My CAM experience… the past, the present and the future

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Troll: (noun) One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption; and an ugly cave-dwelling creature I received a nasty, stupid comment regarding one of my posts. Fortunately for me, I have fairly thick skin … Continue reading

Jasmine grandiflorum (dawn-blooming)

I love Jasmine – it is fresh and sweet and it is my favourite olfactory clue that Spring is in the air. And lucky for me, there is so much of it in the area where I live. When I am oblivious to the world around me, busy in my head with the to-do list of my life, I am instantly drawn into the here and now, and I am reminded to enjoy every moment, the now. It is such a wonderful assault on the senses and I am grateful for its gorgeousness.

jasmine (1)Jasmine is an expensive oil at around $AUD124/5ml.  This is because it requires great skill when harvesting so as not to bruise he blossom; and around 8 million blossoms are required to produce one kilo of essence. And Jasmine promoted to improve health and well-being, particularly for those mothers who are experiencing the baby blues – but be aware, while some authors suggest that it is useful for lactating mothers, others suggest that it may inhibit the production of milk – so, for me, I would err on the side of caution; There are other oils for improving mood.  But if you are not a lactating mother, than this oil could be for you – it is wonderful for the skin, especially if you are prone to dryness and sensitivity; it is said to be useful for labour pains (traditional knowledge); and it is said to be stimulating, and an aphrodisiac – so good for those tired parents!

For me, though, the benefits are just a bonus. To be able to appreciate the warmth & sweetness of the odour is all that I need….

Books, books and more books!

As I have mentioned previously, I would like to promote good books on this page and I thought that I should update you on some exciting news from one of my favourite aromatherapists/authors/people, Dr Jennifer Rhind!  She has recently published a second edition of her book Essential Oils: A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice, available through the Jessica Kingsley Publisher website.  Her first book is the very first one I go to when I have a query about an oil as it is fully referenced and completely reliable.  Instead of re-hashing the same old stuff, she goes beyond and looks for the evidence!  It is very well written, and very easy to read.  I would highly recommend it to any aromatherapist or aromatherapy student.

What people think:

‘Finally we have the “missing-link” text to facilitate the journey into the world of aromatherapy practice! This excellent book is well researched, detailed, up to date, relevant and completely accessible to student and qualified aromatherapists alike’ – Rhiannon Harris, Editor, International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy

“This book is a breath of fresh air in written form” – Robert Tisserand, aromatherapy author, educator and consultant

You might also be interested to read Jen’s recent blog “A Meditation on Scent”.

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries”

A C Grayling

There is no such thing as a ‘therapeutic grade’ essential oil!

Before I go on, I have to say that I am sorry it has been a long time between posts!  I am now a fully fledged PhD candidate in the throws of preparing a research proposal which is due in August.   I have also been pondering the direction that this blog should take.  I do not want to start an encyclopaedia of essential oils.  You can google any essential oil and come up with mountains of information – not all of it good, I might add – and so I think that to go down this path would be a waste of my time.  A good place to start (if this is the kind of information you are looking for) isAromaweb, although a lot of their information comes from sources that are not referenced, I would also look at google scholar to see if there is anything you can find, too!

I do not want to start writing recipes for everyone as, like I have said before in previous posts, the use of essential oils, or blends of, is usually based on an in-depth consultation.  If you cannot find what you are looking for in the plethora of information that is already out there, or are not confident to mix something for yourself – see a qualified therapist.  On that note, yes – I have previously written a few useful blends for pregnancy, this was borne out of concern for safety.

Today, I want to help dispel the myth of ‘therapeutic grade essential oils’.  I recently joined an aromatherapy discussion group, where I thought I might meet like minded people.  Instead, I have fallen into a wealth of blog inspiration!

The term ‘therapeutic grade essential oils’ was coined by the founder of an American essential oil distributor, Gary Young.  Basically, he describes his oils as ‘therapeutic’ as they are of the highest quality/standards.  Other companies have cottoned on to this term and also claim that their oils are ‘therapeutic grade’ oils.  These oils apparently undergo stringent quality testing such as “rigorous mass spectrometry and gas chromatography testing to ensure extract composition and activity” and the oils are independently tested.

The problem with this is, it is JUST A MARKETING PLOY! Please do not be fooled by this.  ALL quality essential oils undergo this kind of testing.  If you purchase an essential oil from a reliable distributor, you can ask for the information.  Each batch of essential oils is slightly different; this is what makes them unique.  For example, lavender, grown in France, in the same field, at the same time of year WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AS THE LAST LOT.  This is because the variables change.  One year might be hot, the next might be wet…. This is nature, and we cannot control it.

You really should google “what are therapeutic grade essential oils” – it is quite laughable!  One site says:

The key to producing a therapeutic-grade essential oil is to preserve as many of the delicate aromatic compounds within the essential oil as possible – elements that are very fragile and destroyed by high temperature and high-pressure. Contact with chemically reactive metals (i.e., copper or aluminum) is another danger to the fragile aromatic compounds in oils.


The purity of an essential oil is also determined by its chemical constituents. There are many variables that can affect these constituents. These can include:

· Soil conditions
· Quality of fertilizer and whether it was organic or chemical
· Region
· Climate
· Altitude
· Harvest season
· Harvest methods
· Distillation process
· The part or parts of the plant used for distillation

Really??  Gosh…..  

The definition of the term, therapeutic is: “of or pertaining to the treating or curing of disease; curative” and yet, some of these websites have DISCLAIMERS!  My favourite one is “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

I am not about to re-write what Tony Burfield puts so succinctly in his paper entitled “The ‘Therapeutic Grade’ Essential Oils Disinformation Campaign“.  Please, if you are interested, have a read.

Obviously there is concern about adulterated oils.  I have written about this previously.  Some unscrupulous dealers will mix a pure essential oil with a carrier.  This might be because the pure oil is expensive, as in the case of jasmine oil.  The honest dealer will mark this on the bottle, stating  “blended” or “in jojoba”.  The unscrupulous dealer will, obviously, sell it to you as 100% pure.  The Aromaweb site I mentioned earlier gives a “consistency” description of essential oils.  If you are in doubt about what you have purchased, check this site.  You can also test it yourself, simply by putting a drop of oil on the back of your hand:

  • It is a pure essential oil (distilled or expressed) if it disappears into the skin quite quickly;
  • An absolute or a resin should be thick and sticky;
  • An essential oil in a carrier oil will lubricate the back of your hand and will not quickly absorb.

There is no way of knowing whether this same unscrupulous dealer is selling you something which is synthetic (well, there is, but not at point-of-sale, and not to the lay person).  So, in order to avoid this – DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  The reputable brands will be easy to spot, and should also be easy to find.  Synthetic oils are more-often-than-not found in toiletry products, so you should not really worry about being fooled into buying them.  It is simply scaremongering on the part of these companies which claim their products are ‘therapeutic’.

Good luck! And don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any more information…


“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” 
Phineas T. Barnum


I keep harping on about research!  Research is not always easy to come by.  You could try “google scholar” where in some instances, the information is available to read without a password.  In this blog, I am going to provide some links to websites which I believe provide reputable information:

Health insite

Shirley Price Aromatherapy

Robert Tisserand blog

If you cannot find what you are looking for within these links, please do not hesitate to contact me!  I am more than happy to provide you with some guidance in your search for information!


“If a man will begin with certainties, he will end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he will end in certainties”
Francis Bacon

So, just how useful ARE essential oils?

Essential oils are SO USEFUL!!  What can I say – I am a convert.  I am sceptical about a lot of what is said about a lot of things, and research aside, unless I have seen any kind of results FOR MYSELF, I am sceptical about it.  And so should you be (especially when it comes to claims made by cosmetic companies – their research is usually conducted by themselves rather than an independent group, on a small number of women – they publish any positive results (and they are usually twisted to sound great) and the negative results are usually hidden away from the world).   If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

There are many proven benefits of using essential oils (there are also unproven claims, usually historical ones).   Where research is useful, and conclusive, is the determination of the chemicals which make up the oils.  Understanding their chemical composition means we can determine how the oil should act.  That said, some oils are more effective than others – this is to do with the quantities of the chemical in the oil, synergy, the quality of the oil (the topic of a future blog), supply (some suppliers are dodgy!), and variation in climate (where the plants originate).

We know that some oils are useful antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, anti-infectious, antiseptic, and antiviral. These oils can help to treat infection and virus, and can also be useful for protecting others who are living in an environment with a sick person.

We understand that certain oils act like hormones (due to their chemical components) and have historically been useful for treating premenstrual syndrome, regulating menstrual cycles; some authors recommend hormone-like essential oils (such as geranium) for disorders such as dysmenorrhoea and amenorrhoea.

Essential oils can also have a positive effect on emotions, and can be helpful for mild depression, sleep problems and irritability.  They can aid study, or help to relieve stress in any environment.   

I believe that there will be an essential oil for almost all ailments and or emotional situations.  They might be helping to relieve symptoms, helping you to feel more comfortable, helping to boost your immune system to deal with the complaint, or helping to relieve the side-effects of any drugs that you might be taking for the ailment.

Your decision to use essential oils in your life can only be a positive one; however, it is important to seek advice from a professional.  There are many blogs and websites out there that suggest recipes for any number of issue – whether it be for personal use or within the home.  They do suggest that some oils are irritants, and that some research into what suits your own personal situation is essential.  This is good advice, but most do not offer guidance on what to do.  So, for guidance on how to test essential oils out on yourself, please see Essential oil safety: It is sometimes dangerous to associate ‘natural’ with ‘safe’ under the section entitled “How to conduct a patch test”.

My next blog (which will come along a lot sooner than this one, I promise!!) will consider the different approaches aromatherapists use; and how they sit with the conventional ”holistic approach”.


“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on.  It is never of any use to oneself”
Oscar Wilde


All material provided in this blog is for your information only.  Whilst every caution has been taken to ensure the material is accurate and the analysis is critical, due to the nature of essential oils, it is important that you consult your doctor and/or aromatherapist before making any decisions based on the information here. The author will not compensate you in any way if you suffer an inconvenience, damage or side-effect because of  the information provided in this blog.

The Author is not responsible for the content of any comments made by Commenter(s) and reserves the right to block Commenter(s) who have previously published offensive comments, illegal content, or SPAM.