Credibility?

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I am not a fan of blogs as an authority. And now, I not only have a blog – I have two! Yegads.

I, unsuccessfully, have tried to set my little aromatherapy web presence apart from others by applying for an “ethics certificate”, following some set guidelines for honorable wellness information. I made my website, Facebook page, blog, and App for The Bard’s Apothecary MONTHS before I released it publicly.

I wanted the collective electronic resources to be a reliable and credible educational tools for the family and friends I served. It needed to be something that could give them clear and documented information to make their own wellness decisions using the parameters of Health On the Net Code of Conduct: HONcode.

HONcode sets forth eight general principles which determine the credibility and reliability of a site. Each has a subset of indicators to follow as well. These principles are:

  1. Authoritative: Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  2. Complementarity: Information should support, not replace, the doctor-patient relationship
  3. Privacy: Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  4. Attribution: Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  5. Justifiability: Site must back up claims relating to benefits and performance
  6. Transparency: Accessible presentation, accurate email contact
  7. Financial disclosure: Identify funding sources
  8. Advertising policy: Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

In general, I color outside the lines. However, in this project I constructed each electronic component very carefully, with regiment. My responses to each of these can be found in are hidden in the administrative area of my website {bottom left >>>> disclaimer, terms, privacy, accountability, and advertising} and few will ever read it. But what is detailed in that area really drove the content and format of all of the tools I have created. It is far from perfect, but I have tried:

  • My links are identified: friendly, informational, and affiliate.
  • Linked documents have permission for use from the author.
  • The pictures I have used on the website are either mine, provided through my web building program or taken from the public domain, rather than copied from someone else’s site or google images.

However I was not successful getting the HONcode Badge. My site was not approved {head hanging} by HONcode for two reasons.

  1. My business model includes phone and online e-mail consultation. They will not allow that. True confession: I debated just taking that off the website for a moment and laughed at how to be certified as ethical I contemplated deception.
  2. My documentation, although thorough and present, was flawed. I provided links directly to the resource so someone could find the electronic trail rather than placing the references in a more standard format. Further, the resources I was relying upon were not considered as scientific enough or with websites up to HONcode standards either.
  3. Interestingly, making a health claim – so taboo in the world of essential oils – was not prohibited, IF backed up with proper citations from authorities (not a blogger) and properly documented.

My rejection actually made me think. You know, we often don’t know what we don’t know. I would have never placed remote consulting as outside of the parameters of ethical or honorable. I would have thought some other areas were no-nos.

An important consideration in aromatherapy is that much of it is based on case study rather than what is the gold standard in health research, controlled trials. In this field of alternative health, research is often directed at proving age old practices rather than creating scientific evidence to drive the practice – the inductive versus deductive > you know: “X oil has been used for years for skin problems and now with research we know that it contains X chemical that helps the skin” rather than “No one has ever tried this oil to do X and now research shows it might work in a double blind study”. There is this odd dance between empirical and data driven evidence. The point being, a great portion of the functioning field of aromatherapy lies outside of the ability to cite as a “credible” resource. That make sense? It would be a far stretch to get the certificate until the entire field grows … and it will. I am so very confident in that.

I am still trying (less than perfectly) to uphold the HONcode principles. I have signed the Blog with Integrity pledge. I use HONcode as a lens for looking at the validity of other sites, as well. I want affiliate links identified clearly. Please let me know exactly who is behind a site or page and their qualifications. Pinterest and Wikipedia are NOT valid resources. Guide me to your references.

Domestic healers have come in all sorts of costumes over the ages. Today’s is often a mom in yoga pants who just wants information to empower her decision making for the health of her family. I am no PubMed, but I do have formal training and a good head on my shoulders so I don’t want to be considered a quack shack either. Since there is no central certificate in aromatherapy, I had hoped HONcode would be a shingle to hang on my website. Not yet.

Here’s to trying …..

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Consider the lilies ….

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Tomorrow marks 17 years since my eldest son, at three months old, was taken into neurosurgery to reconstruct his head. Two opposing sets of soft spots in his skull had closed prematurely. He was born with intracranial pressure, aka: a nasty headache with no place for his brain to grow. The lack of malleability of his head gravely injured me during delivery. It had seemed like I was allergic to pregnancy while carrying him and the knowledge that I would not do that again still was difficult to take. My dream of a house filled with children was dim. The larger burden was seeing my child not only in pain but with an incredibly uncertain future.

Thankfully, that was not the end of the story. Enter a few years later ….. two toddlers from different countries beaming not only with love and promise but with a little piss and vinegar to boot. Add to that access to incredible medical care, the resources for years of therapy and support, and sheer American luck and you have in front of me today three incredible kids ~ THREE and each incredible.

The universe clearly has a grain to it and sometimes I feel like I am in an ongoing game of peek-a-boo to get a glimpse of its intelligent design. That design seems to be built on some sort of process that is kind of like a choose your own adventure book. Outside of grand orchestration, I have no grasp of how our multiple tragic stories could come together to make me so blessed.

A recurrent life verse for me from the bible has been, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory adorned himself like one of these.… “

I was recently studying the metabolism of plants and the associated chemistry of essential oils and I felt like I finally could grasp both the botany and theology of this verse. You see plants have an innate ability to protect themselves. They cannot flee, they cannot itch themselves, they cannot seek far away foods that might nourish them. Each

peppermint-leaf-and-oil-sacs1

Peppermint leaf and peppermint oil sacs.

plant with their own unique make-up, has the power to adapt to adversity and to their environment and even produce compounds to protect them from outward threats. These abilities are contained in the essence of the plant. They are called secondary metabolites. Essential oils, as well as many flavorings and recreational drugs, are made from these secretory structures which house these adaptive and protective essences of plants.

If you can tell the story of why an oil is produced within a plant, you will often have an idea of both its biological and psychological functions. For instance, it is common knowledge that trees clean our air, they are the earth’s lungs. It is no surprise to me that the essential oils that help respiratory issues are almost exclusively from trees, such as eucalyptus, cypress and pine.

Like plants that produce secondary metabolites from their botanical story, so it appears that our character is often developed from experience as well. I absolutely HATE the phrase, “That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” not because it is a hard truth but because there are times of when it is false. It tritely omits realities of PTSD, depression, comas, and traumatic injuries. Mary Todd Lincoln never recovered from the assassination of her husband after the death of her son. Survivors ARE often weakened, perhaps irreparably, by certain ordeals. The saying “The same water that hardens an egg, soften a potato” should include “and scalds and scars skin.” The truth is that experience shapes us, for better or worse.

Even in my own life I can tell you of a few challenges that have left me worse for the wear. A few have taught me painful yet useful lessons and skills. I have been refined. I, frequently, say to my kids that my greatest set of trials and largest disappointment in my life FOR SURE gave me my greatest treasures, THEM.

My salty father has the most glorious roses. I knew I would love my mother-in-law when she first saw my dad’s flower beds. A daughter of a farmer, she asked him how he did it. He responded with a straight face, most likely trying to get a rise out of her, “Some chicken shit and a bit of cow shit”. In her cute sweater set – without batting an eye she responded, “Well, my dad did the same”. I love her.

Roses grow beautifully in manure. But it still stinks. In some seasons, the soil’s enrichment produces nothing for the naked eye to see. Same in life, there are no signs of glorious growth and it stinks. In spite of being rooted in crap and prickly in the middle, it is the pretty flower that defines the rose. Not coincidentally petals, like those of other of many velvety flowers when distilled make beautiful products to make the skin soft and beautiful – think rose milk, gardenia bath salts, geranium lotion and lilac facial spray.

I used to be a worrier. I have no idea when I lost that, now that I think about it. In my early adult life, I had grasped onto that verse from Matthew to work through some recurrent nervousness. I’d consider the lilies when I’d begin to fret. One of my favorite essential oils is Spikenard. It is distilled from a lily. In fact, this plant (also called nard) was the one that Mary of Bethany was said to have used in an infused oil to anoint the feet of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem in his last days. And what are the favorite and historical uses of nard? To calm and heal skin, it was used for worry and adornment.

Secondary metabolites are products of metabolism, life process. These organic compounds are not directly involved in the normal life of an organism. Unlike primary metabolites, absence of secondary metabolites does not result in immediate death, but rather in long-term impairment of the organism. Perhaps those characteristics that people who have overcome a trial walk away with are our secondary metabolites. If distilled and captured they can be used for healing, care, and growth of the individual. Unfortunately the same is true for the opposite. Those who, for whatever reason, cannot grow in the process of trial do suffer long-term impairment. It certainly seems to me the grit from experience is a human equivalent to the plant’s secondary metabolites. I wonder if that is by design?

It seems far more reasonable, to me, that plants come with the tools to survive rather than developing extraneous ones. It also seems that we should be born with all of those traits to get through life’s tests. But design involves a process. (And of course, I was not on the original create the universe committee nor consulted about its content.) I am certain that there are flaws in my amateur theology, botany and emerging aromatherapy. But you know, it makes sense to me and will help me frame hard times for my kids.

I love when I find some pattern in life. It is probably for that reason that there is no way for me to remember the fright of that hard time, without envisioning those happy faces in my home today. “Christianity and science are opposed … but only in the same sense as that which my thumb and forefinger are opposed – and between them, I can grasp everything.” Sir William Bragg, Nobel Prize for Physics (1915)

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Lavender at Wal-Mart: Waltzing through the minefield of essential oils.

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In the course of conversation, friends often ask me about an essential oil brand or mention they picked something up in a sale bin. I often have to bite my tongue. It is an interesting market to look a, especially as it is largely unregulated and lacks consistent self-monitoring.

Dr. Robert Pappas is a professor of chemistry at Indiana University where he teaches essential oil chemistry and runs the lab for GC/MS analysis. Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry shows the chemical constituents of essential oils. These constituents determine their function. They vary, but only within certain parameters.

Wal-Mart advertised this week three essential oils and a difuser for $20. Screaming deal for essential oils. I’d buy those oils for no less than $50 and have not found a worthy difuser that lasts for less than $50 also. Dr. Pappas is a colorful character who leads the charge for detecting fraudulent oils on the market. He lost his marbles over this. (My kind of solid citizen, protector of truth) Let’s look at the market before we look at the results he found for the lavender from Wal-Mart.

Essential oil versus fragrance – Synthetic

Essentials oils are not just fragrance. If they were, you might as well just rub a Glade plug in strip on your kid’s boo boo and call it good. Aroma gives away the chemicals of oils that are therapeutic. Labs can replicate the smell. Most people who react to fragrance react to the synthetic versions. Of course those with very sensitive bronchial reactivity can also react to oils, but the majority of people with issues it is because of the flood of synthetic fragrance on the market. The synthetic replica is far less expensive than the natural essential oil and can be used to replace or cut essential oils on the market. The chemistry of it is pretty sophisticated. I have visions of the big bad black market of essential oils being some mix of Breaking Bad and Hello Dolly – but I digress.

Guess what the best perfume houses use? Quality, tested, expensive oils. This is a huge, highly profitable industry with a lot of cash. Their monitoring of adulteration is far more pervasive than the side of oils I am dabbling in and they have the funds to scrutinize their inventory. High priced perfumes and colognes reflect this cost passed down to the consumer.

Good wine – Quantification and qualification

At this point, I can smell the difference between a good lavender or peppermint and a lousy one. I can smell certain chemical components like 1,8 cineole, menthol, limonene, or camphor. Dr. Pappas, however, is a sommelier for oils. He took one whiff of the Wal-Mart oils and went public that they were a fraud. He did this before even testing.

I had pancreatitis from lupus when we were living in Spain. I had drank sangria at a tapas bar the night before the worst attack. My doctor told me that the cheapest wine in town was used in sangria and to NEVER to drink it again. (I wasn’t completely fluent in Spanish, but I am pretty sure that is what he said and not just my optimism). He said I was only allowed to drink €9 and above wine {still cracks me up}. For sure I can get a $6.99 bottle of Cabernet from Safeway – but it might taste like socks had been soaked in the cask rather than grapes. There are some oils on the market that are not synthetic. They test correctly, but they are just not high quality. And like my protection of my pancreas, one might want to use a better quality to support wellness. These “lower quality” essential oil are the ones you might find at a health food or drug store. You can get 15ml of lavender for $5.99. I would use the wine budget analogy, don’t go below $14 for anything close to worth using. The best stuff will be $20 and the artisan ones more (and delicious). The difference is not necessarily quantifiable in a GC/MS test, but it is easy to determine when sampling. It’s like going to a wine tasting – this is the art rather than science. Quite honestly this is where lies the hocus pocus, a well. For example, this summer I was trying to see if I could lower my oil bill (he he) and used a lower quality peppermint (even though natural and tested) on a bug bite. Nothing happened and peppermint generally works pretty quickly for us. I gave up and used my better quality oil on it and the itch went away. One oil was like putting a candy cane on it, the other like Cortaid. The difference is not something you can quantify if a lab result, but you can observe it and document it strictly empirically.

Back of the turnip truck – Sale rack

I have been tempted to buy some other know name brands at Home Goods and Ross. I use them to clean or for different chores. But like the dents and dings section at the grocery store or last day before expiration sale items in the deli, they have lost value and have limited time to use. They might have been stored in the heat, which hurts oils. They might not have been protected from people opening and oxidizing the oils (again, damages the oils or can even make them more likely to cause a reaction). They might be old (less potent and in some cases more likely to cause an adverse reaction). They are on the sales rack for a reason. If you buy from there and hope to see the neat results that I have seen, you probably will be disappointed.

So back to the story ….. the $20 Wal-Mart lavender was tested by Dr. Pappas. He found them to contain synthetic and a different oil than lavender. The chemical constituents for the lavender normally seen on the market shelves called Lavandula angustifolia/officinalis/vera are: Linalol, Linalyl Acetate, Lavandulol, Lavandulyl Acetate, Terpineol, Limonene, and Caryophyllene. A cheaper hypbrid Lavandula x intermedia contains the chemical constituents: 1,8 cineole and camphor (plus others). Dr. Pappas found both in the GC/MS. Both are very therapeutic but also to be used with caution and not present in lavender. Of the bronchial reactivity that occurs, these chemicals together with menthol cause the most problems. When looking at what is safe for ages (babies and elderly), stages of life (pregnancy) or health (epilepsy) one should look to perhaps avoid some of those chemicals. (Get the App) Further, he found the chemical dihydro-lunalyl acetate which does not occur in nature. It is synthetic, like buying USDA surplus boxed American cheese when hoping for solid, creamy Tilamook cheddar.

What does this mean?

  1. It won’t have the therapeutic value someone was looking for
  2. Someone with breathing issues is getting a double whammy of potential problems
  3. Quite honestly it won’t smell as good if that is why one buys it

I really love this vocation but I am terrible at sales. I would like to steer my friends and family clear of bad oils and poor investment. I would also like to make blends and sell oils. But I am more like Macy’s Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street suggesting that others go to Gimbles for a better all around deal. I guess my biggest suggestion is don’t buy too low (Whole Foods, Amazon, Wal-Mart, CVS) nor too high (unless it is an artisan distillation). Get an account (I have a doTERRA one – price ends up just about the same as the other “good” spots and I get freebies. Dr. Pappas tests their oils.  I also have one with Neal’s Yard Remedies.  I consider it like a Costco Membership. More than willing to help someone set that up, just let me know. AND clearly I am someone who cares about safety and education), order from known vintage aromatherapy boutiques (Nature’s Gift, Stillpoint Aromatics, Aromatics International to name a few), and buy a little at a time in affordable doses. I really enjoy helping friends and family waltz through this minefield and perhaps find some sweet smelling treasure on the other side.

Photo Credit: Dr. Robert Pappas, Essential Oil University

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Peppermint: Aromatherapy’s Incredible Hulk

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Although a life-long fan of fantasy and science fiction, I am only a recent (last 5 years or so) follower of comic books. The Avengers and the spin-off movies and TV shows get credit for this. Brilliant coordination by Marvel. (Picture credit: Disney Marvel Studios)

My experience of one of these heroes, The Hulk, goes back to the early ‘80s TV show. Mostly, I knew that this green character was a good guy until he got angry and then his shirt would rip apart (etched detail in the memory of a child). I remember he would try to do good but was reckless and resembled more of a bull in a china closet than a cavalier knight.

The main character, Doctor Bruce Banner, was brilliantly intelligent and capable of great love, yet emotionally fractured and quite dangerous. I explain the essential oil peppermint to clients and colleagues as being slightly like The Hulk. Peppermint, like Bruce Banner, is a highly intelligent and healing oil. Unfortunately, like The Incredible Hulk, it is unpredictable and if used recklessly could cause harm.

If you invest in just a handful of oils, I suggest that peppermint be one of the first as it is so versatile. However, it is also an oil found on many caution lists, especially not for use in children under 3 or used with an abundance of caution. Peppermint is an even and highly effective oil, yet contains some components that bring with it specific risks. Think of sweet Doctor Banner and alien bashing Hulk.

My go to uses for peppermint are also ones that frequently have easy to identify commercial counterparts. These reflect the aromatic value as they tend towards the “minty” scent:

  1. Digestion – Pepto-Bismol.
  2. Sore muscles – Ben Gay
  3. Cold and cough – Mentholatum/ Vicks
  4. Bug bites
  5. Fever reduction

The Bruce Banner character qualities of peppermint are preventative and healing. Great power is found in the chemical components limonene and pinene. Limonene is found in most citrus oils, lime being the beginning sound. Pinene is found in conifer oils like pine, again the introductory syllable. We know citrus oils and pine oils are used for cleaning, think lemony Pine-sol. They are effective in cleaning and wellness because of their antimicrobial functions, central to healers.

The Hulk properties of peppermint are breathtaking and burning. Peppermint contains menthol. The chemical component menthol is to be used with caution with children both topically and inhaled. Oils high in menthol have a small risk of side effects which might impact the central nervous system and/or the respiratory system in small children. It is safe to use after testing in children OVER the age of 30 months, but in decreased amounts.

The story of the Incredible Hulk is dominated by Bruce Banner trying to “tame” his inner Hulk. Given the right circumstances and will – he can do this and his power used for good, rather than destruction Peppermint is on the cautionary lists of the aromatherapy world, like The Hulk a notorious danger. However, when looking at a chart of injuries from essential oils in the past few years, peppermint is not the big monster, misuse is. Only one injury appeared to be a child under 3 with breathing (seizure actually) issues and that was combined with a known trigger –eucalyptus. Most injuries were caused by oils not necessarily on the naughty list, just oils that were undiluted/ under-diluted or improperly ingested.

Most injuries in our world are not caused by monsters like in comic books. They are caused by everyday items which are accidentally or intentionally misused (like cars or knives).  Most of the time our world is filled with Bruce Banners, but a little knowledge of the Hulk could help if you live in the land of Marvel Comics where there are dangers. Same goes for essential oils in general and peppermint in particular. Although peppermint is an oil that should evoke a thought of caution, used with prudence it is one of the most versatile and valuable for a medicine cabinet (or in my case ready for anything as it is resting safely in the bottom of my purse).

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REFERENCE: In September, 2015 National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy recommended not using peppermint in children under 30 months.<br> Reference: http://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/about-aromatherapy/most-commonly-used-essential-oils/ <br>Source Facebook: Robert Tisserand Essential Training September 3 post including comments. https://www.facebook.com/RobertTisserandEssentialTraining/photos/a.230965720267970.62331.166263113404898/1020576281306906/?type=1&theater

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OPINION: The Myth of Essential Oils in the Bible.

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Apparently, there is an online summit being held and a media doctor spoke about the use of essential oils during biblical times, in particular referring to the gifts of the Magi: Frankincense and Myrrh as essential oils and gold actually being turmeric. I have seen this particular celebrity, who is associated with a particular brand of essential oils, reference this before. Others do as well. There is also a highly references book and an online course you can take on the subject and the authors have been associated with a different brand of essential oils.

As a student of aromatherapy and a Christian – I have to say it irritates me a wee bit and inspired me to look more deeply into the topic. Some people who read this will believe in the therapeutic value of essential oils. Some people who read this will believe that the Bible is truth. Some will believe both. Some will believe neither. This is just a perspective of someone who believes both and is writing about the intersection of that perspective. This is not about brand nor buying preferences. Hopefully, maybe there are some kernels of wisdom which could be used by folks who might not understand oils or who see the bible as a historical document. I will try to be transparent before I attempt to educate and then only do so with a suggestion for room for greater improvement. True confessions as to be transparent:

  1. I BOUGHT THE BOOK and I TOOK A CLASS: I was curious about the book Healing Oils of Scripture and wanted to see what it was. Within the first chapter, I was neither impressed by the science nor the accuracy of use of biblical references. I didn’t finish it. When looking for schools for my certification, I found one listed that offered a course on Healing Oils of Scripture. It was and is a school that has an aromatherapist certification course approved by a leading professional organization. I already knew enough about oils to know that there were no essential oils in the bible but thought there might be a more validity in this program as I saw their approval of the certification course as a tacit nod of approval of the whole school. I specifically wanted to know more about the herbs, infusions, and stories of the bible – so just bought the corresponding video to the course and oil sampler rather than the whole shabang. I would not do that again. The teacher seemed genuine and sweet, but I read the science and theology quite differently than she. (Not the first time in my life)
  2. BIAS: The media doctor (and others on the health circuit) also speaks on the topic of the problems of wheat and the importance of a gluten-free diet. As the former director of education for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness I can tell you – not all of his information is accurate nor helpful either to those with gluten related disorders nor those who do not have them. People, almost victims in my mind, are being lured into the diet without proper testing – potentially limiting their overall nutrition and missing other areas or root causes which might be the source of their distress. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2000, so this comes from someone who has been on the diet over 15 years. I know it helps many, but it is NOT for everyone, in my opinion. My bias against him is such, that I did not watch the summit. Not particularly fair, but just can’t do it. Once more, seems like a nice guy with a genuine faith, but I categorically disagree on some of his interpretation of data (I have friends that I do that with too) on the topics of essential oils and the gluten-free diet.

Points for Educating:

  1. OIL: With the exception of some processes of citrus and a few exceptions, essential oils are rendered through distillation. Distillation was only invented about 1000 years ago and it changes the chemistry of the material. So – no essential oils in the bible. Not the same as having penicillin burned in the Temple, but it is a modern healer imposed on an ancient document. Have I mentioned I used to be a high school history and religion teacher?

WHAT IS IT? The word oil in the bible is always attached to olive oil. However, it was often olive oil infused with plant based materials like myrrh (a resin – dried sap) or spikenard (a type of flower – lily). What we do have in the bible is the use of aromatics through plants like herbs, flowers, or resins; incense and infused oils. For the infused oils they took the plants and stuck them in the oils. We still do this, check out a gourmet food shop. This practice and technology was not exclusive to the Hebrews, though using olive as the base of the oil was regional. These aromatic plants in infusions and incense have a different chemistry than essential oils, albeit some benefits cross-over. We don’t know what form frankincense and myrrh showed up to the manger. It was either a resin (like rock candy) or infused oil. We DO know, it was NOT essential oil since distillation was not made for 1000 years later.

AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE DIFFERENCE: Take rye, used for bread. Rye when distilled makes whiskey. A notable difference between the grain and drink. Kentucky Moonshiners, back in the day, found when they distilled corn that something “special” happened to the mash, just as medieval alchemists found a “special” essence when they distilled local flowers (lavender) and culinary herbs (thyme). When touring an Irish whiskey distillery know that the unstable compounds from the distillation are in the air. You might feel a wee tipsy not from the drink but from what is called “The Angels’ Share”. Therapeutic essential oils are similar in their airborne potential. It is not a perfect comparison and no essential oils are not alcoholic, but perhaps it give an illustration that a marble of Frankincense burned, that plant matter placed in a bottle of oil and that resin distilled are very different in the end.

  1. DIMINISHING: By using the term of a process which was not scientifically available in biblical times, I fear that it diminishes the historical document. If the Three Kings no longer bring the gifts from their time-period then I can tell you, that the bright star might be a light from a time travelling US Army Blackhawk from Area 51 driven by Elvis and JFK tasked by S.H.E.I.LD. with finding out the “real story”. In my mind, there is no need to improve on the Bible. It is strong enough without adding to the potential or power. Yeah, as an aromatherapist – it makes me kind of cringe. But as a Christian it makes me really sad, especially in a context of sales. I don’t need a value added bible that promotes the sales of my trade. The plants and practices of history stand on their own as does Judeo Christian Scripture. It needs not sprucing up for the 21st century. In my view to do so diminishes its particularity.

At a risk of appearing passive-aggressive I intentionally have not named, names although they are easy to find. My goal is to educate around the myths, not confront the person who interpreted the information differently than I.

AN ATTEMPT AT BEING CONSTRUCTIVE: Although the content of my Oils in Scripture class was a waste of my money – the experience was not. It pointed out something I keep running into. If just seems, the aromatherapy and essential oil industry needs better self-monitoring both of professional content and of the oils themselves in order to clean its own house.

A STANDARD?: It was clear that the trade I was being drawn farther into – lacked generally agreed upon standards and scientific guidelines. In my view, without this, you risk being a pseudo-science and selling snake oil. I know what might be placed in a curriculum to standardize it, but placing a standard on oils is rough – it is a science and art and a tension of quantification versus qualification. I think there is room for a conversation with professional credentialing organizations about the continuation of the perpetuation of the myth of essential oils in the bible (probably not the only issue) in schools on their websites. How could they approve of a school for certification that ALSO was teaching something that was point blank scientifically incorrect? They approve certifications courses, but the whole school is listed. A fine line – but I think one that the professional non-profits should consider, because this lack of standards contributes to the epidemic of misinformation. Miseducated representatives in the public from large oil companies can only bear a certain amount of responsibility.

In a community where the certification schools teaching the professionals are not only not in agreement, but perhaps teaching inaccuracies themselves maybe give cause to step back an evaluate the greater realm. Maybe we should look at the perpetuation of myths that plague the industry and start with edifying the COMMUNITY educational programs as a public service rather than reacting to misinformation or placing the information on the shoulders on one entity in the industry. Just something to think about …… and yes, I know it would be big task.

A BOTANICAL VIEW OF SCRIPTURE?: I’d suggest that the smells of essential oils can tell help tell an aromatic story of biblical times and guide a spiritual conversation without damaging either field. Smell is such a strong sense. It draws emotion and memory – which are so much a part of our spiritual side yet unique in and of themselves. I confess, I have been known to come across the reference to a plant, oil or incense while reading my bible and stop. I then will go to my inventory to get whiff of its corresponding essential oil while I try to understand and apply the text better. After the reading of the Passion last year, I shared the scents of spikenard, myrrh, and hyssop with my kids, explaining the plants and preparations. Maybe the story will stick in their memories with an aroma attached to it. We always have room for improvement. I am confident there is room for connection and still be true chemistry and theology as well as to the plants and their Creator.

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Lemon Essential Oil: There was an old woman who lived in a shoe ……

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Truth be told, the nursery rhyme “The Old Woman in the Shoe” scared me. I couldn’t have been the only kid. It made me scared to have kids and grateful for my patient mother.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

As an adult, I understand far more of the truth behind the rhyme. I know some days at 5:37 pm when: my children are bickering, I forgot to pick up X ingredient for dinner AND the tri-fold for the class project (due tomorrow), the laundry with “today’s” soccer practice jersey is still in the washer and hasn’t been dried (for 2 days and stinks), and lupus is kicking my derier – that my patience might be a wee bit less than that of a sane person. I am sure – if a couple of more kids came along and financial pressure mounted on top of life’s other chaos, that my ability to be a peaceful parent would diminish even more.

As a divergent learner, in order to try to grasp the chemistry and function of aromatherapy, I have begun to think of essential oils in terms of personalities and stories – I have a whole list of them. I have also tried to describe to “inquiring folks” the science behind essential oils in a manner that might make broader sense of course, not claiming that the oils do anything medically, heaven forbid. The FDA looks down upon that.

Lemon essential oil reminds me of the old lady who lived in a shoe. You see the chemistry of whole lemons and lemon oil are a tad different. The lemon essential oil, which is not water soluble (while lemon juice makes lemonade), is made up of a unique combination of chemical constituents that bring specific functions to the oil, hence the therapeutic value. Her complicated make up, gives the woman in the shoe her character. The main chemical components which are shown in gas chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis of lemon oil give it, show the each chemical component which is seen in the character as well:

  • She is pressed – pressed for money, pressed for time, pressed for patience. Lemon rinds are cold expeller pressed to make lemon essential oil.
  • Stuck in the house, she doesn’t go out in the sun much: Pressed lemon oil is phototoxic. Needs to be wiped off or used in small dose on skin before UV exposure.
  • She cooks. Limonene is the monoterpene primarily responsible for the fragrance of citrus fruits—specifically, the D-isomer. D-limonene smells strongly in its isolated form, and is in widespread use as a flavor additive in food production and an aroma compound in perfumery. It is also in used complementary medicine, due to its observed ability to reduce heartburn and gastric acid reflux.
  • … And cleans. α-Terpinen is used as a natural, renewable solvent in cleaning products, due to its ability to dissolve oils and other lipids; it is even capable of stripping paint and is considered an effective substitute for turpentine Terpinen/ turpentine) > think Lemon Pinesol or lemon furniture polish.
  • She helps when her kids have the flu, colds, and tummy bugs. Lemon oil contains a-pinene: In small doses, this chemical acts as a bronchodilator and exhibits anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antibiotic properties.
  • She listens to her kids talk about stresses after school and then helps them focus concentration to finish homework. linalool: Linalool’s main medicinal function is as an anxiolytic—anxiety-reducing.
  • She pats her kids forehead when they are in pain or anxious. Myrcene has been demonstrated to produce analgesic effects in laboratory testing on rats; myrcene and limonene, along with the terpenoid citral (found in many citrus fruits, lemon myrtle, lemongrass and lemon verbena) have also been found to exert sedative and motor relaxant effects in mice.

Not a perfect analogy, but a way to remember perhaps. What is needed to manage that shoe is a gentle yet efficient project manager and perhaps a wee splash of lemon essential oil.

And of course, this is just a story with no claims about what women who live in shoes can or cannot do. And even more it tells a story about some chemicals which just so happen to be found in lemon oil and does not give medical claims.

Why aren’t essential oils greasy?

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Speaking in generalities, from a cook’s kitchen perspective …. The word oil doesn’t have to do with greasiness like is normally associated with the word oil. It has more to do with the essential oil’s poor solubility in water. Not mixing with water is a defining, shared characteristic between essential oils and the household items we call oils. You see in processing the plants for essential oils, the “residue” which is a result of the procedure include the oil and a water which is called a hydrosol or hydrolate (since you are new to this, when you get time maybe look at those. They are an often missed yet fabulous resource. This is the form I most use rose). For a visual maybe think about it like bone broth or gravy, the oil is basically “skimmed” off the top like you would fat from the soup of pan drippings. The volatile oil is on the top and the floral water on the bottom. What is interesting is that oil in cooking means bringing in a bit of fat to the recipe. Essential oils mix well with these fats although they are a volatile oil rather than fatty one, That is why oils like jojoba or coconut are often used as carriers and when those who recommend an internal method it is often best diluted in a fat first. And as you know, if you put olive oil in a pot of water boiling noodles – a little rises to the top and a wee bit will disperse. Same with soup and gravy, a bit of the fatty oil will still be part of the liquid, but rise to the top because it is still not water soluble. A true hydrolate has a wee bit of oil in it too. These are not perfect analogies but maybe it gives you something to which on can relate the information.