What Makes the Most Therapeutically Effective Essential Oils?
Let's start with the chemistry of essential oils
Essential oils have an extremely complex chemical makeup. If you look at the GC/MS report of Helichrysum essential oil, you'll see it is made up of many, individual compounds. The combination of these compounds is what gives each essential oil its therapeutic properties. It is the natural balance of these compounds which gives any essential oil its therapeutic properties.
The balance of these individual compounds (how much neryl acetate relative to how much α-pinene, for example) makes an important difference in the therapeutic action of a particular oil. And it is Nature that has given us essential oils which each have their own properties. It is crucial that an essential oil be 100% pure, so that Nature is able to provide the specific action any oil may have. The best essential oils, first, are 100% pure - nothing added and nothing taken away.
At Ananda, we run a series of tests, checked against 'norms' and standards by our Analytical Chemist Dr. Tony Ferarri, to ensure each and ever oil is 100% pure. These oils are what Nature intended to give us to work with as natural therapeutics.
The aroma of essential oils: a balance of natural constituents
It is the chemistry, particularly the balance of each constituent in an oil relative to one another, which imparts the oil's aroma. If an oil has more α-pinene, for example, it will have a brighter, "pine-like" scent. But of course Helichrysum (for example) doesn't really smell like 'pine'. You can detect it with your nose, and when doing organoleptic testing, being a lighter constituent (compound), it will tend to be noticed first, and other heavier constituents will slowly be detected over the course of this testing.
Yet when we smell a pure essential oil all at once, we will smell the "whole oil"...the citrusy notes, the woody notes, and particularly for Helichrysum, it's "honey-like" aroma. If there were a Helichrysum with a higher amount of α-pinene, we'd find it a just a little more reminiscent of the scent of pine (this is true of Balkan Helicrhsyum). If the Helichrsyum has a higher amount of neryl-acetate (which is true of the Corsican variety), it will smell a little more floral.
Many of these constituents (remember, these are the natural chemical compounds which make up every essential oil) have been research for their effects in biological systems, including those of the human body. Some have been shown to be strongly anti-inflammatory (curcumenes for example), while others are anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-tumorial...and the list goes on.
What makes an essential oil have a great aroma?
It is the balance of these constituents that give every essential oil its aroma. We smell these through the extremely complex structure that starts with the nose, and eventually ends up with sensory neurons which essentially tell the brain "this chemical has been detected" or "that chemical has been detected". This is really a simplified explanation of the olfactory system (for a more in-depth understanding of all its parts and what they do, see "Olfactory System" at Wikipedia). Any aroma actually dissolves in the mucous lining the nasal cavity, and then binds to one or more olfactory neurons (the more olfactory neurons an aromatic compound attaches to is related to the aroma's intensity).
What makes an oil the most therapeutic
It's not only that an oil is pure (as all our oils have been tested to be), it also has a fantastic aroma. Your own nose and body know what smells good. Your body knows when one oil or another -- of the exact same variety -- smells best. It has a balance of constituents that your nose (and brain!) detects as a great aroma. And here, we trust, because we're using essential oils in therapeutic ways, that the best smelling oil will produce the best results, no mater what the application. You can line up five 100% pure oils of the same species, distilled in the same way, grown in the same area, and one of them will smell the best. Why? Because your body, nose and brain are telling you which one is the best for you.
When we select an oil for our collection, we sample many 100% pure oils of the same species, from the same distillation year, and from the same region. And we choose the best smelling one because the body knows, with it's three to six million olfactory-sensing neurons which is the best for you. And at The Ananda Apothecary believe this is the most therapeutic essential oil for any application. This is the foundation of how we choose our oils. Not only are they 100% pure, most often either certified organic or wildcrafted, but they tell us by their aroma which will have the best action for our bodies.
What about simple personal preference?
Now, that's not to say there are not personal preferences, and in this case we try to offer more than one variety...we carry three types of Lavender essential oil: Bulgarian, High-Elevation-Grown French, and Wild-crafted French Lavender. They are all in fact wonderful oils, but some people like one or the other -- while the differences are subtle, and most prefer the certified organic High Elevation grown oil, but some do prefer the Wild, and some do prefer the certified organic Bulgarian. And to this we say, we've selected the very best we can find, and let your nose decide what's best for you.
We also carry four types of Frankincense - but this is a little different in that they are differently distilled and from different locations on the planet. Still, we've chosen those with the best aroma of each, and we truly not only enjoy their aromas as much as we do, but also find the therapeutic properties of essential oils and CO2 extracts from Ananda to be the most therapeutically-effective you've ever come across.
We do hope this helps you understand our goal with the oils we carry -- that you receive the best of the best, direct from Ananda (no additional middle-man retail markups) -- so they're also truly affordable. Please email or call if you have any questions, and thank you for reading.