11 Myths About Essential Oils

More often than ever, we are bombarded with information from all angles of the internet. Unfortunately, it can seem almost impossible to sift through the mess and find relevant and trustworthy information. This is especially true for products such as essential oils. Today, we want to settle some of those misunderstandings and provide you a brief explanation of why. Listed below are 11 of the primary myths we come across and the truth about essential oils.

1.) There is a government group or organization that certifies essential oils as Therapeutic grade or Pure.

No. There is a common misconception about the certifications of essential oils. There are many rumors that state that if a company labels its oils as certified therapeutic grade or pure, then it ensures that the essential oil is in fact pure. This is false. The FDA, nor does any other organization, regulate claims and/or certifications asserted by essential oil companies or even third-party testing facilities. Because of this, these claims are made based on the standards of the company that develops the oils. In short, there are no current independent bodies who regulate or certify essential oils. This is why it can be so difficult to find reputable companies that sell essential oils. Although they may claim that what they sell is pure, there is no official representing body that verifies the quality of their products.

2.) Essential oils were used in Biblical times and in Ancient Egypt.

view-of-the-pyramids-on-the-horizon
Photo by Steffen Gundermann

No. While there are a number of botanicals mentioned in ancient texts and the Bible, the process of steam distillation was not yet discovered. Most commonly, these aromatic botanicals were used as a ceremonial incense or medicinal herbal remedies. The “Oils” then were just crude extractions using fats and pressed oils that resulted in a diluted product, nowhere near the strength, yield, and chemistry of modern steam distillation.

3.) If you are using pure essential oils on your skin and it is causing a rash or burn, then it is just your body detoxing.

woman-with-healthy-skin-looking-up
Photo by Jessica Felicio

No. If the skin begins to rash or burn after application of essential oils, STOP. It is best to cleanse the area and discontinue use immediately. Risk varies with the amount of oil applied, the concentration (i.e. dilution) of the essential oil, frequency of use, duration of use, etc. It is always advised to patch test a small area with diluted oils before widespread application.

4.) Company [insert any company name here] is the only company in the world that sells pure therapeutic grade essential oils.

No. This is a common marketing tactic used to instill a lifetime of loyalty from a customer. There are many companies that sell pure essential oils. However, because there are no regulations as to what is defined as pure, finding high-quality essential oils is primarily based on your own judgment and the familiarity you have with the company’s internal practices. You should also keep in mind, pure does not equate to high quality. A pure oil could be distilled or stored improperly, let alone harvested at the wrong time of year and day or grown in subpar regions of the world. These are only a few of the many variables that can drastically alter the constituent profile of the plant, which can diminish the therapeutic properties of the oil. 

5.) If a company has written on the label of their essential oil bottle “Not For Internal Use” or “External Use Only”, it’s because their essential oils are not pure.

No. These warnings do not determine the purity or quality of an oil. In most cases, it is not advised to consume essential oils at all, unless advised by a medical professional. Companies may use these warnings to prevent liabilities and misuse of the product. Keep in mind, not only are there essential oils that are highly toxic for the body, but common oils such as lavender can build up toxicity in the body when used too frequently or continuously, hence why a company may want to avoid the liabilities.

6.) Essential oils are safe because they are natural

No. Essential oils are highly concentrated botanical products that must be used with a medicinal mindset. Essential oils are roughly between 75-100 times more concentrated than the whole herb, and therefore more powerful and have the potential to harm if not used correctly. Due to lack of education and the growing Network Marketing Essential Oil market, cases of improper self-medication and overdosing (especially in children) have increased significantly over the years. With accurate information and proper education, essential oils can be used safely and effectively.

7.) Pure, unadulterated essential oils with no synthetics added don’t expire

No. While oils may seem like they last for a long time, they don’t however, last forever. Essential oils are prone to oxidation and each degrades at varying degrees based on the type of oil. Heat promotes the rate of oxidation, so it is highly recommended to keep oils stored in a cool place. 

The approximate shelf life of certain essential oils:

ex.) Citrus fruit, neroli, lemongrass, frankincense, tea tree, pine and spruce oils

1-2 years

ex.) Most essential oils

2-3 years

ex.) Sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli

4-8 years

Long-term Storage Tips:

  • Undiluted essential oils should be stored in colored glass containers. (Dark Violet UV glass is optimal for extending shelf life)
  • Keep bottles snugly capped when not in use.
  • Refrigerate. Ideal temperature is between 30-40 degrees.

8.) Pure essential oils without synthetics do not freeze because they do not contain water

No. All liquids freeze. Even oils. Some will have higher freezing points while others are lower. But eventually, all liquids freeze.

9.) Coming from the same plant, herbs and essential oils will produce the same level of results in the body. 

No. Although derived from the same plant, the concentrated essence of a plant should not be confused with the actual plant material. Essential oils can be separated from plant material by extracting them with steam or in few cases, pressing it. Essential oils contain highly concentrated levels of constituents whereas traditional herbs only contain a fraction of those same constituents, thus the herbs yield milder results. However, when distilling plant material, there are many molecules that are unable to be distilled. This means that there may be beneficial constituents in the herb, that cannot be found in the essential oil. Both essential oils and herbs have a vital role to play in the world of natural health.

10.) Essential oils contain vitamins, minerals, and hormones

Photo by Jerzy Górecki

No. Essential oils are inactive plant molecule compounds. The molecules in essential oils are mainly mono- and sesquiterpenes and their oxygenated derivatives. There are no hormones, minerals or vitamins.

11.) Anyone can become an overnight essential oil expert

Unfortunately Not. It takes months, if not years of education to become adept in the biology and chemistry of organic compounds and their interactions with the body. More than ever, there is more false information being distributed about essential oils, partially due to the growth of the Network Marketing industry in essential oils. Misinformation has caused widespread issues such as overdosing, injury, and further caused public health and safety issues. Natural doesn’t mean risk-free. It is highly recommended to double-check your resources and make sure you are working with a trusted licensed practitioner. Your cousin who watched a video about essential oils last night doesn’t cut it.

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