Let’s be clear. This blog is not going to look at safety of essential oils (EOs) except to say, the world seems pretty messed up about “safety” and EOs.
I recently saw a study issued by “doctors”, saying that lavender oil was causing a physical reaction. When I looked at the products examined by the medical doctors (who clearly don’t know much about cosmetic ingredients) they all listed “fragrance” in the INCI list. It is safe to assume they had assessed synthetic lavender fragrance. Probably not a single bit of actual EO in any of the products. So, I don’t have a lot of trust in that sort of random and misleading “study”.
We all know now that fragrances have a plethora of irritating ingredients. Let’s place blame appropriately.
Sustainability, on the other hand, is easier to look at. In general, essential oils are very sustainable.
Different Essential Oils & the Impact
First up, citrus oils. These are made from the peels of citrus used for juice, so may be considered “upcycled” products. If you think about how much juice is made in the world, the idea of wasting all the peels is appalling. The peel accounts for 40 to 50% of the total weight of the fruit so to “harvest” the oil out of that waste material is very sustainable.
Then we have eucalyptus oils, which are gathered in small villages in Africa, Asia and Australia as a supplemental source of income. Eucalyptus, often an invasive species, is found all over the world and can be harvested for their leaves without harm to the tree. Local groups can then easily distill the leaves and collect essential oils of different eucalyptus varietals. Fir and pine oils are similar in their wild availability.
Herbs like lavender, thyme, helichrysum, mint, sage varieties, and rose, to name a very small number of plants, all grow in mountainous, arid environments. These are not places where people grow much food. There are no fields, no irrigation issues. These are just plants that have evolved and so thrive in these types of growing conditions. Another positive – communities that live in these types of areas benefit greatly from harvesting and selling these types of oils.
Finally, (but by no means the limit of this subject) consider the rain forests. These environments harbor unknown botanicals that can be carefully wild crafted and provide revenue to indigenous communities around the globe.
I could get more into depth but you can find a lot of that info on the United Nations site. This is a link to one such article – in this case it is about an herbalist who extracts medicinal herbs but…the plant sources are the issue here in regards to sustainability.
People who rail against botanically derived materials are overlooking millennia of knowledge and herbal practices.
The world is a big place. Google (and travel) allows use to open our minds.