Monday, 2 July 2012

Conversations - Therapeutic grade oil?

 "first of all define what pure is. I would suggest starting with a statement I heard from Dr. David Hill. Pure is 1) only Volatile Aromatic Compounds, 2) the Right Aromatic Molecules, 3)Therapeutic Concentration." 


 Yes a definition of purity is key. There should be reasonable relation as regards to constituents to British Pharmacopoeia standards (and published collections of GCMS results) which of course are just an average as crops vary. Obtaining GCMS for every batch is a key control and if it is not available then that speaks volumes. It is not possible to claim therapeutic concentration for one particular oil as aromatherapists (home user or fee earning professional) rarely use a single oil but blend several oils in recipes (Worwoods are a particularly good guide) for their therapeutic (bodily or psycho-social) effect without one oil necessarily dominating the blend. Oils used on their own often lack therapeutic effect. 

The ATC adopt a policy of random testing of members oils so it is not the company making the statement on their label 'PURE ESSENTIAL OIL' it is the industry. ORGANIC provides further assurance not just of a lack of contaminents but of purity because the oil is traced from farm/distiller to manufacturer by inspection of staff and records and reconciliation of quantities bought and sold. One day we will get date of distillation but the best by date is not a bad guide to freshness because deterioration of the oil tends to take place in use as the cap is removed and replaced and in storage (is the oil kept refrigerated or not, citrus should be). 

  It is interesting. I was reading up on the Australian Therapeutics Act which is setting the pace and correspondents are right therapeutic effect certainly needs to be taken into account in any standards for clinical essential oils or oils which claim to be of a therapeutic standard. The fact is that essential oils while containing ingredients which could be pharmacologically active in sufficient dose are not used in high enough dosages to claim pharmacological effect and hence therapeutic effect in a clinical setting. Being useful as insect repellant or as a beauty treatment is not the same as therapeutic.

However the psycho-social aspects of the oils are in themselves therapeutic. I was reflecting at the weekend on the social aspects of disease because man is a social animal. For example we dont eat we dine. If we are feeling off colour or ill we want to tell others about it. Much of a GPs work they report is dealing with the 'worried well'.

I have to say I find Robert Tisserands writing a fairly infallible - no completely infallible - guide on all aspects of essential oils. I am sure I am not alone in that.

Once we venture into a clinical setting all sorts of things happen. For example humbly priced Lavandin has been found to be just as effective as lavender angustifolia in relaxing recovering heart patients. Lavender angustifolia which is highly aromatic like the Mailette is rejected in favour of lavender angustifolia which has little aroma etc. 

Ian Brealey

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