Information from Frontier Wholesale, the company that owns the Aura Cascia Brand. Some great things to know…
Q: What causes photosensitivity and what oils cause it?
A: 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 bergaptene, is especially likely to cause reactions. We sell bergaptene-free bergamot (bergamot BF) to eliminate this risk. Other oils we carry that might cause photosensitive reactions include ginger, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin orange and tangerine.
Q: How should essential oils be stored? How long do they last?
A: 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.
Q: Approximately how many drops are in 1/8-ounce, 1/2-ounce, 2-ounce and 4-ounce bottles of essential oil?
A: While the number of drops varies according to the consistency of the oil, the average drops per bottle for the sizes in the question are, from smallest to largest, about 72 drops, 288 drops, 1,152 drops and 2,304 drops.
Q: Is it a problem to have essential oils freeze?
A: No. Since essential oils don’t contain water, they don’t actually freeze. Cold temperatures can cause one or more constituents to crystallize. The quality isn’t affected, although sometimes the crystallized constituents may not blend completely back into the solution once the oil is “thawed.” This results in a “cloudy” appearance. Placing the oil in a warm location or warm water bath will eliminate the cloudiness.
Q: Where are the best places to apply oils for absorption?
A: Essential oils can be applied almost anywhere on the body (avoid the eyes, of course). However, the fastest absorption occurs in areas where you have lots of blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. (Many of these are also called pressure points.) The soles of the feet, the wrists, neck and behind the ears are all great spots for applying oils to improve absorption. Warmth also plays a role — your body doesn’t absorb oils as well when it’s cold. The underarm is also an ideal place to apply oils; it has lots of blood vessels and is also warm.
Q: Can you put undiluted oils directly on your skin?
A: 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 the intended use of the oil (from 1-10%). A few oils, like lavender and tea tree, can occasionally be applied directly, but in general, dilution is always recommended. With any oil we recommend a skin patch test. Always use caution.
Q: What are the most common solvents used to adulterate essential oils? Do they pose any health concerns?
A: 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)
-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. They could affect the health benefits of the oils, and they may cause allergic or toxic reactions in some individuals.
Q: What specific tests do you perform for essential oils?
A: Our essential oil testing includes both physical testing — sensory evaluation, optical rotation and specific gravity — and gas chromatography (GC) testing for every oil. This extensive testing provides complete confidence that our oils are 100% pure and authentic, and we offer a quality guarantee to our customers.
Q: What is a therapeutic grade oil?
A: There is no such grading system for essential oils. Companies sometimes use this term in marketing to try to differentiate aromatherapy oils from essential oils used in flavoring and food. Aromatherapy oils should be pure, complete and unadulterated high quality oils. But because the term “therapeutic grade” isn’t based on established standards or regulation, it can be — and often is — used without regard to the quality of the oil.
Q: Why doesnt Aura Cacia have health benefits on their labels?
A: 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 users. Not all companies comply with the law — that’s why you may see competing products making claims or statements about the product’s supposed benefits that you won’t see on an Aura Cacia label.
Q: What is the difference between a fragrance oil and an essential oil?
A: 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.
Q: What is an absolute?
A: 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 that makes distillation impractical. The most used aromatherapy absolutes are jasmine and rose. Absolutes such as carnation, hyacinth and gardenia are used in high quality perfumery.
Q: What is a hydrosol?
A: The leftover water from the steam or water distillation of an essential oil 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 can be used directly on the skin without dilution.
Q: Is separation in avocado oil a sign of a quality problem?
A: 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 — some cloudiness may develop if the oil is exposed to cold temperatures. This is most apt to occur when the oil is shipped in cold weather or stored in very cool warehouses stores.
This cloudiness 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. Precipitate in the oil will also melt when applied to the skin because of body temperature.
Q: Why don’t you provide any information about the medicinal uses of herbs?
A: In a nutshell, because it’s against the law. There are strict Federal regulations prohibiting any herb supplier from making health claims for their products. Our practices comply with those FDA and FTC regulations and follow the recommendations of the American Herbal Products Association.
Q: Are German and Roman chamomile related?
A: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are different plants of the same family (Asteraceae) that have similar properties. As essential oils, they are also similar, but they differ in one significant respect. German chamomile oil has a blue color resulting from a constituent called chamazulene that’s produced during the distillation process. Roman chamomile has little or no chamazulene, and therefore its essential oil lacks the vivid blue color that characterizes German chamomile oil.
Q: Is wild chamomile related to German and Roman chamomile?
A: Although, like German and Roman chamomile, wild chamomile (Ormenis multicaulis) is in the family Asteraceae, it is only vaguely similar to the other chamomiles, differing significantly in aroma, chemical composition and uses.
Q: How is lavandin different from lavender?
A: Lavender oil is distilled from the flowers of Lavendula angustifolia, or true lavender. Lavandin is a cross between true lavender and spike lavender. Lavandin 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.
Q: What is the difference between Tasmanian lavender and the other lavenders?
A: Tasmania first started growing lavender about 100 years ago when a famous lavender expert from England moved his operation to Tasmania, an island off the coast of southern Australia that has a similar climate to England. He brought the seeds that carried the traits he was looking for spent nearly 50 years developing a special variety in Tasmania that has an exceptionally soft, sweet and floral aroma. Since the farm and production is small, the price of Tasmanian lavender tends to be high.
Q: Why do some peppermints smell different than others?
A: Aura Cacia sells pure, unadulterated essential oil that has the full, complete aroma of natural peppermint essential oil (Mentha x. piperita). A stronger, more intense menthol aroma (especially right out of the bottle) is characteristic of peppermint oil that has been re-distilled. Re-distilled 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 slower-to-evaporate components of the oil, giving it a more complex, but less menthol, aroma. Oils may also smell different if the peppermint has been combined with other cheaper mint oils, such as corn mint or synthetic menthol.
Q: What is rose otto?
A: Rose otto is the steam or water distilled essential oil of the fresh petals of the damask rose (Rosa damascena). It is considered the finest rose oil in the world (and is 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” in Ottoman Empire. During the rule of the Ottoman Empire, rose oil production spread to the many Ottoman provinces, including — in the mid-fifteenth century — certain areas of what is now Bulgaria. These areas are ideally suited to rose flower production, and they soon became the major producers of rose otto. Today Bulgaria and Turkey provide virtually all of the world’s production of rose otto.
Q: Where do your essential oils come from?
A: Some essential oils — such as peppermint, spearmint, Texas cedarwood, and citrus oils — are commercially produced in the U.S. However, most are produced in other parts of the world where the particular plants thrive.