Gary Young is today regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on essential oils and their distillation. Aromatherapy: the essential beginning is one of his earliest books published. Although, not the encyclopedia of essential oils (that was to come later 🙂 ), this book is nonetheless an excellent and lucid introduction to essential oils. You don’t need to be a scientist to read this book.

The book covers the history of essential oils up to the modern period, how they work, how they’re distilled and a number of techniques for administering them. It covers areas not normally covered by books on essential oils; areas such as the frequency of essential oils, in which Gary has been personally involved in the research. In addition you get a reference guide at the back of the book detailing the constituents that make up essential oils, essential oils for emotional applications and a description of various single oils and oil blends and their uses.

One of my favourite sections in the book is where Gary describes a trip to the Temple of Isis, on the island of Philae in Egypt in 1994. Having visited Egypt myself, this brought up lots of fond memories for me. But more than that Gary’s story brings up all the mysteries that one encounters in this ancient land.

Gary describes how a mysterious man convinces him to follow him into a secluded and closed off section of the temple. Three times, one of the guards of the temple approached him in the crowd and told Gary he would show him “that for which he was searching”.  He indicated that there was a special room that was forbidden for people to see, in which his ancestors once practiced very sacred rituals. Gary, thinking that the guard was just after baksheesh (a tip/money) ignored him. On the third time, Gary relented and the guard took him to a secluded and locked room in the temple. There, Gary was shown a carved relief on the wall detailing an ancient Egyptian ritual known as “cleansing the flesh and blood of evil deities” (there are photos of the relief in the book). This was basically a 3 day ritual using essential oils to cleanse people of negative emotional issues; what we would nowadays call “baggage” or “hang-ups” – those things which can hold us back from fulfilling our potential.

Was Gary’s finding serendipity or synchronicity? I would tend to believe the latter. Over the years, Gary Young has shown incredible intuition and creativity in the oil blends he has  produced. I would not be surprised if the universe was ‘lending him a hand’.

Buy the book

Till next time


Essential Oils vs Herbs

I’ve been asked a number of times, what’s the most potent,  essential oils or herbs? Without a doubt, herbs have been used for thousands of years, and still are, with great effect; whether this be through the drying of the herb, the creation of salves or steeped as a kind of tea.

However, when you distill an essential oil from the plant, you are getting the concentrate of all the plant’s nutrients, molecules, trace minerals, enzymes, hormones, vitamins and lots more. And it’s the essential oil in a plant or herb that has the impact on us.

A dried herb can lose as much as 90% of its oxygenating molecules and nutrients.  Essential oils are volatile subtle liquids. When you dry something like a rose, you might lose as much as 95% of this extract through vaporization. How many people like peppermint tea? I love it. However, as a healing remedy it’s benefits are slight. To get the same benefit from peppermint tea that you would get from a drop of peppermint essential oil, you would need to drink over 20 cups of peppermint tea! I love my peppermint tea, but not that much, Thanks.

Through the benefits of distillation, we are able to get the plant’s concentrated life energy ( its blood if you like) and do some ‘serious’ healing work on people ( and animals).  When an essential oil is applied to the skin, it will penetrate every cell in your body within minutes. A number of essential oils can even penetrate the blood/brain barrier, carrying vital oxygen and nutrients into the brain. Research has shown such oils to be beneficial to the treatment of such ailments as dementia, alzheimer’s disease and even depression.

And another thing…

Many of the herbs that are grown for the purpose of creating supplements aren’t necessarily grown organically. They’re mass produced and harvested to be able to create as much of the supplement as possible. Have they been sprayed with toxic pesticides and herbicides? Maybe.  How much of the plant’s essential life energy is left by the time it’s harvested, dried, chopped up, bottled up and put on the shelves? Very little I suspect.

For that reason, when it comes to my health, I put my trust in pure therapeutic grade, unadulterated essential oils. And drink the peppermint tea just for enjoyment.  😉

Till next time



Chemistry of Essential Oils made simple


Chemistry of essential oils made simple


This is a great book if you wish to understand how and why essential oils work. Don’t be put off by the title. I attended Dr Stewart’s talk in Sydney, April 2010 and I’m wishing I had someone like that to teach me chemistry at school all those years ago. It’s not easy to find someone who can explain complex subjects in an ‘easy to understand’ laymen’s terms. This book and this author definitely do.

Buy the book


Essential Oils Desk Reference

Essential Oils Desk Reference I consider this THE bible on essential oils. It covers the science and history behind essential oils, information on individual oils, oil blends,  dietary and nutritional supplements, hormones, personal care, essential oils for animals, techniques for the use of essential oils such as Raindrop, Auricular and Vitaflex and Cleansing/Detox programmes. It is a wealth of knowledge. If you buy any book on essential oils, this is the one to buy. The environmental activist, Deirdre Imus, listed this book as her favourite on essential oils, in her book Growing Up Green: Baby and Child Care.

Buy this book

Use only Therapeutic Grade Essential oils

In the last two posts, we looked at what might make an essential oil toxic. I concluded by saying that if you’re not using an essential oil that is pure, unadulterated and therapeutic grade, then it could be very toxic.

So what is a therapeutic grade essential oil?

A therapeutic grade essential oil should have the following qualities:

  • The plant from which the oil is distilled or extracted should be organically cultivated and grown.
  • The land on which the plant is grown, should itself be free of herbicides, pesticides and other toxic residuals.
  • The oil needs to distilled at the correct temperature. Very high temperatures may extract the most oil from the plant, but in the process damage the quality of the oil.
  • The oil must be pure and undiluted. And it most certainly should NOT be mixed with synthetics.

In an age where plants and their constituents are being heavily synthesized, and where most farmlands are contaminated by either heavy metals, pesticides or herbicides, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a producer of essential oils that adheres to such a strict regimen.

To date, I have only found one – Young Living.

Dr David Stewart goes a lot further than I do. He puts forward the following questions to those who claim to match or better Young Living’s Therapeutic Grade (TG) essential oils: [1]

  1. Does their company own any farms on which to raise herbs for oils? And if they do, are they new farms on land formerly polluted with herbicides, pesticides, and chemicals that contain residuals from the past, or are they farming land that is clean, which has never been cultivated or has been untilled for at least the last 50 years?
  2. Does their company have their own fully equipped testing laboratory to verify an oil’s composition?
  3. Do they have anyone on staff with a trained nose who can analyze oils by their smell? (There are less than 200 people in the world with noses sufficiently trained to discern the chemistry of a fragrance.)Gary Young can.
  4. If their company purchases oils from outside suppliers, do they visit the distilleries and farms of those suppliers periodically to observe if the herbs are grown organically, i.e. without pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers?
  5. Do they know if the grower has a testing laboratory on the farm to determine when the crop is at its peak for oil harvesting?
  6. Do they know if the crops were actually harvested at their peak time and, if so, was there an inordinate delay in taking them to the still and into the cookers?
  7. Do they know if their distillery personnel understand the art and science of distilling, exactly how to pack the cookers, how to administer the steam, how to maintain minimum temperatures and pressures throughout the cooker, and how to continuously monitor the process throughout distillation to make sure the oil produced contains all of its components in the proper proportions?
  8. If their supplier makes a mistake in the distillation or harvesting processes that results in an inferior grade of oil, does that supplier sell the oil anyway or do they discard it?
  9. Do they know if the cookers in the distilleries of their suppliers have domed lids or cone shaped lids? Most stills use dome-shaped lids. Cone topped cookers deliver a better grade of oil than dome tops.
  10. Do they know if their suppliers supplement the distillation process with solvents to extract additional oil from the plant matter?
  11. Do they know if their suppliers bottle their oils directly from the distillery without modifying the composition of the natural oil by adding anything or taking anything away?
  12. Do they know if their company has tested their company’s oils side by side with Young Living oils in the same lab to make a fair comparison? And if so, where is the data?

As Dr Stewart points out, if the answer to these questions is “No” or “I don’t know” then how can one say for sure their essential oils are better than Young Living’s or for that matter therapeutic grade in quality?

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.

[1] The Raindrop Messenger, Official newsletter of C.A.R.E. (Center for Aromatherapy Research and Education) Vol 6, No 4 Jul-Aug 2008. To subscribe

Can Essential oils be toxic? Part two

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…” [1]

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.” [2]


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.

[1] 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

[2] Ibid

Can Essential oils be toxic? Part One

Some of you may have been told by an aromatherapist or naturopath, that certain essential oils may be toxic. Well some essential oils may be.  The question is which ones.  In order to answer this, we first need to understand our aromatherapist’s mind-set a little.

Three Schools of Thinking.

You may be surprised to know that there are 3 schools of thought in the field of aromatherapy.

The German school of aromatherapy teaches the use of essential oils via inhalation. The French school teaches the use of essential oils in anyway that’s appropriate – orally, rectally, through the skin and through inhalation. Gary Young has added a number of other ways to this school, including intravenously and hypodermically.

The British school of thought, which has largely influenced the American and Australian aromatherapist community, focuses more on the burning of oils (inhalation) and the dilution of oils.

Therapeutic Grade vs. Perfume Grade

At his recent visit to Sydney, Dr David Stewart (an aromatherapist and prominent researcher in the field of essential oils) [1] made reference to a number of British aromatherapy text books, such as Essential Oil Safety and Clinical Aromatherapy for Pregnancy and Childbirth. In page 45 of the latter book, a number of oils were listed as forbidden: cinnamon, calamus, cassia, fennel, clove, oregano, wintergreen, tansy and yes, Vanilla (incidentally, the bible makes reference to people being anointed with calamus and cassia thousands of years ago).

Dr Stewart made the following points about much of the British research in aromatherapy, much of which has a long impressive list of citations:

  • The research was conducted on animals (They’re far more sensitive to oils than humans.)
  • They will take one compound in the essential oil, which in isolation is toxic (but which in combination with other compounds in the oil, render it safe) and label the entire oil as toxic and to be avoided.
  • Much of the research utilizes perfume grade essential oils and NOT therapeutic grade essential oils (we’ll come back to this point later).

The Sum of the parts…

Let’s elaborate on the second point that Dr Stewart made, as it’s an important one. We’ll use a couple of examples.

The compounds Scatole and Indole are not very nice ones. Scatole in fact can be found in animal droppings. Yet the essential oil Jasmine has both of these. In fact perfume companies deliberately put Indole in their perfumes, as it intensifies the fragrance.

Another compound, Xylene (found in hazardous waste), can be found in Myrrh, another oil referred to in the scriptures. It was given to the Christ child by the 3 Wise Men. The point is many compounds are dangerous on their own, but when placed in combination with other compounds, have a totally different effect.

As Dr Stewart puts it, “one cannot deduce the properties of an essential oil by knowing the properties of its individual compounds as isolates… a compound that is highly toxic alone can be safe, non-toxic, and therapeutic when occurring as an ingredient in an essential oil. Many aromatherapists who fear certain oils have been trained in a school that teaches the fallacy that properties of isolated compounds studied in laboratories apply to the natural oils in which they are found. Thus, many aromatherapists avoid perfectly safe and therapeutically effective oils because a laboratory has found one or more compounds in the oil that, by themselves, are harmful.”(My emphasis) [2]

Synthetic vs. Natural

We now come back to Dr Stewart’s third point, that many lab tests are conducted on perfume-grade essential oils and not therapeutic grade essential oils.


The first perfume oils in the world were basically essential oils. Two thousand years later, there is very little in our perfumes that are natural or essential oil. Advances in chemistry over the last 100 years, have meant that the perfume industry relies largely on synthetics that attempt to mimic the best that nature has to offer. And it’s not just the perfume industry that relies on the synthetics.

To be continued…

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.


[1] About David Stewart, Ph.D.

[2] The Raindrop Messenger, Official newsletter of C.A.R.E. (Center for Aromatherapy Research and Education) Vol 8, No 1 Jan-Feb 2010. To subscribe