Essential Oils – Behind the Scenes
Plant essentials bring light to humans
Tinderbox – rooted in the plant world
Tinderbox has been deeply implanted in the complex world of essential oils since the early 1980s.
We were certainly among the first few Australian companies to be integrating them into our product range at such a high level, back in the early days before Aromatherapy became an established modality.
Our knowledge of essential oils has always been very much embedded in herbalism with a strong background in the plants themselves from which essential oils are derived. Sadly in modern times, the essential oil is perceived as a commercial commodity that is very much divorced from its origins the plant world.
During this long time of aromatic ‘immersion’, we have somehow managed to adeptly sustain our plant-based ethics as we learned to navigate the sometimes-spurious minefield that is now the essential oil industry. At best we have come to trust our ‘nose’ and understanding of the plant in its myriad contexts.
Straight from the still
The world market is saturated with synthetic essential oils that are composed of chemical constituents to create a ‘nature identical’ product.
In fact some may even be from real plants, however they are often corrupted and ‘cut’ with cheaper filler like propylene glycol. Additives, extenders and other adulterants can potentially interfere with the delicate balance of human health, increasing adverse reactions and introducing toxic compounds into the body.
After extraction, the resulting essential oil is a highly concentrated liquid that contains the aroma and therapeutic properties of the source from which it came. Nothing should be added or removed from this oil if it is to be used in aromatherapy.
To achieve maximum benefits, essential oils should be exactly as they came from the still – 100 per cent pure and natural.
Tinderbox uses only pure botanical essential oils that are steam distilled, or cold pressed from pure plant matter. It has become a salient objective to seek out only pure plant essential oils.
This indisputably means an authentic, or genuine, unadulterated extract from plants. These plant-derived essential oils are grown in myriad different geographical and climatic settings with the corresponding inconsistencies that only nature surely produces.
Chemical variations even occur as a result of harvest time, soil conditions, different distillation methods and transport and storage parameters.
The synthetic mimickers
Synthetic, man-made imitations that are manufactured in fragrance laboratories for industrial grade scent do not feature the same natural inconsistencies. The commercially preferred product is cheaper to make than extracting from real plant material.
Some industries reprocess essential oils in order to make them meet a required odour or flavour ‘profile’. To achieve this, synthetic chemicals are added to the essential oil and often certain unwanted non-fragrance components are removed (rectification).
Indeed the scents produced can be seductive to the untutored nose, but in reality they merely mimic the real plant smell of nature and possess little or no healing efficacy.
Clever marketing can be deceptive
It takes huge amounts of botanical material to extract these essential oils and justifiably essential oils are not a cheap commodity - although price does not always reflect the best quality option.
It is evident that many traders are overpricing oils, according to their own clever marketing strategies that set themselves up as superior.
For instance, there is no recognised listing as Therapeutic Grade (or Food Grade, for that matter); this was invented as a marketing term to declare superiority. This has caused a resulting presence of “essential oil snobbery”, which is wholly unwarranted when there is no regulating organisation that has bestowed this standardisation.
It is a label of marketing alone because a grading system as such quite simply does not exist; there are no quality standards for the authentication of essential oils specifically that exist in aromatherapy.This can be a quandary for the buyer who should remain discerning, and aware of the image-inflating sales pitches prevalent on the market.
Blanket costing across the board for all oil varieties is not feasible because certain oils will always be much more expensive due to more labour intensive, smaller yield distillation processes.
This is certainly the case with the cost of flower absolutes, which require tonnage of flowers to yield very little oil, and solvent enfleurage is often employed to prevent loss of vital aroma components, which would be lost in a more aggressive processing operation.
Sometimes Tinderbox uses Co2 extractions of essential oils, which is a more labour intensive process that captures a broader range of aroma molecules and thus a more complex scent. Sometimes we use organic or wild-crafted oils that always cost more.
Some pure plant oils are further defined as first, second or third distillation. The pricier first distillations, high grade from the finest crops for crème de la crème distillations.
Also available are cheaper third grade extractions that utilise the seconds, or twigs and stalks of plants rather than the potent flowering tops, they will usually exhibit different properties and scent.
The same plant can yield multiple different oils from the various plant parts - the roots, leaves, seeds, flowers and stems - depending on what properties are required. It can all get very confusing and challenging for the uninformed buyer.
Despite a fluctuating, market, Tinderbox oils remain quite affordable. This is partly because we do not use lavish packaging, or make therapeutic claims, which necessitates listing or registering them with the various government bodies.
Ultimately we remain driven by quality and real ‘plant integrity’ as the salient objectives to which we prescribe.
The misunderstood spec reports
The industry uses GC/MS sheets to determine the chemical profile and authenticity of an essential oil. These spec reports show a chemical analysis called gas chromatography, which uses an instrument to separate each chemical constituent of an essential oil and register the peaks of different actives in the given oil.
It does not however name them specifically as does the technique of mass spectrometry which further identifies the specific compounds that are picked up on the gas chromatography report.
A typical essential oil will contain more than 100 different chemical compounds, each of which exhibits a specific therapeutic property, and it is for this reason that many essential oils can be used for such a wide range of conditions. Virtually all essential oils, for example, possess antiseptic properties; but many also have antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties.
In the right hands
To the trained eye, this data can reveal the exact constituents; for example it may read ‘five per cent linalool’; which is responsible for the oil’s sedative properties with regards to sleep, reduction of anxiety, and analgesic qualities.
This can be very useful in the right hands, however many traders use inadequate interpretations which means that these specs should not be used as the sole definitive guide to purchasing a high quality, pure, unadulterated oil.
A spec sheet is of limited value to those who cannot understand them. For an aromatherapist in training however, a batch-specific spec sheet can indeed support your understanding of the therapeutic efficacy for an essential oil that you are purchasing and your safety concerns.
The chemistry of an essential oil is extremely complex, and a typical example of an oil will contain an elaborate mixture of aromatic constituents such as alcohols, aldehydes, esters, ketones, lactones, phenols, terpenes and sesquiterpenes that combine to produce a unique set of therapeutic qualities.
The nose knows
Ultimately an educated and discerning nose will know the difference between poorer quality oil and higher-grade oil. Olfactory appraisal is crucial along with faith in the holistic healing intentions of the supplier. The sense of smell should be exercised like a muscle to increase its acuity and awareness of aromas, in everyday life as well as in the arena of essential oils.
Spend time acquainting yourself with each individual oil, immersing in the entire orchestral experience; noting your initial reaction with the introduction to your nose and the way the smell settles, peaks and evolves, morphing as it gradually fades out. Expand your olfactory palate, by thoroughly exploring each oil to reawaken your sense of smell.
From whence they came
Spending time with the plants themselves - touching, smelling, observing and interacting with them - will bring a deeper understanding of the whole plant as well as its essential oil derivative. It is particularly helpful to move beyond the garden to perceive the plant in its natural habitat.
To imbibe the amazing aromatic haze that settles over the Corsican hillsides on a sunny day when the everlasting flowers along with the rosemary, lavender and thyme is a sensory feast to behold.
To walk in the wilds of Costa Rica and smell ylang-ylang and limes in their original setting is fantastic; just as smelling the spicy cinnamon and clove that hangs languidly in the Sri Lankan air.
Yes, I can feel a trip coming on…
The Divine Nature Perfume Collection
Perfumed Portals into Mystical Nature
THIS SMALL, select collection of pure plant perfumes celebrates the innate divine nature of all humans and the inextricable connection that we share with nature itself.
Here are authentic perfumes that do not take for granted that plant scent is itself a divine blessing; an aromatic libation that brings us the feelings that nature is a living being full of wondrous powers.
They are aromatic revelations enveloping us in the enigmatic mystery of the natural world, unifying our fragmented separateness.
Divine Nature colognes capture in a bottle the indefinable lightness and grace that nature’s uncorrupted magnificence instils in us when we feast our senses on her splendour.
They offer us a fundamental aromatic antidote against the stress and anxiety in a chaotic world, in a psychotherapeutic awakening to the cosmic intelligence that pervades all of life.
Perceiving the Divine through Nature
Travelling down the antennae spine to stir the lower chakras, these raw scents of nature, let us feel the sense of coiled, latent potential there, pulling for transformation from their cruder energies.
Like gravity in reverse they rise up to be tempered and refined, so that the true nature of our soul may come forth and flower.
'As dreams are the healing songs from the wilderness of our unconscious, so wild animals, wild plants and wild landscapes are the healing dreams from the deep singing mind of the earth'
- Dale Pendell
Breath of Blossom rejoices in the special relationship we feel for flowers and how their sublime scent sings to us; beckoning us to consciously breathe in their euphoric scent to render us carefree and joyful in their grace, restoring childlike awe to our everyday world.
Blue Fire performs its uplifting task by mirroring the transformative ascension of the five elements that interpenetrate our own sheaths of being. Evolving from the gross physical to invisible subtle; we are lifted from our heavy torpor, to rise up to our full spiritual essence, beyond prosaic worldly concerns.
Ode to Orange pays homage to the noble tree for its own sake and the abundance it provide for us with its beauty, scent, food and wood. This aromatic tribute honours the simple orange tree that embodies this multitudinous bounty and the marvel of cultivated nature.
Quiver resonates with our intrinsic attraction for wilderness and how we can lose ourselves to find our selves in the revelation of its wild beauty. Plant scent aligns us with the vast web of nature, to co-create with the plant kingdom to perceive and manifest an expanded reality.