I have been a user of essentials from a very young age. It is quite common growing up in south France to have a bottle of lavender essential oil in your bathroom cabinet. Oh I love essentials oils, as I grow up and move to the city, I increase my collections with various essentials oils from all over the world and I loved so much to have my rooms and my body oil and other preparations filled with the smell and virtues of the various plants. I loved it so much that I am a certified Aromatic practitioner in Germany!
As I then offered workshop on how to make your own cosmetics products using E.O., I was really cautious on where to get your essential oils from, as company like DoTerra or Young Living have been exploding and taking over the market. The consequence of these growths have been quite hard on small and ethical producers, as most of them have been obliged to sell out, and other ethical concerned I will not dig in here. This and that have me starting to question the use of these plants extracts.
As the wheel of life kept turning and I move by the forest, I realised that I was not so much keen on using my essentials oils anymore as I would prefer to use the whole plant I could find next to me.
This has brought me to reflect on the uses of essentials oils versus whole fresh or dried plants and here are some reasons why I decided to stop using them:
*Accessibility: plant medicine is people medicine. It is not on the capacity to all to express the volatile compound (E.O.) from plants, one will need an alembic and a large amount of plant, in contrario to a simple tea, where plants could be collected during a trip and then dryed and conserved to be drink.
From there, the best medicine for us is from the plants growing next to us and not harvested and transported from an other continent. We live in a certain climatic zone and hights, we work best with plants that know and live along the same climatic conditions.
This goes along with the quantity of the plants one will need in order to produce a little bottle and these questions are emerging:
*Sustainability and Ethical harvest, a simple example, I really enjoy Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) so much, I do not find the tea to completely give me the whole flavour of the plant and I had buy some of the E.O. for that reason. Let’s have a look at the production side: In order to make 1kg of E.O. you will need 6 to 8 tones of fresh plants. These means a lot of field space used (suppressing a healthy and diverse ecosystem) in order to produce a very little amount of very expensive E.O.. Nowadays I used Lemon Balm in a tincture form and for 1 Liter jar I definitely use less than a Kilo of the plants. So with growing this plant in my garden I could easily produce 5 Liter of tincture per year and support all my family, neighbourhood and beyond with nervousness and sleep issues, for a much affordable and sustainable practice, having a full spectrum flavour and properties.
Now let’s have a look of the consequence of wild harvest and endanger plants species, for example Palo Santo (bursera graveolens). Traditionally the fallen bark of the tree is harvested by the local population and used for traditional and ceremonials gathering a few times through the year. With the divine scent of this plants coming to the western world, trees are now cut down to create sticks to be burn or even essential oils (where you will need from 30kg to 70kg of bark to yield 1 kilo of E.O.). The indigenous population are now left with devastated forests and almost no more trees to keep their traditions alive.
There are other aspects of using E.O. to reflect on, and it is with their
*Effects and side effects, E.O. extractions are taking the volatile compounds of the plant, this means only specific properties of the plants are extracted and in very high concentration. The consequences of this method of extraction is that we miss on the wholeness and gentleness a plant can offer to a tired and sick body and instead taking risk of irritation. One needs to be very cautious while working with E.O., a very low dosage is mostly recommended by practitioner and I never ever recommend taking them internally. But the reality of it is that people tend to use more “because it doesn’t smell enough otherwise” and try them internally to quick fix the issue they are facing. The facts are that E.O. are mainly antibacterial or antiviral, which makes them very strong plants extract that could affect our gut flora, liver and kidneys on a long and overdose used. They are actually closer to chemical drugs than herbal remedies, so it is on us to reflect and see if we want to call E.O. part of Herbal Medicine.
*Historical uses: I am well aware that we found traces of E.O. back in the Egyptians area where it has be found on the mommies in the graves of the royalties. This should actually give us some hit that E.O. were not use on a daily basis but mainly for sacred rituals and actually uses as conservatives exactly because their high anti-bacterial and antivirals properties.
*Relation: when out and about and gathering our plants, we do engage with ourselves, our environment and the plant realm. We observe: what plants grows abundantly here? Which one is calling my curiosity? After carefully identifying a plant and make sure the species is not endangered, we started engaging with a whole living being. How big is the plant, what is her smell, her texture, her taste, which colours is she made of… All of these precious informations that will deepen our relations to the plants and her relation with our Body, remembering and claiming our wholeness.
I am sharing that, being honest about the facts that I used and loved E.O., believing it to be safe and simple of use, and now being close to my forty, I am reflecting on the way I practice and if it is still in alignement with what I am aiming as a sustainable, regenerative and safe practice for all. Well, I am coming to the fact that I have been practicing something that do not claim these important aspects of what I define for myself an honest practice.
This is not to blame anyone using E.O. but more to open a window of reflections and facts on a produce that:
*can hardly be home made
*is using a large amount of plants. Which has important consequences: on one side, this lead to monoculture (suppressing ecosystem, diverse flora and fauna for an healthy Earth). On the other side, to consume the amount of plants contains in 1 drop of E.O. will take more than months of drinking tea or taking tincture to be ingested and with that questioning the safety within the concentration of the plants.
*is very expensive and not accessible to all
*Feed a huge market of profits over Earth and Human exploitation
*is not safe to use on a daily basis
I truly hope we can all drop down our believes system and observe objectively the reality around the making and using of Essential Oils and changes old patterns if that help us support our Health’s Body and Earth.
In love and care,