Natural fragrances: Why you should check them out when scouting out your signature scent

Toxin-free, loaded with health benefits and a delight to sniff. Essential oils are green – and glorious!
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What would you do if someone handed you a snack with a number one ingredient of petroleum? Probably run, not walk in the other direction, amirite? These days eating "clean" is like a religion; our society is slowly becoming more educated and aware of what food we put in our bodies and the benefits of limiting chemicals, toxins and processed materials. Now, what if I handed you a bottle of divine smelling perfume. Would you look to see what the ingredients were before misting your neck? And, if you saw that it was chalked full of chemicals would you still use it? Though nutritional awareness is at an all-time high, there is still a lack of knowledge where the cosmetic and fragrance industry is concerned. The truth is we should be as cautious of the chemicals in our products as we are about what food we're eating. Sasha Tong, founder of Lost and Found Apothecary, says, "A lot of people think about what they eat, and about what exercise they do, but they rarely think about what they're putting on their skin. But as we all know our skin is the largest organ on our body, so it only makes sense that what we put on it will affect how we feel."

And it does! "Current estimates suggest that there are approximately 85,000 chemicals used in modern manufacturing, and we've studied approximately 4000 of them for human health and safety," says Dr. Marissa Heisel, dōTERRA Canadian Founder & Holistic Chiropractor. From our beauty products to our household products, our lives are inundated with these unknown substances, which, according to Marissa has led to something called Overall Toxic Load, a condition with a number of serious health implications. "Those chemicals build up, in our tissues, organs, and body systems, and are leading to very high rates of chronic illness and disease processes. We see that expressed in everything from a massive increase in allergies (some life threatening), to auto-immune illnesses and a vast numbers of people struggling with emotional health imbalance."

Fragrance plays a big part of this chemically dominant lifestyle. In fact Tong explains, "95 percent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum." It's this growing knowledge that has contributed to the rapid growth of the essential oils, or botanicals, industry. In 2015 it was estimated at worth six billion dollars and the growth is not slowing down, with experts expecting the industry's value to more than double by 2024.

So, what exactly are essential oils? To put it simply – they are the naturally occurring, aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants that are extracted through careful steam distillation, resin tapping, and cold-pressing.

And though the industry is just exploding now, they've been around for, oh a few thousand centuries. "Aromatherapy dates back to ancient civilizations who used them to improve psychological and physical well-being," explains Tong whose line of scents only uses all-natural essential oils.

Not only are natural oils safe, without chemical additives, they have proven health benefits. "Our bodies are able to utilize the natural chemistry of plants for our benefit, for everything from immune support, to balancing and repairing different body processes, to hormonal support and cellular repair," claims Marissa. From lavender to peppermint, each oil has its own distinct advantages. Lemon is a natural antiseptic, antioxidant and diuretic; often used to treat, heartburn, edema and congestion. Peppermint has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, used to help fight fevers, muscle tension, as well as improve headaches and digestive troubles. Lavender, on the other hand, is a natural anti-spasmodic, antidepressant, and sedative – making it a powerful tool to help with stress, anxiety and insomnia. And that just skims the surface of the popular oils.

As is true with most health related products, not all oils are created equal. Heisel explains, "Unfortunately, the essential oil industry is unregulated, and labels are often extremely misleading." She warns to watch our for labels with the words "pure" or "proudly Canadian" as these could be buzz words aimed to distract the consumer from the purity of the oil. Marissa recommends, "look for a company that is highly transparent in terms of their plant sourcing and testing…. Find a source you can trust, or a mentor who is highly knowledgeable and up on current research."  She also adds that in the case of essential oils, cheaper is definitely not better, saying, "quality makes a difference to both effectiveness and safety." As for Sasha, her go-to for label decoding is the "Toxic Ten" list by natural beauty specialist Tata Harper, "if you're ever in doubt refer to that – it's basically the holy grail."