Less is more – Essential Oils


Essential oils are widely used in the practice of aromatherapy. The word “essential” does not mean important or vital. Instead, it comes from the word “essence” and refers to the extracts from the plant part(s) contributing to the beneficial and therapeutic uses. These extracts are in concentrated form, thereby earning the badge of “essence”.

Among all plant extracts, essential oils are the most concentrated. Compared to dried herbs, they are about 75-100 times more concentrated. 

The amounts of plants required to produce the essence also vary. It would take about 100 pounds of lavender to produce 1 pound of the essential oil. On the extreme end, it would take about 4000 to 5000 pounds of Bulgaria roses to produce 1 pound of essence, as the desired extracts from the rose is so much limited. Other plants such as the eucalyptus has abundant extracts and also a fairly easier extraction process. Factors like these influence the price tag of the essential oil.

Since essential oils are fairly more expensive, they are generally added to carrier oils which “carry them” all over the user, thereby spreading out the cost. However,  price concern is not the only reason for diluting essential oils.  

There is also a more important concern of safety on the use of essential oils. Because essential oils are highly concentrated, one or two drop is as good as a full cup of tea. Adding essential oil at 1 to 5% dilution to the carrier oil is also spreading out the potency which sits well with our body system. Anything beyond this range is an overdose and asking for trouble.

Individuals would also have varying reactions to essential oils, compared to what they would with other medicines and products. Children, with their thinner skin and immature livers, might also be more susceptible to toxic effects than adults.

The liver is  the body organ that flushes out the essential oils compounds and other foreign chemicals. In our modern world of pollution, medication, alcohol and unhealthy dietary habits, we are already stretching our liver. With additional toxins from essential oils to process, our liver will have to work more overtime and could eventually burn out.

Some of us may think essential oils are harmless because they are natural and have been used for a long time. This is not true. Certain essential oils can be harmful. Even if they are safe for use, overdosage can lead to toxic reactions such as dizziness and nausea, exhaustion, epilepsy and even death. Some toxins can also cause allergy such as terrible eczema as seen on the hands of the pickers. 

If moderation is key, less is moderate in the field of essential oils. In my practice, I use this mantra as a reminder – More leads to more harm than good, Less could do more good. 

This post is intentionally shorter than my earlier posts. Hopefully it has gotten the point across with less.


  • Farrer-Halls. The Aromatherapy BibleThe Definitive Guide to Using Essential OilsOctopus Publishing Group, 2009

  • Keville and Green. Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art. Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony, 2012

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