When I first started with aromatherapy and essential oils in the late 80’s, the largest obstacle in reaching people was the complete lack of awareness. “Aromatherapy, what’s that? Some kind of mumbo-jumbo?” Another obstacle was finding good quality essential oils since most oils went to the large market-place; perfumery, food-stuffs etc. Finding pure, unadulterated, organic or wild essential oils was not easy…Especially in Sweden which was nowhere-land when it came to aromatherapy. We were a small group of 4 or 5 people working with essential oils in Sweden at the time and we worked very hard on the quality issue. UK was way ahead at the time and that’s where we would find most of our essential oils; from people such as Robert Tisserand, Shirley Price and Jan Kusmirek, who had worked for years on creating a niche for quality oils and spending time traveling to growers and producers all over the world to make it happen.
At the time we talked about ethics; the ethics of aromatherapy, essential oils and vegetable oils. Ethics is also about sustainability; when you cut a tree you plant another one…Or two. Organic was not really on the agenda at the time, public knowledge about essential oils and aromatherapy was more or less non-extinct, and hard work was put in to create an awareness about ethical essential oils.
Fast-forward till today: Aromatherapy is a house-hold word, everybody knows about essential oils. By putting the word “aromatherapy” on a product, a promise is somehow made; this will do more for you, no matter if it is a washing-powder or a spa. It has become the great magic word; everybody wants aromatherapy. (And it’s always written, for some obscure reason, in italics 🙂 ) Aromatherapy has become a marketing word, as far from the real thing as is possible.
Now there are all kinds of statements around the quality of essential oils; organic, bio, natural, certified pure therapeutic grade and so on. Most of this is pure marketing and have no value what-so-ever when it comes to defining the quality of an essential oil, without thorough analysis you can sell most anything under any flag and get away with it, quality is hard to discern without years of experience.
MLM-companies now sell “certified pure therapeutic grade oils“, check this link for the truth, or rather untruth, about that statement. Anybody can say anything about essential oils without any training whatsoever, selling oils under false pretences. Aromatherapy is about therapy and takes training. Essential oils are powerful substances that should be used with care. They are also a gift from nature and should be treated with respect and care. You do not take from nature without giving something back, she is not a money-cow.
The moment therapeutic essential oils became money-makers, ruthlessness entered the field. The magic of these precious substances is reduced to dollars and cents and the respect for nature went out the window. Here is to give you an idea: One year France exported 3 tonnes of lemon-balm (melissa officinalis), a very expensive oil, to Morocco. Morocco in turn exported 9 tonnes of lemon-balm that year. Only problem is; Morocco had, at the time, no production of lemon-balm…Makes you think, doesn’t it, what is really in the little expensive bottles you buy. And don’t be fooled by fancy labeling with certifications on them – often they are just marketing, nothing else. Inform yourself, get some basic knowledge and use your common sense. Demand information, ask questions and make sure that you get what you pay for. If somebody comes to your door to sell you essential oils…beware.
Finally; I would like to exchange all the rubbish certifications with the word ethical. And I would like to see traceability and documentation to this fact.
Check out my earlier posts on aromatherapy and essential oils profiles to get an idea of what true aromatherapy is and how much plant-matter is needed to get even a small amount of essential oils.