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Diffusing essential oils: Harmful or beneficial to human health?

Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy diffusing essential oils daily to improve mood, relax, and create a more pleasant environment. But, a growing number of consumers are concerned that this practice may be harmful based on widely publicized reports that terpenes found in essential oils may interact with constituents in the atmosphere (carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, etc.) to form toxic oxidation products. Is this concern warranted or just hype from those who don’t believe essential oils have a place in the home?

Evidence suggests that terpenes in essential oils (limonene, alpha-pinene, linalool, etc.) are not harmful by themselves. However, their structure — comprised of one or more carbon to carbon bonds — makes them extremely susceptible to reactions with atmospheric constituents.(1,2) When these reactions occur, toxic oxidation products are produced such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, organic acid, and hydrogen peroxide, which are called hydroxyl radicals and secondary organic aerosols (SOAs).(3-6) These oxidation products can be harmful to human health.

Short-term exposure to oxidation products may cause sensory irritation, headache, dizziness, chest pain, and respiratory problems.(7-9) Children, the elderly, people who are obese, diabetics, and people with chronic respiratory disorders are more likely to experience these adverse health effects.

The risk of reactions between terpenes and atmospheric constituents is dependent on temperature and the amount of ozone present indoors. Reactions are more likely to occur in warm seasons when temperatures are higher as opposed to the colder temperatures of cold seasons.(10) In addition, higher levels of ozone provide more atmospheric constituents for essential oil terpenes to react with. Indoor ozone quantities can increase based on the amount of ozone present outdoors or use of certain equipment (laser printers, photocopiers, and some air cleaning units).

Limonene (found in two isometric forms: d-limonene — citrusy scent and found in citrus oils; and l-limonene — piney scent and found in tree oils) is more susceptible to these reactions than other terpenes like linalool. This suggests that essential oils with significant amounts of limonene may require more caution when diffusing, particularly during warm seasons and when the presence of ozone is elevated. To identify some essential oils with high limonene levels see Appendix A of Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy.

Synthetic terpenes are often used in cleaning products as scents and solvents. One study determined that the ordinary use of terpene-based cleaning products (typically synthetic limonene, not the limonene naturally found in essential oils) will not produce enough terpene reaction products to exceed safety levels set by regulatory agencies.(11) In other words, use of these cleaning products under normal circumstances is not likely to produce enough oxidation products to be harmful. And this is from an isolated synthetic molecule, which is far more prone to cause adverse effects than a balanced essential oil with all of its natural constituents.

Increased levels of ozone-terpene reaction products have also been observed in spas where essential oils were frequently used during massages and other treatments.(12) This is not surprising considering the amount of essential oils that could be used in a single day in a busy spa. By the end of a day, hundreds of drops of essential oils could have been used during spa treatments. But, remember all chemicals — even water — are dangerous at too high a concentration, and the research thus far suggests that the oxidation of terpenes does not reach levels considered unsafe. In addition, spas often offer other services that produce harmful chemicals like nail care, hair dyes, make-up treatments, and more.

The bottom line is that reasonable diffusing and use of essential oils is not likely to create enough oxidation products to be harmful to human health. The vast benefits of diffusing essential oils far outweigh the minimal risks of producing oxidation products. However, certain populations — children, the elderly, people who are obese, diabetics, and people with chronic respiratory diseases should be more cautious when diffusing essential oils. In addition, it is prudent to take steps to reduce the risk of forming terpene oxidation products.

Here are some tips to reduce the risk of excess formation of terpene oxidation products:

  • set your diffuser to intermittent so it is not constantly diffusing essential oils into the air, but releases them at intervals;
  • add only 3-5 drops of essential oils to your diffuser at one time;
  • diffuse for shorter periods of time (30 to 60 minutes continuously before taking a few hours break);
  • limit diffusion of citrus and tree oils that are high in limonene;
  • make sure the room you diffuse in is well ventilated;

Secondly, here are some tips to reduce ozone in your indoor environment by:

  • avoiding the use of indoor “air cleaners” that emit ozone intentionally (ozone generators) or as a byproduct of their design (ionizers, electrostatic precipitators);
  • making sure rooms with office equipment (laser printers, copiers, etc.) are well ventilated;
  • avoiding the use of oil- and solvent-based paints, degreasers, and lighter fluid;
  • and increasing the number of indoor plants in your home.

(1) Nazroff WW, Weschler CJ. Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants. Atmos Environ. 2004;38:2841-65.

(2) European Collaborative Action. Urban air, indoor environment and human exposure, report No. 26: Impact of Ozone-initiated Terpene Chemistry on Indoor Air Quality and Human Health. 2007.

(3) Wang B, Lee SC, Ho KF, et al. Characteristics of emissions of air pollutants from burning of incense in temples. Hong Kong Sci Total Environ. 2007;377:52-60.

(4) Waring MS, Wells JR, Siegel JA. Secondary organic aerosol formation from ozone reactions with single terpenoids and terpenoid mixtures. Atmos Environ. 2011;45:4235-42.

(5) Waring MS. Secondary organic aerosol in residences: predicting its fraction of fine particle mass and determinants of formation strength. Indoor Air. 2014;24:376-89.

(6) Pathak RK, Salo K, Emanuelsson EU, et al. Influence of ozone and radical chemistry on limonene organic aerosol production and thermal characteristics. Environ Sci Technol. 2012;46:11660-69.

(7) Nojgaard JK, Christensen KB, Wokoff P. The effect on human eye blink frequency of exposure to limonene oxidation products and methacrolein. Toxicol Lett. 2005;156:241-51.

(8) Wolkoff P, Clausen PA, Wilkins CK, et al. Formation of strong airway irritants in terpene/ozone mixtures. Indoor Air. 2000;10:82-91.

(9) Wolkoff P, Clausen PA, Larsen ST, et al. Airway effects of repeated exposures to ozone-initiated limonene oxidation products as model of indoor air mixtures. Toxicol Lett. 2012;209:166-72.

(10) Geiss O, Giannopoulos G, Tirendi S, et al. The AIRMEX study VOC measurements in public buildings and schools/kindergartens in eleven European cities; Statistical analysis of the data. Atmos Environ. 2011’45:3676-84.

(11) California Air Resources Board and the California Environmental Protection Agency: California Air Resources Board Research Division Indoor Air Chemistry: Cleaning Agents, Ozone and Toxic Air Contaminants. 2006 Apr.

(12) Hsu DJ, Huang HL, Sheu SC. Can Aromatherapy Produce Harmful Indoor Air Pollutants? Environ Engineering Sci. 2011 Oct.

An evidence-based guide to caring for children with essential oils and free quick reference

3D_EBEOTOur children are extremely precious, and as parents, we are the first responders when it comes to their health and well-being. Children get sick, and as parents, we want to do everything in our power to make them feel better. When our actions don’t provide our children relief, it can be a very frustrating experience. Without the proper knowledge and the right tools, caring for children can be an intimidating undertaking. As a parent, it is your right and responsibility to determine what health care your child receives and to determine whether the condition can be safely and effectively managed at home or requires professional care.

Essential oils are a valuable tool for the parents who seek to raise their children using what is found in nature. Many parents prefer natural options when it comes to the care of their children, but they may feel ill-equipped to employ the healing power natural remedies possess. This hesitancy or uncertainty leads to frequent trips to the pediatrician’s office, often to be told that the illness is caused by a virus for which Western medicine provides very limited support. Or the illness has occurred when the doctor’s office is closed and you can’t get in for several hours. Indeed, many pediatricians and other doctors now outsource their after-hours operations to third-party sources that are less qualified, provide very limited support, and do not know your family and child. These can be long nights for both the parents and the child unless the parent is prepared to handle the situation at home.

Some believe that parents are incapable of caring for the well-being of their children alone. But the reality is a parent can choose to receive directions for the care of their children from a trained physician (who will intrinsically prescribe what he or she is trained on and comfortable with — synthetic chemical options) or a reliable resource — like an evidence-based and well-researched book — that shares detailed instructions about how to use natural remedies effectively and safely.

There is a  lot of confusion and misinformation out there when it comes to using essential oils for the well-being of children. No parent wants to do something that could potentially cause an unintended consequence with their children. This makes an evidence-based guide, that merges ancient healing practices with the evidence available from scientific research, imperative to the safe and effective use of essential oils with children. Reviewed and endorsed by two integrative-minded pediatricians, Evidence-based Essential Oil Therapy is the standard for essential oil therapy for children. Detailing the safe and effective use of essential oils for the most common ailments children experience it is a must-have for the natural parents.

Below is a downloadable reference guide to monitor for toxicity in the event of accidental excess use.

Web_Monitoring for Toxicity Chart

The Waterfall Technique: A new essential oil application technique to encourage homeostasis | And the damaging effects of blind allegiance

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The Waterfall Technique: A new essential oil application technique to encourage homeostasis | And the damaging effects of blind allegiance

The number of people enjoying the benefits of essential oils is growing daily, and more people are looking for effective ways to use essential oils to encourage homeostasis. This can be achieved in many ways from simple inhalation to foot massages with essential oils, to oral administration; but one way to really promote optimal well-being is an application to the spine and feet.

Dr. Daniel Penoel was the first to introduce the application of a specific sequence of essential oils to the spine in the 1980s, referring to it as “live embalming.” His technique involves applying large amounts of undiluted essential oils to the spine followed by the use of a hair dryer to drive them into the skin.

In the spirit of Dr. Penoel’s remarkable technique, I have developed a technique called the Waterfall TechniqueTM that employs a special sequence of clinically-significant essential oils and proven restorative touch techniques, each of which serves a specific purpose to balance, renew, oxygenate, protect, soothe, quench, synergize, enhance, and rejuvenate. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Penoel in October 2015 as we both attended a wellness summit. We discussed this technique, my books and new certification program, and Dr. Penoel walked away happy and excited to read the course materials for my certification program (which I gifted to him).

The Waterfall TechniqueTM is the culmination of thousands of hours of essential oil research, years of clinical experience, and scientific evaluation, united with the art of essential oil application techniques and reflexology. It serves to support and rejuvenate cells (clean cell receptors, enhance cellular communication, and affect cellular behavior) and key body systems (nervous, circulatory, immune/lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and endocrine systems), and reduce limiting factors in health (stress, toxins, harmful substances, and negative emotions). Through this technique many have experienced extraordinary and wide-ranging wellness benefits.

To learn more about the why behind this remarkable technique, I invite you to join my new certification program, which contains all the details.

Now to a disheartening related subject. I believe in the regular use of essential oils and my wife and I regularly perform the Waterfall TechniqueTM on our children and each other. Our family finds it very relaxing and supportive of greater wellness. In the spirit of sharing how my family has enjoyed this, I posted about it on my personal Facebook page. To my astonishment, some felt the need to attack me both publicly and privately.

I was forwarded screenshots from a member of a private group who was very upset that this group was attempting to defame and disparage me. This group claims that my technique is “stolen” from an individual who developed a spinal application technique adapted from Dr. Penoel’s technique.

As is typical of members of this organization, they refuse to do objective research before coming to their conclusion. They choose blind allegiance rather than to be a free-thinking intellectual. They erroneously believe that only one person has the rights to a spinal application technique using essential oils and anyone who develops their own techniques has stolen and copycatted. I find this laughable, since it is reported and widely accepted that the individual they claim my technique was “stolen” from adapted his technique from Dr. Penoel’s live embalming.

In addition, this thinking is akin to providing a drug manufacturer a patent for all applications of drugs to the skin simply because the manufacturer was among the first to apply drugs topically. No government in their right mind would grant this patent, just as no reasonable person would say that only one person/company can develop a technique to apply essential oils to the spine and feet.

The fact, is my technique was not adapted from this other individual’s technique. None of the application methods are the same and the essential oils I chose are also different and were selected solely on their benefits to specific body systems and cells.

Indeed, since Dr. Penoel first introduced his technique, several other individuals have created unique spinal and foot applications using essential oils, which benefits all who love essential oils. No one person knows everything and so having multiple people exercising creativity and knowledge drives innovation. Each individual (or group of individuals) infused their knowledge into their technique to make it unique, and each technique has merit and positive experiences to report.

One of the comments from this private group was particularly laughable and shows just how much of a blind follower the poster is—not to mention how she has not done any independent or objective research. She states “He [referring to me] is dead wrong using a company that has known synthetics in their oils. And he surely missed out on the fact that brokering oils from manufacturers isn’t to be trusted and that manufacturers are corrupt.” I find this statement ironic for many reasons:

  • All companies (even the one she has chosen) buy the MAJORITY of their essential oils from brokers. In fact, industry experts estimate that fewer than 10% of her chosen company’s oils come from their own farms. So, she is eating the proverbial ‘crow’ after stating “brokering oils from manufacturers isn’t to be trusted.”
  • She claims I am using a company that has synthetics. First, I never identified what company I prefer, I simply stated that I have lists of essential oils for people to use their preferred brand during the Waterfall Technique. Though I assure you that I have chosen to use essential oils from a company that consistently provides pure oils that meet clinical standards established by the scientific community—a company that provides me proof in test results for every bottle of essential oil I buy.
  • She decries synthetics in other’s products, yet she doesn’t ask for any proof that her own company has pure oils. Where is the proof (all the testing available per batch of essential oil) that her chosen company is pure? I find it funny that she accuses others of adultering their products without any proof that her own products are pure.
  • It is an indisputable scientific fact that more than one company has pure essential oils. This is proven in testing and can’t be disputed. In fact, some companies buy essential oils from the same broker and so their oils are virtually identical. While, this may not be across the board at each reseller of essential oils, I have had the opportunity to review test results from multiple companies and find pure oils in several companies. I have also found some misbranded and adulterated oils. This is why transparency in providing test results is so important and should be an industry standard.

It’s unfortunate that these people feel the need to attack and demean others without facts. Ultimately, they are the ones who will suffer for their blind allegiance, and I feel sorry for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you live in a world of fear or abundance?

The essential oil industry is expanding rapidly and more people are enjoying the benefits of essential oils. As the industry experiences this phenomenal growth the number of companies offerigoats-692660_1280ng essential oils also increases. This has provided the consumer a variety of options of essential oil brands to choose from, but it has also created deep enmity and hostility among the different factions. Indeed, essential oil brand choice is as divisive as religion and politics for some people.

Competition is healthy and encourages both innovation and fair pricing. Without it, companies may not be driven to introduce cutting-edge products, nor fund key research. But competition also creates rivalry (some healthy, some harmful) and may confuse consumers as they wonder which brand to choose for their family.

Lately, I have been thinking about how sad it is that when a person researches and then chooses an essential oil brand some people feel the need to attack that person because their choice of brand is different. This is akin to a person choosing a church to attend based on the brand of car that the preacher drives. I personally care more about what the preacher teaches and what his foundation is built upon.

I believe that people have the right to choose whatever essential oil company they are comfortable with (yes this even includes me) after they have done individual and objective research. This is why my books and Facebook page don’t support any one brand and the tone is neutral. My interest lies in helping people achieve greater wellness with the products they have found beneficial. And I have dedicated thousands of hours to research, writing, speaking, and answering thousands of questions to do that, without ever expecting something in return.

If one truly believes in a world of abundance (one with plenty for all), another person’s choice of essential oils is not a threat. Those who are threatened by another person’s choice of essential oil company may be expressing deeply rooted regret for their own choice, or are solely protecting their financial interests. Martin Luther King Jr. said “People fail to get along because they fear each other.” People have to decide whether they want to live in a world of fear or abundance. But if they choose fear, they need to take the high road and show respect for other’s choices.

I have personally experienced these unkind attacks, when people find out I choose a different brand than they do for my family. I have been criticized, condemned, “unfriended,” and had my Facebook page un-liked because of my choice. Some have even gone as far as to make attempts to discredit me (after praising me until they discover I don’t use their chosen brand). This flip-flopping is not only unethical and hypocritical, it lacks integrity. In reality, these spiteful reactions are very sad and equivalent to cutting off your nose to spite your face. What I share is neutral – and therefore not a threat to a person’s chosen essential oil company – and based on science and evidence. These people disconnect from the trustworthy information I share simply because we don’t “drive the same brand of car.” While I disagree with their reasoning, I respect their decision to choose what is best for them. I only ask that they provide the same respect in return.

It is important that people scrutinize a company and their products before choosing their brand. This is because not all essential oils are created equal. While there are several brands that have pure and good quality products, not all of the essential oils on the market are pure and of therapeutic value. To help one in their research to find an essential oil company they trust I offer the following guide from my book Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy.

To ensure you are using a pure oil, look for

  • a company that has expertise in the distillation process and innovative distillation equipment;
  • a company that has published essential oils research in scientific journals and takes a clinical approach to essential oil development;
  • a company that is personally involved in the farming and cultivation process through the inspection of supplier farms by a qualified expert;
  • a company that verifies purity with their own laboratories, third-party testing facilities, and educated scientists to read and interpret test results;
  • a company with oils that smell like the natural plants and whose single oils vary in aroma from batch to batch due to inherent variations in plants. Slight variations in the smell of each batch of oil is a good indication that Mother Nature has created the essential oil and not a lab. This trait is desirable and normal; whereas if your lavender oil always smells exactly the same, it could be an indication that the oil is adulterated.;
  • a company that is willing to share results from the tests their essential oils have undergone to ensure purity and authenticity, for the specific batch of oil you have purchased. If a company is not willing to share this information, you are placing blind faith in them and may very well be using a product that doesn’t meet the high quality standards required for therapeutic use.

Hating someone for their choice of essential oils will only do you harm. I’ll end with this quote from Mark Twain, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”