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Common questions regarding essential oils are:

How long will they last? What is the shelf life?

The answer is quite complex so if you are looking for a simple explanation, there isn’t one. It’s like asking what is the shelf life of food and expecting an easy response.

Before I get into a more detailed explanation of this subject, I will say that if you ask an essential oil supplier about the shelf life of their essential oils and receive a blanket response of X amount of time for all of them, or they tell you that their oils last longer because they are therapeutic, medicinal grade, wild crafted, certified organic, distilled in state of the art equipment, extracted by monks in sequined magenta robes at full moon or some other irrelevant nonsense, you should walk away as these factors have nothing to do with how long your essential oils will last. (more…)

A customer asked me recently if rose geranium essential oil was effective to repel ticks and fleas on dogs. Aside from my disdain for this oil ( I refer to it as one of the GMO’s of the essential oil world) which is another blog brewing, I would say yes to the geranium part, no to the rose part. Given that this is a fairly expensive essential oil, all you have is an overpriced ineffective bug repellant which will leave your pet smelling real pretty – which they hate.

If you want to use oils which are effective and lower priced, try a geranium, basil, cedarwood mix. This blend will help to repel ticks in the first place. If you follow these three effective applications, you will make your dog’s environment unappealing to these nasty lyme disease spreading vermin (OK, so I don’t like ticks).

 If your dog has a cloth collar, you can put a few drops of these oils right on it and let them soak in.

Make a spray by adding 20 drops of a combination of the previously mentioned essential oils together in a small glass or metal cup. Add about 30 ml glycerine. Make sure the oils mix well with the glycerine.   Then add to a 250 ml spray top bottle and fill remaining amount with water. Always shake before use. Be sure to not spray the mix in the dog’s eyes.

 Add about 10 drops of any combo of these oils to about 1 oz (30 ml) to a natural unscented soap base and mix well. Wash your dog with it.  The mix will smell more outdoorsy and it will be less likely that they will roll in something disgusting to get rid of the foo foo smelling shampoo you currently use. Strong fragrances attract bugs as well.

 Nothing is foolproof with tick prevention, so if a tick has latched on to your pooch, don’t drop soaps/oils or anything else right on the tick. This can cause the tick to clamp harder or even die, leaving harmful pathogens under the skin.

tick sizes

A safe way to remove a tick is to get a flat pair of tweezers or tick removal instrument. Many vets and pet stores will sell them. Gently get under the tick’s head and lift up slightly. Take a drop of pure marjoram on a q-tip and position it at the tip of the head or slightly under if you can get it to lift that high. Ticks hate the smell and may release its grip to get away from it.  You can then safely dispose of the little bugger any way you see fit. Remember to never pull a tick straight out of a dog’s or human’s skin as the legs will snap off, leaving harmful bacteria below the surface.

For more info on some of these oils and other ingredients listed, please click here to visit our website.

You’re Welcome! – Sandy Powell

©Nascent Naturals Inc.  2015 All rights reserved.

One of the common tests that many educators, essential oil companies and consumers will conduct is a blotter test. The tests are typically done from a layman`s point of view in an effort to judge quality. But what is it, and what does it actually reveal about an essential oil? Does it indicate quality? Is it even worth doing.

The basic process is quite simple, in that you apply a drop of essential oil to a slip of paper. The paper should be white so as to see colour, viscosity and track absorption. You let it sit in the open air for a period of time and monitor what happens.

A true essential oil is a mix of naturally occurring chemicals which are volatile and prone to evaporation. If you are testing an essential oil which is claimed to be pure and obtained via distillation, the drop will dry up at some point leaving a non- oily mark. If there is a colour associated with the essential oil, it will leave that residue. For example, bergamot will leave a faint green colour while lemongrass has an amber tone. Oils which are typically clear such as eucalyptus or lavender will be untraceable once complete evaporation has occurred.  The aroma will also change as lighter molecules evaporate first.

The other important aspect to observe is how long will it take for that drop to evaporate. This again depends on the essential oil’s composition and varies accordingly. An essential oil high in Oxides or Monoterpenes such as eucalyptus or ti-tree, will evaporate relatively fast. Depending on the room temperature and air circulation this could occur in a few minutes to a few hours. Oils containing high levels of esters or aldehydes will evaporate much more slowly as in the case of immortelle or lemongrass.

If you want to inject a degree of scientific approach, do blotter tests in a controlled environment of consistent temperature and air circulation to create a baseline of approximately how long each one should take to evaporate. I use an incubator set to a specific temperature. You do need a reliable sample of an unadulterated oil sample to compare.

I conduct a test in class with my students using a sample of a fairly well balanced essential oil such as petitgrain or lavender. I apply a drop of pure oil and a sample which I have adulterated 50% with propylene glycol. This is the most common and easily adulterated trick many essential oil companies use to extend their oils without detection and increase profits. The drop contaminated with propylene glycol will evaporate, but at a slower rate than the pure Petitgrain. It may also leave a slightly blue colour around the edge of the drop.

For those out there that think they could immediately detect the glycol, think again. Even at a bold 50% I have duped many respected and self- declared experts!

This test is not effective for resinoids such as benzoin or myrrh, or absolutes such as Jasmine and Rose or expensive essential oils which are diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba oil.  Dilutions should be declared on the label to avoid confusion.

While rather unscientific, a test like this can display the bouquet for your nose to analyze, because you should never assess the smell of an essential oil from the bottle as the aroma is still mostly locked inside. Oxidized residue is normal around the top of any opened essential oil which will impair the aroma.

It will give you a view of viscosity and colour. It will reveal whether you have a pure distilled oil or one that is diluted with a carrier oil. If a dilution is not declared on a label, then that is a problem.

If you have a good baseline of evaporation for particular oils, you can compare to see if it dries much more slowly.  Beyond that, it is not a true test of quality or purity rather a fun exercise to do to learn more about your essential oils.

Sandy Powell

I was asked this question recently.

“Do you test every batch of your essential oils and if so, what do you test for?”

Here’s my response:

I do not test my own oils. I am not qualified nor do I have a money tree in the backyard to finance such endeavors. However, all of my oils are tested. Would you like to hear the truth about how many companies spin this information or outright lie to make it seem like they personally test all of their oils? Then read on…

The most common scientific testing is through a Gas Liquid Chromatograph (GLC) or GC (Gas Chromatograph). To keep the explanations simple, this equipment can provide a complex printout of all chemical constituents as well as levels of foreign matter, some pesticides, toxins etc., if it is calibrated to that level of sensitivity. Considering that essential oils can have 25 – 200 different naturally occurring chemical constituents, the results are very detailed.

The computer records each constituent as well as the levels present in the oils, and provides a report. The oils are then compared to other baseline tests and rated on acceptable levels. For example: The two main chemicals and their acceptable levels in tea-tree oil are: Terpinen-4-ol (35-40%), and 1,8-cineole ( 5 – 7%). This is an average established over many years for Australian ti-tree. The levels vary from year to year because of growing conditions, hence the general range allowed.

To be very thorough, a MS (Mass Spectrometry) provides detailed data on the individual components identified by the chromatograph. This is the stage where individual constituents can be evaluated for synthetic tampering. These are basic tests performed on essential oils. There is no “selective testing” for certain elements or pesticides. A test is basic and standard.

A basic GC test can cost $300 -500, while the MS can cost a further $300 or more for one sample, and must be signed by a chemist with a documented expertise in essential oil analysis for authentication. To make the test unbiased, it should be done with a controlled sample via independent lab. There are only a handful of labs in North America that have the ability and credentials to test essential oils with expert chemists on staff.  They usually have a huge waiting list of clients and oils to be tested as a result.  It can take months to have tests arranged.

As a purchaser of essential oils, this cost alone for each batch could be prohibitive and accumulates to a massive expense for a small business, not to mention the logistics of arranging tests. Even if there is proper documented testing with batches of oils, it means nothing of the oil supply is not handled and stored correctly.  Even tested great quality oils can become old and oxidized relatively fast.

There are other tests which should accompany direct purchases from essential oil brokers, distillers and other producers. This information is contained on a Certificate of Analysis. A Certificate of Origin should be attached as well for NAFTA purposes. I receive these with all of my shipments. Without the benefit of a full GC test, it still provides valuable information to someone who is trained to evaluate the results and has more reassurance that the oil is from a direct source and not tampered or adulterated. Key information contained on a C of A includes:

Specific Gravity This test measures the weight of a substance in relation to water. The weight of water is considered 1. Since most essential oils are lighter than water, their specific gravity will be less than 1. The results of each test are then compared with standard weights for each oil. If an essential oil is significantly higher or lower in weight than average, it raises suspicion as to the overall purity and can indicate adulteration. A proper test is conducted at 20 & 25 C

Refractive Index: The refractive index of an essential oil designates how the oil responds and bends light, measuring how the speed of light is altered when passing through the oil. An oil’s refractive index can be compared to that of a standard result. Usually conducted at 20C

Optical Rotation: To determine the rotation of polarized light through a liquid to establish its optical activity whether dextro (bends light to the right) or levo (bends light to the left). The degree of rotation and its direction are important as a criteria of purity and whether adulteration has occurred.

Appearance, Colour and Aroma should also be documented and conform to basic standards.

There is an interesting trend lately with some of the bigger essential oil companies claiming to have on site GC equipment to test oils. Pharmaceutical companies and some reputable essential oil companies do this but to satisfy some of their own requirements for specialty purchasing and do not boast about this being an integral part of testing their oils for the public.

I don’t place a lot of value on this with most essential oil companies because this equipment can be purchased second hand at a relatively inexpensive price. People with not a sliver of essential oil or chemistry knowledge can run a test. As a result this doesn’t mean very much as it will be biased, with undocumented control samples, lack of calibration and expert analysis.

But hey, “they can say that they test all of their oils…”

Most essential oil producers and distillers will have tests done on batches and make the results available for purchase at a nominal price to offset cost or sometimes offer with shipments, but this is usually reserved for the purchase of large quantities in drums at wholesale levels. Most start-up companies reselling essential oils can’t begin to come close to the purchasing quantities necessary to obtain this information. I know, I’ve been there.

So, to summarize, I don’t test all of my oils and I don’t believe most companies who sell a variety of essential oils do either. It would price us all right out of the market. They likely purchase or obtain tests done with originating producers. There is nothing wrong with this unless they twist this information to look better. Yes their oils are tested, just not by them. Testing of essential oils drives the price high enough without trying to shoulder the cost of testing them again.

To companies who make this claim I specifically ask, “Do you directly incur the cost to test all of your oils at your own expense using independently qualified labs utilizing full GC and MS analysis?” If they say “Yes“ there is no way to verify except to go to their company, match the lot # on the drum to the paperwork and watch it being poured. I don’t know of any company which would allow this. Some companies keep reissuing the same paperwork over and over, just changing the batch # and the date.

I do have valid independent tests for most of my oils along with my 23 years of experience working with thousands of kilos and varieties of oils from all over the world in clinical, therapeutic and product formulation. I have been to some of the growers, watched distillation, read hundreds of GC and C of A reports. This is just as valuable as having oils tested with sophisticated equipment, and frankly, I would rather deal with experienced brokers and producers who provide some testing and experience which further helps to educate me.

If they say “No” when asked whether they test all of their own oils, at least they are being honest.

Sandy Powell

Based on their chemistry, pure essential oils obtained via distillation will NOT mix with water. Not only will they NOT mix with water, their specific gravity in most cases is lighter so they will float on top. Anyone who disputes this fact had better do some research on how essential oils are extracted from plants. I have included a simple yet colourful diagram to demonstrate this process to those who are unfamiliar with essential oil distillation.

Diagram of Steam Distillation

Steam Distillation Diagram

If you are reading this and are sure that YOUR essential oils will mix with water, think again. If they do, they are probably already diluted with a solvent or alcohol which is a favorite trick of many essential oil companies. How do you think they can sell commodities such as these at a cheaper price than everyone else?

Conversely some will make ridiculous claims that their oils are sooo pure they’ll mix with water which is a false justification to charge excessively higher prices. The irony is that if it is a pure undiluted essential oil with no chemical alterations. it will not mix with water.

There are many chemicals which can solubilize essential oils so they become miscible with water but only a few are on the natural side. One is glycerine, a non-fermented alcohol which is very skin friendly, inexpensive and easy to obtain. It does not completely break down all essential oils, but does enough of a job that the essential oil is dispersed safely when adding water.

The other option is alcohol, either pure ethyl alcohol (grain) or denatured alcohol which must be at least 60% while 100% (anhydrous) is optimal. Pure ethyl alcohol is strictly controlled in Canada and costs a small fortune creating a barrier for the average person to obtain. Denatured is relatively inexpensive and not controlled, but there are few suppliers out there. For those of us in Canada, vodka is not useful as our liquors are limited to 40%.

Contrary to many written resources, witch hazel can’t dissolve an essential oil either.  I’m not sure where this myth comes from other than the idea that commercial witch hazels tend to contain up to 30% alcohol with the concentrated plant extract and the rest water.  This is not nearly enough alcohol content to dissolve an essential since at least 60% is required.

An average ratio is 1 I.U. drop essential oil to 1 ml glycerine or alcohol. This can vary slightly with different essential oils and the amounts you wish to dilute. Once the essential oil is solubilized, you can add any amount of water required. If you do not take this step, you could end up with either an ineffective product or painful application.

For example if you create a room spray by adding essential oils and water in a bottle and shake before use, the essential oil will not make it to the bottom long enough to be sucked up through that little hose to the sprayer. As the spray is used up, the essential oil will continue to float on top of the water. What you are left with is a mess of oxidized essential oil in the bottom of the bottle. Ineffective product!

If you intend to add essential oils to a bath without premixing, your sensitive body parts will have an uncomfortable encounter with the pure essential oils which are still floating on the top of the water. Painful application!

Enjoy your bath…

Sandy Powell

During bug season, start adding essential oils to your laundry detergent. Make sure it is unscented since fragrances can attract insects, and in liquid form so the oils will mix thoroughly. Fabric softener residue is notorious for attracting mosquitos to your clothing. A mixture of baking soda and vinegar is a suitable replacement. About 1 /2 cup baking soda to 4 oz. baking soda should be sufficient per load.’

There are no limits to how much you add to your detergent and cleaners since the product is not applied to the skin. However, 10 – 20 drops essential oil per load would be suggested.

This will also help with flying and crawling pests in your home. Dry your clothes on a clothesline as the heat from a dryer will dissipate the aroma and effect. It also keeps pests off your clothes while drying outside. This leaves a subtle residue of the essential oils on clothing which makes you a less appealing target.

Suggested Essential Oils: camphor, citronella, cedarwood, clove, cinnamon, peppermint, ti-tree.

A rose maybe a rose by any other name but a rose fragrance can actually have very little to do with the flower which inspired the scent.

Since true rose essential oil is both rare and expensive, many manufacturers and suppliers will sell nature-identical oils or synthetic fragrances in place of essential oils. Chemicals like geraniol, geranyl and citronellol which are found in rose are taken from less expensive oils and put together to create an entirely new oil which mimics that familiar fragrance but costs a great deal less.

In a true rose essential oil the chemical β-damascenone is contained in less than 0.14% of the plant but responsible for up to 70% of the characteristic rose aroma and, most importantly, critical to the physiological effect of rose essential oil on our brain. It’s a chemical given for free from the plant but is nearly impossible to synthesize, therefore, it is rarely found in manufactured fragrances and ‘nature-identical’ oils.

 

Rose is not alone. This problem extends to other oils which are traditionally expensive due to chronic high demand and low yield i.e. neroli, jasmine, and chamomile. It also occurs when oils become expensive due to swings in crop yield and market forces to name a couple factors; a case in point, the current high price of geranium and frankincense.

As an example of the price difference, pure rose oil can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 a kilogram while most synthetic fragrances are under $100 a kilogram, so do the math.

 

The cosmetic industry has good reason to use synthetic fragrances or aroma chemicals because they are stable, inexpensive and easier on the supply chain.

Essential oils from a whole plant, while more expensive, are easily recognized by our bodies and produce many positive physiological effects which can improve our mood and health. The senses of taste and smell are primal and affect us from birth.

The aroma of an essential oil blend will change over time, and will also dissipate much faster. Just like the flavor of grapes, the aroma from each new crop will change from season to season and country of origin.

 

The actual cost is more than just the price of the finished product. What must also be considered is how the finished products may be affecting our health.

There is a price to pay for our apparent need for everything to have a fragrance. One product alone is not particularly an issue but when everything is scented the result becomes something like chemical warfare with different scented products on almost everything we use including cleaning products for home and body, plug in scents, spray, lotions, perfumes and oils.

The casualties are the burgeoning cases of people with smell sensitivities, a condition that was once almost unknown. Fragrance-free areas have become a common sight particularly in hospitals, doctor’s offices, businesses etc.

The natural fragrance industry gets panned along with the synthetic fragrances when in fact it is largely innocent of the assault on our noses.

 

The brain must deal with every scent the nose encounters, and due to primal responses, it has a reference point for naturally occurring scents. For synthetic fragrances the brain has no reference point and must decide what to do with them. Some of the time it will decide this foreign substance needs to be blocked. A lot of smell sensitivities are attributed to this.

People with smell sensitivities tend to experience headaches, irritability, watery eyes, and runny nose. While these are similar to the effects of allergies, they are also the result of the brain swelling your olfactory bulb to try and protect against the outside foreign substance. The two are often confused.

 

As consumers we must acknowledge the power of our choices: Is it more important for the scent of whatever it is – be it perfume, cleaning product, or aftershave – to smell consistent, lingering and sell at the lowest possible cost or do we want a natural product with health benefits at a higher price?

“Nascent In statu nascendi – in the state of being born, emerging, promising, budding, blossoming, growing.”

A perfect way to describe the key evolutionary state of plant life … and it all starts with a drop of rain, oxygen, hydrogen, sunshine, and nutrients.

Inspiring concept isn’t it?

So inspiring, I renamed the company Nascent Naturals as the name reflects so many aspects of what we do. Every formula, remedy or concoction starts with a few drops of this and a dash of that. Just as a drop of water breaks the surface, sending its ripple effect for miles, so can a remedy applied to one person. Using natural ingredients benefits one’s physical well-being, environment and who knows – perhaps even the soul.

The modern allopathic method of drug intervention influences people to follow external, preconceived ideas of health. Essential oils and plant life, by their very exposure, allows us to discover and pursue our own definition of healing.

Through the emergence of technology we now understand more completely, that everything chemically contained in plants exists in each of us.

To learn, to experience, to harness nature’s power, the slightest amount will do – just a drop, whether its essential oils, tinctures, or bio-active plant extracts.

Knowledge operates in a similar way. The philosophy of this company is to educate and inspire people creating their own ideas, blends and formulas.

So here I am creating and evolving along with you – one drop at a time.

The nascent phase of almost anything occurs when new insight or perspective accompanies a change for the better.
What affects the price of essential oils?

Sandy Powell explains:

Just like food, essential oils are crops which are affected by the same environmental and market forces. Lavender from France and Bulgaria used to be responsible for the majority of the world supply, almost 200 tonnes. Weather issues have reduced their combined yield to less than 100 tonnes. Russia, China and Australia started to fill the gap but now their production is also down due to droughts. Demand for lavender remains high so the price will not be coming down anytime soon.

As a result you now see 7 or 8 chemotypes, different types of Lavender with different properties, on sale which is confusing for the consumer. My recommendation is to stay with oils from France and Bulgaria with their proven track record. If you care about the purity of the oil, you just have to accept that you will be paying more for an oil that used to be very inexpensive.

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