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Essential oils are incredibly popular, but there are a lot of wild claims out there, both about the powers of essential oils and the quality of different products. There is so much inaccurate information out there that Daisy refuses to sell them.
So how do we evaluate a given company’s oils? How can we avoid the expensive snake oil sellers in favor of the good stuff? Are these oils safe for the furry family members? And how can we make our own? This article will answer all of these questions, but remember: we here at The Organic Prepper don’t give medical advice! If you have specific questions or a condition you think could be treated in this way, ask your doctor. If your condition is immediately life-threatening, you shouldn’t be reading blogs on the computer. Call 911 or go to the ER!
The history of essential oils
Essential oils have been used for centuries for various purposes. Basically, these oils are concentrated plant extracts. According to Lebermuth, the first use of essential oils is believed to be in prehistoric cave paintings. Egyptians used them for both adornment and in various forms for both medical treatment and spiritual ceremonies. Cleopatra’s beauty is attributed to spa treatments that used oils and Dead Sea salt.
These oils are used in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian healthcare system, and are mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
What about the use of essential oils on or around pets?
First of all, whether or not an essential oil is safe for the fur kids depends upon the oil and the species. The Cabbage Town Pet Clinic gives lists of specific oils that are outright toxic to dogs and cats. They also give a list of symptoms to look for. If your fur kid develops any of these symptoms, head directly to the vet and take a bottle of the oil with you, if you know what they’ve been exposed to.
Essential oils can also be toxic to horses, cows, and goats. Research is your friend! Before deciding that aromatherapy is the answer, ask your vet or at least a good search engine. The ASPCA also has a searchable list here
With the big money involved, how do you know what products to use?
Essential oils have a huge market share in this country, estimated at $4.6 billion dollars in 2022. Healthline gives a great summary of what these oils are, how to choose them, and a few caveats regarding safety and side effects here.
When it comes to evaluating the product, it pays to look at how any given site performed the evaluation.
For example, Consumers Advocate does some incredibly in-depth reviews. Their reviews include actual lab testing using GC-MS, gas chromatography/mass spectometry to test for adulteration, a common practice in the essential oils industry.
They also looked at the methods used by specific companies to educate consumers and how easy it was to find the safety information, as well as how a product is sourced. Sustainable sourcing is held to indicate more ethical business practices. There are many companies blogging about protecting the consumer. I would suggest that a greater depth of investigation lends itself to a higher credibility of opinion.
How about a given company’s marketing practices? Are they suggesting that by using their product, your life will be trouble-free? For example, adventuring outdoors freely using their sunscreen without mentioning, even in the fine print, that sunscreen needs to be reapplied often, especially after swimming. Since most essential oils are not to be ingested, is the company suggesting that you do so? Is the company attempting to upsell you on additional services, such as time with a consultant or an MLM? Is the founder listed on QuackWatch, or has that person been the subject of several investigations? All of these things would make me cautious towards their products.
Can you make your own essential oils?
When it comes to making your own, there are many options. Making your own is almost always cheaper, plus there are no worries about adulterations or sourcing.
Nourished Essentials discusses how the oils are made commercially, what plants can be made into essential oils, and how to do it, including an equipment list. Spoiler: all you need is a crock pot with a lid, distilled water, and plant material. Countryside Journal gives a stove top method. Chemistry Cachet gives a recipe for a cheap and easy-to-make bug spray using witch hazel, lemon, and citronella. Doesn’t that beat the tar out of Deet?
And why not grow your own plants while you’re at it? I have lavender growing in my yard. How about chamomile, lemon balm, mint, and sage? Bob Vila gives a great plant list for an aromatherapy garden here, and I’m sure there are a great many more! Be sure to check your list for animal toxicity though, as noted above. Eucalyptus oil, for example, is toxic to both dogs and cats.
How about using essential oils IN the garden? The Free Range Life gives several applications, along with recipes, here. Again I remind you: tea tree oil is toxic to both dogs and cats! It’s bad enough to lose your own fur baby. Picking up dead strays for disposable isn’t my idea of fun either!
You’ve got some reading to do!
So that’s the general scoop on essential oils! We hope you found these resources interesting.
Do you use essential oils? If so, how? What is your favorite use? And do you make your own? Please share your experiences in the comments section.
About Amy Allen
Amy Allen is a professional bookworm and student of Life, the Universe, and Everything. She’s also a Master Gardener with a BS in biology, and has been growing food on her small urban lot since 2010.