In my last post I discussed how many aromatherapists (largely from the Anglo-Saxon world) avoided numerous essential oils on the basis that many essential oils contain compounds which are toxic to humans. I went on to point out that these compounds are toxic when in ISOLATION. Put together with other constituents which make up an essential oil, it’s a different kettle of fish all together.
I also pointed out that aromatherapy in the English speaking world relies heavily on research which uses perfume-grade essential oils and NOT therapeutic grade essential oils. Numerous perfume makers today (and I might add, so do many manufacturers of essential oils) utilise synthetic substitutes for many of the compounds found in essential oils. Perfume manufacturers aren’t alone in the use of synthetics. The pharmaceutical corporations are well known for taking something useful found in nature and developing a synthetic for it.
Bengay is an ointment that has been used for over 100 years. It originally contained camphor, menthol and methyl salicylate, derived from essential oils. Camphor is found in Rosemary, Juniper and Sage oils, while Menthol is the main ingredient in Peppermint oil. Methyl Salicylate is the main ingredient in Wintergreen and Birch oils. The patent for Bengay is now owned by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.
When in April 13th 2006, an athlete by the name of Arielle Neuman died, the medical examiner found that her body contained a lethal amount of methyl salicylate. Arielle had been applying Ultra Strength Bengay to her arms and legs. The Bengay packaging states that Methyl Salicylate forms 30% of the product. An open and shut case against Methyl Salicylate, and by extension any natural remedy using this compound, it would seem.
Except that the Methyl Salicylate found in Pfizer’s Bengay is SYNTHETIC. Dr David Stewart points out: “Natural methyl salicylate, as found in wintergreen and birch oils, is of a specific isomer (molecular shape) and is easily metabolized by the human body. Its chemical formula and energy template harmonize with human tissue. It does not accumulate. It is not toxic like its synthetic counterpart. …Furthermore, the laboratory produced compound does not have the right energy template to harmonize with the human body. When taken into the body … the body does not recognize the compound, cannot easily metabolize it, and allows it to accumulate. Given enough over a length of time, lethal doses can accumulate…” 
Synthetic substances – “dead with the intelligence of a robot”
Wintergreen essential oil contains many other compounds besides methyl salicylate. These additional constituents work in a way that mitigate the natural methyl salicylate and render it safe. This effect is known as “quenching”; when the compounds in an oil help to tame the damaging effect of another compound in the oil. Dr Stewart also points out that “the molecules of methyl salicylate from a natural source are of a specific isomeric shape while the formula of laboratory-produced methyl salicylate can actually have up to nineteen different shapes. Since the shape of a molecule determines which locks (receptor sites) on cell membranes can be opened, the organs affected by the synthetic version are not all the same as those addressed by the natural version.” 
Dr Stewart described synthetic substances as being “dead with the intelligence of a robot”. What Dr Stewart is saying is that when a compound has been created through a living process (as in a plant and its essential oil), its energy field is like a life force with an intelligence. If a plant and its associated essential oils has been grown, then harvested and distilled with healing intent, then the constituents in that oil will contain vibrations in their subtle field (vibrations which a synthetic can’t hope to mimic) that cause them to work in harmony with the human body. This area carries us into the field of quantum physics, body/mind medicine and the subject of intent. Readers will also no doubt see parallels with Dr Masaru Emoto’s work with water. This is an important subject we will return to on this site, but for now suffice it to say that compounds found in nature, cannot be dissected, their particular constituents pulled out and copied without losing the ‘essential’ vibration of the original product. The whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts. The attempt to synthesize Nature’s efforts has had (and continues to have) significant consequences for us all.
This brings us back to our original question, can essential oils be toxic? And the best answer one can give to this, is that if you are using essential oils that are not pure, unadulterated and of a therapeutic grade, then YES, they can be very toxic.
In the next post, we’ll examine what you should be looking for in a therapeutic grade essential oil.
Till next time
Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.
 The Raindrop Messenger, Official newsletter of C.A.R.E. (Center for Aromatherapy Research and Education) Vol 6, No 1 Jan-Feb 2008. To subscribe