Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Absorption & Elimination of Essential Oils Through the Skin

I thought this was such a great article I had to post it as I've been wondering how to address the absorption/elimination of essential oils through the skin topic without sounding too technical so that everyone can understand this critical issue that's been raised over and over again in the western medical world.

Essential oils really do enter our skin, so be cautious in their usage. Even with Lavender (yes, it's still safe to use undiluted on the skin, but be aware...too much of anything may be harmful!).



In this Aromatherapy topic of the absorption of essential oils through the skin is reviewed to better understand the topical application of aromatherapy.

Skin is the largest organ of the body. The skin of an average person weighs about 9 lbs. Our skin is a living, dying and rejuvenating organ, which is continuously on the move. With good skin care the skin renews itself every 28 days. Old skin cells are sloughed off and new ones take their place. Mistreatment of the skin can take up to three to four months to have an effect and visa versa. The health of your skin is a great indicator of the health of your overall body.




Skin is the packaging that keeps us warm, literally holds us together and keeps the rain out. It acts as our first defensive warning system and alerts our brain of the conditions of environment it comes in contact with. Our skin is mostly water proof, but is permeable to water, lipids, water soluble solutions, and substances with small molecular structures and low molecular weight. Substances with a molecular weight over 500 most likely will not penetrate the skin. Essential oils have a molecular weight of 225 or less.

In aromatherapy, molecules of essential oils applied to the skin pass through the skin's epidermis and are carried away by the capillary blood circulating in the dermis. The molecules of essential oil are then taken into the lymphatic and extracellular fluids. From there the therapeutic components of the essential oils are broken down and used by various regions of the body. Because of the lipid solubility of essential oil components of essential oils that are applied to the skin are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and come in contact with the fluids surrounding the brain. Other great examples of therapies applied and absorbed through the skin are; the nicotine patch, birth control patch and motion sickness patches. If the skin was as impermeable as was once thought aromatherapy and these therapies would not work.

There are several factors the effect the rate of absorption of essential oils. The area of skin which is used to apply the essential oil does effect how much of the oil is absorbed into the body. Even if it is a set amount of essential oil that is applied to the skin in a carrier oil there is less that is absorbed if it is only applied to small patch of skin. The beauty of skin is that we have a lot of it, which allows for application over a generous portion of the body. Different areas of the skin are more permeable than others. The palms of the hand, soles of the feet, forehead, scalp, behind the ears, inside the wrists and armpits are more permeable than the legs, buttocks, trunk and abdomen for the water soluble components of the essential oil (Balacs 1993). Subcutaneous fat has a poor blood supply which means that essential oils applied to these areas may take longer to be absorbed. Also, mature or dehydrated skin slows the absorption of essential oils.



Essential oils applied to the skin can stimulate circulation to the surface skin cells, encourage cell regeneration and the formation of new skin cells. Some essential oils calm inflamed or irritated skin, relieve muscle spasms and tension. Many scientist believe that essential oils stimulate the body's own natural defense systems. The positive effect of essential oils on blood circulation is well documented. Studies have found that basil, tea tree and thyme essential oils can encourage the production of white blood cells, boosting the immune system of the body.

A simple self test can check the reality of the claim by aromatherapist that essential oils are absorbed by the body or not. Lavender essential oil applied to the cheek can be tasted. Garlic essential oil can be smeared onto your ankle and will quickly be tasted. At Essential Wholesale we have tested the theory to see if inhalation would cause the same effect with garlic essential oil. We found that even a very short exposure to an open container of garlic essential oil results in a bad case of garlic breathe. Blood samples taken after an essential oil is applied to the skin have proven that components of essential oils can be found in the blood stream shorty after application.

Skin is our largest elimination organ. Most essential oils that are absorbed into the skin can be detected in exhaled air within 20-60 minutes (Katz 1947). Essential Oils are eliminated from our bodies within 20 minutes to 26 hours through our saliva, urine, feces or sweat in a healthy adult. Essential Oils work as rubbish collectors, attaching themselves to toxins, free-radicals, cell debris, heavy metals, renegade cells, fungi, bacteria, viruses or other debris and taking them to the body’s exits for disposal. Because of this, in an unhealthy adult, it can take up to 14 hours for the essential oils to pass through the body. The human body takes the most vital properties of essential oils and uses them to bring itself into balance and is left in a healthier state without side effects. After the essential oils perform healing their functions they are metabolized and eliminated with the bodies other waste.

The nerd in me finds the absorption and elimination of essential oils fascinating. What do you think about how the body absorbs essential oils? Do you have more to add?

I'd love to hear your thoughts or experiments ;)

The Aromatherapy You Thought You Knew But Never Knew

Research Reveals The "Real Aromatherapy Story"


I’ve read nearly every book out there on aromatherapy, and been in the field for far over ten years. Yet, somehow I missed the fact that the aromatherapy history books had the story of the rebirth of aromatherapy all wrong.

For a particular story I was writing on Lavender oil, I was going over all my notes, and I was fact checking every detail of aromatherapy history when I stumbled upon a reference that stated that according to Robert Tisserand, the story of Gattefosse was incorrectly told. I went to Tisserand.com and low and behold the true story was right there on his site.

The story of Gattefosse's famous burn is like the story of the “fish that got away,” in which the fish keeps growing with each retelling of the story. It seems that the story of Rene-Maurice Gattefosse has grown in such a way that history has been rewritten. In 1937 Gattefosse published the book Aromath√©rapie in French. In 1993, it was published in English. In his book he tells the story of the famous burn that happened in his laboratory in his own words,

"The external application of small quantities of essences rapidly stops the spread of gangrenous sores.
In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene. Just one rinse with lavender essence stopped "the gasification of the tissue". This treatment was followed by profuse sweating, and healing began the next day (July 1910)."

In nearly every aromatherapy book the story is told differently. According to the myth, “In 1928 a French chemist by the name of Rene-Maurice Gattefosse rediscovered the healing properties of essential oils. While working in his family's perfumery business an explosion severely burned his hand. He plunged his hand into the first liquid near him. That liquid turned out to be lavender essential oil that had been being used for its fragrance and for cosmetic purposes. He was amazed at how quickly his wound healed, without infection or scarring. As a result Gattefosse turned his scientific attention to the medicinal properties of essential oils and their benefits for skin conditions.”



In reality his treatment with lavender of his severe burn was deliberate. Gas gangrene is a serious bacterial infection which produces gases within the tissues in gangrene. It is a very deadly form of gangrene and in his time would have most likely have been fatal. The bacterium that causes gas gangrene can be found in soil. I agree with Tisserand’s belief that he probably came in contact with it when he “extinguished it by rolling on a grassy lawn.” Knowing the real story makes me even more impressed with the power of lavender. I have on many occasions poured lavender onto burns with amazing results. I have never witnessed the results of it on gas gangrene.

Gattefosse actually began to study essential oils in 1907 with a group of scientists. Although all accounts of his famous burn are in 1928, it was actually happened in 1910. He published his findings in his book Aromathérapie which was well received by others who went on to do their own research. Gattefosse first coined the term "aromatherapy". Aromatherapy began as a medical therapy based on the pharmacological effects of essential oils. They were considered equally effective as the conventional pharmaceutical drugs. According to Gattefosse, aromatherapy was to be used to treat a symptom or a disease in the same way that conventional medicine did. He did not see a distinction between the two and believed aromatherapy to be an integral part of medicine. He was also aware of the psychological and neurological effects of essential oils.

Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

Popular, Hard to Come By and Fabulous!

We've recently received a lot of requests for and inquiries about Ylang Ylang oil, one of the most complex and exquisitely fragrance essential oils of all. This is another oil which has conspicuously shot up in price over the last year. The Comoros Islands are the most prolific producers of Ylang Ylang oil, exporting approximately 80% of the world’s Ylang Ylang oil. As with the Comoros Islands’ other two biggest export commodities, vanilla beans and cloves, production and availability of Ylang Ylang oil fluctuates dramatically in response to both demand and supply, which is often determined by natural disasters such as powerful cyclones.



Today, the Comoros Islands are producing approximately half the volume of Ylang Ylang oil they produced five years ago, and with powerhouse consumers like Chanel buying up the oil to manufacture perfumes, competition between buyers is intense!

tComplicating matter is that the Comoros has been in a state of terrible political upheaval. On March 25th, African Union Forces, including troops from Sudan, Tanzania, Senegal, supported by France and Libya Launched an invasion of Anjouan, one of the three autonomous islands making up the Comoros. The primary objective was to topple Mohamed Bacar's allegedly illegal Presidency, after local elections in defiance of the federal government and the African Union. Bacar fled the Comoros and is being held in custody at the French Reunion air base. We hope that life in the Comoros will soon return to normal and that people can get back to persuing prosperous enterpises such as distilling more Ylang Ylang!

If you find a bargain on Ylang Ylang oil which seems too good to be true, it's probably untrue…Ylang Ylang oil, also known as Canaga odorata variety genuina, is frequently cut with or simply substituted with plain old Canaga oil, also know as Canaga odorata variety macrophylla. The two oils have much in common, but genuine Ylang Ylang oil has a creamy mellow floral note which you’re not likely to find even in the best Canaga oil. Nevertheless, buyer beware.

While most of the Ylang Ylang inquiries I’ve received lately are about price, it’s more common to be asked about the significance of the numerals “I”, “II” and “III” which one finds attached to the name Ylang Ylang. I think I’ve heard a hundred different explanations of what these numbers mean. I’m not going to claim to be an authority on the matter, but I’ve had the good fortune to speak to several distillers who all agree with one another on the correct interpretation of these figures.

The distillation of Ylang Ylang oil is generally done in stages, during which the producer interrupts the distillation process and separates portions of the total yield of oil. For example, The producer distills a quantity of Ylang Ylang flowers for a number of hours and then stops, removing the collected oil. This oil is described as “Ylang Ylang extra”. The producer then resumes distillation, which goes on for a slightly longer interval than the first and then stops again, removing the collected oil. This oil is described as “Ylang Ylang I”. The process continues at increasingly longer intervals, the final interval lasting 24 hours or more, and Ylang Ylang II and Ylang Ylang III are collected.

Each Fraction of Ylang Ylang oil possesses it’s own aroma, which an educated nose would have little difficulty distinguishing between. Ylang Ylang Extra is the most sought after for fine perfumery and Ylang Ylang III is most commonly used for scenting candles and cold process soaps. Ylang Ylang I and Ylang Ylang II are in between grades, and are the most popular for cosmetic and aromatheraputic applications. There is also a Ylang Ylang Complete, which is distilled with interruptions, and is made up of the full yield of a single Ylang Ylang oil distillation.

Cedar By Any Other Name.....

Just Because It's Called Cedar, Doesn't Mean It's So

One of my favorite essential oils is cedar wood. And I mean real cedar wood oil, which is the only kind Yellowstar*Essentials uses.

True cedar wood oil is distilled from Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodara), or Lebanon Cedar (Cedrus libani), or Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica). But there are many essential oils called “cedar," which aren’t really from cedars at all. So be sure the oil you are using is the cedar you intend to use.





One so-called “cedar” is Virginian Cedar, also called Texas Cedar and Pencil Cedar. Virginian Cedar is a juniper (Juniperus virginiana), which is a member of the Cypress family. Comparing Virginian Cedar Wood oil to pencils is perfect, because the essential oil really does smell like freshly sharpened pencils! It’s a very pleasing scent, but it just won’t do as a substitute for true, sweet and resinous cedar wood oil.

Other so-called “cedars” are White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). These are arborvitae, not cedar. Arborvitae, meaning “Tree of Life," is a beautiful, stately conifer of the Cypress family. Arborvitae is used in perfumery and spoken of highly, but personally, I don’t know why. To me, Arborvitae smells like Mugwort and Wormwood, neither of which make it anywhere near my top ten list. I have a hard time seeing this used as a substitute for true, balsamic, and woody cedar wood oil.

Port Orford Cedar is (you guessed it!) not a cedar. It’s another cypress. Botanists know it as Lawson’s Cypress, or Chamaecyparis lawsoniana. Lawson’s Cypress is indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, so as a one-time Oregonian, I have a special affection for it as a native member of the beautiful temperate rainforest. However, Port Orford cedar isn’t a substitute for genuine cedar wood oil.

We could go on this way, but you get the point. Yellowstar*Essentials has the real thing -- genuine Himalayan cedarwood oil (Cedrus deodara) for its wonderful, sweet, resinous and woody aroma. Our Himalayan Cedarwood comes from India where true cedar has been used for thousands of years in Ayuvedic medicine and to make fine incense. We at Yellowstar*Essentials, know there is just no substitute for the real thing. And we make it easy for you to get the best genuine Cedar wood oil too, whether it be Himalayan, Atlas or Lebanon.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sweet Orange Essential Oil




I love sweet orange oil and use it for so many things and am always finding new uses. There are those who say it isn't safe, but it truly is one of the safest.

Citrus essential oils, including Sweet Orange, are completely safe when applied to the skin of a baby or expectant mother as long as they are diluted into a cosmetic base (i.e. lotion, cream, shampoo, oil, etc.). Citrus oils have exceptionally low molecular weight, which means that most of the essential oil that the skin comes in contact with diffuses into the air and is not actually absorbed into the body. Aromatherapy that is used diluted into products is perfectly safe. Everything, including water, can be toxic when used in too large of a dose. Products containing essential oils generally contain very low concentrations of essential oils which makes them extremely safe.

The chemical composition of sweet orange essential oil is: α-pinene (0.54%), myrcene (2.08%), limonene (95.37%), neral (0.06%), citronellal (0.10%), decanal (0.06%), geranial (0.12%) (Weiss EA. Essential Oil Crops. CAB International, 1997). The major constituent of sweet orange essential oil is limonene.
Sweet orange is non-toxic, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing. Sweet orange is not photo-toxic, although bitter orange is definitely photo-toxic. (Leung A, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics.) Studies that have found citrus essential oils photo-toxic were conducted at 5% on animals and not at the typical 1% used in products used for human topical applications.

Sweet orange is rarely a problem for people with fragrance allergies. In all of my years in the industry I have only come across one person with such severe allergies that sweet orange was among their allergens. Scenting with the totally natural essential oil of sweet orange is a superior to using the lab created fragrances that are so common in baby products. The chemistry of sweet orange essential oil is nature made. There are no hidden ingredients, no undisclosed fragrance chemicals, no phthalates, and no added preservatives. When you purchase products made with fragrance oils there is a whole host of hidden ingredients.

Sweet Orange is cold pressed from orange peels. The scent is very familiar to most people. The essential oil of sweet orange is very commonly used in the food industry as flavoring. It is used for orange flavoring and spearmint flavoring. Limonene is an inexpensive starting material for the synthesis of l-carvone, which is a source for synthetic spearmint flavoring less costly than pure spearmint.

Many of the rumors about essential oils being toxic or dangerous are based on myths and/or based on animal trials. Since essential oils are not actually processed by an animal's body the same way that is processed by a human body this information is useless and confusing. Additionally, unusually high doses of essential oils are given internally to animals for these clinical trials. Essential oils should only be applied to the skin and not consumed. These methods for testing are faulty all around. To say nothing of how cruel it is to have an animal consume something that is not intended for internal use. Additionally, even the topical tests are faulty since human skin is less permeable than rabbit skin.

There are no actual toxic results or cases in which humans were involved using citrus essential oils. Aromatherapy has been used for hundreds of years by pregnant women with absolutely no cases harm when used under normal external conditions. I know people who use it personally, that have worked day in and day out as an aromatherapist and during two pregnancies had absolutely no problems using sweet orange during either pregnancy. As a matter of fact, I found aromatherapy incredibly useful throughout those pregnancies as well as during labor and delivery. I believe so completely and totally that essential oils are safe for use on children that I use it on my own family.

Find some sweet orange oil and see what uses you can find for it's sweet uplifting scent!

This blog is for those interested in understanding aromatherapy, essential oils, natural remedies, and healthy living tips.

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