1. General issues on essential oils
  2. Safe use of essential oils
  3. Quality of essential oils
  4. Commercial and administrative issues

  1. General issues

1.1. Is it true that essential oils, absolutes and macerated oils are the same thing?

Well… Absolutely not. The three products derive from completely different processes, the essential oils are distilled – or cold pressed in the case of citrus peels, the absolutes are the result of a complex extraction process involving various passages with different solvents, and macerated oils are a type of simple extract where the solvent is a lipid (i.e. olive oil, sunflower oil).

For more details on the different types of aromatic extracts and essential oils, here is a more complete article.

1.2. Is it true that essential oils are so called because they are essential for a plant or for human beings?

No. There is a lot of confusion about the term “essential oil”, which is worth dispersing.

Some authors have written that essential oils are called like that because they perform “essential” functions in plants, some say that essential oils are akin to the vital energy of a plant, or that they play the same role in plants as blood does in animals. Others say that they represent the “essence”, the totum, of the plant, that in the essential oils we find represented all the complexity of a plant. Finally, other authors would state than that essential oils perform “essential” functions in our body.

It must be stressed that the genesis of the name “essential oil” is fairly clear, probably derived from the alchemical environment and from the idea that alchemists had that distillation was a process of “purifying the coarse from the thin”. The belief was that by means of this process alchemists could obtain the “fifth essence”, the “incorruptible element”. That is why the “essential” term denotes, in the reading of European medieval alchemists, the incorruptible and foundational nature of what is obtained from distillation (which, we should briefly state here, at the beginning were not essential oils per se, but aromatic waters, which were deemed more subtle).

Having said this, what scientific bases have the explanations offered by some authors in aromatherapy? Let’s see:

1. Essential oil performs “essential” functions in plants, which is essential for the survival of plants.

If, for essential function, we mean that without the essential oil the plant cannot survive, we already know that this is not true, both in the sense that there are plants that do not produce essential oils (non aromatic plants) and yet survive perfectly well in their environment, and in the strictest sense that even aromatic plants survive without essential oils. This can be demonstrated in both indirect and direct ways. Our knowledge of the role of essential oils in plants tells us that they are very important as tools of attraction, defense and ecological mediation between plant and biotic and abiotic environment, but that they are not indispensable for the survival of the plant itself, not in the sense in which chlorophyll or starch or cellulose are. A plant cannot survive, it cannot exist without chlorophyll to capture and transform radiant energy, without starch to store the chemical energy derived from sunlight, or without cellulose to give solidity to its structure. An aromatic plant deprived of essential oils survives worse than others, and is less fit, less able to cope with periods of crisis, but it still can survive.

If we hold that essential oil are not “essential” to the plant, it is clear that they cannot be described as the vital energy of a plant, such as the plant’s blood. Besides, this would leave no explanation as to how non aromatic plants would survive without essential oils, since they would be devoid of vital, “blood” energy. In addition, the idea that essential oils may “circulate” in the plant, perhaps through the lymphatic channels, is completely unfounded. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and active substances, and if they come into direct contact with the plant tissues, they will damage them very quickly. In fact, they are stored in special structures, pockets, glandular hairs, canals, and so on, which keep them well separated from other tissues.

Of course this does not mean that essential oils do not play very important roles, but that is another matter

2. Essential oils represent the totum of the plant, they enclose all the complexity of the plant.

This we know very well not to be true, if we just go back a minute to the process we use to get the essential oils. It is clear that they are a very specific and limited fraction of the whole complexity of the plant (phytocomplex). They only contain molecules that are volatile and which are liposoluble, usually a very small fraction of the phytochemical complex of the plant. Any alcoholic tincture or even a herbal tea is more complex in the chemical sense than an essential oil, because they contain a wider range of molecules. Of course, essential oils represent a very salient fraction from the sensual, organoleptic and symbolic point of view, but this has to do with human culture and biology, not with the plant’s.

3. Essential oils perform “essential” functions in our body.

This is certainly not true if by essential we mean necessary for life. Human beings have survived and survive without any problems without essential oils. Humans did not use essential oils for most of their history. It is true that aromatic plants (which contain essential oils) have accompanied man for a long time. But of course, as important as they were, they were not necessary for human life.

1.3. Is it true that essential oils are the most oxygenated substances in the world and provide oxygen to tissues?

No.  This strange question probably derives from a superficial reading  of essential oils chemistry texts, where perhaps it was found that essential oils contain molecules composed only of carbon and hydrogen atoms (terpenic hydrocarbons), as well as molecules containing oxygen atoms (the terpenoids derived from hydrocarbons, i.e. alcohols, ethers, aldehydes, etc.). This is certainly true, but the amount of oxygen (O) contained in an essential oil is always lower  to the hydrogen  (H) and carbon (C) content, and in some oils it is very low (eg conifers or citrus oils). Let’s say that the ratio between O, C and H in mono- and sesquiterpenes could be 1-2: 10-17: 18-26. In addition an oil contains molecular O (i.e. bound to other atoms in the whole of a molecule) which is not assimilable to free oxygen in the form of oxygen molecules or oxygen radicals, that are the forms able to interact freely. To liberate molecular oxygen, an organism needs to metabolize molecules. And even in this case it is doubtful that metabolism leads to free oxygen, at least immediately. Usually this is the passage of oxygen from one molecule to another, through a series of steps. That is why oxygen of essential oils can not in any way “oxygenate” the tissues. For a more in-depth discussion of the subject, here is an article by Robert Tisserand

2. Safe use

2.1. Is it safe to put the pure essential oils directly in the bath water?

No. Essential oils are lipophilic substances, which means they dissolve well, enter into solution, in fatty solvents, such as oils or butters, or in apolar or slightly polar solvents, such as ethanol. Which means that if we put a drop of essential oil in the bathtub water, this drop will not dissolve in water but will remain on the surface like a small floating oil stain. Then when you put the essential oil into the tub, it is very likely that your skin will come into contact with undiluted essential oil, with possible adverse effects such as burning, inflammation, and increasing the risk of allergic sensitization. Let’s recall the general rule that says no essential oil should be used pure on the skin or mucous membranes, but always diluted to the appropriate extent. This is because the dilution reduces the likelihood of allergic phenomena, reduces the risk of irritating phenomena, and because it has been proven that it is never necessary to use pure oil to observe the desired effects. For more on proper dilution, read here

To use essential oils safely in bathtub water, or in peduncles, it is necessary to dilute the essential oils in an appropriate carrier, which allows solubilizing or emulsifying the essential oils and which then may be dispersed in Effective way in the water. There are many options, but the simplest and most direct is to mix the essential oil into a sufficient quantity of liquid detergent, which will then be dispersed in the water. 

2.2. I was told that it is possible and safe to add essential oil drops to a glass of water to drink. Is it true?

No. Essential oils, as we have seen before, are that distillation product that is not soluble in water (the aromatic soluble molecules in the water are in aromatic water). It is therefore quite obvious that anyone who puts a few (or many) drops of essential oil into a glass of water will find himself with a glass of water with small drops of essential oil floating on the surface of it, not dissolved or dispersed in the fluid. So drinking your glass, your oral mucous membranes, your lips, your esophagus, even your stomach, will come into contact with pure oil. Now this is not necessarily a dramatic or worrying event (even if doing so with a phenolic oil such as thyme can cause severe pain and burning in the mucous membranes), but it certainly is not an intelligent dilution method.

Certainly there are methods to temporarily minimize this problem, such as putting the oil in a sprayer bottle filled with water, and shake hard before using it. But I don’t understand why to go to so much effort to improve on a bad system when other more secure and effective methods are available.

Finally, if you want to drink a glass of fresh water flavored with lemon or mint, make a lemonade or put a slice of lemon or a few mint leaves in your water. If instead the intention is to use oils for therapeutic purposes, consult a professional and use the recommended dilution methods.

2.3. Is it true that you should not use essential oils that are not authorized for internal use?

No. But wait… this question really hides two of them. The first question is whether the risks involved in taking an essential oil by mouth are the same as when applying it on the skin. The second question is whether labeling an essential oil as food grade means that it is safer, of greater quality or more effective than an oil labeled as a cosmetic or as an aroma for environments.

Let’s answer the first question.

The oral (mouth) intake exposes us to very different risks than those involved in a topical (skin or mucosa) use. Absorption is much greater for mouth (up to 100%) than transcutaneous absorption (on average 4-5%), and the concentration and quantities that can be used for mouth are much higher. For this reason, the amount of essential oil that can enter the blood stream is greater and, therefore, both the possible therapeutic effects and the adverse effects could be more important. While gastrointestinal mucous membranes are made to help absorb nutrients, the skin has a much stronger protective and insulation function from the outside, and therefore protects us better from the absorption of potentially dangerous molecules.

So it is true that we can use on the skin oils that we would not us (or would use with more caution) by mouth, for example Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Citronella, etc.

As for the second question, the answer is no again

Let’s take for granted that we’re talking about real essential oils, not adulterated with synthetic substances, solvents, etc. If we are talking about real essential oils, then we know by definition that they may have been produced only by means of water steam distillation or cold pressing, two methods of obtaining that are intrinsically food-grade in the sense that they do not use solvents, only use mechanical and physical means to obtain the essential oil, and should only enter into contact with stainless steel and glass. The fact that an essential oil is or is not authorized for oral use, such as a food flavour, depends on the nature of the essential oil itself, not on the method used to obtain it, which is still the same. The calamus essential oil (Acorus calamus) is not allowed in oral intake, or suffers from severe limitations, for the risk of ingesting carcinogenic substances.  The same goes for Wintergreen oil (Gaultheria procumbens): whether it is labeled as food flavour or a cosmetic, a spoon is enough to kill an adult. And this also leads us to considering the fact that the purity and quality of an essential oil are not relevant to toxicity issues. For example, when someone on the web states that non food-grade essential oils may contain adulterates, solvents, and so on, declares the false, since it is not the food label that ensures that essential oil does not contain them, but the same definition of essential oil.  The choice, at least in Europe, to go on the market with a label such as “food flavour”, or  “food supplement”, “cosmetics” or “home-made products” depends merely on marketing and commercial choices, and also on resolutions on litigation. The fact that a company’s lavender essential oil has a label that says “not for internal use” has nothing to do with the quality of the essential oil itself, which will be measured in other ways. Rather, it is likely that the firm would rather sport a more restrictive label to have no responsibility if a customer decides to ingest the contents of the flask in one go. Or because in some cases the label protects the consumer more, discouraging it from internal use. The most important thing to remember when looking at a label is the choice of terms used, which is revealing. A label that uses terms such as “essence” or “perfume” is suspect.

2.4. Is it true that the ingestion of essential oils can be risky?

The oral intake, in its various forms, and along with inhalation, allows the fastest and most massive absorption of essential oil. The difference is that in inhalation the total amount of oil offered to absorption is almost never very high because it is difficult to inhale very high doses of essential oils. In ingestion, however, it is possible, especially by using capsules, to take high doses of essential oil. This fact, alone, explains why oral administration is one of the most delicate modalities from the point of view of safety. Of course, as almost always in life, the dose is significant. Every day most people consume essential oils by mouth, eating raw vegetables, drinking an aromatic herbal tea, brushing teeth with a toothpaste, chewing chewing gum  or a balsamic candy. We also assume very toxic essential oils, such as absinthe, by drinking certain liqueurs. It is thus clear that at least some essential oils are not so dangerous that we cannot use them by mouth. But the amount of essential oils we introduce in this way is very low compared to those used in therapy. In the first case, it is in terms of parts per million (ppm), while in the second case percent dilutions are used (%).

Let’s give an example: an absinth liquor has approximately a concentration of 60 ppm (or 0.006%) of wormwood essential oil; by drinking 20 ml of absinth liqueur we are taking 0.0036 ml of essential oil, or a tenth of a drop. If I take a capsule containing 5 drops of essential oil (a not particularly high dose) I’m taking a 50 times higher dose of essential oil! Indeed, the same legislation recognizes this difference. Essential oils that are certified as safe for intake as food aromas are not deemed safe for higher dosing.

Oral use for therapeutic purposes is a completely different matter. Since significant doses of the substance are taken, there must be a reasonable certainty that the oil is safe at the dose used, the proper dilutions and galenical forms should be used. Essential oils are different from one another, and some may contain toxic molecules even at low doses, and most contain molecules that can cause problems if used at excessive doses. That is why subjects in special conditions such as children, pregnant women, elderly, allergic subjects should pay particular attention to the oral use of essential oils. Furthermore, the idea that essential oils, as derived from a natural source, cannot cause adverse effects, is completely unfounded. Not only because there is nothing inherently secure in plant derivatives (some are safe, others no, the evaluation has to be individual), but also because essential oils are among the most active plant extracts, and therefore potentially even more toxic. We must not forget that taking important doses of essential oils puts a burden on the liver and on other sites of detoxification in our body. Essential oils for our system are a xenobiotic, an external substance that could be dangerous. Our body then uses metabolic steps (in the liver, intestine, lungs and skin) that should reduce its toxicity and make it more water-soluble and eliminate it with urine. But it can happen that these substances are little or badly metabolized, concentrating in the liver and leading to toxicity (in the case of 1,8-cineole) or that they metabolize but that metabolites are more toxic than essential oils and that they can express their toxicity on the liver (as the primary site of detoxification), or even detoxification complicates our system, making us less efficient in detoxifying other substances (perhaps reducing our liver glutathione stocks).

There is also the very important issue of the administration and type of vehicle used. For example, it is possible to use peppermint oil by mouth, and in fact, peppermint essential oil-based products with or without essential oil of Carum carvi have existed for years. These products are formulated into gastro-resistant capsules, but taking the same amount of essential oil by mouth in an unprotected manner would certainly lead to adverse effects and irritation.

Conclusion: any drug-related therapeutic action, including the ingestion of significant amounts of essential oils, includes the possibility of side effects, interactions and toxicity. This does not mean that you cannot use them, indeed, but to do this you need to know which oils are effective, which ones are safe, what dosages and in what galenic form it is best to use them, and if the whole thing is worthwhile. Consult a professional and be wary of those who suggest oral essential oils as a risk-free panacea.

2.4. Is it true that you can never use essential oils on children?

Yes and no. As with the ingestion of essential oils, the argument is complex. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and breastfeeding women, as well as subjects with liver problems and other chronic conditions, are subjects that need special attention because they may not be able to handle essential oils as a “standard” person. Specifically, children may have a skin too thin or not yet fully competent to deal with irritant molecules, their liver may not be able to metabolize some of the essential oil molecules, their immune system may be at a stage in which it is more dangerous to expose it to potentially ambiguous immune stimuli, etc. Risk-benefit assessments are more difficult in children, and it is not inevitable that what is an acceptable risk in an adult is for a child.

Of course this does not mean an absolute ban in the use of essential oils, also because there are more differences between a 13-year-old boy and a 1 year old child, than between a 13-year old and an “adult” of 18.

As a general rule, I always prefer the use of essential oils in children up to 12 months of age, unless they are evaluated as necessary by a professional and I am convinced that in most cases up to 2 years old there is no You need to use them and you can use the olfactory effects safely using a few drops dispersed in the environment. Remember that it is not a good idea to introduce substances that are so powerful in the skin of young children. As a general rule, remember that for children it is best not to exceed 3-6 drops of OE over the 24 hours.

Essential oils containing 1.8-cineol (eucalyptol) and menthol such as peppermint, peppermint, green mint, eucalyptus, rosemary should never be put near the nostrils of young children. There are cases reported in literature where the rapid cooling effect caused by these OEs has caused severe respiratory problems and even collapses.

Never, under any circumstances, add pure OE directly into the bath, may cause severe skin and eye irritation. Always be careful that your hands do not keep traces of pure essential oils before touching the baby or washing it.

For a more exhaustive list of essential oils NOT to use, here is a link to a table (EO contraindicated in children) obtained from Tisserand and Young’s text (2014)


3. Quality

3.1. Are essential oils of therapeutic grade? Are they the only ones that can be used because the others are full of synthesis molecules?

No. Among the many terms used to describe essential oils, the term “therapeutic grade” has recently begun to appear, followed by similar others such as “certified therapeutic grade”, “therapeutic degree” , “Clinical grade”, “pharmaceutical grade”, all terms that seem to suggest the existence of a certification that ensures the achievement of a therapeutic standard, that is, a standard for “effectiveness in treating diseases”. We should pay attention to the use of terms. One thing is to argue that essential oils are pharmacologically active (from this point of view probably most of them are to a certain extent), or even effective in treating disorders or treating diseases (and certainly some are) It is another  matter to state that your product has specific and certified features that make it therapeutic, unlike other products from other companies.

On this we need to be clear: it is pure rhetoric of marketing, rhetoric that approaches fraud and misleading statements to the consumer. There are no independent and authoritative institutions that have the authority and tools to decide on standards defining the “therapeutic degree” of an essential oil. And what could be a therapeutic standard? If this standard existed, it should be a set of indications on the chemical composition of essential oil, which ensures efficacy on a specific pathology measured on the basis of clinical data.

Let’s seethis with an example: how can we state that our lavender oil is of therapeutic grade? We should firstly define the meaning of the “therapeutic” concept better, we should reduce the range of possibilities and choose only one indication, for example the ability of lavender oil to reduce anxiety, because the standard to describe efficacy as anxiolytic is not the same useful to describe the efficacy as an antiseptic. We  should thn analyze scientific literature to see whether lavender is able to treat anxiety, and if there are indications on which molecules in lavender oil are responsible for this activity, and if there are indications of the percentage to which these molecules show activity in the context of essential oil. At this point, but only at this point, I can say that a lavender oil with the features just described, that is, that corresponds to th one used in clinical trials, is an oil that can perform a therapeutic activity. It is therefore not an agency, an institute, that decides which is the therapeutic standard, but the scientific community, through the typical communication channels, that is, the scientific articles published by recognized journals.

Certainly we can imagine an agency that collects all scientific data, summarizes them, and establishes standards (albeit temporary, given the perpetual progress of research) clear indicating the minimum conditions to be able to talk about effectiveness. But at this moment such an agency does not exist, and anyway, even if it existed, it would have little to say. Indeed, research on essential oils, although greatly increased in recent years, is still far from being able to indicate with certainty which molecules are responsible for biological activity. That is why those who boast that their essential oils (and only theirs) are of therapeutic grade, deceive consumers twice, because they use a non-existent standard and because they do not say that for most essential oils we do not yet know which are the important molecules. Not to mention that potentially there may be multiple therapeutic standards for each essential oil, one for each activity (as I said above, in principle it is not said that the important molecules for anxiolytic activity are important for other activities).

Sometimes some firms, in the absence of a certifying body for therapeutic quality, just invent them. It is easy to find on the web, or on some textbooks, the indication of the role of AFNOR, which would give therapeutic quality “Grades”. In particular, it has often been written that AFNOR (and ISO) publish standards to distinguish essential of “higher” grades (Grade A) from oils of lower, non-therapeutic grades, divided into Grades B and C. Tis is entirely false, as declared by AFNOR itself. AFNOR is a private entity (Association Française de Normalisation), is a member of the ISO (International Standard Organization). The task of the association, with regard to essential oils, is to produce industrial standards for the commerce of the same. Standards that must be used to avoid the adulteration or replacement of an oil with another. AFNOR does not certify any type of Grade, whether therapeutic or A, B or C. As far as the argument that non-certified therapeutic oils are full of synthesis molecules, it is again a marketing strategy to deceive consumers and sell more.

All these false arguments are based on the idea that trademarks and registrations would be the best method to ensure the quality of a product. But even if these certifications existed, it is the concept that is misguided. End-of-line standards, such as gas-chromatographic analysis, are certainly important, but do not replace the production-chain control. The more a company has the control of the production-chain, the more it is able to control the quality critical points, and can show it openly to the consumer, as can be the case, for example, in the case of direct production companies.

3.2. Is it true that if a 100% pure oil is of the highest quality? And can not you hurt?

No. We can give a fairly straightforward definition of what we mean by pure essential oils: an essential oil is pure when it is identical to the material obtained by the production apparatus (steam distillation or squeezing machine for citrus peels), apart from simple mechanical filtering operations. That being said, a pure product may be of low quality, because there is no link between the two concepts. I can distill pure 100% lavender, but the quality of the oil will come from other factors: the origin of the plant, when and how it has been harvested, how it has been distilled, for how long, in water or in steam, etc. In addition to the fact that the concept of quality is always dependent on the context of use, so it is variable and not fixed.

So, if the term “pure” is not accompanied by stronger guarantees, and if it is not associated with quality research, it is reduced to a mere marketing tool.

In addition, the link to safety  is even more labile. “Pure” just means that it contains all the molecules it should contain, and if there are dangerous or toxic molecules in the chemical make-up, such as tujone or β-asarone, a pure oil will be toxic, while an oil fractionated to remoce the toxic elements will be safer, although less “pure.

Dilution is important: essential oils must always be diluted, as a generic precautionary measure, and dilution can make oil safer.

4. Commercial and administrative

4.1. Is it possible to pay with checks?

No, you can not pay with checks, but only with paypal or credit card (verified paypal service).

4.2. Can you pay by phone or mail?

For orders with special quantity requests (bottling different than the one offered on the site) you can contact us by email. Any order would then be managed outside the website. Payments by phone or email can not be made.

4.3. Can I send my credit card details by mail?

Absolutely not! Credit card details are private and payment for orders made on www.gadoi.it must be made in the safe paypal area.

4.4. How long will it take for my order to escape?

Within 2/3 days the order will be escaped.

4.5. Is your site safe for payments?

On our site you can pay either with your paypal account or with credit card through secure paypal connection.

4.6. Can I change my order once done?

If you have not paid you can always change your order back to the site. If you have already paid, you should contact us within 12 hours from the order by email info@gadoi.it or by phone +393472210737 indicating your order number which you find on the order confirmation that will be automatically sent to you and let us know the change what would you like to do.

4.7. How do you calculate the cost of shipments?

The cost of shipments in Italy is € 7,00 (VAT included) for orders less than € 40,00 (VAT included) regardless of the quantity or weight of ordered goods. For orders over € 40,00 (VAT included), shipping in Italy is free.

4.8. Shipped around the world?

We ship worldwide. By entering the data into the delivery address, the shipping costs are calculated. You can see shipping costs in the Sales Terms and Conditions section

4.9. Can you also sell to wholesale?

We also sell to wholesale. In this case, please contact us directly at info@gadoi.it. Any order is handled through our ns. Business office (+3472210737)

4.10. How do you pack the oils?

We use pluriball (millebolle) and resistant cartons to carry our goods. All ours. Packaging material is integrated with recycled packaging, ie from material sent to us by our suppliers.

4.11. What kind of containers used for wholesale shipments?

We use glass bottles of 100ml, 250ml, 500ml and 1000ml dark glass. All of our containers are suitable for contact with food.

4.12. Do you have a resettlement policy?

As provided by law and indicated in the terms of sale you can withdraw from the purchase within 10 business days of the purchase, provided the goods are intact.

4.13. Do you sell gift vouchers?

We do not sell gift vouchers

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