of the fragrance and last quite a bit longer than top notes, and base notes last the longest as deep and heavy aromas. Aromatic blends are comprised of all three types to balance out the fragrance. You shouldn't use all top notes or all base notes on their own. Even if you are creating a light refreshing citrus blend you will want to give it some heart with mid notes and a solid foundation of base notes.
Your fragrance blends can also be used outside of perfume or cologne applications. Those fragrance blends can be used in soaps, skincare products, and bath & shower products as well. It is important, especially when using essential oils to know any safety precautions associated with the oil. I love cinnamon bark, but it is a highly sensitizing essential oil, so I will often use a synthetic fragrance oil in its place for the aroma only.
Happy perfume making and fragrance blending! Stay tuned for my upcoming weekly Zoom call series beginning on November 30, 2018 and the first topic will be more information on perfuming!
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I have been a little quiet lately, but that is because I am up to a lot of exciting new endeavors. First and foremost, I bought a house and am settling and moving on November 5th. I am super excited to have a larger facility to make my products, have small workshops, and facilitate client consultations.
Here are some other exciting things to note for November and December 2018:
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Do you know what the average shelf life of a water-based product with essential oils is before it starts "going bad?" Even if you refrigerate it? THREE DAYS! That is, if you do not use a preservative! I started using Benzylalcohol-DHA which Making Cosmetics describes as "a broad-spectrum preservative blend consisting of benzylalcohol (aromatic alcohol) (87%), dehydroacetic acid (8%) & water (5%) and is an effective alternative to parabens. It is soluble in water, alcohols & glycols." This is the natural preservative that I chose to use in all of my water-based products. That includes things like hydrosols, aloe vera, and other water-based extracts.
I knew you needed to use preservatives in hydrous products, but I didn't know how fast things start to degrade without it and how prone they become to microbial growth. You can also add antioxidants like Vitamin E Oil and Rosemary Antioxidant (which is a plant extract and not an essential oil) to properly ensure your products shelf life, but they do not act as preservatives on their own. I used to make my own foaming hand soap with a simple recipe using distilled water, castile soap, and essential oils -- without any preservatives. Guess what, that all natural soap I made would be floating with microbial growth in a matter of days!
There are preservative calculators that can assist you in figuring out the correct weight to add to your finished products. I like the one from HumbleBee & Me, but you need to keep in mind that it is basing the weight in grams, which is the standard unit of measurement for making topical cosmetic applications. There are also conversion tools available to figure out the total weight in grams if you are using ounces. One ounce roughly equals 28.3495 grams. Most kitchen or lab scales can be adjusted to switch from ounces to grams as well.
There are many FDA regulations in place when it comes to legally selling hydrous products -- those being products that contain any type of water-based ingredient. I started using Sagescript Institute, LLC in Colorado to test my products. Sagescript states, "The FDA does not require any microbiology testing but it is a responsible thing to do to protect your formula and your customer. The FDA does say that a cosmetic should not be adulterated which is interpreted as meaning it should not contain harmful bacteria or fungus." All this means is that if you are making and selling products, you are liable for them. Pro tip: It is also a good idea to get yourself some business and personal liability insurance. The Indie Business Network and The Handcrafter's Soap and Cosmetics Guild offer discounts as a membership benefit.
Each product will cost between $28 and $32 for microbial testing. You package and label your samples and mail them to the lab, they test them, and then send you the report. The whole process can take about 2-3 weeks. It is recommended that even if you are using the same base ingredients, but make a slight variation to the coloring, essential oils, or fragrance oils that you should also have those products tested too -- even though they will most likely yield the same results as the base products that were originally tested.
Preservatives exist for a reason and the natural ones will conform to your personal or philosophical standards that you may adhere to in your product creation process. There are numerous natural preservatives available on the market in the US, UK, and Europe. When in doubt, if it has any water or water-based products in it, use a preservative!
Philadelphia, PA – Jennifer Vatza is a certified aromatherapist and the founder of Restorative Aromatics, where she offers a holistic approach to self-care enhanced by aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is the art of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance to promote the health of body, mind and spirit. Whether you’re experiencing stress and anxiety, sleep issues, acute and chronic pain, aromatherapy can help to ground and center you and allow yourself to heal.
Jennifer also educates clients on supporting and enhancing their health and wellness through aromatherapy through in-person workshops and online social media engagement. She is also working on a webinar series and several eBooks on aromatherapy topics.
Jennifer offers a stress management coaching program known as Aromatic Grounding: Stress Mapping and Redesign, which uses essential oils to help train her clients to rewrite their stress responses and redesign how they respond to stress in the future. Every client has receives a “stress kit” containing aromatic products designed to reduce their stress levels.
There are three different modes of applications: direct inhalation, dermal application, like creams or salves, and internal application.
“I’m really proud of being able to help people through aromatherapy because it’s a daunting field, with so much misinformation,” says Jennifer. “I’m grateful that people are looking at things like aromatherapy.”
For more information on Restorative Aromatics, visit www.restorativearomatics.com
How do you know if the company you are purchasing your essential oils from practices ethical and sustainable harvesting of plant material? - especially when it comes from critically endangered or protected plant species such as Rosewood, Spikenard, Sandalwood, Palo Santo, Agarwood, and even one of the most commonly used essential oils, Frankincense. These plant species are critically endangered due to having been drastically over-harvested or harvested illegally for many years.
Let's talk about each of these essential oils and how they should be harvested. Always look for this information provided on the essential oil company that you are purchasing from. If this information is not present, I would either do research on the brand to ensure their practices are ethical or avoid them altogether if you cannot verify such information. This is a known issue in the aromatherapy world so this information should be easy to come by.
Rosewood trees are native to Brazil and are critically endangered due to developmental clear cutting and other unethical harvesting methods. The wood should be harvested sustainably from trees that are intentionally planted in forests. The tree tops should be trimmed similarly to the way in which you would prune an overgrown bush or tree in your garden. This will ensure that the trees are kept alive and healthy.
Palo Santo is protected by the government of Ecuador and a permit is required to harvest the oil from dead trees or fallen branches from dead trees, that have been lying on the ground for at least two years. It is important that when you purchase this precious oil that the company whom you are purchasing from is educated in sustainable and ethical practices and deals with brokers and distributors who harvest the plant material legally and ethically.
Spikenard is hard to cultivate since it grows naturally in rocky soil at very high elevations in Nepal. It has been critically endangered since the mid-1990s. Permits are needed to buy and trade spikenard root for essential oils and is heavily regulated by the Nepalese government.
Agarwood should be sustainably produced from the heartwood of two different species of evergreen trees. The essential oils is usually produced from a wild, private tropical forest plantation in Thailand. They ensure that their agarwood is sustainably and ethically produced and follows local government regulations.
Sandalwood is endangered because of illegal smuggling and over-harvesting of wild-growing trees in India. The depopulation has occurred over many decades causing the industry to collapse in India. It is primarily cultivated in Australia these days.
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii -- as opposed to other types of Frankincense) has been over-harvested in Somalia and other parts of North Africa. Due to the popularity of this essential oil, it will inevitably be moving up the list of endangered species.
When critically endangered plants or ones that are teetering on the edge of being over-harvested without regard for ethics and sustainability, the supplies will either run low or cease to exist. Additionally, governmental regulations may be mandated to protect these plant species from extinctions. This will also drive market prices through the roof. Today, a 5ml bottle of Sandalwood can run upwards of $100 and Agarwood runs closer to $200 for a 5ml bottle. The others remain reasonably priced considering their scarcity.
This is where using your essential oils in a sustainable manner and not overusing them comes in to play. Don't just assume to throw 10-15 drops of 3-5 different essential oils in a roller and call it day. Understand proper dilution ratios, you will only need 1-2 drops of Rose oil as opposed to 20, which would be an expensive waste. If you are using these particular essential oils on a regular basis please do so with intention knowing that every drop is precious and not to be wasted.
Knowing and trusting the company or companies you purchases your essential oil products from is crucial in this industry and I have and continue to use numerous different brands of essential oils. Early on in my essential oil journey, I began using Young Living essential oils because they were the best, most pure, therapeutic grade essential oils and the company owned their own farms.
Earlier this year in January, when I was working on my first aromatherapy certification, I contacted Young Living specifically to ask what chemotypes their Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme since they were not on the label or website and they do not provide GC/MS reports on their website or by request.
For your reference: “A chemotype occurs when a plant of a specific genus and species produces a particular chemical in a higher than normal amount because of geographic location, weather, altitude, insect and environmental interactions, and the like. A chemotype is not a different species or genus, nor is it a type of chemical; it is merely a chemical anomaly within the plant that occurs naturally.” -[ The New York Institute of Aromatic Studies, Aromatic Scholars program.] To learn more about chemotypes of certain essential oils, please read my previous blog post: What are Essential Oil Chemotypes?
Young Living’s Product Support responded in February saying that “We do not have a specific chemotype for our essential oils available to provide as we do not standardize our essential oils by chemotype. However, we are able to provide the key constituents on a specific oil you have concerns regarding. “
This did not sit well with me because it seemed as if they didn’t really have a good understanding of what chemotypes were at all. How can you standardize something that occurs in nature based on things like weather and whatnot. I even inquired with my colleagues and aromatherapy instructors all of which agreed that this claim makes no sense -- I even asked Robert Tisserand during one of the weekly Q&A sessions during the Essential Oils Safety Masterclass and he said that it "made no sense."
Young Living does not release their GC/MS reports to the public, so there is no way to confirm this information, but it would appear (in the past) that even if they do not standardize oils by chemotype that their Basil is high in Methylchavicol, Rosemary with 1,8 cineole, and Thyme with thymol.
Fast forward a couple of months, I followed up with a few questions:
I was told that " We do not have a specific chemotype for our essential oils available to provide as we do not standardize our essential oils by chemotype. However, we are able to provide the key constituents on a specific oil you have concerns regarding." I was given the corresponding chemical constituents for the oils requested (Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme). But the first statement is concerning to me as chemotypes are very important to know for these essential oils."
"You should be able to tell customers what chemotypes of oils that you are selling. This is not a standardization, chemotypes occur in nature due to a variety of factors including: chemical composition including environmental conditions such as light, soil, temperature, moisture, climatic influence and altitude as well as geographic area.. Many essential oils have chemotypes and it is always important to know which one you are working with as therapeutics and safety may differ. Do your chemotypes stay the same? Do they change depending upon the harvest? This information is hard to ascertain since you do not publish your GC/MS reports."
To which Young Living Product Support responded:
"Young Living® no longer standardizes its essential oils by chemotype (CT). Chemotype is another name for chemical variety (a specific variety of a plant species based on chemical profile). Young Living has adopted the use of "Seed to Seal®" to standardize its essential oils by. Seed to Seal includes standardization by chemical profile as well as growing conditions, distillation, and manufacturing process."
I responded again with:
"This seriously makes no sense, while yes, a chemotype is a chemical specificity or variety, it is one that is based on numerous factors. For your reference: A chemotype occurs when a plant of a specific genus and species produces a particular chemical in a higher than normal amount because of geographic location, weather, altitude, insect and environmental interactions, and the like. A chemotype is not a different species or genus, nor is it a type of chemical; it is merely a chemical anomaly within the plant that occurs naturally."
"So unless you can control the weather and the aforementioned factors, I am suspect about your claims that you can "standardize" your oils by "Seed to Seal" without altering the chemical makeup of the oil artificially. I understand that some aspects can be controlled, but you cannot account for one crop having had more rain than another and have it not have a relative chemotype."
"I would like further clarification upon this subject because there are vast different therapeutic properties for different oils with chemotypes. For instance, Rosemary can be used for hair growth - this is true of the verbenone chemotype, but not 1,8 cineole or camphor chemotypes. This is particularly frustrating since Young Living does not share its GC/MS reports with the public."
I am rather frustrated and disappointed that they could not answer a simple question and seem to not even be all that educated in the science of essential oils, which is also a bit off-putting since they are one of the biggest essential oils companies in the world and like to claim that their oils are the most pure, the most therapeutic grade, and seed to seal.
Finally in August they replied….
"We recognize that pure essential oils will have natural variances in chemical makeup from batch to batch caused by many different factors including time of harvest, amount of sunlight, amount of water, geographical location of harvest, etc. However, our Seed to Seal® quality commitment ensures that every batch of oil contains the optimal levels of natural bio-active compounds. We verify the chemical constituents of each batch through testing before we begin selling the oil. From this information, we can assure you that the active constituents in each batch and bottle of essential oil meet our specifications and thus have the same therapeutic value."
"The key constituents for Basil, Rosemary, and Thyme given to you past provided the ranges for the levels of those constituents which were considered within our Seed to Seal specifications at that time. Due to a recent change in company policy, we are no longer able to provide ranges for the chemical constituents in our essential oils. This information is now regarded as proprietary as it discloses the constituents we deem most therapeutic in value, and therefore the information is considered trade secrets. Patents and trademarks do not adequately protect this information, as you cannot patent or trademark an oil."
So after close to 9 months, I still have no answers, and they seem to be stuck on seed to seal trumping chemotype considerations which occur naturally due to a variety of environmental effects. This is why companies need to provide GC/MS reports on their website or at the very least by request. This is not proprietary information. The "because we are awesome and we say so" argument does not hold up here at all. I am highly disappointed by their responses and lack of actual information beyond the company marketing lines.
After writing my original blog posts on the subject of cats and essential oils, I still get a lot of questions and they continue to be some of my most popular posts to date. Some information has been or needs to be updated to provide more clarity on the subject matter. So I thought I would create a quick reference guide for those still looking to assuage their fears of using essential oils around their beloved cats. I did a lot of research including contacting my veterinarian as well as the University of Pennsylvania's Vet School for information.
I will say this much--I have a healthy 15 year old cat. He had an unrelated (and expensive) health scare last month and after a battery of blood tests, an MRI, and spinal tap, they concluded that he is very healthy for his age. That said, I use essential oils all the time. I don't diffuse as much as I used to, but I always make sure to not diffuse oils that could be potentially harmful to cats.
The article Complementary Medicine, Refusal of Conventional Cancer Therapy, and Survival Among Patients With Curable Cancers came across my newsfeed this morning. To sum it up, the aforementioned study found that patients who received complementary (alternative) medicine were more likely to refuse other conventional cancer treatment. For this reason, they had a 2-fold greater death risk than those not receiving complementary medicine. Which, as a person in the alternative medicine field, I find very concerning.
Complementary alternative medicine and practices are just that, complementary. They should happen in tandem with tradition medical approaches and not replace them fully -- this is especially pertinent when it comes to cancer care. These practices can include aromatherapy, homeopathy, herbalism, vitamins, yoga, diets, meditation, massage, etc. It should be noted that with cancer, there can be interactions between herbal and aromatic preparations with chemotherapy, surgeries, and the medications that a patient may be taking. It is always recommended to clear any alternative therapies with the oncology team first to avoid any complications.
I see so many people posting on aromatherapy Facebook groups things like "my friend has cancer, I want to make her something, what should I make her?" This is very concerning for a number of reasons. There is the misconception that since plants are natural most of them are safe. While most are, there are definite safety considerations to take into account even for completely healthy people. This is especially true when using essential oils since they are so potent. Also, taking advice on the Internet from well meaning friends and acquaintances who are not professionally trained in safety especially as it pertains to herbs and essential oils can be downright dangerous. For instance, peppermint, ginger, and spearmint are great for nausea, but it might be better to use an aromatic inhaler or diffuser than to apply them topically or to use them internally. Special care also may need to be taken when considering a dosage as you may only need a few drops of essential oils in an inhaler.
Complementary alternative medicine can be used to improve the physical and emotional state of someone dealing with cancer, but again, it should not replace conventional cancer treatment and always should be done first by consulting the oncology team. It can be effective in treating things like nausea, pain, depression, and anxiety associated with cancer and cancer treatments. Using them for palliative and end of life care is a different story as the treatment(s) are used to provide comfort to the terminal patient as usually conventional cancer treatments are no longer in use by that point outside of pain management and other palliative care measures. The fact that cancer patient that who alternative medicine are more likely to refuse conventional treatment puts the onus on those of us in the field to be clear about the limitations of alternative medicine.
It's no secret that there is a lot of strife between the professional aromatherapy community and MLM Essential Oil Distributors and Wellness Advocates. There are numerous reasons for it, but the primary ones seem to come down to education and misinformation about essential oils and the aromatherapy practice. I remain in the middle of the road on this argument. I think MLM essential oil companies have their place in the aromatherapy world, but I will always and continue to advocate for education and safety first. I have many friends and colleagues on both sides of the argument.
A lot of people have serious and well-founded misgivings when it comes to Multi-Level Marketing companies (MLM's) at large. I'm sure you have heard them called scams or pyramid schemes, which is an entirely different issue that I am not going to address in this blog post. This post will also refrain from addressing any particular controversial issues about the MLM companies at hand as that is not the point of this post.
Let's start with my personal back story. I started using store bought essential oils in 2011 for mood support when I was dealing with anxiety and depression. I will admit, I didn't have a clue as to what I was doing, I had a heat diffuser and would occasionally put them in my bath water or place a few drops of lavender on a tissue under my pillow. I got away from them for a time, but came back to the essential oil world in 2016 when I attended an essential oil and yoga workshop at a local yoga studio. This was my first introduction to Young Living. From what I learned I was intrigued, until I looked at their website and found the starter kit and oils to be extremely expensive in comparison to the store bought ones I purchased in the past. I was unemployed at the time so I put that starter kit on hold.
In the meantime, I was having some skin issues on my face and around my eyes, and started tinkering around with making my own skin care products since nothing I purchased from high-end to drug store brands ever seemed to work for me. Within a few weeks my skin improved vastly and I was hooked on essential oils. Fast forward about six months and add in a new job - I finally decided to invest in a starter kit through Young Living.
I do in fact like their oils even though they are quite expensive. I was hooked up with a knowledgeable community that shared so much information and really got me comfortable using my oils for more than just skin care. Within a couple months, I was encouraged to start selling oils, and I thought "what the heck and gave it a try." Life got in the way shortly thereafter and I put it on hold for a few months and then came back to it. In the end, it just wasn't the right fit for me.
I have always had a thirst for knowledge and wanted to learn more about aromatherapy and essential oils. Usually the recommendations were to read books by authors associated with Young Living, not that there is anything wrong with that per se, but it didn't give me the science that I was looking for and the foundational basis for understanding aromatherapy practices.
By December 2017, I decided that I wanted to seek out becoming a certified aromatherapist and was referred to the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies and enrolled in their dual certification program in the Foundations of Aromatherapy and French Aromatherapy. I received my Level One certification in February 2018 and am in the process of finishing my final paper for the French Aromatherapy certification. In addition, I have completed and passed the Essential Oils Safety Masterclass through the Tisserand Institute and the Aromatherapy Teaching Training Program through the Aromahead Institute. I am currently working on certifications in Natural Skin Care Formulation through the School of Natural Skin Care and am working on my Level Two certification program through the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies.
As I started learning more about the science behind essential oils, different modalities of practice, and essential oils safety through my certifications and connections within the professional aromatherapy community, I started to see a lot of negative things about MLM essential oil companies focusing on the lack of experience by some of the distributors and wellness advocates in addition to marketing misinformation about essential oil safety and practice. There are a lot of myths out there perpetuated by MLM companies that are untrue or at best partial truths. I don't think that this is done with malicious intent by any means, but on some base level a lot of the myths and practices seems to be for the sole purpose of selling and using more product.
Some MLM essential oil companies espouse being based in "French Aromatherapy," which is true to some extent though cooking with essential oils and putting undiluted essential oils in water without an excipient, are in fact, not practiced within the purview of French Aromatherapy as I discovered in my certification program. I recently wrote a blog post on this subject clearing up myths from fact about the internal use of essential oils. Is any of this dangerous? Not really, but you probably aren't getting any benefits from cooking with essential oils because the heat will evaporate any therapeutic benefit the same way it burns off alcohol when it is used in cooking. It tastes good, but you aren't going to get drunk from bourbon chicken. Most importantly, oil and water don't mix, so when using oils in a hydrous liquid you always need to use some sort of excipient or dispersant so that the essential oil actually blends with the water otherwise it just floats on the surface. I also wrote about ingesting essential oils.
Another problem that comes from the MLM model is overusing oils especially in rollers. It is pretty simple, the more oil you use, the more oil you buy. Once you learn proper blending ratios and dosages for each purpose, you will learn that sometimes "more oil is just more oil" and it does not actually increase the benefit of the product by using more. For instance, your rollers should probably have under 20 drops of essential oils MAX. Undiluted or "neat" application can be beneficial and used for targeted or acute circumstances, but doing this daily for a prolonged period of time has a high risk of adverse reactions or sensitization. Given that these high quality oils are so pure, why would you have to use more of them that the recommended safe doses to get a desired effect?
All essential oils regardless of their purity will oxidize due to heat, light, and oxygen exposure. It is also pertinent to know that most carrier oils are good for 1-2 years which will change the shelf life of any products that you make. While there are many unscrupulous essential oils companies out there that sell adulterated or low quality oils, there are many other companies that sell high quality, pure, unadulterated essential oils.
But, it's not all bad, I do acknowledge that for those who sell through MLM companies that it can be a life-changing and enriching experience and I think that is truly great. However, I find that marketing the business aspect with "all you need is a starter kit to start your business" is a bit worrisome. Knowledge, experience, and training are essential in any business and it is easy to get bogged down by conflicting information passed down through Facebook groups, Pinterest recipes, and general Google searches. I don't think that everyone has the time or financial resources to enroll and complete aromatherapy certification programs, but there are many aromatherapists and industry professionals who will work with and educate clients on essential oil usage for free or an affordable fee.
As I mentioned earlier, I remain in the middle of the road on this argument and I am not trying to be a killjoy. I think MLM essential oil companies have their place in the aromatherapy world, but I will always and continue to advocate education and safety first. I don't begrudge my experience with selling for MLM's as it provided a valuable experience in laying the foundation work in my professional aromatherapy practice. My goal is always to provide the most accurate information and to disseminate factual information from trusted sources with many years of experience. Education is extremely important to me and a journey and I am always willing to share information along the way.
I would like to personally thank Robert Tisserand, Jade Shutes, Andrea Butje, Amy Galper, Cathy Skipper, Joy Musacchio, and Cynthia Brownley who's courses, webinars, and workshops have provided an invaluable experience to me as an aromatherapist.
What is French Aromatherapy?
There is a popular misconception that the practice of French Aromatherapy justifies ingesting essential oils on a regular basis. The practice is more nuanced than that and the term "ingestion" should be replaced with "internal application" as this includes methods of application such as rectal suppositories and vaginal pessaries as well. There is much to be understood about the complexity of French Aromatherapy as the internal application of essential oils and herbal preparations. This is the only difference between other valid schools of thought often referred to as British and German or Anglo-Saxon Aromatherapy which do not advocate internal application of essential oils.
[Side note: I have completed my coursework and exams for my French Aromatherapy certification through the New York School of Aromatic Studies and am in the process of finishing my case studies for the final paper that I am writing on stress and aromatic preparations.]
French Aromatherapy uses the following methods of essential oil application
Internal application, via the oral route, of essential oils involves more than just putting a couple drops of lemon oil in your water or tea or seasoning foods with essential oils as a replacement for fresh or dried herbs and spices.
There are several methods of internal applications using proper excipients and dispersing agents for each method because as we know - oil and water do not mix. Excipients include: solubol or disper, honey, alcohol, gelatin capsules, herbal tinctures, herbal pastilles, neutral tablets (only available in Europe, but homeopathic blank tablets might be a comparable replacement,) sugar cubes, honey, fatty oil capsules, charcoal, tinctures, bread, rice flour capsules, syrups, dried powdered herb capsules. [New York Institute of Aromatic Studies] When you add essential oils to your water, they will just float on the surface and when you drink from your glass you in essence will be ingesting undiluted essential oils. This may not cause any noticeable discomfort or issues, but can cause internal damage over time.
French Aromatherapy does not advocate putting drops of essential oil in your water or tea without using one of the aforementioned excipients, nor does it advocate cooking with essential oils - these are both common misconceptions about the practice of using essential oils internally. Cooking with essential oils can be a costly endeavor and much of the therapeutic value will evaporate with heat - especially the heat required to cook or bake any type of food dish.
While French Aromatherapy advocates using essential oils internally this is not usually intended for frequent or daily use for long periods of time and there is much emphasis on safety considerations for ingesting essential oils — regardless of purity or quality. There are different doses and duration of use specific to acute or chronic conditions -- this applies to both adults and children.
Why Use Essential Oils Orally?
Oral use of essential oils is primarily used for "digestive disorders, infectious diseases, immune support, candida infections, liver detox/cleanse, liver support, preventative to tropical diseases, colds, coughs, flu, sinusitis, oral candida, periodontal disease, mouth ulcers, terrain support, urinary tract infections, insomnia, some acute nervous states: anxiety, etc." [New York Institute of Aromatic Studies]
As for sublingual use, which means placing one drop of oil under the tongue, this can help with the rapid onset of therapeutic action as the absorption is 3-10 times greater than the traditional oral route, but is often short acting. Sublingual use can be self-administered, but it can be challenging to get just one drop - I suggest using a pipette or a syringe so that you do not accidentally use more than one drop.
Internal Application Essential Oil Safety
There are numerous safety considerations to take into account when using essential oils internally - just because they are GRAS or 100% pure does not mean that they do not come without any contraindications or safety precautions.
Recommended Oral Dosages & Duration
For Adults, the typical recommended oral dosage is 1-3 drops up to 2-3 times a day. The maximum daily dose is 12 drops per day depending on age, general health, medications, purposes, and condition.
For Children, the oral route is used when they are over 7 years old. Some exceptions apply such as cough syrup for children who are 5 or 6 years old. Otherwise, rectal suppositories are used to treat infants and children under 7 years old.
For acute conditions: Oral dosage should be used for up to 21 days total starting with a high dosage for 1-4 days and then reduce to lower dosages for the subsequent days.
For chronic conditions: Essential oils should be used orally only 21 days out of the month, then go a week without oral use. 1-2 drops 3 times a day can be used for an extended period of time, but it is recommended to have blood work done including liver panels when you are taking essential oils internally for over 1 year.
[New York Institute of Aromatic Studies]
The Truth About Internal Use of Essential Oils
While I am trained in French Aromatherapy, I do not advocate using essential oils internally beyond the aforementioned dosages and duration. There is a lot of misinformation on the web and you have probably come across it on websites, blogs, Facebook groups, and from well-meaning friends who have been inadvertently passing along such misinformation. Internal use of essentials oils is a highly controversial topic among the aromatherapy community - many advocate to never take essential oils internally, while others, like myself, are generally okay with it as long as you know what you are doing and follow the safety guidelines that I included above.
Owner, Restorative Aromatics and NAHA Certified Aromatherapist Level One. This blog focuses on aromatherapy education and other essential oil related topics.