Pitfalls and Potentials of “Essential Oils” (Part I)

by Anita Cheung, proactive self care advocate and holistic health practitioner, founder of i-Detox
(This is a slightly adapted version of the feature article first published in the i-Detox monthly newsletter, 22nd Oct 2013)

Is “lavender oil” lavender oil?

A few days ago I ran into an old friend of mine who gave birth to a baby boy 16 months ago.  She said he was not sleeping well at night so she decided to diffuse some “lavender oil” in his room (pictured below). She diffused it every night, thinking it would help him sleep. But it didn’t help at all and instead he got worse.

lavender oilShe eventually had an air expert come and test the air quality in her apartment. It was found that her son’s room had HIGHER levels of formaldehyde* (a cancer causing petrochemical, commonly found in paint) than anywhere else in her home.  She was very shocked and puzzled by this as she uses chemical-free paint and organic products in her entire household.  (My friend is very well educated and would spare no expense in giving the best to her family.)

*Note: Formaldehyde is a Volatile Organic Compound, or known as “VOC”.  While VOC can be naturally occurring (it makes up the fragrant part of the plant which allows the fragrance being picked up by the olfactory sense because it is “volatile”.  Synthetic VOC is required for in the production of man-made fragrance.

Then I told her the following which came as a big surprise:

Did you know that for an essential oil to be labelled as “pure”, it does not require to contain 100% of the substance? In fact it requires as little as 5% “pure” substance in it only to be approved by the FDA.

Pretty scary isn’t it?

scarSo although genuine lavender oil (lavandula angustifolia) does have a calming effect on the nervous system, and can even be applied undiluted on wounds and speed up healing (as in the example on the right from my friend) or even ingested to alleviate allergic reactions, DO NOT do that with just any “Lavender Oil” you buy in the store.

<Incidentally, modern re-discovery of aromatherapy, which is an ancient form of medicine, originated in France from a burn accident in the laboratory.>


One can even ingest essential oil?

Well it depends on the type and quality of the essential oils you are using, and it depends on what model of aromatherapy you are following.

I am not advocating anyone to ingest essential oils but I do know many who have enough trust of the therapeutic essential oils they use and they would do this.

I am sharing below as information to show the potentials of the use of authentic essential oils.

Dr. Mohammed Suhail (MD) an immunologist in Oman has been using “Scared Frankincense” (Boswellia Sacra, native to Oman) on cancer patients. 


(He has over 200+ success cases to date.)

His cancer patients are taking UP TO 300+ drops of Sacred Frankincense oil internally A DAY.

A BBC report in 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8505251.stm

Since then more research has been done by different researchers in the world (in the US and UK).  One can look up on the internet to learn more.

Different Approaches of “Aromatherapy” and why the controversy…

lavenderplantI remember when I first learnt about aromatherapy, I wondered, if the essential oil used in “aroma-therapy” is really pure and “therapeutic”, why can’t one ingest it? (I mean in the right dose.) But why did most of my teachers and aromatherapy authors say it’s so dangerous?

Then much later when I learnt only 5% or less of the essential oil produced in the world are truly “pure”, I understood why no one would recommend taking essential oils internally.  And even aromatherapists cannot guarantee the quality of the oils they use as most of them do not cultivate and distill their own oils or have a direct relationship with the people who do.  So the caution is understandable!

I also realized that most of the teachers I have learnt from at the time follow the English model of aromatherapy, which is quite different from the French model of aromatherapy (which uses essential oils more therapeutically, generally with higher concentration and ingestion), and followers of these two models don’t always see eye-to-eye.

That’s why most “aromatherapists” trained in the English model (the prevalent model in the English speaking world), as well as other natural health practitioners (such as naturopaths) do not seem to endorse the use of essential oils as natural medicine in the way French aromatherapists and physicians do, and why “aromatherapy” to most people is not taken as serious natural medicine.

I had to do my own research and to also test out essential oils on myself to find my own answers.

 Proceed to Part II to learn why therapeutic use of essential oils is similar to herbal medicine but more standardized >>>>>