Celebrating The Earth and Pondering the Incongruity of Fragrance Oils on this Day

Sharing a “nagging” concern on this beautiful Earth Day afternoon…is Campfire or Baked Bread fragrance oil in your diffuser really the way you want to go?


The above word cloud represents a random sample of “fragrance oil” names I have received promotions for or have seen on Facebook or remember from internet searches for legitimate essential oils and oil producers.  At first, I will admit that I didn’t take them very seriously.  I thought, what harm can they do?  No one who is interested in “real” essential oils for their health will purchase these!  However, I was shocked last winter to receive a “gift” from a highly reputable essential oil supplier whom I have been working with for over 20 years.  It was samples from their “new line” of fragrance oils.  I was really taken aback…what were they doing entering this business?  Didn’t they have a reputation to maintain?
I decided to try to keep an open mind, and opened a couple of the samples.  I immediately got a headache, and became slightly nauseous.  I tightened the lids back on and threw them in the trash.  When I next had occasion to speak to my contact there, I couldn’t help but ask him…”What were you guys thinking, sending those out?”  Then I shared with him my additional worry…did this foray into fragrance oils signal a shift in the company’s emphasis on quality and purity?  He assured me that was not their intent…but that “the fragrance oil segment was so big and so lucrative…and growing…that they just felt that they had to participate in it.”  I started doing some research into fragrance oils…perhaps I was judging them too harshly!  Here is a sampling of what I found:

Essential oils are natural products with no synthetic ingredients. Fragrance oils are not natural products and do contain synthetic ingredients. Only essential oils can be used for aromatherapeutic purposes. 

The main difference between fragrance oils and essential oils is that fragrance oils are manufactured in a lab and essential oils are made of natural materials. This difference comes from the ingredients that each oil is composed of, and where those ingredients are sourced from.

I will conclude with this extended excerpt below from a candle making company (Fontana Candle Co.) who uses only  essential oils because of their concerns about toxicity:

Are Fragrance Oils Safe?

A candle maker doesn’t have to disclose the ingredients used to give their candle its fragrance. Instead, “fragrance” is simply listed as a single ingredient (if it’s listed at all). In actuality, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), fragrances can contain up to 5,000 separate ingredients. Learning what some of those candle ingredients are is even more troubling.

With synthetic fragrance oil made in a laboratory, many of those additional ingredients are chemicals and petroleum by-products. In fact, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), approximately 95 percent of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrance oils are derived from petroleum.

Among those chemicals are aldehydes, benzene derivatives and toluene – some of the same chemicals found in toilet bowl cleaner, paint thinner, wart remover, and insect repellents.

These ingredients are also included on the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR)’s toxic substances list, with warnings like the following for toluene:

“Breathing toluene vapors in small amounts may cause a mild headache, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea. With more serious exposure, toluene may cause sleepiness, stumbling, irregular heartbeat, fainting, or even death.”

The NAS also cites the ingredients as being linked to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions, and a study published in May of 2019 found that one in three adults claim to have experienced health problems, including migraines and respiratory issues, caused by fragranced products.

Increasingly, fragrance oil producers target those who make candles or market diffusers.  Some of you may recall the research I quoted from a couple of newsletters ago, where researchers found dramatic, statistically significant differences in study subjects who used pure essential oils in a diffuser during the night while they were sleeping.  Increased recall and improvement in other types of cognitive functioning were documented.  One interesting element in the research study had to do with the benefit of using oils from different types of plants/plant parts (flowers, trees, roots, etc.) in the diffuser.  This seemed to have more beneficial effects than using just one type of essential oil.  I was so excited about sharing this information, as I personally have experienced the benefits of the oils for memory and creative endeavors. 

When I realized that people are using these synthetic oils in their diffusers, I became really concerned, which is why I am writing about this in my newsletter.  Remember, you get what you pay for.  We have always said that, and our customers affirm that, after using our therapeutic oils compared to those of lesser quality , they started believing that aromatherapy could benefit their health and longevity.  There are many beautiful, powerful oils that are less rare than others, thus they are less expensive, like Lemon, Lime, Litsea Cubeba (a lovely citrusy aroma), Lavandin, Peppermint and Cedarwood.   

I will close with a true story…some years ago, one of my Santa Fe clients was using our Fir, Balsam and Lime, Mexican with her young son who was having trouble concentrating in school.  She started seeing wonderful results in his ability to focus and remain calm throughout the school day.  As she was going through a divorce, money was tight, so she decided to try less expensive brands of those same oils.  The gains they had experienced started to diminish, and her little boy looked at her and said “Mommy…can we get the real oils again?”  She called me crying and saying she would would never skimp on her child’s health again.  Of course, we worked something out to help her, but I couldn’t help think “out of the mouths of babes”.

So please remember, what we breathe in, what we put on our body, and what we ingest…it is all the same.  Love yourself and love your body…it is better to have one or two quality oils than a collection of inexpensive, lower quality oils.

Thanks for reading, and for being a part of Wisdom of the Earth! Your comments regarding this newsletter or any aspect of aromatherapy in your life are always welcome.

Love, Audre Gutierrez
Owner, Wisdom of the Earth


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