Analysis and Authenticity

November 20th, 2012

There is much talk about analysis and therapeutic and other grades that a little reality check seems in order.
1) So when essential oil quality is discussed, the first question one might ask is, what is the purpose of the discussion. Generally someone is trying to make the point that the oils from a certain source are of good or excellent quality.
2) The claim is generally supported by pointing to the GC-MS analysis that has been performed with the oil in question.
3) Immediately the question arises, how does the analysis of an essential oil sample prove or ascertain the “quality” of an essential oil? Presumably by showing the absence of adulteration.
4) Only brief research in this field makes it clear that there are different kinds of adulteration. There are those, which are called ‘gross’ adulterations, where truly foreign materials are added to an essential oil to stretch it. These adulterations are readily discovered by GC-MS analysis.
5) But there are also those adulterations termed adjustments or standardization and there is also the mixing of essential oils from different origins, ostensibly to maintain essential oil quality when nature does not deliver a product conforming to the specifications set forth by some industrial user or similar entity.
6) A simple GC-MS will generally not detect the more elaborate engineering applied to essential oils.
7) The question arises whether or not the rather limited capacity of GC-MS analysis to detect gross adulterations is really a measure for essential oil quality. It is more realistic to conclude that the GC-MS ascertaines that the adjustments made by the industrial supplier are negligable enough so the oils can still be called ‘therapeutic.’

At OSA we believe that the most desirable essential oil is one that is truly a representation of the plants interaction with its environment and consecutively of the dedication of the distiller. This is why we purchase practically all our oils directly from the producer.

Helichrysum italicum Authenticity Markers

November 8th, 2012

Authenticity Markers Helichrysum italicum.

True Helichrysum italicum either originates from the different countries of the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Croatia) and also Corsica and the supplier should be sure where it is really coming from. Helichrysum oils designated “French” are highly spurious. The plant is protected from harvesting in mainland France and it appears that EO of Helichrysum italicum, designated French, is, if nothing else, a blend created in Grasse between Bosnian and Corsican varieties, and then, who knows what? In any case, the oils designated French are typically a bit less expensive than the oils sold at the source. The question remains, how do they do it??

OSA has Helichrysum italicum essential oil available in liter quantities from our growing and production contracts. Since we are primary (directly from the source) importers we can offer the most competitive pricing. Please check the OSA website.

Lavender, Fine

November 20th, 2012

Often we are asked by customers, which Lavender should I buy. A legitimate question considering the significant price differences between sauvage, population, clonal and hybrid Lavenders. Generally the subtext to these questions is, whether or not the more expensive oil packs a bigger therapeutic punch. The honest answer, in a first approximation, is probably ‘no.’ A Lavender Maillette should calm down a mosquito bite just as well as a population Lavender.

But at second glance there are probably some subtle but still significant differences. The best way to explore these less tangible qualities is to use the different Lavender oils for a few days in a row, as described in the Lavender Journey in “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils.”

The most obvious qualities of population and wild Lavenders clearly are their complexity (broader range of components) as well as their elegance, reflected in the less intense but round fragrance.

Using these fine Lavenders over time often leads to a closer and more intuitive relation with these classic essential oils. The substantial contributions they provide for our physical and emotional well being become ingrained in our experiences.

Lavender Authenticity Marker

November 8th, 2012

One of the most common give aways that a Lavender on a essential oil pricelist is an engineered oil is when the Lavender fine is listed at a lower price than the Lavender Maillette. Maillette is a clone and often 30% or more below the price of the population or fine Lavender at the source.

2011 population Lavender: Prices for true Lavender fine (Lavender population) of the 2011 harvest have risen sharply, increasing for some qualities for up to 60% over 2010 levels.

Population Lavender from Simiane

November 20th, 2012

Fine Lavender, also called Population Lavender is the classic Lavender cultivated from seeds. Many popular Lavender oils such as Lavender Maillette or the oils from Bulgaria or Ukraine are not raised from seeds but rather from clippings, they are clones. For a more detailed discussion of the differences between clones and population Lavenders please refer to “aroma” or the Lavender Journey in “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils.”

In Provence Population Lavender is grown only in a few areas, most of what the pictures in the travel agency brochures show are in fact fields of Lavandin hybrids. Hence the casual visitor is quite likely to tour Provence for a few days without ever encountering a field of true Lavender.

Simiane la Rotonde is home to the largest Cooperative in Provence which distills Lavandin and clones, but most importantly for aromatherapy, also the largest quantity of population Lavender of all producers in Provence.

The Rotonde in Simiane dates back to the 12th century and is today considered to be a Donjon, a devensive castle tower.

Roots of Aromatherapy

November 20th, 2012

The origin of modern aromatherapy is René Maurice Gattefossé’s book “AROMATHÉRAPIE Les Huiles essentielles hormones végétales.” While distillation of floral waters and essential oils has a long history in Asian and Arab cultures the specific development of essential oil use in the South of France is the beginning of what can be called ‘modern’ aromatherapy. As is well known, Valnet, Belaiche and Viaud are names connected to the early development of medical aromatherapy while Pénoël and Franchomme are pioneers of more recent date.

As modern aromatherapy developed it was especially Henry Viaud who made it clear that the essential oils sold by the industrial Grasse brokerage houses were quite different from the oils he himself distilled. The eternal problem of aromatherapy had been identified: the misrepresentation of industrially standardized essential oils as natural, ideally artisanal products.

It is fully understandable that industrial users require essential oils with a fairly standard composition, whereby specific concentrations of specific components are required. For aromatherapy, however, essential oils should ideally remain totally authentic and unaltered after the distillation process. The essential oils should be an expression of the plant organism and not of clever engineering. But as with so many things, the industrial provenance will often be drastically cheaper and trump the desire to offer truly authentic oils.

As aromatherapy adopts an increasingly globalized style, Lavender now comes from Kashmir and German Chamomile from India. The real reason for all this is of course price. Essential oils are presented as products that are fully interchangeable, no matter from where they originate. So we can buy fairly inexpensive oils from corporate producers in low wage countries as long as a more or less random set of analytical data can be presented that somehow promises ‘no adulteration.’

At OSA we like to follow a different path. We enjoy essential oils not only as vehicles of various grades of therapeutic activity. We believe that essential oils are also messengers from the cultures from which they originate, and that they also embody the relations that people have developed with their healing herbs.

For us at OSA this means that while it is certainly desirable to cultivate Lavender in as many places as possible there is also an allure and magic to the Fine Lavender from Provence that the globalized transplants rarely match.

To entice you to rediscover the true and typical oils from Provence and Corsica, we feature, for a limited time, essential oils from those very small producers, which have captured the essence of those typical French medicinal herbs such as the real Fine Lavender, classic Lavender Maillette from the plateau of Valensole, Hyssop decumbens or the various chemotypes of Thyme in Provence or the Green Myrtle or Helichrysum italicum of Corsica.