Do Pure Essential Oils Deplete Natural Resources?
We Use Essential Oils From Sustainably Grown Plants
It is our practice to purchase essential oils, as well as other raw materials, that are harvested and produced in an environmentally and ethically responsible manner. The harvesting of most plant materials used in essential oil production is done responsibly.
As a company committed to making natural products, we are also committed to our planet and its people. So we do our research and buy from companies that share our commitment for sustainability.
Using any raw material to the point of extinction makes no sense.
To produce even a small amount of essential oil, a large amount of plant material is required. So, when we discuss essential oil sustainability, we are really talking about the sustainability and conservation of the plants that are used to produce those oils. Sustainability is a crucial issue facing the world of essential oils.
For example, at this time we do not use Rosewood, Sandalwood or Frankincense essential oils which typically come from plants that are endangered or becoming scarce due to over-harvesting.
When we know that the plant from which an essential oil is extracted is “endangered” or “threatened” we simply choose not to use it.
We are committed to using essential oils that are grown and harvested in an ecologically and socially responsible manner.
Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) trees are tropical and grow primarily in Brazil. The essential oil is very valuable in perfumery.
The entire tree is fragrant, and the essential oil is obtained by cutting down the tree, floating the trunks to a distillery, and steam distilling the bark and wood chips of the tree.
The decline in rosewood is due to massive over-harvesting practices for the precious sap and well as its beautiful wood. It is also a victim of deforestation. Rosewood is now listed as an endangered species.
Sandalwood (Santalum album) is one of the oldest known perfume oils. It is extracted by steam distillation from the heartwood of the trees. A sandalwood tree must grow over 30 years old before the wood is suitable for distillation.
After that, the entire tree is cut down, even the roots which contain valuable heartwood. Trees are being illegally cut, leading to serious depletion and often indigenous people are subjected to unsafe or unfair labor practices. Some companies are substituting Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicta) which has a different and less aromatic scent.
Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) was listed in the IUCN List of Threatened Species in 2008. There are several species of frankincense but the most commonly used species for aromatherapy is Boswellia carteri.
Frankincense is an aromatic resin derived from the sap of the Boswellia, a genus of trees and shrubs native to the Arabian Peninsula, Eastern Africa, and parts of India. Frankincense, exported by the thousands of tons every year, has been used for thousands of years in incense, perfumes and natural medicines.
The authors of a 2019 study published in the journal, Nature Sustainability warn that without new trees planted to replace the old ones, production of frankincense resin will be halved in the next 20 years.
"Concerted conservation and restoration efforts are urgently needed to secure the long-term availability of this iconic product."
When frankincense tree tappers make cuts into the bark of the mature tree, sap seeps out and then dries into a scab of resin, which is harvested and sold. Traditional methods of harvesting were done judiciously with just a few cuts in the bark and then the tree was allowed to rest for a year.
Unfortunately, due to increasing demand, the sap is being over-harvested and the trees are dying and becoming scarce.
We Support Sustainability
According to The World Commission on Environment and Development,
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Some endangered plant oils essential oils are becoming available in a more sustainable form. For example, Rosewood tree planting is now considered a viable alternative to logging as it can support both reforestation and sustainable agriculture thanks to sales of the essential oil extracted. Unfortunately, ethically sourced ingredients such as these are often very pricey, and it is often difficult to determine just ‘how’ sustainable the farming or harvesting actually is.
I have also seen numerous companies proudly claim to be sustainable by using only "wildcrafted" or "wild harvested" essential oils from endangered plants. Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from the wild and in no way protects a species from over-harvesting and can likely contribute to its extinction.
So to back to the question, "Do Pure Essential Oils Deplete Natural Resources?"
The answer is no, as long as the harvesting of plant material used in the essential oil production is done responsibly and we refrain from using oils produced from endangered or threatened species. Using any raw material to the point of extinction makes no sense.
Sustainability is our goal. We will only buy oils like these if we can source them from companies with totally transparent supply chains who harvest responsibly from sustainably managed tree plantations and groves.
If a company is selling products made from threatened or endangered species, you should be asking about the origin of essential oil. Be careful that the supplier is not trying to sell you an inferior or an adulterated product or claiming sustainability that is not true.
True story: Some skincare companies that use fragrance oils argue that synthetic fragrances protect plant life. I must say, I wonder what they eat?
This blog was updated in 2019