Sunday, December 09, 2007

Essential Oils: Rose geranium, rose, petitgrain sur fleur, bay, ylang ylang, using essential oils neat, and absorbency (Aromatherapy Information)

*Edited to add another link for a petitgrain sur fleur source. Also to fix my description of what ylang ylang smells like to me because I accidentally typed the wrong grade (mixed the two grades up)!

Some random FAQ about essential oils that I've answered on different forums over the last five months (with extra information added, of course :) )

What is the difference between the two kinds of rose geranium essential oil?

There are a couple species of 'rose geranium' used in aromatherapy (I put geranium in quotes because they aren't actually true geraniums but are from the Pelargonium genus), including Pelargonium roseum and Pelargonium graveolens. The common names are often used interchangeably between these two species: meaning sometimes the essential oil from Pelargonium graveolens is called rose geranium, bourbon geranium, or geranium (and the whole plant has been called sweet scented geranium, among other names). And I've seen Pelargonium roseum also called geranium and rose geranium. When most aromatherapists mention rose geranium they usually mean Pelargonium graveolens, though some aromatherapists consider both species to be rose geranium. Aromaweb has good essential oil profiles on both species.

As far as I know, most of the rose geranium or geranium hydrosol produced is from Pelargonium graveolens (from what I've seen, but I could be wrong since I haven't tried every single hydrosol vendor yet!). Many essential oil vendors often only sell Pelargonium graveolens essential oil, but some sell both species. Note: Plants (and their products) produced in different regions or seasons or by various manufacturing/processing methods can smell very different, even if it's the same species. For example I've sampled lavender essential oil from at least six different countries and from different seasons and they all smell very different from each other, though they are all the same species (Lavandula angustifolia). Geranium essential oil produced in different areas, seasons, etc can smell extremely different from each other.

I love rose. Is rose geranium a kind of rose?

Rose and rose geranium are two different species. Rose is usually from the damask rose (Rosa damascena), and rose geranium isn't a rose at all or a true geranium even but it's a Pelargonium species. Another rose species that is used in aromatherapy is the white rose: rose alba (Rosa alba). But it is rarer and harder to produce than the damask rose (it has even less essential oil in it than the damask rose) therefore it is even more expensive than (damask) rose essential oil. In my opinion, rose alba is more floral and fruitier in scent than the damask. Damask rose smells floral with herbal notes and a hint of fruit notes to me. A third rose species used in aromatherapy: Rosa centifolia.

What is and where can I buy petitgrain sur fleur essential oil?

Regular petitgrain (Citrus aurantium) is made from the leaves of the bitter orange tree. Petitgrain sur fleur essential oil is produced from both the leaves and the flowers of the bitter orange tree. It is a good sub for the very expensive neroli essential oil, which is produced from only the flowers. It smells like a very light neroli but with more herby notes in it.

I only know of a couple places that sell petitgrain sur fleur essential oil. I got mine at Enfleurage. Theirs may seem a little pricey, but it's organic (so will of course be more expensive) and it is heaven on earth! Sunrose Aromatics also has it (but it's conventional not organic so it's a little cheaper). I haven't tried theirs yet, but with every order, you can request samples and their samples are very generous. But they charge a handling fee in addition to shipping, so if you are only buying a few things s&h can get expensive. So be sure to ask for samples to make it worth it :) I think both places do wholesale in addition to retail. White Lotus Aromatics also has it but I haven't ordered from them yet, but they are supposed to be a good company. I think they have a minimum and may only be wholesale (not sure yet, need to check on that).
Another place that sells it is Samara Botane. I haven't bought from them either but they are a well respected company that is often cited as a good essential oil company in aromatherapy and natural skin care books.

What is the difference between Bay Laurel and Bay Oil Rum Dominican Essential Oils?

They are two different species. Bay laurel is Laurus nobilis and Bay Oil (Rum) Dominican is Pimenta racemosa. Aromaweb had good essential oil profiles (listed as Bay and Bay laurel)

What is the difference between Ylang Ylang #1 and #3?

Ylang Ylang is a tropical flower from a tree. There are different grades/fractions--like how olive oil has different pressings. The different grades refers to when in the distillation process the essential oil was removed and all the grades smell different. The different grades include extra, #1, #2, #3, and complete. I've used #1, #3, and complete, and I've smelled extra once. I've never used or smelled #2. The different grades smell different because they vary in chemical composition. #1 smells floral and kind of like candy to me! while #3 smells slightly floral but also has a lot of heavy notes. A lot of people say that ylang ylang is a good sub for jasmine in perfumes, and I never believed it or agreed, until I tried complete (which is when the distillation is run until the end without removing any grades, or all the different grades after distillation are mixed together). I now believe that complete would be a good sub for jasmine (but though it can be used as a sub for the floral sweetness of jasmine, it of course doesn't smell the same. It's like comparing coke and pepsi, or cow milk and soy milk, how many people say there is no difference, but most people can tell). Most people suggest extra or #1 in perfumes, but I like complete. Ylang Ylang from different distillers can smell very different from each other, even if it's the 'same grade' since different distillers pull the fractions at different times.

Can I use essential oils neat or should I dilute them?

It is not recommended that essential oils exceed a total of 1 to 2% in most products (except perfumes and a couple other types of blends) since too high of a concentration of essential oils can be irritating or in some cases toxic or have the opposite effect. Note: the concentration refers to the total amount of essential oils, and not 1 to 2% of each essential oil. It is always better to add less than more.

I do not recommend using any essential oil undiluted on the skin. Occasionally you can use lavender and tea tree--but this is only for short term emergencies (like a bug bite or a fungal infection, so only for a few days, and no more than 1 drop at a time) and should not be used daily over long periods of time. This is because essential oils are highly concentrated substances--1 drop is akin to several ounces or pounds of plant material (depending on the plant). In high amounts certain essential oils may be irritating, toxic, have the opposite effect, or can even be fatal (if orally ingested). Aromatherapy is not just about scents, but like herbs, most essential oils have medicinal properties as well (they contain hundreds of chemical components that in plants are responsible for not only scents but are substances against diseases, insect repellents, etc). Personally even for emergencies like a bug bite or a fungal infection, I'd recommend diluting the oil, since these conditions are usually around for more than just a couple days (if you use lavender neat for a long time, there is a great chance you can become sensitized to it). Please take care when using them, and be sure to research any herbal product well before use (I recommend reading essential oil profiles from at least three or more good references). There are a lot of fake aromatherapy products out there and many companies may cite unsafe essential oil usage (since there is no real regulation of aromatherapy in the US). Be safe! :)

Can using different ingredients (when crafting) affect the absorbency and effectiveness of essential oils?

It depends on what ingredients you are using. Different ingredients have different absorbency rates, and some ingredients do not absorb at all. But overall, if you are using well absorbing ingredients then no, it shouldn't affect the effectiveness of the essential oils since they are very potent substances. Carrier oils are not only used to dilute essential oils but they also slow down their absorbency. Diluting essential oils in carrier oils is a good thing because carrier oils help prevent against toxicity from using too much essential oil, essential oil irritation, and allows for the essential oil to safely be spread over a large amount of skin. Carrier oils are absorbed by the skin, just more slowly than essential oils, so the skin will still eventually absorb the essential oils and you also absorb them by breathing them in. One reason I am against using mineral oil and petroleum jelly in skin care products is that it just sits on top of the skin and is not absorbed by the skin--meaning it is probably preventing any nutrients or other substances, like essential oils, in the cream or lotion you are using from being absorbed too. Plus mineral oil and petroleum jelly have no nutrients or vitamins!

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