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Your Top Questions of 2017: Q&A with Wendy Nichols

You asked, we answered! More specifically, Soothing Scents founder Wendy Nichols (BSN, APRN, CRNA) sat down to talk about bad products, essential oil therapy, and why inhaled is better.

How do I know whether I’m buying a good essential oil (EO) product? What should I look out for?

Let’s start with what to avoid. So a big red flag is when you see a certified pure therapeutic grade on an essential oil bottle. There is no grading system that designates an EO as therapeutic, yet these words are widely printed on bottles and marketing material.  A well-known, multi-level marketing company registered the word mark “certified pure therapeutic grade”, which has led many consumers to believe that this means the oils have achieved a special certification of purity. It’s simply a marketing tool: no agency, including the FDA, confers this designation.

Other descriptors such as ISO, AFNOR, and GRAS can be similarly deceptive. They are naming systems used by government agencies to define basic properties of essential oils. They are not grading systems and do not confer any type of reassurance about the level of purity of the essential oil.

 The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) recommends that reputable suppliers refrain from using misleading terms such as “grade” and suggest “pure essential oils for therapeutic applications” as a better labeling system.

Be equally wary of the word “organic”. This one is interesting: The USDA only certifies plant material as organic, not actual essential oils. So the plants could well have been cultivated on pesticide-free soil, using non-GMO seeds, but depending on how the plant was harvested, stored, distilled and bottled, contamination could still occur. Again, just because a company puts “organic” on their label doesn’t mean they are necessarily trying to deceive the consumer, but it is definitely worth keeping mind when trying to find the most honest, ethical sources of essential oils.

Finding a good essential oil is a tricky endeavor. Your best bet is to look into a company’s production and distribution processes.  At Soothing Scents, we spent a year educating ourselves on essential oil purity and best manufacturing practices. We went on to tour several international essential oil suppliers – big, small, and in between. And we went in asking the following questions, which might help guide you in your own search:

  • Ask about the growing conditions of the plants that the oils would be extracted fromAt a minimum, they should be sustainably farmed in an ethical manner, preferably wild-crafted.
  • Timing of the harvest is equally important: It takes skill, experience and good judgment to harvest when peak constituent levels are available, rather than when it is convenient or stops raining.
  • Check how plants are stored prior to distillation. Plants that require a drying phase ideally should be distilled in place to decrease possible contamination.
  • Learn about the distillation process, and what steps are taken to ensure the optimum yield of desired essential oil constituents. It takes experience and skill to know how long and how much heat should be used to extract the highest quality essential oil.
  • Ask how the essential oils stored and transported? Airtight colored glass bottles that shield the EOs from light or lined aluminum containers are the proper storage methods for high-quality EOs. Transport that avoids extremes in temperatures is the other important factor.
  • Find out how they test the purity and composition of the oils. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry are the industry standards to determine purity and constituent levels, ensuring the EOs are appropriate for therapeutic use with patients.

Additionally, make sure the label on your essential oil includes the Latin name, such as ‘mentha piperita’ for peppermint EO, and country of origin. Do not buy an EO that clearly states “fragrance oil,” “nature identical oil,” or “perfume oil.” These words indicate that it is most likely all or part synthetic chemicals.

And lastly, keep in mind that producing essential oils in the correct fashion is not cheap. Good EOs will just be more expensive. Expect individual EOs to differ in price too: there is a big difference between the easy to grow peppermint and the highly-precious and exotic neroli oil.

As an RN, I’m interested in essential oil therapy as a nursing intervention, but I’m nervous about the essential oil part. Is there scientific/clinical evidence that it works?

There is plenty of research and many clinical trials that show that EOs for nausea work as effectively, if not more effectively, than isopropyl alcohol. Plus, there’s a growing body of evidence that proves specific blends are highly effective at relieving PONV and PDNV. Going into the details would take hours, but you can download the QueaseEASE study booklet here to learn more.

Also, an excellent way to become proficient in the use of therapeutic inhaled essential oil (TIEO) therapy in the healthcare setting is to take the free online course. It’s an ANCC-accredited program (the first of its kind) and provides the user with a certificate of completion good for three years. Included is an extensive list of scientific and clinical research citations.

What’s so special about inhaled essential oils?

Their sheer ease of use! EOs are traditionally applied to the skin via a carrier medium, which is a fancy word for the oil or lotion you use to dilute your EOs. While this has distinct benefits (who doesn’t love a relaxing massage?), we made our inhaled oils for hospitals, which has different needs and some limitations that require slightly more creative methods. The big plus is that inhaled oils give you relief right away, because it shoots right up your nose and towards you limbic system, disrupting nausea (or any emotional or neurological sensation) almost immediately. What great about using inhaled oils instead of traditional nausea medication is that there is nothing to swallow, and no waiting around.

What makes Soothing Scents’s oils better than or different from other EO products?

Our EOs are pure, extremely high quality, and are obtained from a source we have absolute confidence in. Our relationship goes back nearly 15 years and counting. Every oil is batch tested to ensure purity and therapeutic levels of the constituents. We also conduct microbial testing on the blends in the containers. We are passionate about safety, and try our best to exceed manufacturing standards to make really great, reliable, safe oils for both patients and regular customers.

How does QueaseEASE work exactly?

So QueaseEASE, our nausea inhaler, contains a high quantity of natural alcohol  (menthol and menthone) that, when inhaled,  quickly interrupts the nausea feedback loop in the central nervous system. Because it gets up in your brain through the nose, getting to work quickly.

We make QueaseEASE out of a blend of four oils chosen based on their added anti-emetic benefits:

The menthol in peppermint EO promotes gastric relaxation and decreases gastric tone, while the carbone in spearmint has significant relaxant and antispasmodic effects on your gut. Ginger EO  is a well-known anti-emetic, while the linalool in lavender occupies the same GABA receptor site as benzodiazepines, such as midazolam, so it exhibits similar (though much milder), anxiolytic and sedative properties.

Got more questions for Wendy? Send us one in the comments, or emails your question to [email protected]. You can also find out more on our Facebook page.

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