Add the simple pleasures of aromatherapy to your everyday life with our unparalleled selection of essential oils and ready-to-use skin care products — formulated from 100% pure essential oils, to provide true aromatherapy benefits for the mind, body, and spirit.

aromatherapy 101

Frequently Asked Questions

Is separation in avocado oil a sign of a quality problem?

No. Haziness in avocado oil is of no consequence and is, in fact, an indication of natural, unrefined oil with the complete beneficial constituents. As with any skin care oil — but especially pronounced in avocado oil — if the oil is exposed to cold temperatures, some precipitation and cloudiness may be visible. This cloudiness — most apt to occur when the oil is shipped in cold weather or stored in very cool warehouses stores — is NOT an indication of poor quality, age or rancidity. Quality problems are indicated by an off aroma and elevated peroxide value. (All Aura Cacia skin care oils are checked for acceptable peroxide levels before being bottled and induction sealed to maintain freshness.) Usually the cloudiness can be eliminated by placing the bottle in a warm water bath. Also, any precipitate in the oil will melt and go back into solution when applied to skin because of body temperature.

Is it a problem to have essential oils freeze?

No. Since essential oils don't contain water, they don't actually freeze. What happens is that the cold temperature causes one or more constituent to crystalize. The quality isn't affected although sometimes the crystallized constituents may not go completely back into solution once the oil is "thawed," resulting in a "cloudy" appearance. Placing the oil in a warm location or warm water bath will eliminate the cloudiness.

What is an absolute? Is there any solvent left in the absolute?

Absolutes are not true essential oils although they are aromatic, volatile and used in aromatherapy and perfumery. They are produced by alcohol extraction, after which the alcohol is removed by vacuum distillation. The extraction is done on something called the concrete—a thick, fragrant material extracted from the plant with a hydrocarbon solvent such as hexane. The concrete contains the essential oil as well as fatty acids and waxes. Alcohol dissolves the essential oil, and the non-fragrant components either precipitate or are filtered out. This method is used for delicate plants (usually flowers) where heat distillation would damage or distort the essential oil or for plants with a very low essential oil content making distillation impractical. The most used aromatherapy absolutes are jasmine and rose. Absolutes such as carnation, hyacinth and gardenia are used in high quality perfumery. Our GC testing shows that one to two percent alcohol may be left in an absolute. We have found no traces of any of the chemical solvent used to make the concrete.

What is a hydrosol?

After steam or water distillation of an essential oil, the leftover water from the distillation is called a hydrosol. Hydrosols are mostly water with the water soluble components of the plant not found in the essential oil. They usually contain a very tiny bit of essential oil —at least enough to give the hydrosol the faint aroma of the oil. They are considered great additions to skin toners and sprays, masks and lotions where they are valued for their astringent, soothing and rejuvenating qualities. Because they are almost all water, they are can be used directly on the skin without dilution.

What does the "otto" mean in Rose Otto?

Rose otto is the steam or water distilled essential oil of the fresh petals of the damask rose (Rosa damascena) and is considered the finest rose oil in the world (and also the most expensive). Also known as attar of rose, rose otto has an intensely warm, rich, deeply rosy scent. The term otto is derived from Ottoman. It was during the rule of the Ottoman Empire that rose oil production was spread to the many Ottoman provinces, including—in the mid-fifteenth century—certain areas of what is now Bulgaria. These areas were ideally suited to rose flower production and soon became the major producer of rose otto—which they continued to be until after World War II. Today Turkey provides about 75% of the world’s production of rose otto.

Where do most oils come from?

Essential oils come from all over the world. Most essential oils are distilled on the farm or near where the plant is grown. Therefore, essential oils tend to come from the regions of the world where the plants are cultivated. Besides North America, many oils come from Europe and Southeast Asia.

Do many oils come from the United States?

There are some essential oils such as peppermint, spearmint, Texas cedarwood, dill (used in dill pickle production), wintergreen and the citrus oils that are commercially produced in the U.S. However, most are produced in other parts of the world, often in limited areas that provide the particular requirements of the plant from which they are made.

What is the difference between a fragrance oil and an essential oil?

Essential oils are distilled from the leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, tops, or fruits of plants.  They are the highly concentrated, volatile, aromatic components of the plants or plant parts from which they are distilled.  A fragrance is a combination of various natural and synthetic aroma chemicals, created in the lab by an aroma chemist. Fragrances attempt to mimic the aroma of an essential oil or the aroma of a plant that doesn’t have an essential oil (an apple for example), or to create an entirely new scent.  Fragrances are used in perfumery and to scent all types of products such as toiletries, soaps, room fresheners, paper, tobacco products and paints.  Only pure essential oils should be used in aromatherapy.

Where are the best places to apply oils for absorption?

Essential oils can be applied almost anywhere on the body (avoid the eyes, of course). However, the fastest absorption occurs on sensitive areas where there is only a small amount of hair. The soles of the feet, armpits, palms of the hand and genitals are the best areas for application of oils. Always make sure that oils are properly diluted before applying to the skin. Sensitive areas such as the armpits and the genitals, while effective in terms of absorption, are also easily irritated.

Can you use oils in food products?

Essential oils have long been used as flavorings in food. Although we don't recommend using essential oils for flavoring food at home due to safety concerns, many commercially prepared products are made using essential oils for flavor.

How safe are oils in food?

When used appropriately, pure essential oils are safe to use for flavoring food. Because people often mistake using essential oils as the same as using baking flavors, we do not recommend their use in home food preparation. Safe amounts to use depend on the oil and the use, but generally they are added to a dish by the drop rather than by the teaspoon the way baking flavors are used. And not all essential oils are considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe for human consumption by the FDA) and those that are not, should never be ingested.

What causes photosensitivity and what oils cause it?

Oils that contain furocoumarins can cause skin reactions if used on skin that is then exposed to ultraviolet light. These photosensitive reactions may be as mild as slight reddening of the skin, while severe cases can result in acute lesions known as bullock dermatitis. This dermatitis will resolve itself in a few weeks; however the accompanying hyper-pigmentation (brown spots on the skin) can take months or years to fully disappear. Bergamot, which contains the furocoumarin Bergapten, is especially likely to cause reactions. We sell bergapten-free bergamot (Bergamot BF) to eliminate this risk. Other oils we carry that might cause photosensitive reactions include angelica root, ginger, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin orange and tangerine.

Can you put undiluted oils directly on your skin?

In general this should be avoided, and oils should only be used with a recommended dilution based on the particular situation of the person and use of the oil (usually 1 to 3%). A few oils, including lavender, tea tree, ylang ylang and sandalwood, are mild enough to be considered for direct application, but even with these oils, we recommend doing a skin-patch test and using caution.

Are oils safe during pregnancy?

Some oils may be safe to use in small amounts during pregnancy. However, it is safest to avoid their use altogether unless under the direction of a licensed health care provider. However, if using essential oils in pregnancy, reduce the amount normally used by half and avoid using them at all during the first trimester.

What country grows the most lavender?

Lavender is grown in gardens in temperate climates around the world.  Commercial production of lavender for distillation was centered in Southern France for many years but now occurs in a number of countries. Places producing the most lavender essential oil today are France, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Australia and  the Mediterranean region. Aura Cacia lavender comes from Ukraine and organic lavender oil is from Bulgaria.

Are German and Roman Chamomile related?

German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are different plants of the same family. As herbs, they are both considered kinds of chamomile with similar properties. As essential oils, they are also similar but differ in one significant respect. German chamomile oil has a blue in color that comes from a constituent called chamazulene, a potent anti-inflammatory which is produced during the distillation process. Roman chamomile has little or no chamazulene, and therefore lacks the blue color and anti-inflammatory properties.

Is Wild Chamomile related to either of them?

Wild chamomile (Ormenis mixta) is not a true chamomile and the common name is somewhat misleading. It probably got its name because of some similarities with the German or Roman chamomile, but it is significantly different in aroma and chemical composition.

How is Lavandin different from Lavender?

Lavender oil is distilled from the flowers of Lavendula angustifolia, or true lavender. Lavandin is a cross between true lavender and spike lavender. Lavandin oil has a higher camphor content than lavender oil. It is used on sore muscles and for its sanitizing and deodorizing properties. Lavandin is less expensive than lavender oil and is more abundant. It is often used as an adulterant to, or substitution for, true lavender essential oil.

Why does Aura Cacia use jojoba oil in so many products?

Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax rather than a true oil, and it is very similar to the sebum of the skin. Because it forms a light, non-greasy layer that does not clog the skin’s pores, we find it to be a wonderful ingredient in all types of skin preparations. And because it is not a fat, it doesn't go rancid and thereby helps extend the shelf life of other oils to which it has been added.

What are the most adulterated oils?

According to the extensive testing we have done at Aura Cacia, the following essential oils are the ones that are most often adulterated: Lavender, Rose otto, Neroli, Rose absolute, Jasmine absolute, peppermint, bergamot, clary sage, myrrh, frankincense, juniper, clove, cinnamon bark, anise, oregano, thyme, rosemary, vetiver, wintergreen, ylang ylang, cedarwood, geranium, patchouli, sandalwood, melissa. Unfortunately, if an essential oil is not on this list, that doesn't mean that it has never been or won’t be adulterated—only that it is less commonly adulterated in our experience.

What are the most common solvents used to adulterate essential oils? Do they pose any health concerns?

Solvents used to adulterate essential oils are generally colorless and odorless and therefore not easily detectable without resorting to gas chromatography testing. Solvents we’ve found in essential oils include:
Diethyl Phthalate(DEP)
Propylene Glycol(DPG)
Isopropyl Myristate(PEA)
Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol(PEA)
Butylated Hydroxy Toluene(BHT)
Methylene Chloride
Benzyl Chloride
Methyl Ethyl Ketone
These solvents range from relatively benign (ethanol) to very hazardous (toluene) chemicals. Regardless of individual health effects, they do not belong in essential oils and could effect both the health benefits of the oils and may cause allergic or toxic reactions in some individuals.
Solvents are extremely hard to detect without GC (gas chromatography) testing. At Aura Cacia, we GC test every shipment of our oils to make sure that each essential oil we sell is 100% pure and unadulterated.

Why do some Peppermints smell different than others?

There are several reasons why peppermint oils may smell different. Assuming that the oils being compared are actually pure, unadulterated essential oil from Mentha piperita, the most likely reason is that one is a redistilled oil while the other (which we offer) is a natural and complete essential oil. Redistilled peppermint oil is used to flavor foods and is the flavor component in baking flavors and extracts (like ours), while complete peppermint essential oil is appropriate for aromatherapy use. Redistillation is done to remove some of the heavier, slower to evaporate components of the oil giving it a more intense menthol aroma right out of the bottle. The complete oil has all of the oil's components, giving it a more complex, but less menthol, aroma. Oils may also smell different if the peppermint has been stretched with other cheaper mint oils such as corn mint or boosted with the addition of synthetic menthol.

What exactly is spiking?

Spiking is a form of adulteration where a specific constituent (either synthetic or from a natural source) is added to an essential oil to make the oil seem of higher quality.

How should essential oils be stored? How long do they last?

It's best to store essential oils in closed, glass bottles away from heat and light. While some essential oils may stay good almost indefinitely under ideal conditions, we recommend two years as a good rule of thumb for most oils. Citrus and conifer oils have a shorter shelf life due to certain components that react to oxygen in a way that degrades the oil over time. These oils are best used within 18 months of the manufacture date on the bottle.

Does Aura Cacia distill its own essential oils?

We have distilled oils for research purposes, but it isn't practical for us to distill for production—we couldn't consistently meet either the quantity or the quality requirements for Aura Cacia oils if we attempted to distill the oils ourselves.  Most essential oils are best when distilled on or near the farms where the plants are grown.

Some companies claim their oils are distilled in better ways. Is there any truth to this?

Essential oils can vary in quality depending on how well they were distilled, but this is one of many factors in oil quality. Others—such as where and how the plants were grown, seasonal variation in weather, soil differences, and harvest times and handling—can also affect the quality of an essential oil. The most effective way to monitor all these complex factors is to analyze the end product rigorously with a wide variety of tests to determine its quality. Relying on any single factor, such as distillation, cannot guarantee quality.

What is a therapeutic grade oil?

There is no such grading system for essential oils. This term is sometimes used by companies as a marketing term to try and differentiate aromatherapy oils from essential oils used in flavoring and food. Aromatherapy oils should be pure, complete and unadulterated — whereas oils used for other purposes may be enhanced, redistilled or in others ways manipulated to make them more suitable for their intended purpose. But because the term isn't based on established standards or regulation, it can be—and often is—used without regard to the quality of the oil.

What is a food grade oil?

Essential oils, when used in food may be required by the manufacturer to conform to the Food Chemical Codex (FCC), thus making them “food grade”. Essential oils in compliance with these standards can be the same essential oils used in aromatherapy as long as they are pure, unadulterated and complete oils. If they have been manipulated in any way to meet an FCC standard, then they are no longer suitable for aromatherapy use, even if they meet the technical standards to be considered food grade oils.

How often do you test oils?

We test every preshipment sample of essential oils before making a purchase. Then, after we purchase an essential oil, every shipment is tested to make sure it continues to meet all quality and purity standards.

How effective is testing?

A conscientious testing program conducted by qualified essential oil experts that includes both physical (sensory evaluation, optical rotation, specific gravity, specific gravity) and chemical (gas chromatography) testing can determine whether an essential oil is pure, unadulterated and authentic. To determine the effectiveness of any testing program, one must know what tests are conducted as well as the qualifications of the people who set the testing parameters and specifications, conduct the tests and interpret the results. And of course, to be effective, any testing program must test a representative sample from every shipment of every essential oil.
Our thorough testing program—which includes gas chromatography (GC) testing for every oil—provides an extremely high degree of assurance that our oils are 100% pure and unadulterated. We are completely confident in our quality testing and offer a quality guarantee so our customers will share that confidence.

Is there any difference between an organic oil and a non-organic oil?

Organic oils come from plants that are grown, harvested and distilled in accordance with organic practices. Non-organic essential oils come from plants that may have been grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. In addition, non-sustainable farming practices may have been used – in other words practices that do not protect the soil, water and animal life. Little or no chemical residue from such practices may be present in the essential oil, however the reason why many people prefer to buy organic products is a long-term commitment to the health and sustainability of our planet.

Why doesn’t Aura Cacia have health benefits on their labels

Aromatherapy products are regulated by the FDA as cosmetics and must conform to cosmetic labeling regulations.  Aura Cacia labels all products in compliance with regulations in order to protect you and your customer.  Not all companies comply with the law – that’s why you will often see competing products making claims or statements about the product’s supposed benefits that you won’t see on an Aura Cacia label.


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