Reliable Resources for Essential Oil Use


I have been a scientist for 20yrs. One thing that has been consistent throughout my years is the need for evidence- whether using a protocol, asking specific questions or evaluating what the previous outcomes have been. According to the google dictionary evidence is “the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid”.

Evidence is what we use to formulate our thinking, our truth.  Usually in science, it is evidence that motivates us to formulate a hypothesis- to help us find something we think might be true. Hypothesis are a beginning point, BUT, it is important to point out that when I investigate a hypothesis, a question, that I think could be true, sometimes it is not, much to my surprise.

The same is true for essential oil use.  What evidence is there for an essential oils effectiveness?  When using a particular essential oil, what evidence supports the use of this oil for the purposes you are using it for? There is lots of information about essential oils floating around. Not all accurate and true. I am not trying to be negative, only encourage people to be knowledgeable and safe.

It is important to point out that essential oils are also very concentrated.  More than I think we realize sometimes.  For example, according to Aromatherapy Materia Medica-Essential Oil Monographs by Dorene Petersen, it takes 3000 lemons to make 2.2lbs of essential oil. 2.2 lbs equals approximately 997 mls. That is almost 1 liter. This equals about 5 lemons in each 15ml vial of essential oil.  That is a lot of lemons!  This alone should cause us to proceed with caution.
Just because it is natural does not always mean it is safe.


An example- Vincristine. Also known as Catharanthus roseus (family Apocyanaceae).   It is a beautiful flower found in nature.  Did you know it is used as a cancer drug that works in childhood leukemia patients?  Too much and it can make you very sick, the right amount and it can help fight the cancer. There is a fine line between the right amount and too much.

I applaud those of you who love oils and who believe in them.   I urge you however to be educated in your use and when you aren’t sure, seek out an aromatherapist who has training.

So where do you get evidence, resources that are reliable and safe?  would begin with PubMed and journal articles.  This is where the research is being done, the evidence is being gathered.  Specific questions are being asked, metrics are being used, and qualitative information is being discovered.  It is important to note that when reading journal articles, read the entire article, not just the abstract.  An abstract is only a highlight, but it is up to you to read the information and make a decision for yourself.  Do you agree with the authors?


Another great place are books.    One of my favorites is Essential Oil Safety by Tisserand and Young.  Its main focus is safety information, scientific evidence along with some of the chemistry.  E. Joy Bowels and the Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic oils is another.  These books delve into a deeper side of essential oils.  There are many wonderful books out there.  If you are going to use essential oils, I urge you to spend some time delving deeper into the history and science.

Research institutes that have a focus on aromatherapy.  A few examples include the University of Maryland Medical Center and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Often these institutes will post information and links to aromatherapy information.

Professional Aromatherapy Organizations such as NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy) and AIA (Alliance of International Aromatherapists) often have seminars and books that are useful.  These sites can also help you find an aromatherapist if you should ever decide to consult with one.  Both AIA and NAHA put out a quarterly journal with information about things happening in the community, as well as articles and seminars and webinars.

Aromatherapy colleges and schools.  The American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) has a page dedicated to articles that contain eBooks and white papers.  Other examples include the Tisserand Institute, Aromahead Institute, and Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy.

Some websites that I have found very helpful are Aromaweb- established by Wendy Robins a certified aromatherapist through ACHS.  Another site great site is Using Essential Oils Safely created by Lea Harris a graduate from Aromahead Institute and a certified aromatherapist.   Her main focus is education and safety when using EO’s.

Several data bases of adverse effects of essential oils are being compiled.  This is really important as there is a need to better understand the negative effects of oils in real life situations.  I am excited about this as I hope in the coming years it will become a valuable tool in better understanding negative effects.  The two available are and

There are many more great educators, institutes, centers and books out there than I have mentioned.  The more you do your research, the more you will learn and be able to decipher fact from fiction.  It is important to point out that not everyone in the aromatherapy community agrees.  It is true that there are gray areas, but I would say, leave the gray areas to the professionals.  Those that have been trained and understand the benefits and risks.  If you are unsure if something is safe it is wise to proceed with caution.  Safety should be first.  Always consult with your physician if you are unsure or have a medical condition.

I hope that these resources will be useful and help you to explore the use of essential oils safely.

Aromatherapy, Logical Fallacy, and the Spread of Safety Extremism

The Aromapologist:

The Aromapologist

It would be nice if the matters crucial to the safe and effective implementation of aromatherapy were truly all black and white. Social media and the internet certainly do a good job of trying to force all information regarding essential oils into one firm, non-negotiable category or another. Very likely, almost anyone reading this who has had an invested interest in aromatherapy has run across any given set of expressed rules that multitudes insist on as being the only correct way of doing things. This is usually to one extreme perspective or another and with the rationalization that it is all in the name of safety.

It is understandable that people are more comfortable looking at things as right or wrong with no debate about it. After all, being able to label something that way removes complexity and by the very nature of that removal makes things easier. There is…

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How Are Essential Oils Made?

essential oils distillation imageWhen I first started learning about aromatherapy and essential oils I had so many questions. Where do they come from, how are they made, who makes the best oils, why do they work? These are all important questions if you are going to use essential oils regularly. Why does it matter you ask? It matters because essential oils won’t work properly if they don’t have certain chemical characteristics. If you want to use essential oils as perfume, then maybe it won’t matter to you. If you are someone who wants to have a great smell that is functional and for a specific purpose, then it does matter.

So if you are sitting there and wondering, how is an essential oil made. Let me begin by telling you that really, essential oils are not made. They are extracted from the plant because the components that make up the oil are already in the plant. Oils can come from many different parts of the plant and is specific to the particular oil. For example, rose essential oil comes from the rose petals, lemon is produced from the peel, and juniper is produced from the berries, valerian from a root and cinnamon from the leaf or bark.

There are many factors that go into extracting an essential oil. The key factors include, the time of day and time of year the plant material is harvested; the region of the world as well as the temperature of the region. Each of these factors play a very important part in producing an oil that renders the desired chemistry that it will have therapeutic/functional impact.

So back to the question, how are essential oils extracted? The methods used include distillation, expression (also referred to as cold pressed), solvent/absolute extraction, CO2 Extraction, maceration and enfleurage. Today I want to focus on the process of distillation.5876_1e_large

Distillation: The process of passing steam through plant material.

1. Load plant material into Still, usually copper or stainless steel.
2. Steam or water/steam passes through still
3. The steam breaks down the plant material and removes the components of the plant in the form of vapor
4. Oil and water vapor moves to the stills condenser, where the steam changes back to water or oil droplets
5. The water and oil separate. Most often, but not always the oils sits on the surface.
6. Oil is captured by pouring the water off, leaving the essential oil.

The essential oil that results from this process contain many individual chemical components. While these components are specific to each plant, there are certain characteristics/ molecular structures that are often found in certain groups of plants. These structures are important because it allows each oil to be categorized based on its function (or therapeutic property). An example of these structures would be esters, alcohols and terpenes.

I like to think of it this way, (using the image below.) If you were able to look inside the essential oil Coriander seed, you would see structures like Linalool, -Pinene, -Terpinene floating around; or perhaps Thyme (linalool CT) which contain -Caryophyllene and Carvacrol in its composition.

chemistry 2

In reality, essential oils are just made up of a bunch of structures. If you understand these structures, you can understand the functions of your oil. Take Terpenes/Terpenoids for example. They are known for anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral and bactericidal therapeutic actions. This then tells you how you should use your oil.

I hope that I haven’t confused or overwhelmed you with nerdy, science talk, but have given you a better understanding of how essential oils travel from the plant into your hands.  Check out the cool video showing the distillation process.

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

People often ask me how aromatherapy works.  I love it when people ask questions!  Next week I will be posting a more in depth blog about memory-emotion and aromatherapy.  Before I get into that I would like to just give you a basic understanding of how/why aromatherapy works.  As a scientist and certified aromatherapist it is important to help people understand that essential oils and aromatherapy are more than just  a pretty smell- they are functional!

Cue the quick science lesson:  Essential oils are volatile.   This means that essential oils can evaporate and easily turn into vapor. The vapor of the oil when released into the air travels as molecules.  These molecules travel to your nose.  From the minute an aroma hits your nose there is a process that occurs.  In this process there are 4  key concepts that are important to understand- Detect, Transmit, Perceive and analyze.

DETECT: Essential Oil molecules travel up the nose into the nasal cavity, where they come into contact with chemoreceptors. When an odor molecule stimulates a chemoreceptor, changes to your brain occur.

TRANSMIT: The change to your brain is caused by a nerve impulse which creates a signal- (known as an aroma print) that travels to the olfactory bulb .

PERCEIVED & ANALYZED: The aroma print travels to other parts of the brain for perception, analysis, storage in memory and emotional response.

Check out the fun little video




Find Your Scents

Have you ever looked for a natural alternative to the challenges you face?  I have…..This begins my story of Divine Scents.

My interest in aromatherapy began because I had chronic back pain and didn’t want to take pills or deal with the side effects that came with it.  I found that aromatherapy made the difference and worked. Being a scientist my curiosity lead me to begin formal training and become a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist.

Halfway through my training, my son was diagnosed with cancer.  I began working with the oncologist to use aromatherapy to support my son through treatment.  Aromatherapy was very effective in combating his nausea and anxiety – it was astounding; even the nurses were amazed by how well it worked.

I found that other families in the cancer clinic were also interested in trying aromatherapy to support themselves and their children undergoing treatment.  Once thing led to another and I found myself giving free advice to any parent who wanted to use aromatherapy for their child with cancer.

It was through this experience that I realized this could be something for everyone, a way to support people in their total body and mind.  This is how I began Divine Scents.

Divine Scents passion is to help people who want a natural alternative.  Through the science of aromatherapy Divine Scents products are crafted for everyday challenges that can be safely and easily used.

Most of my products offered have been crafted based on people’s requests.  My wish is to continue to build this very personal component by expanding products that people need, offering custom blending services, as well as establishing a consultation practice with-in the community.

I believe Divine Scents offers natural solutions to everyday challenges; and will improve the lives of those that use them.

Check out the wide range of aromatherapy products at