One thing that is difficult about being an aromatherapist is the amount of knowledge that is assumed about it so therefore the amount of generalised statements that get banded about.
First of all ‘essential oils’ cover such a wide range of properties it makes little sense to talk about them as such, so we tend to consider them in groups of properties or chemical components.
It is an area that should not be waded into without a great deal of respect for the plant and a great deal of respect for yourself and the knowledge of trained aromatherapists.
Something that has come up for discussion recently is the use of antiviral and antimicrobial properties of essential oils.
As a clinical aromatherapist we are trained to blend oils at quantities and dosages to be antiviral and anti-microbial.
I have despaired reading facebook posts and pinterest recipes for putting ‘some’ tea tree and lavender into a hand sanitiser. This may be because most people have only heard of these oils and assume that all essential oils are the same.
This is a huge misconception. If you compare lavender and clove, it is like comparing a hammer with a toothpick. You simply can’t consider them to be the same.
There are three active chemistries which are antiviral in certain oils which are blended in hydrolats which form the base of my sprays. The antiviral components are the carbon double-bonded phenols of cinnamon leaf and clove bud, the aldehydes of Lemongrass and the Oxides and Alcohols of the distilled Ravensara and Eucalyptus globulus. Hydrolats are the water-based by-product of distillation. This distilled water is free from impurities and holds the same therapeutic properties as the essential oil in a minor dosage.
One issue with using essential oils on the corona virus and at this time is that there are a lot of people who really have very little knowledge of the chemistry of essential oils giving people advice and there is no direct research on this strain of the virus.
There is also a difference between oils and substances which are antiviral and those which are viricidal. Equally, there is a huge range in the quality of essential oils being used. This is why I am extremely scrupulous about who I buy from and why. The essential oils that I have mentioned, purchased from a supplier Penny Price who provide me with the exact chemotype of the plant and gas chromatography which gives the exact chemical make up of each oil.
As a clinical aromatherapist with the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists, we know how to blend suitably for respiratory, airborne viruses and use a range of chemistries which work synergistically together to deactivate and reduce the impact of viruses. This is something that has been tested over time with influenza strains and herpes viruses. As there is no testing, there is no guarantees but there is the surety that using all of these chemical components boosts the immune system, the respiratory system and prevents the re-infection due to the anti-microbial action and the anti-viral properties work at de-activating the viruses.
However, I am extremely sceptical when people mention ‘some’ essential oils as though they are all the same and especially lavender which is much better suited to burns than viruses.
I would wholeheartedly recommend using essential oils in cleaning and sanitising but use advice from a trained aromatherapist who understands dosages and chemistry properly. Otherwise, we risk losing credibility in our industry and this would be detrimental to people’s health and well being as aromatherapy serves such a key role in fighting bacteria and viruses.
If we are working towards a chemical-free, toxin free future, we must do so following the expertise of those who are trained and qualified to blend in a way which is strong enough to overcome bacteria, microbes and viruses yet gentle enough not to damage our skin, body systems and the environment.