Thursday, January 12, 2017

The things we used to "know"

I was reminded today in a Facebook discussion how much the "conventional wisdom" in Aromatherapy has changed over the years that I have been studying this healing art/science.


Twenty years ago every aromatherapy book said that Lavender and Tea Tree oils could be applied
neat (undiluted.)   Even the authors who carefully taught proper, skinsafe dilutions for most oils made exceptions for Lavender and Teatree, at least occasionally.   Some writers still follow these recommendations.

Over the years many of us heard from friends and colleagues who had become sensitized to either Lavender or Tea Tree from unwise neat use.  It was Sylla Shepherd-Hanger, former Safety Chair at NAHA who first identified my Lavender sensitization.  I later heard from many, most of them in our beloved industry, also sensitized to this most commonly used essential oil.  I also heard from people who were now sensitized to Tea Tree Essential Oil, from usage as innocent as a drop of Tea Tree on a cotton swab applied to a blemish.  How many books and bloggers recommend that? 

In the past few months, Robert Tisserand, our safety guru, said, despite the research studies that may indicate that Lavender can still be used safely undiluted, that he can no longer recommend undiluted usage of any essential oil.


Eucalyptus globulous, Eucalyptus smithii, Eucalyptus radiata  and children:   Years ago almost everyone recommended the use of the high cineole Eucalyptus oils for use with adults and children with respiratory issues.   In fairness, some of the authors in the 90's and the early years of this century did recommend avoiding Eucalyptus globulous, suggesting that either Euc. smithii or Euc. radiata might be gentler and more appropriate for small children.

Then,  in the early years of this decade the pendulum swung to the opposite extreme. Absolutely NO high cineole Eucalypts could be used around children under six, or perhaps it was under 12.

Today, we are perhaps approaching more more balanced usage for young children in need of the decongesting effects of the 1.8 cineole rich Eucalyptus oils. 

Robert Tisserand  04 Sept 2015

So, again, the pendulum swings closer to center, to balance.  Do not use high 1.8 cineole oils like the Eucalyptus species near a child's face, but with proper dilution topical use (think "chest rub") and/or moderate amounts of diffusion are fine.


We have heard reports of people being injured from using essential oils improperly solublized in their bath.  So, once again, something we thought we knew has changed.

For years we were told to just add essential oils (6 to 8 drops) to a bath. There were warnings against the strong irritants, and peppermint, but for the benign oils, no problem. And again, problems started to surface.  Then were told to add the essential oils to Epsom Salts or other Bath Salts.   It sound like a wonderful idea, who doesn't enjoy some soothing bath salts. We even offer a "do it yourself" bath salt kit.

And all at the same time, it appears, several of us thought it through.  The salts do seem to absorb the essential oils..  And when added to the tub they seem to dissolve them. But if you think it through, there is nothing in most bath salts that will truly dissolve an essential oil in water, so as the salts dissolve in the water, the essential oils float to the surface, coming into contact with your skin, because we all do know that essential oils do not dissolve in water.

And then there are "Bath Oils"...essential oils dissolved in a liquid carrier oil, to be added to the bath. Beautifully fragrant!  But the fixed oil, with its dissolved carrier oil, will not dissolve in your lovely bath, but float on the surface. Because the oils are diluted in a carrier,  they are somewhat diluted, so your skin is not contacting undiluted essential oils, but they will not disperse through the water, and they will leave you a slippery tub.

At the AIA conference in Tampa, my teachers from the R. J. Buckle school performed a small experiment in the hotel room, dissolving essential oils in salt,  honey  cream,  polysorbate, and I think, liquid castile.   The Salt did not solublize the essential oils.  Honey does a respectable but not thorough job. Full fat milk, or better yet, cream dissolves the oils in a bath beautifully.  Adding the oils to a spoonful of Liquid Castile works beautifully.  Polysorbate 20 not only works beautifully but can sometimes foam a bit, not creating a bubble bath effect, but a bit of foam never hurt. 

So, now, I have a "stock bottle" with some of my favorite relaxing essential oils dissolved in Polysorbate by the tub.  By preparing in advance they are ready to use when I want them. For me, that has been the safest and most convenient diluent, although I have to admit that I love the feel of either cream or honey added to my bath, if I plan ahead.

Just waiting to see what the *next* thing that we know is true will change.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Fragonia Shortage

The Fragonia plantation, after the fires.

I have written before about the disastrous fires near Perth, in Western Australia that burned John and Petra Day's farm. They were lucky to save the buildings and equipment (and their lives!) but the Fragonia™ plantings were gone.  These fires happened in December, 2015.  There was no harvest early in 2016, the trees were gone.

At the time, Lisa, John's daughter wrote the following, "You may have seen in the news that large fires spread through an area south of Perth recently. Unfortunately the fires passed through our property. Whilst firefighters were able to save our house, cottage and distillation shed as well as large pieces of equipment, there has been a significant amount of plantation damage. We are anticipating a substantial regeneration, and we are working hard at the moment trying to get the irrigation back up and running. We have adequate stocks of the Fragonia™ Oil and Tea Tree Oil to last us until this regrowth comes through, but we may not be able to harvest a fresh batch this year - though of course we are hopeful, and I'm pleased to report that already we are observing regrowth in some of the Tea Trees, the Rosalina and the Honey Myrtle!

They offered the stored backstock from the most recent harvest, and we gratefully accepted.  This past Autumn we added more stock, trying to anticipate our (and your) needs.    The Days had hoped for at least a small, test harvest this year, but it was not to be.

 Just before Christmas they sent the following, "Hi Marge, Hope you are well.

We are just looking at our figures and what is remaining of current stocks of Fragonia™ given the fires earlier in the year. Things are starting to get tight. Regeneration is still coming through but not as quickly as we’d hoped, and as a result we have started collecting seeds and will be doing some additional plantings soon. Whilst this is not an immediate solution, it does guarantee that we will have enough for a small harvest in 2 – 3 years (in addition to the small harvests we will be doing each year from regenerated areas of the plantation), and that we’ll be producing significant quantities again soon after that.

We are very aware of the impact this is going to have on our customers and are doing everything we can to minimize this, but the reality is that there is going to be a shortfall. We will be sending out a bulk email to our practitioners early in 2017 advising that we will not be selling the Fragonia in bulk quantities until our plantation is producing sufficiently again. However we will be putting some bulk amounts aside for some of our key customers including yourself to cover the next 2 year period, and I have put aside 5kg for you at this stage. This is the minimum we will be able to give you, as I am still contacting other customers who may decide to discontinue using Fragonia which could free up some more. We are also hopeful that we’ll be producing more from regenerated areas than the conservative estimate we have applied to work out what’s going to be available.

Sorry we don’t have better news. It’s quite distressing for us as I’m sure you can imagine but we are trying to manage this as best we can until we are back to full production. Hopefully the 15kg you took recently is not selling too quickly (can’t believe I’m saying that!) and this plus the additional 5kg will get you through.

Wishing you all the best over the Christmas break and we look forward to continue working with you in 2017.

Kind Regards
John, Peta and Lisa 

Discovering, developing and growing Fragonia™ has been John's life work, I can't imagine dealing with such a blow.  I also can't imagine turning away customers, and not letting people buy any of our oils. But a British reseller visited the website this morning and ordered 5 (five) 32 fl oz canisters. We declined the order, refunded the charge, and explained that we would gladly supply her with ONE 32 fl oz canister. 

 I asked John, "I appreciate the heads up...    AND your holding another 5 k for us... So we are looking at perhaps another three years before you are back in 'full production".. ? and that's assuming that all goes well. We definitely want to reserve the five kilos...    I can not see us deciding to discontinue offering this...  it's too valuable for respiratory issues (my chief use of it) as well as other things...
If the story of Fragonia is not an indicator of the FRAGILITY of our industry, and our relationship with the earth and its bounty.. I don't know what is!"
 The second photo, above, is what gives John, Petra, and Lisa hope for the future.  Regrowth.  Perhaps they ought to have renamed Fragonia™  "the Phoenix Tree"  as it arises from the ashes.

Please, during the next two or three years, buy what you need for your use, but don't stockpile or hoard.  We want there to be enough of this precious oil to last until the new and abundant production is available.