Welcome to Part 2! In case you missed Part 1, we talked about the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and cosmetics and also covered the difference in the FDA terms ‘regulate’ and ‘approve’ and how they relate to cosmetics.
Today, we’re going to cover essential oils. Part 3, will cover dietary supplements.
Essential oils are the volatile oils from the roots, bark, flower, leaves, stems, and any other parts of a plant. They are a very hot topic today as many people are turning to them for alternative ways of healing.
But, since the FDA does not have a regulatory definition of essential oils, they don’t necessarily view them in the same way as we do.
So, do you think the FDA approves, regulates, or both with regards to essential oils?
The short answer is regulates, but it’s not as cut and dry. It’s a little tricky.
The FDA associates essential oils with aromatherapy products (or in their words, and I quote, so-called “aromatherapy” products) and depending on how the product is marketed, it can be viewed either as a cosmetic or a drug.
For example, if the aromatherapy product is strictly marketed for beautifying purposes it is considered a cosmetic. And because it consists of fragrance ingredients it includes the same guidelines as fragrance. If you recall from Part 1, cosmetic & fragrance ingredients do not require FDA approval before they go on the market. The safety of the ingredients are left up to the manufacturer.
If any product is marketed to treat or prevent any type of disease, then the FDA views that product as a drug. Here’s where it gets tricky. Essential oils have been used as alternative ways of healing for years and even have known healing properties, so therefore you would think they could be approved as a drug right?
When was the last time you heard of an essential oil being approved for use like a drug? As long as there are pharmaceutical companies I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.
So, again the FDA does not approve essential oils.
This is where you do your due diligence with regards to essential oils. Be cautious when choosing essential oils, beware of their marketing claims, and read their labels carefully. Yes, essential oils have been used for thousands of years for healing, but some of the marketing claims by some companies are very much exaggerated.
Also, you have companies that have less quality oils trying to pass them off as better than they really are. Many companies take short cuts and use “perfume oils”, which are not true essential oils. The perfume oils mimic the natural scents of essential oils and have been synthetically produced. This is exactly what “fragrance” is (also known as synthetic musks). We know from Part 1 that they are toxic and carry a host of health concerns.
Some companies are also guilty of using poor quality and adulterated oils. Poor quality oils are oils that have been distilled from poor crops, have been handled improperly, or are old. Adulterated oils are oils that have chemicals or other oils added to them. Both kinds lack the therapeutic benefit and adulterated oils can even cause harmful side effects.
The term aromatherapy has no restrictions, similar to the term “natural”, and any company can use it however they want. For example, candles made out of paraffin wax and fragrance oils are not genuine aromatherapy sources and they emit toxins when burned.
Have you looked at the labels of your essential oils lately?