Essential oils -

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Transcript Essential oils -

IFA Conference 9


Holborn June 2012, Essential Oils: Ecological & Other Issues Surrounding their Use

Tony Burfield Cropwatch

Quick Definition of an Essential Oil

• An essential oil is the volatile oil produced by steam, steam and water, or water distillation of volatile oil bearing vegetable plant matter. The vapours are condensed to yield a water condensate and an essential oil that can be separated off (usually by gravity). Citrus peel oils, are also referred to as essential oils; these are the mechanically cold pressed from the rinds of citrus fruits. In practice, certain "essential oils" are also produced by the distillation of oleo-resins and absolutes. • During the distillation process, the essential oil can be continually separated off from condensed water in a purpose-built separating vessel (traditionally a Florentine flask) which can be modified to isolate oils either lighter or heavier than water. Once tapped off, it is usually necessary to dry the oil over an inert material, such as anhydrous sodium sulphate.

Modern Still Room, Morocco

• •

Vegetable Matter Sources

Essential oils may be present in many different types of plant structures (wood, bark, leaves, stems, flowers, stigmas, reproductive parts etc.) at concentrations ranging from thousandths of a percent to one or several percent. Oil is often contained in specialised secretory structures which include secretory cells, ducts, cavities, glandular trichomes etc. The yield of essential oils from seeds can often be high - sometimes in the several tens of percentage - but for the majority of other materials, the main range is 0.1% to 1%. Essential oils are defined by source species & identifying botanist, part of plant used, chemotype & geographic origin. Genetically modified plant matter cannot be used as an essential oil source in the EU for essential oils for use in food flavourings & cosmetics.

Essential oils are not solvent extracted materials (where solvents might include carbon dioxide, benzene, toluene, acetone, ethanol, hexane etc.) and diffusiveness in aromatherapy magazines.

– this list also includes absolutes, products of dry (=destructive) distillation and molecular distilled products. It should be noted that perfumery absolutes frequently contain synthetics to boost their radiance – perfumery absolutes have featured recently

Mobile Still (UK) used to isolate angelica root oil.

Natural Ingredient Usage Declines.

• The usage of naturals has recently declined in cosmetics & toiletries due to downward pressure on ingredient costs (synthetics are comparatively cheaper), erratic supply (climatic & geophysical events; political events; demand pressures) & from stability & compositional issues . • Under existing EU H&S policy, natural complex substances are treated as a collection of individual composite chemicals. The vast majority of essential oils, absolutes & resinoids contain several of the 26 SCCP allergens , which may have to be labelled in product under EU Directive 2003/15/EC (now under review). The desire by cosmetic / household product manufacturers to avoid excessive product labelling has previously lead to some decline in the overall usage of essential oils.

Essential Oil Trading: a Bureaucratic Nightmare.

Those who used to be chemists & technicians for traders often now spend their working hours generating pieces of paper – up to thirty per single essential oil transaction. Thus: • Analysis conforms to specification?

• Naturalness Certification?

• Organic Certification? • Approved for food use (?) wrt heavy metals content, free of BSE, aflatoxins, dioxins, pesticides, GMOs, PCBs, food allergens etc. • Kosher and/or Halal certified?

• SCCP Allergen declaration?

• Concentration of actives within food law limits? e.g. thujone(s), pulegone(s).

• IFRA certificate? etc etc…

Aromatherapy Essential Oils

• Many essential oils produced in bulk are, traditionally, perfumery or flavour materials. Perfumers do not necessarily require oils to be pure, just consistent in quality batch to batch, and to be able to achieve the desired effect in product. This has lead to some problems for Aromatherapists who require pure essential oils, 100% derived from the named botanical source . • Aromatherapists also use certain oils which they believe have efficacious properties and bring benefits to clients in application, these oils are not necessarily always those in the mainstream of popular use, for example rosemary oil verbenone type, or

Helichrysum italicum



This has lead to the establishment of a small industry of specialist essential oil distillers supplying the Aromatherapy market.

Essential Oils in Short Supply

• In the first part of 2012, essential oils such as: Indian Black Pepper, Cananga, Cedarwood Virginia, Citronella (both Javan & Chinese), Lavender oil French, Litsea cubeba, Orange oil bitter, Star anise, legally obtained Sandalwood East Indian, Rosewood oil Brazilian (CITES), Nutmeg oil are amongst a list of others that have been scarce, very expensive or virtually unavailable spot.

Threatened Species

• Few essential oil users can be unaware of the situation where aromatic plants & trees either have been-, or are being-, over-harvested to the point of extinction, particularly in the cases of agarwood (oud), rosewood,

Cedrela odorata

, cedarwood Kenyan, sandalwood East Indian, costus, candeila isolates (for  bisabolol) & styrax oils to name but a few. A more complete list is shown at atic%20Species%20v1.21.pdf

Sandalwood Oil East Indian

• Legally obtained sandalwood oil E.I. (

Santalum album

) is virtually non-existent spot – from the effects of disease and over-exploitation. Any production (est. 70kg/y) goes to the Indian sandalwood soap industry.

• The completely differently profiled Australian sandalwood oil • Australian

Santalum spicatum Santalum album

(containing 10% farnesol) often substituted in aromatherapy. Err…why? Its classified (DPD) as Xi R43 Irritant oil producers are now calling their sandalwood oil ‘E.I.’ which has upset many senior figures in the e.o. trade.

• Santalum oils from minor sandalwood spp. are also sold by aromatherapy oil suppliers. These materials usually have no proper safety assessment and any beneficial health effects are unestablished.

Rosewood Oil

• Use of Rosewood oil is still being recommended in current aromatherapy magazines but the genuine oil is completely commercially unavailable due to the outcomes of the actions of CITES. • The use of this oil from an over-exploited S. American species was always unethical, but few previous users seemed to be aware of the issues (why not?).

Threatened Species commercially exploited for oil: Baobab Tree

Threatened Species commercially exploited for oil: Argan Tree

Adulteration of Essential Oils

Adulteration has been a feature of the essential oil trade since its’ beginnings although a state of denial about this practice frequently exists amongst sellers. Cropwatch published a much plagiarised article on adulteration at:

pdf …but new fiddles are constantly coming to light i.e. the adulteration of US peppermint oils with (cheaper) Chinese

Mentha arvensis



Clary Sage growing in Morocco

Hazard & Risk

Few essential oils are without hazard, risk or safety phrases under REACH. Labelling protocols and Safety Data Sheets have to follow the EU CLP Regulation 1272/2008 (CLP is the European version of GHS). ; For example according to IFRA-IOFI 2011, Clary Sage Oil under DSD is Xi Irritant, R38-43-51/53, S24-37 and under UN-GHS is FL 4, SCI 2, SS 1, EDI 2A, EH A2,C3. Key R38=irritating to skin R43=may cause sensitisation by skin contact R51/53=Toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment

Clary Sage Oil Components

Clary sage Linalyl acetate 60 ATO, ATD NC, ATI ND; SCI 3, EH A2 N; R51/53 Clary sage Linalool 20 ATO 5(3000); ATD NC; ATI ND; SCI 2; EH A3 Xi; R38 Clary sage Geraniol 2 ATO 5(4200); ATD NC; ATI ND; SCI 2; EDI 1; SS 1; EH A2 Xi; R38-41-43 Clary sage Geranyl acetate 2 ATO NC; ATD, ATI ND; SCI 3; EH A2,C2 N; R51/53 Clary sage Limonene 1 ATO, ATD NC; ATI ND; SCI 2; SS 1; EH A1,C1 Xi; R38-43, N; R50/53

Harmful Components in Essential Oils?

• Peroxides? (levels increase in some aged oils) • CMR’s 1 & 2? (Carcinogens, Mutagens, Reprotoxicants) including estragole, methyleugenol & safrole.

• Allergens? e.g. cinnamic aldehyde, citral • Irritants? e.g. alpha-terpineol, terpinen-4-ol • (Allegedly) environmentally harmful components? e.g. limonene • Phototoxicants? e.g. furocoumarins • Highly toxic components e.g. benzyl cyanide • Corrosive components e.g. carvacrol, thymol

‘Banned’ essential oils

Cropwatch at:


divides this group into threatened spp. and toxic/end-use restricted essential oils. Those oils with adverse effects towards human health include Elecampne, Croton, Jaborandi, Horseradish, Karo Karunde, Melaleuca bracteata, Savin, Sassafras etc.

Cropwatch previously successfully challenged IFRA’s ban on Melissa oil and the EU’s proposed restriction on citrus oils re: their furocoumarin content. Cropwatch’s arguments resisting legislation against essential oils based on their alleged sensitiser content has been extensively plagiarised by essential oil trade organisations.

Acronym Index

• BSE: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy • DSD: Dangerous Substances Directive 67/548/EEC • CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora • CLP: Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures (CLP Regulation EU 1272/2008) • CMRs: Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or Reprotoxic materials • EU: European Union • GMOs: Genetically Modified Organisms • H&S: Health and Safety • IFRA: International Fragrance Association (renamed) • IOFI: International Organisation of the Flavour Industry • PCBs: Polychlorinated biphenyls • REACH: Registration, Evaluation Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals regulation • SCCP: The EU’s Scientific Committee for Consumer Products (now the SCCS) • UN-GHS: Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (inc. essential oils)