Author Archives: Keith Cleversley

About Keith Cleversley

A record producer turned herbalist and author, I'm passionate about plants that have rich spiritual traditions or psychoactive effects on our bodies and minds.

Chamomile for Pain and Anxiety

Essential Oils for HeadachesI’m not one to throw supposed benefits around brazenly when it comes to herbal products, and especially, perhaps, with essential oils. I am the eternal skeptic, but one who is willing to do what it takes to examine both sides of an issue with the vigor required to get a balanced answer that I am satisfied with. Rarer has this been true than with the story of Chamomile. It is one of the best-known herbs, and after finding out how intoxicating the scent of fresh Chamomile was when growing it in my own garden, I had to dig my heels in and do some research.

In my research of Scientific Proof of Essential Oil Effectiveness, I was determined to find papers on every single individual oil we offered here at EOX. One of the initial finds was a paper from 2010 called “Evaluation of the sesquiterpene bisabolol as a novel peripheral nervous blocker”. Yes, it seems really scientific, but sometimes within the flashy academic titles are some easy-to-read results. Since my search term included “Chamomile”, I decided to read on:

What this study discovered, was that a component that exists in more than one essential oil, known as a “terpenes” (especially monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes) have measurable effects on the Central Nervous System. Two of these measurable effects are anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) and pain blocking (antinociceptive). Since many of the Top Essential Oils we offer are in the category of anti-anxiety / stress reduction / relaxing / calming, and support for pain, this was especially intriguing to me.

Without getting too technical; Bisabolol is an unsaturated monocyclic sequiterpene alcohol, which is the major constituent in German Chamomile. (That is exactly why we offer only German Chamomile, with confirmed high concentrations of bisabolol in every freshly-distilled batch.) The study found that the pain-relieving properties of bisabolol to be so effective, that the researchers concluded that any essential oils rich in bisabolol could potentially be good candidates for assistance with pain reduction.

In their own words, they concluded this:

Therefore, we conclude that bisabolol, a natural sesquiterpene found in some aromatic plant species, reduced the neuronal excitability in a concentration dependent manner. “

What this means is that they found German Chamomile to be an effective natural means of both reducing pain and anxiety. Not a bad one-two punch for an esteemed and ancient herb.

The good news for Chamomile enthusiasts is that the constituents responsible for the main effects in Chamomile are soluble in hot water. They are also present in high quality essential oils, as the ones offered by us here at EOX. I was unable to find any human studies on the anti-inflammatory and pain relieving actions of Chamomile, but there was a plethora of data with tests conducted on rats. Within those studies, comparisons were made between Chamomile extracts and both benzydamine (a popular anti-inflammatory) and hydrocortisol.

Although the Chamomile didn’t have properties equal to hydrocortisone, it did compare, side by side, with benzydamine. This is extraordinary. But, before you decide to throw away all your over the counter medications for an infusion of Chamomile, note that to achieve the same level of effects, the Chamomile was more concentrated than a cup of tea, topical application, or inhalation of Chamomile Essential Oil. It’s exciting to know, though, that this natural herbal product that’s been used for thousands of years to help decrease both pain and anxiety, has been proven to possess those exact characteristics.

And, the amount required isn’t that much higher than what one might enjoy before bedtime if they’re trying to get to sleep with reduced pain. For reference, 50g of dried Chamomile flowers were boiled in 1 liter of water. In mice, the result was Chamomile-induced sleep! We have plenty of anecdotal evidence from humans, but it is easy to see the potential that Chamomile can have for us humans. I’ve combined some Chamomile in my diffuser, brewed a strong cup of Chamomile tea, and I can honestly report that I felt a noticeable decrease in pain, and not only was able to fall asleep more easily, but I enjoyed a more restful sleep as well.

As anyone who reads my articles knows, I come from the perspective of a scientist and a sceptic. So, I never take anything at face value, and never trust a single result. So, my Chamomile experiments lasted over the course of 2 weeks. I wanted to record various conditions; hard workdays, leisurely weekends, both stressful and non-stressful days, and so on.

Out of those 14 days, I was able to conclusively say that I was able to fall asleep easier. Fourteen out of those fourteen days, I could also conclusively say that the pain I usually feel in my calves and joints of my fingers were noticeably reduced. This may have added to my feelings of calmness and my anxiety reduction, and it may have helped me to fall asleep more easily, but the results are the results and I couldn’t be more pleased.

And, as always, this is just a single case and a single person’s results. I would be extremely interested to hear anyone share their experiences with Chamomile below. Positive or negative, I’m all ears. I know that all herbs don’t work for all people, but Chamomile (German) is one of those herbs that have withstood the test of of time, and continues to be one of the top selling single ingredient teas of all time.


Alves, Aron de Miranda H., Goncalves, Juan Carlos R., Cruz, Jader Santos, Araujo, Demetrius Antonio, M., 2010. Evaluation of the sesquiterpene (−)-α-bisabolol as a novel peripheral nervous blocker. Neuroscience Letters 472(2010):11-15.

McKay, Diane L.; Blumberg, Jeffrey B. 2006. A Review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita L.) and their glucosides. Phytotherapy Research 20(7).

Effects of Inhaled Essential Oils

testing essential oilsWhat wonderfully complex liquids essential oils are! They’ve been used since ancient times in multiple systems of medicine as well as for the sheer pleasure of them. Most commonly acquired through steam distillation, authentic essential oils are seeing a Renaissance of sorts, as people look towards natural means of helping support a widening variety of ailments. According to Perry and Perry in a 2006 paper, even the Bible makes implied references to nearly 200 aromatics that were used for “mental, spiritual and physical healing.”

So we are we today, in terms of the science behind the effects of inhaled essential oils, often referred to as the “psychopharmacology” of essential oils? Not surprisingly, due to the highly subjective nature of testing the efficacy of essential oils, as well as the simple fact that there’s not a ton of money to be made from testing results with essential oils, trials are scarer than one might imagine. Also, with such a large variability in the quality and composition of essential oils, this can cause difficulties when trying to discern their effects quantitatively in terms of scientific measurements.

But some facts are emerging. One key fact is that it is now generally agreed upon by numerous studies is that essential oils, when “administrated orally, by means of subcutaneous injections, dermally, or by inhalation do reach and adequately cross the blood-brain barrier.” Wow.

As an example, let’s take a look at citrus-based aromas. A wide range of citrus-based essential oils, including orange and lemon, are thought to have powerful anti-depressant properties. In 1995, a study by Kimori showed conclusively that the inhalation of citrus-based essential oils on depressed patients (in need of antidepressants), “reduced the needed antidepressant doses; but moreover, inhalation of the oil by itself was anti-depressive.”

Equally as exciting is a study by Shaw in 2007. Here, he found that Lavender Oil, when inhaled, demonstrated measurable decreases in anxiety levels. Bradley in 2007 also confirmed these findings in a separate study that showed an increase in exploratory behavior by gerbils when exposed to Lavender Oil. The Lavender Oil used in both studies was very high quality, and was tested to contain 25% of linalool, and 46% of linalyl acetate. We specifically chose the Lavender Oil we offer here on EOX because of it’s similar composition of the two above substances.

And these are just a couple of the numerous scientific studies that can be found in relation to Lavender Oil (and many others). In my “Scientific Proof of Essential Oil Effectiveness”, I discuss more studies that show the effectiveness of various essential oils. What all these studies are telling us is what traditional practitioners have known since ancient times: Essential Oils, as aromatherapy, have measurable effects on the human body and mind. Even though there are just a handful of studies on a few extraordinarily popular essential oils, this does point to a reliable trend; that essential oils in general, in their complexity, have a very complex way of interacting with the human body and psyche as well.

What’s equally as exciting, is that more and more studies are starting to be conducted in relation to individual components of essential oils. One example is “linalool”. It’s a funny name, but it occurs in a number of plants, and in high quantities. Bergamot, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lemon Grass, Peppermint, Rose, and Rosemary are all examples of plants and essential oils that contain linalool.

And, as you know from reading this article, linalool has been conclusively shown to reduce stress and anxiety in both humans and rats. Not surprisingly, in traditional and folk medicine, the linalool-producing species of plants are often used as sedatives, calming, and anti-anxiety remedies in aromatherapy. I know that anyone who has experienced the amazing and tangible effects of various essential oils don’t need to be told these facts, but it is nice to be validated every once in a while.

And, scientific study after scientific study confirms what us practitioners already knew!

Now that we have solid evidence as to the effects of inhaled essential oils, do we yet understand the mechanism behind those effects? This is where things get a little more complicated. It does seem that different essential oils definitely have measurable effects that differ greatly from one another. It also seems that the quality of the essential oil has an immense amount to do with the intensity and overall effectiveness of these effects. When we factor in the subjective responses of test subjects, as well as a copious amount of information in the literature, a few things become very apparent:

  • Do you research, and buy only high quality oils. I’m proud to say that EOX has only therapeutic-grade oils, and that every oil we offer comes with a Certificate of Analysis and Authenticity
  • Trust your senses when working with essential oils. As long as the information you’ve gathered is agreed upon by the herbalist community, or has solid scientific evidence to support it, don’t be afraid to experiment, to blend, to try out essential oils in a variety of situations and circumstances. That’s part of the joy of essential oils!

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I know there are countless resources available out there, and I do my best to provide unique information that is practical. Mountains of information is one thing, but learning quickly how to apply that information in our daily lives is the goal of every one of my posts here at EOX.



Bradley, 2007.

Perry and Perry, 2006.

Shaw, 2007.

Scientific Proof of Essential Oil Effectiveness

testing essential oilsIntroduction

The title may seem like a bold statement, but there is now what I could safely call a “mountain” of evidence in relation to the uncanny ability of essential oils to have very tangible effects on our brain. That means essential oils are quite “psychoactive,” and actually have the power to affect our mood, to lift our spirits, to help us to relax, sleep, or study, just to name a few. My interest in oils began over two decades ago when I was introduced to Essential Oils during my formal and self-directed training as a Buddhist practitioner.

My passion has only grown since then. I was initially looking for ways of enhancing my mind’s ability to enter meditative states. I was also learning massage therapy techniques and wanted to create my own massage oils blends. This led to deep research on essential oils and then a newfound love of herbs in general. Let’s dig in to the alleged scientific evidence:

The Scientific Proof

Many years ago, I got my hands on a non-medical version of an “EEG”. This is short for electroencephalogram, which is a device that connects to our body to measure our brain waves. Our brain emits electrical waves that can be measured and quantified with great accuracy. The patterns of waves have been broken into four main states:

  • Delta Waves / 1Hz – 3Hz / Deep Sleep
  • Theta Waves / 4Hz – 7Hz / Creating/Thinking
  • Alpha Waves / 8Hz – 13Hz / Relaxing
  • Beta Waves / 14Hz – 30Hz / Alertness

Numerous studies have now been conducted with the goal of measuring the stimulant and sedative effects of essential oils on our brain state. Without even having to see images of the parts of our brain that get stimulated by aromas, we can get an immense amount of valuable information from simply measuring the change in our brain waves as we’re exposed to various essential oils.

What researcher have found is nothing short of astounding. Our states of consciousness, such as sleep, alertness, fatigue, stress, anxiety, creativity, and so on; these can be accurately determined by simply reading the EEG.

If this sounds too simple to be true, read on!

Before the addition of essential oils or other aromas, there are a number of states that are standard, test after test, when it comes to our brains:

  • Alpha states give way to a more alert beta state the moment we open our eyes.
  • Alpha states gives way to beta states when we require cognitive functioning (like problem solving).
  • Beta waves are related to arousal, stimulation, alertness.
  • Theta waves occur during creativity and problem solving, but are mostly associated with sedation and light sleep.
  • Delta waves only occur during deep sleep.
  • Spontaneous EEG patterns correspond predictably with Central Nervous System changes.
  • That means EEG can accurately measure different states – deep sleep, meditation, alertness and so on.

Let me explain just a bit more to give us some solid context at how powerful EEG can be to measure states of mind: In a situation that requires intense thinking (such as figuring out our taxes), that state of arousal will have a corresponding change in EEG (Oken 2006). Increases in in theta and a decrease in beta waves can be easily measured. Conversely, if someone is getting tired from doing all their taxes, their brainwaves will begin to slow, and all of the beta waves will give way to alpha, then theta, and then to delta.

It works every time!

Now, I have to admit that I am oversimplifying things here. There can be a number of reasons why changes in EEG may occur when test subjects are given various smells. If they’re really focused on analyzing the scent, if the scent triggered a memory, or if the test subject found the scent unpleasant; these all have direct effects on EEG’s as well. Since the point of this article isn’t to validate EEG as an effective means to measure tangible effects of essential oils, suffice it to say that researchers have overcome these potential caveats.

There is some discrepancy on the “placebo effect”, where in several studies, those who expected a stimulating or relaxing effect from their essential oil actually experienced that effect. Do we discount an effect only because we think it into effectiveness?

What this means is this: Say we have an essential oil blend made for relaxation, such as Lavender, Vanilla, and Sandalwood (one of the authors favorite combinations, with a touch of musk). If we simply think it’s a relaxing blend and inhale the aroma — in more than a few studies, the EEG’s will show increased activity in the relaxation centers — physically relaxing the subject!

Some Specific Examples

In a study by Diego in 1998 and Field in 2005, it was conclusively shown that Lavender “increased beta wave power, elevated feelings of relaxation, reduced feelings of depression, and improved both speed and accuracy in cognitive tasks.” When they presented their test subjects with Rosemary Essential Oil, it “decreased frontal alpha and beta power, decreased feelings of anxiety, increased feelings of relaxation and alertness, and increased speed in math computations.”

Wow. Those are quite bold statements for a scent!

What that also translated into, is that the group exposed to the lavender scent had a measurable increase in sedation, while the rosemary group had an increased level of alertness. Both, though, decreased levels of anxiety, and both helped increase the ability to solve problems that involved critical thinking.

Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that either of these oils directly helps to increase performance; there are more than a few studies that point to the contrary. In the researchers own words, this is how they describe their findings:

…pleasant odors enhance task performance by decreasing subjective feelings of stress, that is, by reducing over-arousal, while unpleasant fragrances increase activation from suboptimal to optimal levels, thus having the same beneficial effects on cognitive performance.

In another interesting study in 2005 by Sakamoto, lavender essential oil and jasmine essential oil were used (as well as no scent as a control) continuously over the course of the test. Over five sessions, all in a row with brief resting periods between, test subjects had to take a series of tests that required them tracking a moving target. As the sessions went on, fatigue increased, and arousal decreased for the control group. In the Lavender group; “tracking speed increased and tracking error decreased.”

They concluded that the lavender aroma may have been responsible for decreasing the arousal level during the resting periods, therefore not specifically increasing performance directly, but helping the person to perform better by keeping them more relaxed as they were performing their tasks. Translated into plain English, this means that if Lavender aroma is presented to people during breaks or lunchtime, that it has been shown that the Lavender can prevent the deterioration of work performance.

Think about this in terms of personal use: If you’re studying for a test, one thing you can do it take regular breaks from your studying, stopping to inhale Lavender Oil set in a vaporizer within your break room, or simply by inhaling directly from a bottle of essential oil. You may find that you are better equipped to study and recall your studies than you were without the breaks and the Lavender Oil.  And this is just one imagining of an infinite number of uses I can think of for Lavender Essential oil; I would love to hear what uses you’ve found in your comments below!

Learning and Memory

Basic cognitive functions and the effects that essential oils may have on them have been studied extensively in recent years. What has occurred less, is tests for an increase (or decrease) in an overall ability to learn or increased memory. This is something that interests me greatly as I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s a few years ago, and all of my herbal blends, although helpful (such as my Cognihance Capsules), could not stop the march into oblivion that I watched her take day by day.

What about essential oils?

Let’s take a brief look at memory to explain: Memory occurs in three stages. First, we’ve got short term memory. This is sort of our RAM, like the RAM on the computer. It handles tasks in the moment, but can’t do anything with that information other than manipulate it in the present moment, and when we send tasks to the background. The next stage is called “working memory” which transitorily saves memories in waiting room of sorts. It’s here where our brains decide what will happen with those memories; will we forget them, or commit them to long-term memory. Long term memory, by the way, is stage three.

Now that we’re memory experts, let’s take a look at essential oils in relation to memory.

Curiously enough, in several studies conducted on school children, they found an increase in memory functions only in children who exhibited high anxiety levels. In other studies, the results were varied, but relatively consistent. Let me summarize some of the more interesting results for you here:

  • Lavender – reduced the quality of memory, but significantly relaxed subjects
  • Rosemary – increases memory accuracy, reduces calculation speed, increases alertness
  • Peppermint – enhanced memory quality, and increased alertness
  • Ylang Ylang – impairs memory quality, reduces processing speed, but increases calmness
  • Spanish Sage – increases memory speed & quality, alertness, feelings of contentment and calm

I know these are just a few examples, and I’m sure what you would like more than anything right here, is a handy guide of every scientific study and the results from those tests in relation to each individual essential oil in existence. Unfortunately, I don’t have that just yet, but the descriptions on the store side of EOX are definitely getting those one by one.

Essential Oil Encoding

This is the part I find most fascinating when it comes to essential oils and scents in general. It’s the idea of encoding. And what is astonishing to me, is that we can encode scents into our memories, that can trigger different emotions and states of consciousness, depending on what was going on at the time of that memory encoding.

For example, infants who were being soothed were also exposed to a scent at the same time (Lavender oil) that was thought to be calming. When that same scent was introduced at a later time, but without the accompanying soothing from the parent, levels of anxiety were reduced, and overall calmness increased!

Wow, again.

Even more interesting, is that scents that have been encoded into our systems can have effects on us even when we’re not conscious. In a study by Diekelmann in 2012, found that memory consolidation is accelerated during sleep when presented with specific scents. In a similar study by Hauner in 2013, scents presented during sleep acted as triggers when awake.

Think of the possibilities these findings have for our ability to learn, as well as our overall state of well being. My imagination tends to run away with me with these kinds of revelations, and here are a few scenarios I have since informally tested with both myself and friends, using my personal EEG-type device (i.e. non-medical version):

  • I took a 5ml bottle of my Stressless Blend without doing any relaxation techniques (such as breathing exercises), and measured my typical baseline when in a calm state over the course of a week. (I find that I am often in a 9Hz Alpha state, even with my eyes open, with some additional Theta activity.) This was a good baseline to start from.
  • Then, for a month, while performing breathing exercises, I subjected myself to my Stressless Blend again. The idea was to see if I could encode the association of my Stressless Blend with exercises that actually physically calmed me, to see if I could take away the breathing exercises, but still get the calming effects from the aroma.

I waited only a day, tested myself for a week, waited two months, and then re-tested myself. What I did was to present the aroma to myself when my anxiety levels were higher than usual. This is when I might close my eyes, find a quiet corner, and do some breathing exercises. (Yes, this required me to have my Stressless Blend with me wherever I went, but I carry it with me everywhere anyway!) I cracked open my 5 ml bottle, and simply breathed in the aroma. I did this for 5 minutes each time and would record the results. If I were at my lab, I would connect myself to my electrodes, then present myself with the Stressless Blend for 5 minutes and record the subjective results as well as the EEG results.

I was more than a little surprised at how signifiant the results were!

What I found was a far more significant result in both subjective and measured calmness levels after encoding myself with the Stressless Blend. Whoa. I was able to commit that scent to memory while doing breathing exercises, and not unlike Pavlov’s Dog, I was able to trigger those same physical characteristics of calmness as well as my subjective opinion of my calm state.

That result set my mind reeling, and from what I’ve read, there is really no limit to what we can actually encode ourselves with. So, not only do I create essential oil blends for EOX that have a solid scientific basis, our staff tests every single one of those blends both subjectively and by physically measuring our brain wave patterns and the effects that our essential oils have on them.  This means every one of our blends were built, from the ground up, to have very tangible effects on the human body.

I’m extremely curious to know if anyone else has tried “encoding”, or what other have done in relation to personal experiments with essential oils and tangible effects on different cognitive functions and states of consciousness. “Psychoactive” is sometimes treated like a dirty word, but all of the scientific evidence presented above makes it vividly clear that scents can have very tangible, psychoactive effects on our bodies that can be easily measured, verified, and reproduced outside of the lab. Feel free to share yours below in the comments section.

Find our entire selection of Individual Essential Oils and our growing collection of EOX Blends in the store section of this website.



Diego, M.A., Jones, N.A., Field, T. et al. 1998. Aromatherapy positively affects mood, EEG patterns of alertness and math computations. International Journal of Neuroscience 96(3-4):217-224.

Field, T., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M. et al. 2005. Lavender fragrance cleaning gel effects on relaxation. International Journal of Neuroscience 115(2):207-222.

Oken, B.S., Salinsky, M.C., and Elsas, S.M. 2006. Vigilence, alertness, and sustained attention: Physiological basis and measurement. Clinical Neurophysiology 117(9):1885-1901

Sakamoto, R., Minoura, K., Usuui, A., Ishizuka, Y., and Kanba, S. 2005. Effectiveness of aroma on work efficiency: Lavender aroma during recesses prevents deterioration of work performance. Chemical Senses 30(8):683-691.

Verifying Genuine Essential Oils at Home

testing essential oilsAll it takes is some simple math regarding the essential oil industry to realize that a large portion of essential oils in the marketplace are not genuine essential oils (reports of 25% – 40% of essential oils may be adulterated, diluted, or outright fake). Something you get when you buy from EOX is not only great customer service and a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, but a Certificate of Analysis with every essential oil we offer through EOX. Just go to any individual essential oil or essential oil blend, and you’ll find the certificate as a clickable link to a PDF file.

Having said that, I want to empower you, the consumer, the enthusiast, the manufacturer, the practitioner or aromatherapist to make informed choices regarding your essential oil purchases. The better informed you are, the better you can appreciate the quality of the essential oils found on EOX. It’s a “win win” for everyone!

It’s amazing to see how quickly a single news article spreads these days, and for the past 2 years, I’ve seen countless articles with this exact message; “The only valid test available for essential oils is GC/MS, which is Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectroscopy.”

I sincerely couldn’t disagree more. There is an extremely valid test for genuine essential oils and that is our 5 senses. In the Western world, we’ve been taught to dismiss and ignore much of our sensory and intuitive input. But we are an integral part of nature, and nature is an integral part of us. Part of reclaiming that connection is by trusting what our senses and intuition is telling us.

Now, before I go into the methods of testing our essential oils at home, let’s first discuss the common methods by which essential oils are adulterated or faked.

Typical Adulterations

There are several typical methods of producing an adulterated essential oil. Some fragrance oils are quite remarkably similar to natural plant essences, but a good nose and intuition can sense the false fragrance surprisingly well. In fact, on March 20, 2014, researchers discovered that the human nose has roughly 400 types of scent receptors that can detect at least 1 trillion different odors (1). That is vastly beyond the previous estimate of just 10,000 scents. That is a powerful sense we have at our disposal naturally!

So, typical adulterations are:

  • Fragrance oils – typically blended with a carrier oil, such as grapeseed oil, since grapeseed is the most neutral smelling of all oils. Fragrance oils are inexpensive to produce, and are always synthetic. Most don’t have a single plant essence in them, and will not have any of the effects that a genuine essential oil will have.
  • Diluted essential oils – basically essential oils that have been “cut” with a neutral oil such as grapeseed oil or other carrier oil. Diluted essential oils, depending on the level of dilution, can be difficult to detect as well, although most carrier oils will have some color to them. This color will carry into the diluted oil.
  • Oil infusions – a common “kitchen” method of making an oil.  Take a carrier oil such as grapeseed, add fresh herbs or flowers, boil for 6 hours, and strain.  These often look and smell like an essential oil, but rarely have anywhere near the clarity of a true essential oil.

Now, depending on the quality of the essential oil in question, it can be difficult to test at home, but certainly not impossible. Below is a list of tests you can do without a Gas Chromatography unit whenever you are suspicious of the quality of your essential oil:

  • TRUST YOUR SENSES: The greatest detector of genuine essential oils is our senses and our intuition. We’ve been taught from a very young age to distrust our intuition, to disregard our connection to the plant world, and to feel self-conscious when we speak of feeling such a powerful and varied range of emotional responses from scents. Take a few drops of your essential oil and place into a clean, clear glass. Look at how the oil leaves the dropper:
    • Did it look and feel like an oil? Was it watery at all?
    • Did it remain in the shape of a half-moon or did it immediately disperse in the bottom of the glass? Tilt the glass and see if the oil runs like water, or is resistant to movement like you would expect an oil to be.
    • Does it look and smell as you expected it to?
    • Does it smell natural, organic, and exactly like a plant or flower?
    • Touch the oil and rub it between your fingers.  It should feel thick, viscous, and just as you would expect an oil to feel. For minty oils, you should feel a tangible cooling sensation, and so on.
  • USE WHITE PAPER: A great way to check the purity of an essential oil is to examine it visually. This requires a small, clear vial to place some of the oil in question into, a bright light that can be focused on the oil, and as bright white of paper as you can find. Place some of the oil into the clear vial, and place it in front of the white paper. Shine the bright light onto it and examine.
    • Does the oil look clear?
    • Is there anything suspended in the oil?
    • Does the oil appear to be a single material inside the vial, or do you see waves, much like heat rising off the hot pavement in summertime?
    • Is there any separation whatsoever in the oil or any thin layer floating at the top of the oil?
  • LET IT SIT OUT: Genuine essential oils will not evaporate overnight like a few drops of alcohol or water will.  Those few drops you placed in the bottom of the glass should be there the next morning, most-likely still possessing a scent, albeit a less intense scent for those oils with a Top Note as their main characteristic.
  • FREEZE YOUR OIL: Freezing your essential oil will not harm it, but if it’s been diluted with a carrier oil such as a vegetable oil, it will separate from the essential oil. Also, if there’s water in your essential oil, it will freeze and separate as well. Alcohol doesn’t freeze, but it may separate from the essential oil in the freezer as well.
  • COMPARE PAST OILS: I always keep a reference sample of a previous essential oil purchase for at least 6 months, in a sealed glass container, away from light, and refrigerated. This way, I can reliably compare essential oils from batch to batch. And, contrary to what you might initially think; if your essential oil is exactly the same consistency and scent, from order to order, this may actually be a bad thing! Mother Nature is infinitely variable, and plants will vary from harvest to harvest, location to location. A genuine essential oil will likely smell differently from batch to batch, and can be a great indicator of an oil that is genuine.
  • CHECK THE LOT NUMBER: This is not always possible, but even essential oils should have a lot number for traceability. Keep a journal of lot numbers for your essential oils when you purchase them, and compare when you purchase again. If the same lot number is on your bottle for a purchase a year later, you know that the essential oil you purchased is at least a year old. If the oil seems exactly the same as the oil you had, it may indicate that there are synthetics in the oil, as most essential oils, even when properly stored, will lose some of their initial strength and character.
  • INTENDED EFFECTS: I saved this one for last because once we throw all the data way, once we stop focusing on numbers and oil separation and lot numbers and comparisons, we need to ask ourselves the most key question: Did the essential oil have the effects I was expecting? Adulterated and counterfeit essential oils will never have the intended effect because they do not contain the concentrated plant essences that are responsible for the various effects eo’s have on our mind and body.

Again, the use of essential oils is an art that is in perfect harmony with our senses. They are abundant with natural energy and it’s easy to feel a connection to genuine, natural products such as the high quality, guaranteed authentic oils that we only offer here at EOX. I may sound like a broken record, but learning to trust your senses and your intuition when it comes to essential oils is one of the most powerful means you have at your disposal.

And, perhaps worst of all, is if you are using adulterated or outright fake essential oils, as mentioned above, they will not have the therapeutic effects you’re looking for, and everyone loses. Essential oils are incredibly concentrated bursts of plant energy, with effects that are far beyond placebo effects. Anyone who has experienced the powerful healing, soothing, and numerous other positive effects of essential oils will know what that connection feels like. Trust that connection that only genuine essential oils can provide. Trust the results of proper application and use of essential oils can bring. Trust yourself and your observations regarding that specific oil. Sit with it. Contemplate it. Smell it. Play with the oil by warming it, adding it to a candle wick, placing it in a sachet that you place under your pillow, and so on.

Have fun. Experiment. Connect.

Lastly, it’s clichè to ask for comments from readers, but I would be very interested to hear any other methods people have discovered to help identify and verify the authenticity of their essential oils. After all, EOX is intended to be a co-op, powered by you, and we’re thankful for all of the input we receive daily here at Essential Oil Exchange.



Williams, Sarah CP. “Human Nose Can Detect a Trillion Smells.” N.p., 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 May 2015.

Art & Music of Blending Essential Oils

music-of-essential-oilsOne of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had is as a formulator.  Blending raw ingredients to make genuine herbal products to find that perfect scent or healing blend actually enriches our space or helps ourselves or others; it never gets old and I doubt it ever will.  There truly is an art and a music to the craft of pairing and blending essential oils.  But the basics are not that difficult to pick up and master.

The Music of Essential Oils

A love of scents and herbs is really the first requirement of becoming an effective and creative formulator.  There is an art and a craft to blending essential oils, one that is not too dissimilar to mastering any creative skill.  Even if you think you don’t have a lot of creative bones in your body, passion for scents is just about all you truly need to get started in essential oil blending.  And, the more you practice, the more you study about scents and blends, and the more you exchange ideas with those who have a similar interest, as well as share your blends and ask for feedback; the better you will become at blending.

And, for me, the most important rule I follow when starting a new blend, is to have a vividly clear mental picture of what I want the blend to do. Knowing exactly the purpose of the blend will instantly make you a much better formulator from the start. So, even if you think that you might want to make a formula based on lavender to help you sleep, think about the bigger picture, such as whether you just need something that helps induce sleep, or if you need an essential oil that is known to calm the mind as well.

If you need to help calm your mind, you might want to consider adding calming oils such as rosemary, sweet marjoram or Roman chamomile to your blend. Or, perhaps you have some pain, which is why you have difficulty falling asleep. You may want to include sweet marjoram, citronella, or basil essential oil.

And, from a cursory look, it seems that sweet marjoram might be a great choice for either blend, which, to me, seems like a great place to start. Now, a consideration is that lavender, chamomile, and marjoram are all “Middle Note” oils (explained below). So, you may want to find an oil that is a top note to help balance those middle notes out — you get the idea, yes?

So, having a clear idea of your intent will go a long way towards blends almost formulating themselves! It’s all about fun and health and healing and energizing our spaces, minds, and bodies, so don’t forget to have fun!

Okay, back to the technical stuff: In technical terms, essential oils are typically categorized in terms of musical notes.  Most individual essential oils have a main note.  Oils can have 2, or even all 3, but most aromatherapists agree that EO’s typically have one note that dominates.  Here are the 3 Main Notes:

TOP NOTE: As you gather the INITIAL “Big Picture” of an essential oil, as you approach it and observe it from a distance, gathering your first impressions of an essential oil, all of this is referred to as the “top note” of the essential oil.  Often, the Top Note can be fleeting; it can be what first hits your nose and then dissipates.  If you think of this as the “spirit” of the note, you would have a good analogy to begin from.

MIDDLE NOTE: The middle note can be thought of as the main “body” of the note.  It’s also often referred to as the “heart” of the essential oil. These notes typically last longer than Top Notes.  On a test strip, the Middle Note scent will remain furtive for at least 1-2 hours, sometimes longer.  Middle notes are key when working with aromatherapy blends that will be used in oil warmers or vaporizers.

BASE/LOW NOTE: These are just as you would think; they’re the foundation of an essential oil’s scent, often appearing after the Middle Note dissipates in an hour or two.  If an oil is left out all day, or placed into something such as a scented sleep pillow, this is the essence of the scent that will linger for hours and often, for days. For items like bath and body products such as soaps and body washes, these are the scents that allow the scent to remain when products are made exclusively of essential oils.

And this might be a good time to mention fragrance oils:  Fragrance oils consist of mostly synthetic scents intended to mimic natural scents as best they can.  The downside to fragrance oils is that they are artificial, carrying no genuine scent or essences from the living plant.

The Balance of Essential Oils

Another key tool in your beginning toolbox is understanding the inherent strength and concentration of individual essential oils. The best way to learn this, I feel, is to dig right in with a few droppers and testing trays (which can be anything made of glass that you have around the house).

Take the oils you plan to work with, let’s say that you’re going to make a relaxing evening blend of oils to help melt the stress of your day away, but you don’t want to get too relaxed. One of my favorite blends is lavender, sandalwood, and peppermint.

Lavender is renowned for promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. When used in meditation, it promotes feelings of clarity and may help intensify intuition.  Lavender is also often used because it is known for helping to ease feelings of anger or frustration. Sandalwood is lesser known as a powerful relaxant and stress reducer, partly because it is most-often associated with meditation because it helps support feelings of peace and inner tranquility. Sandalwood, like lavender, is also known to intensify intuition.

So far, we’ve got two powerful relaxers that are also known for their ability to help calm and clarify the mind. But, if we’ve got stuff we still need to accomplish, perhaps a dash of energy would be appropriate, which is why the unlikely choice of peppermint. Peppermint is one of those sneaky scents that are widely used in aromatherapy blends without most people realizing. Peppermint, when used sparingly, will change the overall characteristic of the blend without making it minty.

In aromatherapy, peppermint is known for its aphrodisiac effects! That can be a potent energy booster when carefully added to a blend. But, it’s also used because it promotes a calm mind and sharper mental focus. I’ve also found it to be a perfect accompaniment to both meditation blends and relaxation blends.

But, peppermint can be extremely overbearing in blends, and this is where the balance of essential oils is key to our understanding of making effective blends. If we simply added 10 drops of each oil to our relaxation blend, it would end up smelling like peppermint and little else. What would likely be more effective and balanced for this blend, is 10 drops of lavender, 5 drops of sandalwood, and 1 drop of peppermint.

Sandalwood is quite expensive and quite rare these days, but it’s also a potent scent. Even though we’re using varying amounts of each oil, when we blend the oils together and diffuse the scent into the air or add it to a relaxing massage oil, we find that it is a perfect balance of the 3 scents, almost creating a new single scent with very noticeable effects.

Trust Your Intuition

Remember to have fun and to rely on your senses, rather than endless charts and books and guides on how to blend essential oils. Know what each oil does, and then experiment, explore, and discover the inner formulator you didn’t know was there, inside each one of us.

When you blend your first two oils together, take time to inhale the new aroma. Take a break. Come back to it in a few minutes. Make a test blend of perhaps 30 drops total, placing a few drops in a vaporizer or oil warmer. Place a few drops on a piece of paper. Notice what the scent is like just after blending, and then in 5 minutes, and 30 minutes from your initial blend.

You will be surprised at the things you will notice. And, you may find parings that create a new, almost single scent that you may then use as a base for other blends. Peppermint, for example, dissipates quite quickly. When we smell the drops we placed on paper in 30 minutes, it will have a scent of lavender with some notes of sandalwood, as the peppermint will have dissipated.

Aromatherapy is a powerful means of altering our moods and emotions, and is not new age mumbo jumbo. Aromatherapy also dates back to ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian times. Scents can activate memories, stir up latent or deeply buried emotions, and can have very tangible effects on both our bodies and minds. And, one of my favorite things about essential oils is that they provide us with a direct connection to Mother Nature and our origins.

So, be mindful of these connections while you’re formulating and pairing, and you will be a better formulator. Take the knowledge embedded into our genetic coding, and feel the connection to the plants and your states of mind.

Some Basic Mechanics

01. HOW MUCH OIL?: This is perhaps the most-often asked question I get at EOX and at Florapathics. As a general rule of thumb, formulators use between 25-30 drops of essential oil per 1/2 ounce of carrier oil for their blends.

02. HOW TO BALANCE?: Lighter, thinner oils are typically more aromatic (more volatile) than heavier oils that pour from their containers more slowly. It’s important to craft blends that use both yin and yang; a lighter note with a heavier note to balance the blend. This is not a had and fast rule, but when starting out, your blends will be more complex and more appreciated by your mind and body when they are balanced.

03. HOW TO STORE?: As you might suspect, it’s best to keep essential oils out of sunlight. Amber bottles are best for essential oils, with at least a small amount of air space so the oil can breathe without oxidizing. Even the best storage techniques, away from any light and direct heat source, oils will lose some of their original brilliance and clarity within 6-9 months. I have oils on the shelf from 2 years ago, and they are still quite scented, but they definitely have lost some noticeable character. So, blend in small batches and waste as little oil as possible.

04. LESS IS MORE: Always start out conservative with essential oils. Look for any precautionary statements regarding how much an oil needs to be diluted for safety. Some oils can easily irritate skin when used at full strength, so always conduct a test by applying a drop of the oil you plan to use to the underside of your forearm, or on your upper thigh if you’ve got shorts or a skirt on.

05. USE GLASS EVERYTHING: Metals can react with essential oils, so it’s best to never use any metal anywhere in the process of working with essential oils. This means no steel spoons to stir your blends, no steel containers to hold them, and no steel pans or whisks or blades or anything metal to come in contact with your oil. Glass stir rods are easy to find, as are glass bottles.

~~~~~~~~~~  ~~~  ~~~~~~~~~~


Please know that this table is simply a starting point for you. These category assignments are not hard and fast rules; they are just what’s been generally agreed upon by experts in the field of aromas. Most oils have a single category, but some do ease into a second one. For those, there is a “+” sign.

Top Notes

Middle notes

Base notes

Basil (+ Middle) Bay Balsam Peru
Bergamot (+ Middle) Black Pepper Cassia (+ Middle)
Cajuput Cardamom Cedarwood
Cinnamon Chamomile Cinnamon (+ Middle)
Clary Sage (+ Middle) Cypress Clove
Coriander (+ Middle) Fennel (+ Top) Frankincense
Eucalyptus Geranium Ginger (+ Middle)
Grapefruit Ho Leaf Jasmine
Hyssop (+ Middle) Ho Wood Myrrh
Lemon Hyssop (+ Top) Neroli (+ Top)
Lemongrass (+ Middle) Juniper Oakmoss
Lime Lavender (+ Top) Patchouli
Mandarin /Tangerine Marjoram Rose
Neroli (+ Middle) Melissa (+ Top) Rosewood (+ Middle)
Verbena Myrtle Sandalwood
Niaouli Nutmeg Valerian
Orange Palma Rosa Vanilla
Peppermint Pine Vetiver
Petitgrain Rosemary Ylang Ylang (+ Middle)
Ravensara Spikenard
Sage Yarrow
Tea Tree (+ Middle)
Thyme (+ Middle)

Use this table as a general reference when beginning, but I encourage you to create your own chart.  As Buddha said; “Until you make my teachings your own, you will have learned nothing.” This could be applied to the creation of your own chart of essential oils.  Experiment. Trust what your senses are telling you. And most of all; have fun!

Lastly, all opinions expressed on this blog and website are my own, formed through decades of personal and commercial experience with herbs. This article is for informational purposes only and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. Always consult your primary care physician or other health or mental health care professional before making any decisions that may affect your health and well-being.

Shocking EO Industry Statistic

eox-logo-800There is an alarming statistic regarding the essential oil industry: There are not enough essential oils being produced to account for the amount of products on the market claiming to be essential oils! In short: There are a large amount of bunk products in the marketplace claiming to be something they are not.

The math is quite easy to do.  For example, it takes about 600 lbs of rose petals to make just one ounce of rose essential oil. (That’s a lot of petals!) Since the total output of rose petals is known, as is the amount of supposed rose essential oil in the marketplace, it quickly becomes clear that a large percentage of what is claimed to be pure rose oil with full integrity is actually something else.

This means that much of what is being marketed as an essential oil (which technically isn’t just an oil; it’s a “concentrated plant essence” that looks and acts like an oil for the most part), is not what it claims to be. Most often, bunk essential oils fall into three categories:

  • Fragrance oils – typically blended with a carrier oil, such as grapeseed oil, since grapeseed is the most neutral smelling of all oils
  • Diluted essential oils – basically essential oils that have been “cut” with a neutral oil such as grapeseed
  • Oil infusions – a common “kitchen” method of making an oil.  Take a carrier oil such as grapeseed, add fresh herbs or flowers, boil for 6 hours, and strain.  These often look and smell like an essential oil, but rarely have anywhere near the clarity of a true essential oil.

At EOX, for the oils we produce in house; they are always single harvest sourced, and maintain complete integrity from plant to bottle.  (Essential oils with integrity are never manufactured from synthetics, supplemented with fragrance oils, blended down, or blended with similar smelling oils.) We have every one of our in house oils tested by Gas Chromatography. In short, gas chromatography divides and analyzes individual components in an essential oil, creating peaks when there is a high concentration of a particular component.

These peaks are always consistent from plant to plant, harvest to harvest, year to year.  If a different peak appears, then we know the oil has been adulterated, or is not the oil it claims to be. We rely on monographs for each of the herbs we test.

So, how can you know whether or not the precious bottle of oil you have purchased is a genuine essential oil? Most of us don’t have the sophisticated GS or HPLC testing systems that we have in-house at Florascience (the parent company of EOX). Is there anything we can do at home to test our essential oils?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Mind you, these methods are not scientific, and do not always produce accurate results. But they are a great and reliable place to start, , let me share a simple method for determining whether or not what you’ve purchased is truly an essential oil:

  • Smell your essential oil! If it has any hint of alcohol smell to it at all, even in trace amounts, it is not a true essential oil. Most essential oils are crafted from purified or distilled water and nothing else. Solvents are sometimes used (such as alcohol or acetone), but this does not produce a pure essential oil.
  • Freeze your essential oil! (You won’t damage the oil.) If it has been diluted with vegetable oil, the essential oil and the carrier oil will separate. This is because essential oils are not true oils; they are “concentrated plant essences”.
  • Drop your essential oil onto a clean sheet of bright white paper. If there’s an oily spot on the paper after a few days, and the fragrance has dissipated, it’s highly likely that your product is only masquerading as a genuine essential oil.

Here at EOX, we use custom-built distillers, one of which was originally manufactured for the production of microbrew beer.  These distillers are all stainless steel, can handle high temperatures, are exquisite in their simplicity and efficiency. On top of that, they’re super reliable units that have never broken down. Our other distillers are typical reflux distillers made out of glassware that sits on a hotplate. These are typically reserved for absolutes and other delicate oils that need special attention.

Part of the mission of Essential Oil Exchange is to create as transparent a marketplace as possible, to ensure our loyal community of essential oil professionals and enthusiasts that the products we offer are genuine, handcrafted oils from certified manufacturers whom I have personally visited and verified before adding them as a supplier. I’m very proud of the group of suppliers we’ve gathered over the past decade of EOX’s existence, and we continue to add newly verified suppliers whenever necessary.

One of our main efforts in transparency, was to include the Certificate of Authenticity for every single essential oil we offer here at EOX.  Simply go to the Essential Oil Shop and click on any individual essential oil. In the product description, you will find a link that says; “Click here for [essential oil name] Certificate of Analysis”. This will bring up a PDF of the essential oil’s Birth Certificate, which gives you every bit of information you’d ever want for the oil, including what part of the world we sourced the plant material to make the oils we offer.

Next up is our pricing model.  All essential oils have a 50% markup.  If we pay $1.00 for a vial of essential oil, we sell it for $2.00.  There are a few rare exceptions, but this is the model for the exchange. When you join EOX and get your 40% discount, there are no coupon codes or further discounts, otherwise we’d be losing money. This is also why we do not offer “Free Shipping” options like many other sites offer.  We don’t build the price of shipping into our essential oils; we keep the pricing as absolutely as low as possible by giving you therapeutic grade essential oils at wholesale prices.

When you buy essential oils, there can be a vast pricing difference between oils.  A general rule of thumb in the essential oil world, at least for genuine essential oils, is that you generally get what you pay for. If you find oils that are vastly cheaper than what we offer here at EOX, I can guarantee that the oils are going to be a different quality and grade. We thought about offering oils of different grades here at EOX, but decided to offer only the best oils we could find, sourced from trusted small farms and producers.

We encourage you to compare our oils to competitor oils; we encourage you to check out our individual Certificate of Analysis for each of our essential oils, and I encourage you to give the above tests to any oils you purchase from us.  They will pass any test with flying colors every time!

If you have any non-product questions, please feel free to contact me; Keith, anytime via email. I’m admin at essentialoilexchange dot com. I personally answer all emails that come my way!

Oils for Life,

Why Plants Make Medicinal Chemicals

Over 40% of humans use alternative medicines to supplement their health.Introduction

Once upon a time, about 400-500 million years ago, plants and insects were co-evolving right around the same time. Insects mostly feed on plants, and new species of plants were popping up all over the world, which provided an abundant feast of a food source for insects.

A shared trait among every living entity, regardless of what we believe personally, is the desire to preserve one’s own life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a plant, animal, or other; the one shared trait we all share is a propensity towards life.  This manifests in many ways, whether it’s a desire to propagate, a desire to stay alive, or a compulsion to eat and breathe, any any cost.

And, even though plants don’t have nervous systems, they also share this propensity towards life.  With all these new insects munching on plants, the plants that survived were the ones that developed defenses to prevent themselves from being eaten by insects. As a result, plants developed 3 categories of defenses; nutritional, physical, and chemical (Southwood 1986).

Nutritional defenses are ones where plants purposely contain low levels of nutrients for insects (and animals), making them undesirable food sources.  If we chew on bark every day and don’t feel any benefit from it, we will stop eating that bark.  With physical defenses we simply need to look at just about any plant in the desert to understand this category.

The one I’m most interested in, and most interested in for this discussion is the chemical defense category. Plants that produced chemicals to poison, alter, or ward off (such as an offensive scent) predators would be automatically granted the privilege of propagating the next generation of plant. Luckily (and quite conveniently) for us, many of the chemicals plants ended up producing have powerful benefits for humans, both medicinally and psychoactively.

This evolution wasn’t one-sided either. Just as plants began producing chemicals to deter predators, predators produced immunities to fight harm from the plant chemicals intended to ward them off. This allowed insects and animals to further benefit from a widening array of plant constituents, as variety and adaptability were naturally encouraged by nature.

Accumulation of Plant Knowledge

Something to note is that an organism doesn’t need to know HOW or WHY a plant provides a specific effect; we just need to observe that use or consumption of a plant has a specific effect. Historical evidence shows that from the earliest evidence of human existence (even “Iceman” had a pouch of medicinal herbs with him), humans discovered, cataloged, and made use of plants for far more than food sources.

Think about this for a minute with me: if we lived in nature with the plants, and our very survival depended on us knowing our territory in its every detail, we would try and observe every plant we could get our prehistoric hands on. Over time, we would observe, generation after generation, the effects these plants had on each other. In fact, knowledge of plants expanded into foods, medicines, and ritualized uses by medicine men, also known as shamans.

So despite what “they” (governments and giant pharmaceutical companies) would often have us believe when they claim there isn’t enough research or control when it comes to herbal medicines, this is misleading. We have many thousands of years of plant knowledge under our collective belts, and it’s completely accessible to us. And, believe it or not, most pharmaceuticals in that multi-billion dollar industry are plant derived anyway.  Yes, you heard that correctly: Most of the pharmaceuticals prescribed today began as plants.

So, the difference between herbal supplements and pharmaceuticals can often be just the isolation of the active constituent in a plant in pharmaceuticals, and the control of the dose. As Hippocrates stated; “The difference between medicine and poison is often the dose.” It’s not that herbal medicines don’t have the historical data to back them up; when we self-administer, we may not be as skilled at knowing the proper beneficial dosages of the plants.  And, with such varied information available worldwide and on the web, it van be difficult to know what sources of information to trust.

And, something to be argued is that when it comes to benefits from plants, the entire plant is often necessary for a system to gain the full benefits of that plant.  Pharmaceutical medications often isolate a single alkaloid in order to concentrate the medicine.  But, in many cases, this also ignores the synergistic effect that leaving other alkaloids and chemical constituents in may have  in regard to the overall effectiveness or safety of a plant-based medicine.

Determining the Dose

So, even if we’ve never worked with a plant or an extract from that plant before, it’s not that difficult to determine the dose.  Why?  Because we start small.  If we’re working with an essential oils, and we’re trying to help a skin rash, we don’t douse ourselves with one we’ve been told is good for a rash; we try it on a small area, and wait for the effect.  If there are no ill effects, we can then move to a larger area, and so on.

This is true whether we are working with a tea, a decoction or an infusion.  If we’re making a tea out of a single plant or several, simply start with a small amount of material, steeped in our drink.  Take a taste, and wait an hour, perhaps 2-3 hours.  Observe closely.  Trust your senses.  Trust what you feel you are feeling and you will likely be right.

Once we determine the dose, we should continue to err on the side of caution.  If we’re taking a tea to help soothe a sore throat, it’s best to try that tea when we don’t have a sore throat.  We won’t be able to tell if it would help our sore throat, but we can easily ensure that it won’t hurt us.

Back to Those Plant Chemicals

So, we’re imagining ourselves as prehistoric people living in nature.  We would quickly build up a vast storehouse of knowledge regarding plants, which would be passed on from generation to generation.  As humans migrated and met other people, they would travel with their favorite plants.  Often, plants were traded with other humans, and new plants would be introduced into the environment.

By default, all of these plants would be altered through human selection because humans will, by default, choose the best examples of that plant to seed the next generation of plants.  For example, humans will naturally pick the plants that bear the most fruit, or the largest or most beautifully-scented flowers.  Coupled with plants’ propensity towards life, they will be encouraged to produce larger or more scented flowers, and these traits will be carried from generation to generation.

Whether it’s for defense, a response to the environment, plants have an intelligence that helps them survive in their environment.  For the ones that don’t, we’ll nature does its part and those plants naturally become extinct.

The debate often arises when plants contain psychoactive substances, but that is a debate for another article.


Southwood SR (1986) Plant surfaces and insects – an overview. In: Juniper B, Southwood SR (eds) Insects and the plant surface. Arnold, London, 1–22

Lessons in Iceman’s Prehistoric Medicine Kit“, New York Times Website, JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, December 8, 1998.

Essential Oils for Headaches

Essential Oils for HeadachesHeadaches are one of the most common medical complaints; they can be caused by stress, muscle tension, hunger, eye strain from too much screen time, or deeper medical conditions. Luckily, there are many essential oils for headaches that can help reduce pain and tension. What’s more, using essential oils to treat headaches is often as easy as dabbing some oil on a cotton ball or inhaling some from the bottle. In this article, we explore some of the most popular essential oils for headaches and how to use them effectively.

Please note that this article is not a substitute for trained medical advice. Headaches may be an indication of a more serious medical condition. You should consult a physician if you suffer from headaches that are severe and/or chronic. Many severe, chronic headaches such as migraines and cluster headaches require treatment by a doctor. This article is intended to be an overview of essential oils to treat headaches that are minor and infrequent.

How Essential Oils Can Reduce Headache:

Essential oils containing menthol or 1,8-cineol have cooling properties that can directly numb the pain and discomfort of a headache [1]. Many essential oils also have vasodilating properties that increase circulation [1], may reduce muscle tension, and can even treat emotional stress at the root of some headaches [3]. Essential oils with hormone-balancing properties, such as lavender and clary sage, may be especially effective at reducing headaches caused by hormonal imbalances during a woman’s menstrual cycle [3]. As you can see, as many causes as there are for headaches, there is also an essential oil to combat them!

The Essential Oils – Peppermint:

One of the most popular essential oils for headaches, peppermint contains cooling menthol that can directly numb tissues while also increasing nourishing blood flow to the painful area. People commonly use peppermint oil for tension headache and muscle ache [2]. However, peppermint oil can be stimulating and may interfere with sleep, so we recommend against using it right before bed. You can also use spearmint oil if you prefer the aroma, since it contains many of the same compounds [2].

Essential Oils for Headaches

Peppermint oil is considered one of the best home remedies for headaches and migraines.

Lavender: With its high linalyl acetate content, lavender oil is sedating and can soothe inflammation [2]. The oil also contains phytoestrogens which may help reduce headaches caused by an imbalance of female hormones. Lavender oil’s calming properties can be perfect for treating any underlying emotional stress as well. This oil can be used before bed without keeping you awake, and in fact, lavender aromatherapy is actually recommended for treating sleeplessness[2].

Roman Chamomile Oil: This lovely, apple-scented oil possesses similar properties to lavender oil due to its high ester content [2]. Roman chamomile oil is sedative, reduces tissue inflammation, and may also have direct relaxing effects on the nerves [2].

Essential Oils for Headaches

Roman chamomile oil is one of the gentlest essential oils. Its common name comes from its wide use in medicine since Roman times.

Eucalyptus Oil: This oil is especially effective for sinus headaches caused by congestion. Packed with 1,8-cineol, eucalyptus has powerful expectorant properties and direct analgesic properties similar to menthol [3]. Note that eucalyptus oil should not be used on children younger than 12 (for older children, consult a physician), because it can cause respiratory spasm, especially in larger quantities [2].

Basil Oil: A muscle relaxant similar to peppermint oil, basil oil can be used to reduce tension headaches, as well as aches and pains in the surrounding neck and head muscles [1].

Ginger Oil: This slightly spicy-smelling oil is a powerful vasodilator and circulatory stimulant. Commonly used for painful, aching joints, a little bit of ginger oil can also go a long way toward wiping away that irritating tension headache [2]. Ginger oil is best used sparingly in a blend with another oil such as lavender. Anecdotal evidence suggests ginger oil may be somewhat effective against more severe chronic headaches such as migraines [3].

Essential Oils for Headaches

Ginger oil is an invigorating circulatory stimulant that works on circulatory problems and muscle pain as well as headaches.

How to Use Essential Oils for Headaches:

As with any essential oil treatment, dilution is the rule. Always dilute a few drops of your chosen essential oil (or blend) in 1 fluid ounce of a gentle carrier like jojoba oil. The general ratio is 10-12 drops of essential oil (6-8 drops if using peppermint, spearmint, or eucalyptus, as these oils are stronger) in 1 fluid ounce of carrier oil. Place your blend in an amber or blue glass bottle with a stopper. 1-4 drops of this blend may be massaged into the painful area—back of the neck, temples, forehead, and so on. You can also dilute a few drops of essential oil in water in a spray bottle to create a room spray, or use the inhalation method: place a few drops of undiluted oil into a diffuser or cotton ball and inhale the vapors. When using this method, use only one drop of essential oil at first until you know how your body reacts to it [2].


Always use any essential oil for headache sparingly and in dilution (unless using the diffusion method above). Using more of an oil will not necessarily be more effective, and may cause a reaction or sensitivity to the oil. We always recommend consulting a physician when considering treating children with essential oils, as they may have sensitivities to certain oils. For instance, oils high in menthol or 1,8-cineol, such as peppermint or eucalyptus, can cause breathing difficulties in children. Furthermore, while this is rare, a few essential oils can actually cause headaches! Ylang ylang oil in particular is a headache trigger for some people, especially when used in excess [2].

Other Headache Treatments:

Certain foods rich in phytochemicals are thought to reduce the frequency of headaches: particularly flax seed (which is high in healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids), and buckwheat, which contains the phytochemical rutin [1]. The pith (white part) of citrus fruit is also a source of rutin. Conversely, people suffering chronic headaches and migraines should consider keeping a food diary to identify foods that may be headache triggers. Common “trigger foods” include caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, chocolate, red wine, foods high in tannins, MSG, red or processed meat, and aged, fermented or pickled foods [1]. Eliminating these foods and then slowly adding in one at a time can be one way to identify foods that may be headache triggers [1].

Even more severe forms of headaches such as migraine and cluster headache may respond to do-it-yourself remedies. At the onset of a migraine, massaging the occipital nerve at the base of the skull can sometimes reduce the severity of an attack, or even prevent it in some cases [3]. This treatment’s effectiveness may be increased by warming the hands about 15 degrees (by soaking them in warm water); researchers think this increase in temperature may treat vascular headaches by regulating circulation [3].

Finally, some people find relief from chronic, severe headache such as cluster headache by use of capsaicin cream [3]. Derived from the compound that makes chili peppers hot, when rubbed into the spot where headaches occur 4-5 times per day for about 4 weeks, capsaicin cream is thought to reduce and even prevent severe headaches by depleting nerve endings of substance P, the neurotransmitter that sends pain impulses to the brain [3]. Capsaicin cream works best as a headache preventative because of the more extended treatment required.

Nature has created many plants with compounds that can aid us in our quest to rid ourselves of headaches and other sources of chronic pain. With a little research and dedication, it is possible to naturally treat headaches and live a more comfortable life!


1. Calabro, Sara. “Home Remedies for Headache and Migraine”. Everyday Health. Accessed January 27th, 2015.

2. “Aromatherapy for Headaches”. Aromaweb. Accessed January 27th, 2015.

3. Keville, Kathy. “How to Get Rid of a Headache With Aromatherapy”. HowStuffWorks. Accessed January 27th, 2015.

Mimosa Oil for a Healthy Emotional Balance

Mimosa Oil for a Healthy Emotional BalanceAlthough they share a common name, the mimosa from which mimosa essential oil is extracted is Acacia dealbata, and not the tropical tree Albizia julbrizzins [1]. Once again, it’s important when buying essential oils to make your purchase by the genus-species label so that you are certain of what you’re getting! True mimosa essential oil is extracted from the small yellow flowers of Acacia dealbata, and is used primarily to treat emotional conditions such as anxiety and depressed mood, as well as to nourish the skin [1].

Acacia dealbata is a small evergreen tree or shrub with silver-green, bipinnate leaves and small yellow flowers whose thready petals cause them to resemble pom poms. Also called mimose, silver wattle, blue wattle, or cassie flower, this species of mimosa is native to southeastern Australia and Tasmania. It has also been naturalized to warm, Mediterranean parts of Europe [2]. Mimosa’s fluffy yellow flowers produce a heavy concrete or absolute oil, with a scent reminiscent of honey with leathery undertones and a hint of anise. Mimosa oil also tends to be quite thick, so it can help to warm up the oil before working with it.

The chemicals in mimosa oil include, in order of concentration, methyl salicylate, anisaldehyde, geraniol, nonadecane, benzaldehyde, and geranial [3]. In its native southeast Australia and Tasmania, various parts of the mimosa including the leaves, bark, and roots have been used in traditional medicines. The leaves are used as a poultice for skin infections and wounds, as well as to treat urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases. In Java, the powdered bark is used as an emetic to induce vomiting, and as an astringent in India and Costa Rica. The roots have also been employed as a tuberculosis remedy in India [3].

Traditional medicines have focused on the whole mimosa plant, as the absolute or concrete oil was unavailable until modern methods of extraction were invented. Today, the absolute oil extracted from mimosa flowers is beginning to be incorporated into aromatherapy for emotional conditions. Mimosa essential oil is most commonly used by inhalation to address stress and stress-related conditions such as frigidity, anxiety, depression, nervous exhaustion and hypersensitivity [4]. A small amount may also be added to a carrier oil to nourish and emolliate the skin [4].

While mimosa oil is also commonly called cassie flower oil, be careful not to confuse this essential oil with cassia oil! Cassia is a totally different tree related to cinnamon, and its oil is considered very irritating to the skin, as well as stimulating to the emotions. In contrast, mimosa essential oil is generally non-sensitizing and non-irritating, and tends to have a balancing effect on the emotions. Inhaling a bit straight from the bottle can tamp down feelings of stress, anxiety or being out of balance. Try adding a tiny amount to a bath for a luxurious steam treatment that can soften your skin and restore a bit of healthy equilibrium at the same time!


1. Vosnaki, Elena. “Mimosa Perfume Ingredient”. Fragrantica. Accessed August 6th, 2014.

2. “Acacia dealbata”. Wikipedia. Last modified July 29th, 2014.

3. “Acacia farnesiana Willd.” Globinmed. Accessed August 6th, 2014.

4. Keville, Kathy. “Aromatherapy Materia Medica: Mimosa”. HealthyNet. Accessed August 6th, 2014.

Pure Birch Oil and Its Traditional Use as a Muscle Liniment

Pure Birch Oil and Its Traditional Use as a Muscle LinimentPure birch essential oil is almost 100% methyl salicylate—the same therapeutic compound used in liniments to soothe muscle aches and painful joints—which may be why birch oil was a popular folk remedy for sore joints, sprains, and muscle aches caused by overexertion [1]. All parts of this beautiful tree have been used by people living in temperate Europe and North America—as a textile material, medicine, perfume, and even a food!

Several species of birch (genus Betula) can be found in temperate regions of the world; Betula alba is the species typically used to extract birch essential oil. Birches are small to medium-sized trees or shrubs with serrated leaves and characteristic smooth, shiny bark marked by horizontal oval strips called lenticels [2]. Birch bark can be white, yellow, silver, or black depending on the composition of essential oils in the bark tar; common names for different species of birch often use the color of the bark as a distinguishing characteristic.

The name “birch” is thought to derive from an Indo-European root meaning “to shine”, in reference to birch bark’s beautiful sheen [2]. The tough outer bark of the birch tree can be peeled off the trunk in papery sheets, and was used as a durable natural paper by people in continental Europe for hundreds if not thousands of years. In fact, the bark’s tar content makes it so resistant to decay that birch bark drawings dating from 1240-1260 CE have been recovered at archaeological sites near Novgorod, Russia [2]!

Besides being a valued paper analogue, the bark of the birch tree has been used by humans in fragrancing, medicine, and even food—the soft inner bark of the birch tree is edible and was eaten as a starch in times when other starch sources were scarce [1]. Interior birch bark may also have been used as the first “aspirin” in Europe and North America: the soft bark was steeped into a methyl salicylate-containing tea that was taken to treat headaches and congestion [1]. In Russia, birch oil was a jealously guarded fragrance and key component in “Russian Leather”, a perfume so-named because it was once rubbed into book bindings to keep the leather soft, water-resistant, and pliable, as well as to repel insects that could cause damage [1]. Ladies also scented their kerchiefs with a scent called Iceland Wintergreen that contained birch oil [1].

Today, aromatherapists use birch oil in many of the same applications as wintergreen oil: as a topical liniment for sore muscles, joints, and sprains, and in diffusion to treat headache and sinus congestion [3]. In Europe, birch essential oil is also one of the few essential oils approved to treat arthritis and other joint conditions in horses. Pure birch essential oil contains mostly methyl salicylate (the same active compound found in wintergreen oil), as well as creosol and guaiacol [1], which combined give pure birch oil an enchantingly fresh, minty scent!

Aromatherapists also use a drop or two of birch oil in a warm bath to soothe sore muscles, promote circulation and encourage menstruation, especially when the latter has been delayed due to stress or emotional issues [1]. Some people also find relief from the dry rough skin that accompanies eczema or psoriasis when birch oil is added to a lotion [1]. A small amount of birch oil may also be added to a shampoo or conditioner to combat dandruff [3].

Like wintergreen oil, birch oil is an oral toxin due to its high methyl salicylate content [3]. Birch essential oil should never be taken internally or used over large areas of the skin [3]. Birch oil is best used in diffusion from an oil burner or diffuser, or topically in extremely limited quantities. The oil’s refreshing, minty aroma blends exceptionally well with woody or floral oils such as jasmine, rose, benzoin, rosemary, and sandalwood.


1. Keville, Kathy. “Aromatherapy: Birch”. HowStuffWorks. Accessed September 12th, 2014.

2.“Birch”. Wikipedia. Last modified September 9th, 2014.

3. “Health Benefits of Birch Essential Oil”. Organic Facts. Accessed September 12th, 2014.