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"The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.
Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind."
(see below for attribution)
Part of Mystery Series....

The EOs. For Guys.

"OK, what is it about women and those essential oils? ... no BS, no sales pitch, just hit the high points, OK?"

      Well. We'll answer the second part first: no promises about the BS, but we'll try to be objective, and the Desk itself doesn't sell anything except a book once in awhile (link below if you insist on buying one). And as to the first part, well, there's no hope of explaining the general behavior of the females of the species, so we'll just... ... well, look at the oils.
      And, along the way, we'll wander through the usual set of tangents, maybe more than a few puns, take a look at the Bible and the Voynich Manuscript, and even sip some tea in the Far East and smell some old jars in an Egyptian tomb.

[NOTE: No Single Essential Oil Company was used as a sole source for this article. Links to the three main 'EO' companies are provided at the end for the reader's amusement. Also provided are other informational and historical links deemed to be reliable, including some that dismiss the entire idea as hogwash. The "free online encyclopedia" was avoided as much as possible as well. Thank You]

      But First, a definition or two for the uninitiated.
      Essential Oils (sometimes abbreviated as EO, and so it will be here and there as we go) are 'oils' in that they are chemical compounds extracted from plants (most are hydrocarbons but a few have other atomic makeup), and do behave like an oil, instead of say, water or juice, in most circumstances. The similarity ends there. Unlike other compounds from plants, say fats, proteins or polypeptides (amino acid chains), most EOs contain little if any nitrogen. Which also means there is little chance of allergic or toxic reaction.
      One of the more interesting aspects of most of these is that they can be absorbed through the skin, many can cross the blood-brain barrier (and the placenta, more on that later), and some seem to be 'smart' in that they only do what they "came to do" and then stop, which we'll also come back to. They do contain aspects unique to their source which can be identified in a lab, and which often proves that some 'EOs' sold under various names have little, if any, relationship to their name, and sometimes instead of being helpful, they can be damaging to their user either directly because of contaminated or otherwise inferior ingredients, or because the preparation isn't what it claims to be (we'll look at Snake Oil in a minute).
      And thereby comes the rub. (shall we keep the 'pun score' as we go?)
      Some oils are sold as "pure" and/ or "therapeutic grade", an "absolute oil (which really is something different)" and etc, others say things like "massage", "aroma therapy", "fragrance (which is a step down from 'aroma therapy')" or an almost mind numbing array of other modifiers including 'spa grade' which evidently doesn't Mean anything in particular. No, they don't, the terms have no legal standing under the FDA or any other regulatory body in the US. Others do not say "Essential Oil" at all, instead, it is the "Oil of Whatever", or the label calls it the "Volatile Oil" (which only means that it will evaporate if left out in the air), and so on until your eyes cross.
      There are those that talk about their 'frequencies', others mention somewhat more mystical properties of the oils or the spiritual aspects of them, and, and, yeah, objectively, there is SOME of that there, and we'll touch on those too, later.
      And, before we go any further, we have to say something like this: None of the statements in this article are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or condition, and if you do take something in this article as such, to be blunt about it, you're a damned fool. This work is purely an educational outing in the form of a non-fiction essay. That's it, you'll be fine. (see full FDA statement and "endorsement statement" near the bottom of this page)
      Also: Essential Oils (whatever you call them) are NOT regulated by the US Federal Government. However, other governments treat them differently, see below in the Links section for pages from Canada and others, including France where Lavender regulations have set the EU on fire. And, where in the US it appears to be the Wild West, in other countries, they take them very seriously, which we'll see when we get to India. We'll come back to that and explain it later.

"Oil? Like 10w30?"
      Well, yes, and no. Mostly no.

      They are an 'oil' in that they are a hydrocarbon chain, and some are refined almost exactly like petroleum, while others are pressed or extracted by grinding up the plant and then using solvents to remove the oils. However, most are steam distilled, some in batches that, by industrial standards, are quite small. Others, such as some of the citrus oils, are cold pressed from the rinds of the fruit. If you're interested, there is information about the processes at some of the company sites linked below.
      Some of the sources for the oils are put through a process that is agonizingly fussy and yields a final result that makes anybody sane wonder if it is worth it.
      An example of that is Rose Oil. It takes 60 Kilograms (120 pounds or so) of full bloom rose petals to make 30 milliliters (One Liquid Ounce, give or take), of pure essential oil. Which means, It Is Damned Expensive! That also explains why when you see it in most retail stores and read the fine print on the back of the bottle, it says something about being a blend. One example the Desk came across doing the research for this article trumpeted all about how it was Rose Oil, but upon closer inspection, it contained only three percent of rose oil. Keep those roses in hand, they come up again soon.

"Essential oils are wrung:
The attar from the rose
Is not expressed by suns alone,
It is the gift of screws. ..."
- Emily Dickinson, see link to rest of poem below

      A few plants can yield different oils depending on what part of the plant is worked on. Some of the citrus line can produce totally different oils from, say, the fruit or its peel, and a different one from the leaves, and still others from the flowers or bark. A good example of that is the aptly named 'bitter orange'.
      With other EOs the product itself isn't pleasant to handle, or, in some cases, to breathe. Some will dissolve plastic and rubber compounds, which means it has to be stored and handled with glass or stainless steel, while wearing respirators. For example, if you ever get pure Oregano Oil on some 'sensitive spot', you'll never forget it. Wanna stink for a long time? Spill some Melaleuca 'tea tree' oil on you and people will think you've been stripping paint off antique furniture all morning. Oh, and be careful with some of those citrus oils, they can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. And don't use some of them around pets like birds and cats. Phenols, the oils that come from various pines, are toxic to cats, period (see link below). For birds, heavy scents, like the tea tree problem we just mentioned, can cause respiratory failure.
      Another aspect is that some oils do some things to some people some of the time, but do other things to other people at other times, and too much, might not be good for anybody. Perhaps an example. One of the most popular and versatile of the oils is Peppermint. Yes, it smells good, it is anti-microbial, it can ease sore muscles and calm a upset tummy. And Yes, three drops of it in a batch of chocolate brownies will make you break your diet in ways you won't be proud of the next day. BUT! Peppermint, and the other mint oils are also very powerful substances inside the body as they contain menthol. That can slow respiration and the heartbeat, can cause nervous system problems ranging from Severe stomach cramps to convulsions, and even damage the kidneys. So, while three drops make good brownies, "More Is Not Better" and putting half the bottle in the mix may send you to the emergency room!

"Well, heck, if they're so expensive and dangerous, why use'em?"

      Good question.
      Short answer first: They work!
      Yes, they do. In most cases the 'oils' will do what the more reputable oil producing companies say they will do. That's an important distinction, keep that one in mind and we'll come back to it. These companies will tell you that such and such an oil may help this or that condition, and they will also tell you that if your kid falls and breaks a bone, to take them to the hospital, that if you are having chest pain to call an ambulance, that if somebody develops a bad hacking cough to make an appointment at the clinic. Yes, the oils might ease the child's pain during healing, help you recover your strength, and keep the cougher calm while they get better, but sometimes modern medical intervention is required to begin that process. And... keep you alive so you can recover!
      Even when the Essential Oils have some side effects, those are not usually as severe as with a chemical based drug when the plant based substance is used as suggested. Such as with valerian. There are clinical studies that show it is effective over a medium to long period of time for sleep related disorders such as insomnia. However, as with almost anything, there might be some unintended consequences from its use such as headache and 'excitability'. However, one of the more heavily advertised chemical sleep aids listed somewhat more interesting side effects to watch out for during prescribed use including: anaphylaxis involving airway obstruction which required emergency room treatment, psychotic reactions, hallucinations, and a few cases of 'sleep driving' (which made the news a few years ago) during routine use and grand mal seizures when treatment stopped, and some of those serious complications were reported in up to ten percent of patients using the drug.

      Now, having said that, there are others out there selling rebottled 'crap in a bottle' that is NOT an 'absolutely pure essential oil'. Such as the infamous "honeysuckle oil" which turned out to be everything but, and "apple fruit oil" which simply does not exist. Those are fraudulent products, Scams by another name, and not only will they not do what is claimed of them, they may be harmful (such as Sassafras oil's safrole). They are likely the same ones selling "green ray machines" and other junk products that do nothing but help your checkbook lose weight.... and we'll come back to that as well.
      To put it simply, the 'good guys' sell 'good oils' and if something they sell can be dangerous if misused, they warn you ahead of time.

      As was stated before, some EOs work for some people, others for others, and so on. But, if you have an unfortunate carbunkle.... which is ahhh, let's see, it's a ahh, a felon, no, today a 'felon' is a Congressman (that's not a pun, that's the truth), a furuncle cluster... or a... "a boil?" Yes, thank you, you could go see a physician, and get put on antibiotics that will empty your wallet, give you the trots, and probably not impress the sore at all. At least for the first go around, then the medic might want to take a biopsy of it, or send you in so they can surgically drain it (most family doctors don't 'lance' stuff any more), or both, or neither and switch the medication, and so on. It has been shown that Marjoram oil, when used in conjunction with something like our old friend Peppermint, can bring 'the boil' to the surface where it can drain, and then a few days later they'll convince it to go away. You can even supplement them with commercially available 'antibiotic ointment' as they will compliment and enhance each other. And, if after a week or so there is no improvement with one oil regime, try some slightly diluted Oregano, it might work where the others failed, and you'll smell Italian for a week. The oil that works best depends on which bug has gotten into your pores, something the MD might not tell you about their bottle of man made chemicals, but which is true nonetheless.
      Oh, the side effects of marjoram oil? If it gets in your eye it will irritate it, and with very long term use, there is some indication that it might cause cancer (see the oily links below). The side effects of one of the antibiotics used for 'boils'? One of the more common serious reactions is severe esophageal ulceration if you don't manage to swallow the pill all the way down, another is "Stevens-Johnson Syndrome" where, well, your skin dies and peels off. In the most extreme cases, the syndrome may kill the patient.

      The oils can also ease achy joints, such as from repetitive use or injury, arthritis, or just high mileage. Most of the time, these 'pain blends' are just that, blends of various oils, perhaps with a Carrier Oil such as olive or coconut, that has been formulated for external use only. Yeah, you read that right. Some of the people that use the oils take some of them internally. Which for their detractors is hard to swallow (pun count?) and why they have been used throughout history. It is no exaggeration to say that plants were the source for the oldest medicines in the world. Even today, many of the substances used in Western Medicine are derived from them and some of their cousins like Camphor, which we slow down to a quick walk and get a whiff of later.

"Even at the dawn of 21st century, 11% of the 252 drugs considered as basic and essential by the WHO were exclusively of flowering plant origin."
- (link below)

      In the Desk's Mystery Series article on Alchemy it was mentioned that the Egyptian god Thoth gave medical knowledge to man. According to the various texts, that knowledge included the use of plants and chemicals for healing. Similar stories are told throughout the ancient world, including in the Cradle of Civilization in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. And, in the various Biblical books oils are mentioned for everything from ritual cleansing before entering the temple to the anointing of the sick.
      Essential oils, for medicinal use, as well as the absolute oils, used in aroma therapy and as the base scent for perfumes, and other compounds extracted from plants have been produced in one fashion or another for ages beyond count. One of those adept in such things was the Count Saint Germain who used them in his own personal perfume blends, for the Court in France and other high places, and it was noted that his perfumes Did Not go rancid like the ones made by others. (see Desk article linked below)
      Now, to be fair, instead of using high pressure distillation processes controlled by a computer the ancient Sumerians and others used plant sap (resin) mixed with animal fat as highlighted below, or used basically a 'pot still' for distillation of the oils, but the overall idea and result work out the same in the end:

"The knowledge of the asu in making plasters is of particular interest. Many of the ancient plasters (a mixture of medicinal ingredients applied to a wound often held on by a bandage) seem to have had some helpful benefits. For instance, some of the more complicated plasters called for the heating of plant resin or animal fat with alkali. This particular mixture when heated yields soap which would have helped to ward off bacterial infection."

      Remember those jars we mentioned that were found in the tombs of Egypt? Some of the jars were proved to contain spikenard, a medicinal plant also used as a perfume. Another jar had had frankincense in it once upon a time. They have also found a lot of kyphi in the jars. But, that term has been used to describe all sorts of aromatic blends, some of which ran well over a dozen ingredients, including at least one that had raisins as an ingredient, there is a link below to a page of those. But, back to the tomb as it were.
      One of the ancient papyruses from Luxor contained over 700 medical treatments, some of which are still in use, and it was written around 1500 BC.

"Unguent is the classical word used to describe what modern English-speakers might better understand as an ointment or a solid perfume. Despite the occasional ancient Egyptian image or the discovery of what certainly seems to be functional distillery equipment in the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro, as far as we know today the distillation process was not popularized until the 10th century of our time. Thus, Egyptian perfumes were very different in texture from the liquids now considered 'perfumes'. For a close modern comparison, consider the solid perfumes currently imported from India, packaged in small carved wooden or stone containers. (The resemblance is in texture, presentation and appearance, not necessarily in fragrance.)"

      Remember the spikenard, it comes up again. The frankincense we already know about from that third grade Christmas play we were all in. Yeah, it was the same stuff.
      And then in China:

"The Chinese book on roots and grasses "Pen T'Sao," written by Emperor Shen Nung circa 2500 BC, treats 365 drugs (dried parts of medicinal plants), many of which are used even nowadays such as the following: Rhei rhisoma, camphor, Theae folium, Podophyllum, the great yellow gentian, ginseng, jimson weed, cinnamon bark, and ephedra."
- (all links below)

      Whole plants themselves, as well as their sap, leaves, stems, bark, and roots have been used as medicine throughout the world by humans and non-humans alike. Wounded or sick animals have been seen eating various plants or rolling in leaves and mud to cover an open sore. Stone age tribes in various remote areas pass along amazingly complicated pharmacopeia of medicinal plants and compounds involving ingredients from their world.
      They also found derivatives from those plants useful as well. Such as teas, the plasters mentioned in the Sumerian piece, and the smoke from them when burned, such as with incense.
      It was often the local Alchemist, the 'wise old woman' of the village, or the priests that gathered and maintained, and then passed on to the next generation the knowledge of which funny looking little plant was good for using to cure a boil, and which would keep rats out of the animal feed, and other such knowledge before the common use of written manuscripts and books.
      It was the time when medicine was more art than science. Later, medical practice changed lanes and became a hard science in its own right. Today, unfortunately in most cases, the 'art' side of the equation is forgotten until somebody wants to name a building the "Joe Smith Medical Arts Pavilion".

"All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the Challenge of science is to find it."
- Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, (1493 – 1541)
aka: Paracelsus
also, the opening quote of this article

      OK, catch your breath while we do a quick review before we plunge ahead.

      The substances called "Essential Oils" are all plant based. Plants. Period.
      What is usually sold as "Fish Oil" isn't an EO, but in many cases it is blended with them. "Butter Oil" and even "Bacon Oil" may make stuff taste better, but neither or them are an essential oil. Neither is "Mineral Oil" which comes from petroleum, and when refined a bit more and then has a scent agent added is called "Baby Oil", so they are really crude oils. And that was a really crude pun. As was that.
      The infamous "Snake Oil" may have originally been made from snakes, as a few traditional Eastern medicines were, and some still are (such as 'snake infused liquor' in Vietnam), but, the percentage of actual rendered snake is probably very low, but if there is anything from any sort of critter, it isn't an EO. The jury is still out on some of the oils derived from plankton because some plankton is tiny animals.
      And, while we're at it, some EOs have been used to treat snakebite, such as Melaluca (tea tree oil CAN detoxify some venoms) and are sometimes called 'snake oil', but they're really only guilty by association.
      Essential oils have been demonstrated to have various properties, and are being scientifically investigated for others, such as Frankincense having documented anti-cancer attributes (link below), which has been described as 'smart' in that while it appears to work against a tumor, the compounds in the oil don't bother healthy cells. It is simply true, the oils Will Do Some Things better than the chemical compounds sold by the corner drug store. And, at the same time, they Won't do some other things that some of their cheerleaders say they will. And they'll usually do whatever they're doing with fewer and milder side effects. But. Again. As with most things in real life, you need to think about things and use some common sense.
      Again, 'good companies' are as much about 'good information' and training as they are about selling stuff.

"There's Gold In Them Thar Flowers!" and leaves, and bark....

      You CAN extract an "Essential Oil" from almost any plant, including Poison Ivy, and yes, that honeysuckle flower we mentioned earlier, and even some mushrooms (see link below!). However, the benefit to humanity of said substance might be questionable at best, harmful at worst, and not economically viable somewhere in the middle. Yes, as we have seen, you Can, and they Do make an oil out of rose petals, and then charge people over two hundred dollars (or Euros given the current exchange rate) for One Teaspoon (5ml) of it, but you're probably not going to sell a lot of it are you? And especially not from your display at the gas station on the corner.
      Think about it, compared to saffron flowers, roses are a dime a dozen. So how can ANYBODY sell 30ml bottles of "pure saffron essential oil" for $19.95 (operators are standing by!). Bottom line is: they can't. It's NOT what it says it is. Most likely, there is little or even NO saffron oil in it. It is exactly the same as the online shops selling "pure rose oil" for $2 a bottle when the contents may not be related to any of those three words. The regulations are foggy and there are some outsiders that say you could have a very low percentage of the 'headline ingrediant' in it and still claim that is "pure" whatever it is. These companies, bought something, who knows what from where, then rebottled and relabled it, and are now selling something to unsuspecting customers who then think that all Essential Oils are worthless slime. But when you come right down to it, the FDA simply DOES NOT REGULATE Essential Oils other than keeping bottlers from selling straight up poison, and keeping those that sell them from making otherwise unsubstantiated medicinal claims. And that's it. (see FDA links below)
      When you are using therapeutic grade oils you want to know for sure that what is in the bottle is what it is supposed to be. Which is why if you are treating a serious condition with serious oils, you want to have serious confidence in the supplier. Seriously.
      Especially when it has been demonstrated that many of the Essential Oils can do what many man made drugs cannot and cross both into the brain tissue from the blood, and into the fetus through the placenta:

"The use of essential oils during pregnancy is a controversial topic and one that is yet to be fully understood. The main concern during pregnancy appears to be the risk of essential oil constituents crossing over into the placenta. According to Tisserand and Balacs, crossing the placenta does not necessarily mean that there is a risk of toxicity to the fetus; this will depend on the toxicity and the plasma concentration of the compound. It is probable that essential oil metabolites cross the placenta due to the intimate (but not direct) contact between maternal and embryonic or fetal blood. Tony Burfield goes on to say, "to my thinking the responsible attitude is to discourage the use of essential oils completely during the first few months of pregnancy"."
- See informational link below.

      Frankincense is one of the most versatile of the oils and is often used to minimize the scarring of skin after injury. It is also one of the rarest and hardest to produce, especially the variety called "sacred", no, not kidding, that's the botanical name "Boswellia sacra". To begin with the Boswellia family of trees are very picky about where they call home, and they seem to be happiest in some of the harshest climates and most politically unstable regions of the planet. It can take several decades for the slow growing things to begin to produce harvest-able amounts of resin, which is then collected and processed through steam distillation as most other oils are. So while your 'discount' bottle of the stuff from a display in a convenience store may seem like a bargain, don't get upset when you open it and notice that instead of smelling like "an old Catholic church" it smells like a sandwich shop and instead of making a surgical scar lighter and smaller, which is another of 'Frank's properties, the wound ends up inflamed or worse.
      That is no exaggeration. Some of the 'oils' sold under various terms like 'aroma therapy', 'massage therapy', 'homeopathic', and so on may be mixed with anything and everything, including substandard carrier oils which may not even be 'food grade' and in some cases water mixed with chemical emulsifiers to keep it from separating. Many of these will state that they are blends, or mixtures, or other such wording, and sometimes, they don't. Also, the majority of therapeutic grade essential oils have no expiration date and are essentially sterile. That's right. If left in their original vials, and otherwise uncontaminated, and out of direct sunlight (which will do bad things to some of them), they Will Not Go Rancid even after being opened for several years. Blends and other mixtures cannot say that as many carrier oils will go bad once exposed to air due to their fatty oil content... or perhaps when exposed to bad puns. Especially around here.

      One of the more mysterious and some would say Mystical aspects of true plant Essential Oils is their electrical properties. Apparently many of the oils have unique and sometimes unexpected properties when exposed to various energy fields, including the bioelectric fields found within a living body.
      Whether you are talking about their "resonance frequency", their "inherent electrical properties", or how those change, or how those change you, you're going to hear discordant sounds from both sides of the orchestra pit. (check the pun count)
      Some say that Essential Oils have a "very high vibrational frequency". Others claim that their resonance is part of their healing virtue. While others go even further and assign spiritual aspects to them for those properties. We'll get to some of the spiritual stuff in due time, but for now, let's spend a moment on the electro-chemical side of things.
      Yes, most, if not all chemical compounds, including living matter, and Essential Oils were at one time 'living matter' have these sorts of properties. Their frequencies can be charted in a laboratory, their electrical responses measured in a glass dish. The same can be said for the human body, most of the body's major organs have readable electrical fields in them, the most notable being the heart, of course, the brain, and the muscles. And it is also worth mentioning that some people are sensitive to various outside electromagnetic disturbances just as some people's digestion is disrupted by various sounds.
      The claim is that the Oils, and their superior frequencies can help restore order to those systems. Which oil? Which frequency? Which system? And how? Well... that's something for those mystics to explain.
      What will happen and how when said oil is introduced to a living system, and if it does something, what will it do, and for how long, is another matter entirely. And one we will not go into further here.

      Much has been made about various oil vendors being multilevel marketing outfits. And so they are. But there is an advantage to such direct selling from the producer to the customer. You cut out the middle man. Those very individuals who mix a drop or two of that rose oil we've been mentioning with a gallon of who-knows-what, then reselling it as something that it no longer is with something like 'homeopathic' or 'aromatic' written on it.

Stand By For Tangent
      Homeopathy has been practiced as an alternative medicine in Europe and the US for some time. It began about two hundred years ago in Germany based on an assumption that "like can cure like", or rather, that a substance that causes a given symptom in a healthy person can contribute to the cure of a similar illness in a patient, which can be traced back to our old friend Paracelsus. To that end, the practitioner takes various medicinal substances and dilutes them with something, often plain water. Then they take a small percentage of that mixture and add it to another container of liquid and stir it up, then let it age so the new compound 'takes on the properties' or the 'vital energy' of the original. Then they take a small amount of that liquid and add it to another jug of liquid. Until, in some cases, nothing of the original compound remains. Then the result is added to some sort of carrier to be given to the patient with whatever 'vitality' survived all the mixing.
      A trained homeopath's toolbox will contain a number of items, including some of the usual assortment of medicinal plants (and yes, even our Essential Oils), various minerals and compounds, and occasionally even more exotic items like various insects and animal excretions. Some of the substances they use are known to be dangerous, a few are downright deadly in even small doses, so it would be wise of the patient seeking such alternative care to check the credentials of their practitioner beforehand. Which is good advice when dealing with any professional service, even a dry cleaner. Right?
      To be fair, homeopathic treatments have had some success. Usually in conjunction with one or more other alternative, or even mainstream, treatments. But there you have it. If it never worked for anybody, it would have fallen by the wayside long ago.
      You will find links to outside references below.
End Tangent

      Some of the companies trumpet long and loud that they own or otherwise control as much as possible the production of their oils from the dirt the plant grows in all the way to when the final bottle of oil is shipped to the consumer. Some own the farms, others contract with growers, still others buy the roses on the open market after inspecting them, there are advantages, and truth be told, which is what we try to do here, there are also disadvantages to each. If you own the farm, you also own the risk of a bad crop, if (and WHEN as one of the companies 'YL' experianced recently) something goes wrong with the crop this year, you might be out of production until the next crop comes in. If you contract with growers, you spread that risk out, but you also invite in other problems and quality issues between growers. And if you buy on the open market, your supply is at the whim of the market. There are also costs associated with each. One way may lower the cost of production, but it increases costs in other ways, including those pesky quality control issues, and pests as well.
      With some oils, such as Frankincense, it may not be feasible to own the means of production on a large scale. With others, such as lavender and the problems in Europe we mentioned earlier, it is, but then you have problems in Europe to deal with which might be even worse than what's happening in Somalia.
      But, you deal with what you have to deal with to get what you need from wherever it comes from.

      While the idea of using plants as medicine has been around as long as animals have been around to use them, the practice of turning them into commercially viable Essential Oils for Retail Sale to Consumers is relatively new. Well, at least it is compared to the topic of "plants as medicine" which goes back into the mists of history including a famous Arab polymath who wrote extensively across a wide range of subjects, one of those being medicine. Another being Alchemy.

"The medicinal plants described in his various writings amount to over 800, but we are not able to identify all of them accurately, as he used their vernacular names from India, Tibet and China, as well as the Middle East. Among those that we can identify, we find lavender, camomile and, of course, the ubiquitous rose, all of them very valuable aromatherapy oils."
article about: Abu 'Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina (aka: Avicenna 980 -1037)
- (all links below)

      As we've already had our Chinese food for thought today, we'll have afternoon tea in India while we discuss the "Science of Life" with an Ayurveda practitioner. There we find out that there is no "earliest date" for when they began using medicinal plants and plant derivatives, including oils, and that today there are nearly 600,000 registered practitioners of traditional medicine in the country.

"In Ayurveda, the distinction between food and medicine is not as clear as in Western medicine. Food and diet are important components of Ayurvedic practice, and so there is a heavy reliance on treatments based on herbs and plants, oils (such as sesame oil), common spices (such as turmeric), and other naturally occurring substances."

      Chapter XXXVII of the Charaka Samhita, written about 800 BC, describes using various plants and their oils combined with clarified butter as a carrier for everything from indigestion to 'haunchback' as they put it:
This is a direct quote of the English version of the text

"Jimuta, Indra-yava, Ativishd and Vdld (in equal parts) should be pasted together and cooked with an adequate quantity of clarified butter and oil, the oil weighing a fourth part of the whole quantity of Sneha to which should be added a quantity of milk weighing eight times as much as the Sneha (oil and clarified butter added together) with a decoction of the drugs of the Nyagrodhddi group. This (medicated Ghrita), used as a Vasti proves efficacious in cases of Asrig-dara (menorrhagia), erysipelas (Visarpa), Vdta-Rakta, abscess (Vidradhi), fever, burning sensations in the body and all other disorders due to the action of the deranged Pitta.

      Which is why they have the "Essential Oil Association of India" which takes care of things related to the raising, production, marketing, and promotion of all things associated with Essential Oils. See link below.

"... but that lady at church said they're in the Bible."

      And so they are.

"Then the Lord said to Moses, "Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 500 shekels of cassia - all according to the sanctuary shekel - and a hin of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law, the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. "Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. Say to the Israelites, 'This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on anyone else's body and do not make any other oil using the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from their people.'"
- Exodus 30 : 22 - 33 (NIV)

      There was also oils that had a pleasant scent, blended by design to make people happy:

"You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
    therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
    by anointing you with the oil of joy.
All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
    from palaces adorned with ivory
    the music of the strings makes you glad."
- Pslam 45 : 7 and 8

      Besides being used for anointing as a symbol of a special purpose, and their healing properties, and the simple fact that many smell good, they were also used to embalm the dead. And in the case of the Spikenard from the tomb of King Tut, they were used for all of the above for years beyond count, as in:

"Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 'Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.'"
- John 12 : 1 - 5 (NIV)
      In verse seven we come to the punch line:
"'Leave her alone,' Jesus replied. 'It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.'"

      Nard, or Spikenard is not native to either Egypt or Israel. The source for the material was far to the east, perhaps coming all the way from the mountainous forests of South East Asia where they dug up and processed the roots of the plant to make the product. One of the traditional attributes of the plant was to ease emotional upset and promote a sense of well-being. Which, given the situation, would probably be welcome.

      Of course there were other oils mentioned in Scripture that were not our Essential Oils as well. Some were as an ingrediant in cooking, others for burning in a lamp to give heat or light, and some served as something to cook as well as something to cook on, such as Olive Oil.

      There are entire week long seminars that discuss the Oils of the Bible. Or the Oils of the Ancients. The Oils of the Mysterious Far East. And so on, so we'll coast to a stop with that, turn a corner, and go on.

"Is Olive Oil Essential?"

      And while we're at it, we'll look at coconut oil, grape seed oil, corn... well, you get the idea.
      Well, yes, Olive Oil is essential if you are making a good Italian dressing. But as far as the topic we're discussing, no.
      Even the almost mystical Aloe Vera is subject to mislabeling that way. MOST of the products sold as 'aloe' are a juice extract or something derived by the maceration of the plant in liquid, and then straining it into a bottle, or even selling the raw paste. Anything that says Aloe Oil is probably something like that mixed with a carrier oil.
      Again, an "essence" CAN be made from olive blossoms, and there are supplements being sold as "olive leaf extract", but as far as an Essential Oil? Stick with that TV cooking lady's "EVOO" and you'll be fine.
      Olive, coconut, grape, and even soybean and corn oils are extracted from the fruits or seeds of those plants by pressing. They are, as a class, considered "fatty oils", and are NOT the Essential Oils obtained by the methods outlined above. Almost any of those make a good 'carrier' for something like Frank or Oregano, but even then, that they are NOT an Essential Oil.

"Sola dosis facit venenum"
'the dose makes the poison' - Paracelsus
      Is it an Essential Oil or isn't it?
      Both. With certain limits on that statement.
      What is being sold as "white camphor essential oil" is blood-kin to the product of the various varieties of Laurel tree that is sold under all sorts of names including Aura Cacia, Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora) and a handful of others, all boil down to the same thing (did you check the pun count?) and it does have many properties of an EO and is obtained in much the same way.
      The trees of that family from various countries produce what is usually called camphor, but the 'white' has very little, if any, of the safrole found in the yellow and brown varieties that can be really nasty if consumed. The white is approved by various approvers for External Use Only, and has proven to be effective as a chest rub to suppress cough and to relieve pain and soreness from various skin conditions. And may be effective for such things as fungal infections and even hemorrhoids.
      But it is being sold as everything from an anti-flu agent to a treatment for bronchitis. Most of which has the long term potential to expose the user to dangerous levels of safrole if you use too many similar products for too long as the active ingredients, like essential oils, are absorbed through the skin, which, in turn, may result in convulsions, vomiting and other serious complications that may arise in an hour or so with little warning, and could even result in death.
      The point being that everything that is sold as an Essential Oil may not be all lollypops and roses, some could be skulls and crossed bones.
End Tangent

      Which brings us to the Voynich Manuscript. Yes it does, hang on for a second and we'll explain.
      The 'most mysterious manuscript' has several sections in it that deal with plants, and what appears to be their processing for various purposes. And, some of the mechanisms depicted in its pages do look to be different sorts of pot stills, such as are used to for distillation. so it is not out of the question that the old book is depicting the production of food, maybe pharmaceuticals, and... ... well, something else.
      An example of the pharmaceutical section of the book is presented here for your amusement.

More on the manuscript including other ideas about the purposes of the 'jars': (link below)

"Are you done yet?"

      Well, OK. It's time to come to some sort of conclusion and put this one to bed.
      We've looked at the oils, and at man made chemical medicines. We've clocked vibrations and looked at a couple of ancient manuscripts and heard from our old friend Paracelsus. We punched the clock in ancient times and at modern universities, and read the first half of a poem by Emily Dickinson.
      Along the way we made stops in Egypt, India, China, and even the Holy Land.
      There's been a few surprises, some common sense stuff, and even (dare we say it?) some good advice.
      So, where does all of this leave us?

      There is little remaining serious doubt that therapeutic grade Essential Oils from a reputable company do have some physical benefit when used as intended.
      There is also no doubt at all that some modern "snake oils" are being sold that are not an Essential Oil in anything but name and could have ingredients that are not only counterproductive to what the oil is to be used for, they may be downright dangerous to the user.

      There is ample evidence, and we've run through a fair peice of it, that plants and their derivatives in all their various forms have been used throughout human history. And, to be fair and objective here, which has been the target we've been aiming at since we started, some of those treatments simply did not work. It may have smelled good, or, more likely "smelled like medicine", but didn't really do anything to cure the illness it was used for. However, some of them did work. Some of them still work. And as humanity has progressed and found new and creative diseases, those that know those sorts of things have found that some of the old treatments work for them as well.

      The only thing we haven't looked at is the one that the Desk is totally unqualified to evaluate, and it is also completely unwilling, without a strong dose of something "Essential" that is NOT an "Oil" to speculate on. That being, why it seems women are the primary audience for these things when, historically at least, it was men, namely Alchemists like the Bombastic one (Paracelsus), as well as Avicenna, and the Count Saint Germain, who kept the knowledge of them alive.

      As to why people who willingly take a pill prescribed by a physician that has a table of side effects that read like a greatest hits list of things that can go wrong with the human body immediately scoff at the idea that an Essential Oil might actually help minimize or even cure whatever problem they have WITHOUT making their skin fall off or their liver explode is a mystery that even the Desk's Mystery Series cannot answer.


      Which leaves us with.... ... ...

Links to resources and information: All links will open in a new window. All links were working as of 1 May 2015.

Absolute vs Essential good, basic, information. brings us "Marjoram, its uses and side effects"

Pine Trees and Cats don't mix per:

Medications from plants article from:

One of our oily examples was: valerian

Another was Frankincense:
"Could it be a cure for cancer?"

More at

"Shiitake Mushroom Essential Oil?"
"Shiitake essential oil is an effective anti-bacterial and anti-biofilm agent on important oral pathogens and has a possible therapeutic potential as an oral anti-biofilm agent." at

Overall History:
and more from South Africa


"agricultural chemical" language:

France and their Lavender issues:
"French lavender farmers furious over restrictive EU regulations"
and more as the "ECHA is set to classify the oil as a 'skin sensitizer.'"


China, and others:
"Historical review of medicinal plants’ usage"

Ancient Egyptian Beauty - Tutankhamun's

Kyphi recipies, both With and Without raisins!

Essential Oil Association of India

Chraka Samhita The entire book online at:
Also in India but of a more recent vintage:


The Anointing at Bethany with the "nard":

"Use of Plants in Medicine"
More on him from:
The "New Advent" article on the old master:
did that count as a pun?

A clearing house type page of dozens of sources and references.
"...Several key concepts of homeopathy are inconsistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics. There are significant challenges in carrying out rigorous clinical research on homeopathic remedies."
Homeopathic Information on skin irritation, and includes pregnancy concerns as mentioned in the article: (more below as well)

Emily Dickinson's poem: "Essential Oils are Wrung".

Three US Oil Companies as promised:

The oldest and largest, NOT a rebottler:
Young Living Essential Oils,

Their most serious competition, also not a rebottler:
DoTerra International

Rocky Mountain Oils, a smaller company also in Utah (same home state as the other two!)

The FDA's page on "Aromatherapy " and related products:

"You may see fragrance products, such as "essential oils," marketed with "aromatherapy" claims that they will treat health problems or improve well-being. Who regulates these products, and how? Find answers here:"
The Food and Drug Administration's letters to:
Young Living
"Based on our review, FDA has determined that many of your Young Living Essential Oil products, such as, but not limited to, "Thieves," "Cinnamon Bark," "Oregano," "ImmuPower," "Rosemary," "Myrtle," "Sandalwood," "Eucalyptus Blue," "Peppermint," "Ylang Ylang," "Frankincense," and "Orange," are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs under section 201(g)(1)(B) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. 321(g)(1)(B)], because they are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. The intended use of a product may be determined by, among other things, its labeling, advertising, and the circumstances surrounding its distribution, 21 C.F.R. 201.128. As described below, the marketing and distribution of your Young Living Essential Oil products without FDA-approved applications is in violation of the Act".

doTerra International

"Your products are marketed through the website and through paid "consultants,", otherwise referred to as "wellness advocates," Your consultants promote your above mentioned doTERRA Essential Oil products for conditions including, but not limited to, viral infections (including ebola), bacterial infections, cancer, brain injury, autism, endometriosis, Grave's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, tumor reduction, ADD/ADHD, and other conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners. Moreover, your consultants redirect consumers to your website,, to register as a customer or member (i.e., consultant), and to purchase your doTERRA Essential Oil products."
A news article about those letters from 24 Sept.2014:
"FDA warns three companies against marketing their products as Ebola treatments or cures"'s very own: US FDA Disclaimer!

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, condition, or ailment. They will also not prevent demonic possession, invasion by space aliens, or win the lottery for you. And, no, Charlie Brown, the Oils WILL NOT make that 'little red haired girl' fall in love with you! This article is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only, nothing else should be expected from it. Thank You, Good Night, and May God Bless.

Media Desk Articles Mentioned and other related topics:

The Mystery Series looks into Alchemy perhaps the flagship of the series.

An article about The Count Saint Germain one of the Alchemists of Old.

Genetically Engineered Food, the 'dark side', and you.

The Desk's look at the Voynich Manuscript from 2005

The Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient libraries

The index of the other Desk Nonfiction articles

AND, if you really want to buy one, or five: The Desk's Books!

[NOTE: The products, companies, ancient physicians, historic documents, and everything else are owned and controlled by outside entities, the Desk is not responsible for them, nor are they responsible for the Desk. No endorsement of one by the other is intended or to be inferred. They are owned by their respective owners and are used here as part of this journalistic effort. If any said entity objects to their inclusion, said words and image will be removed. They may contact the Desk at: Dr_Leftover{!a~t!}TheMediaDesk{!d0t!}com (email scrambled due to spammer robots).
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