Today most of the lavender oil sold in America is a hybrid called lavandin, grown in China, Russia, France and Tasmania. They bring it into France, cut it with synthetic linolyl acetate to improve the fragrance, add propylene glycol or SD 40, DEP, and DOP, which are solvents that have no smell and increase the volume, then sell it in the U.S. as lavender oil.

Frankincense is another example of an adulterated oil. The frankincense resin that is sold in Somalia costs between $30,000 and $35,000 per ton. The essential oil requires 12 hours to be steam distilled from the resin and is very expensive. Frankincense oil that sells for $25.00 per ounce or less is invariably distilled with alcohol or other solvents. When these cut, synthetic and adulterated oils cause rashes, burns or other irritations, we wonder why we do not get the benefit we were expecting and conclude that essential oils do not have much value.

In France, production of true lavender oil dropped from 87 tons in 1967 to only 12 tons in 1998. During this same time, the demand for lavender oil has grown over 100 times. So where do essential oil marketers obtain enough lavender to meet the demand? They use a combination of synthetic and adulterated oils.

Adulterated and mislabeled essential oils present dangers for consumers. One woman who heard of the ability of lavender oil to soothe burns, used lavender from the local health food store when she spilled boiling water on her arm. When the pain intensified and the burn worsened, she later complained that lavender was worthless. When her “lavender ” oil was analyzed, it turned out to be lavandin, a hybrid lavender that is chemically very different from pure lavender (lavandula angustifolia). Lavandin contains high levels of camphor (12 to 18%) and will burn the skin. In contrast, true lavender contains virtually no camphor and has beneficial properties not found in lavandin.

Adulterated oils that are cut with synthetic extenders can be very detrimental, causing rashes and burning, skin irritations. Petrochemical solvents can all cause allergic reactions, besides being devoid of any therapeutic effects.