Blog post 15: Are essential oils sustainable and safe?

…more than 330 roses needed for 30ml rose petals essential oil…

I’ve just had a friend visiting me who I would call “advanced” in her ecological and sustainable life (I would rate me “very motivated beginner”) and expert in herbalism. We were discussing about many things out of my blog, website and life. (NC, you will recognize yourself, he?)

She opened my eyes!!! Did you ever think critically on essential oil? I did not… and I feel a little bit stupid now.

Do you have any idea how many plants do you need to produce a drop of essential oil?

Of course, it depends on the type of essential oil. An example: to produce 28gr of rose essential oil (I guess about a bottle of 30ml), you will need….10.000 rose petals! (According to google, roses have 20-40 petals per flower… so you need about 333 flowers!).

What about the resources?

Yes, you have to think about the water used to grow the plants, fertilizers, the eventual products (pesticides?) used to keep plants alive and fit. Don’t forget the energy consumption to produce it (by distillation, or extraction) or the solvent use for the extraction of some essential oil (some flower-based oil). The it has to arrives to you… (transportation)

Is it bad for the environment?

Some plants can be found locally, and sometimes you can find alternatives from local distilleries. Otherwise, you can have a look at the list of “united plant savers” where they have a list of wild medicinal plants that are currently the most sensitive to the impact of human activities (deforestation because the demand is higher than the growth rate). And some essential oil in high concentration can be toxic for the environment or can contaminate ground water.

How do you need to dispose the bottles?

I thought this was an easy question… but apparently, commonly used essential oil (lavender, tea tree) are highly inflammable and can cause a danger to workers in recycling industries… At my next visit to the recycling park, I’ll ask them if I have to bring it to them (hazardous products)…

And at last, is it safe? For Palmarosa, I’ve searched the scientific literature, and didn’t find anything about it. But apparently (and I do believe it is true as essential oils contains so many components and possible allergens), if you use pure essential oil for some time, you are at risk to develop an allergic reaction to it, from which you’ll never get rid of. So, it is actually advisable, if you still want to use essential oil after ready this post, to use it in very small quantities in beauty products, or dilute it on plant-based oil (almond for example; or another one which doesn’t smell too much) if you use it on your skin.

ALTERNATIVE?

I’m a positive person, and if I don’t like to criticize without offering possible solutions… So, I’ve been trying to find alternatives.

If you use oil or vinegar for beauty or cleaning products, we want the smell of the essential oil (most of us do), not specially all the other characteristics.  Why not add some flowers/plants/leaves (fresh or dried) in it so that it can gives some smell? Hence, you don’t need to add any additional essential oil! To make lavender-vinegar, I’ve read that you need to add 1 volume of flowers (fresh or dried) for 4 volume of vinegar. I’m going to try it!!!

If you don’t have the time or energy for it, you could buy hydrolats (water with water-soluble components obtained after distillation of the plant).

I hope I did not demotivated you… but at the contrary that next time your neighbor will cut his lavender plants, that you’ll ask for the flowers and make liters of free laundry softener.😉

Anali

PS: thanks to those who like my posts, share the website with friends or follow me on my Facebook page. It makes me happy to know that other people share my interest, and it makes me dream that you all make small changes in your life 😉. Thanks!