Changes in the Usage of Essential Oils

I've been pretty conscious of the environment for as long as I can remember. I recycle, I compost, I grow my own garden, even if it's on a plot on an organic farm (in all my adult life, I think there were 4 years when I couldn't grow a garden). I grew up with frugal parents, and a Dad who grew up on a farm, who used to watch my Oma put up preserves every year to feed the whole family through the winter. My Mother did the same, and us kids helped turn the soil in our large garden every spring (damned black flies) plant the seeds, pull the weeds, pick the beans, snap the beans, blanch the beans, bag the beans, suck the air out of the bags, and then freeze them in one of our two industrial-sized deep-freezers in the basement. We had a cold storage room that ran the entire length of the front of our sizeable porch, where we would store the potatoes we grew each year, and the apples we picked each fall; My mother would can tomato sauce, I remember there being pickles some years, and I remember her trying to make ketchup one year (my brother didn't care for it at all, but waste not, want not - I never used ketchup, so i guess I dodged that bullet). We were pretty self-sufficient. When I grew up, I learned quickly that while we grew and froze some carrots, the #1 crops in our garden were the beans that I SWEAR produced a huge bushel every day (I know, it was probably more like half a bushel) and the tomatoes and potatoes followed, with carrots taking up the tail. They did try to grow lettuce and beets, but I think the bunnies in the conservation area behind our house ALWAYS beat us to those tender greens, and I remember growing concord grapes but the damn raccoons would get them the night before my Great-Grandfather said he was going to pick them (and he swore he'd spend the night on the back porch with a shotgun so they wouldn't get them that year!). 

So, all this to say that when I had my first child, in went the garden, and the same crops, except I really wanted to try growing watermelons. They never emerged. But we did have lots of tomatoes and beans. My son was in those cloth diapers that everyone now swears are nothing but burping cloths, and wonders how anyone ever folded them to make a diaper shape, and so was my second son. My third got the royal treatment, and I went all in, buying him a very expensive brand of one-size eco-friendly bamboo diapers and separate diaper covers - a whole set of 24 of them. He came home, and looked ridiculous in them. They literally covered him from chin to knees. So, I resolved myself to allow him to wear disposables until he fit them, which really wasn't that long after all - that child did nothing but nurse and scream.

I was delighted to get those diapers on him. There was something that felt very nurturing about putting my son in the super-absorbent, water-sparing cloth diapers that I knew was going to save the landfill from all the paper waste and soiling from his little bottom, and I was beaming when people giggled at his 'bubble-bum.' "Oh," they'd say, "you can tell HE'S in cloth diapers - look at that cute bubble-bum!" Oh yes. I was a proud Momma.

But after a week, I was a horrified Momma. My itty-bitty bubble-bummed baby had red, scaly, painful skin everywhere the edges of those diapers touched. Around the legs and waist. 2-inches wide. I took him to the doctor immediately, who asked if eczema ran in the family. Well, yes, I said. So cut out these foods from your diet, oh, ok, you don't do dairy, you're vegetarian, ok, then cut out just these, and try a few drops of tea tree oil in his bath. Alright. Did that. But I had a feeling. I was sure the diapers were part of the issue. So I put him in 'sposies. The tea tree oil was like a miracle cure (by the way, don't EVER use essential oils on your baby - this was SIXTEEN YEARS AGO - now we know better! Seriously - just don't!). The eczema was almost cleared up. So I put him back in cloth, and within a week, back to the horrible eczema, but worse. Don't forget - this little one screamed 24/7, except for about a 7-11 hour nap once about every 3 days, so I had no idea how much it hurt - that's another story though. So back to the doc. Got the typical steroid cream. It didn't work at all. Frustrated, I took to the internet. Talked to others with babes with eczema. Order a kit from a gal online called Kayla's Celtic Kits. She sold cloth diaper kits that were all pre-cut and came with all the findings to make cloth diapers. So I made a few pocket diapers for him with the soft buttery fleece fabric, and damned if that eczema didn't clear up with those, and the tea tree oil. I went on to make my own pattern and a slew of diapers for him in THE softest, most buttery bamboo fleeces, but this was my awakening - I was going to have to go green at a much slower pace.

That brings me to this week. I was putting together YET another order and had added my usual bottle of high vanillin oil and benzoin resinoid to my cart. I tend to get distracted when I'm shopping, because I order from a few sites, especially with the pandemic, where a lot of my suppliers are out of supplies - literally out. I landed on a page about essential oils, and what I learned really disturbed me. So, as a result, I'm going green in very unusual, but very necessary, way. I'm sure that those of you who like your natural products know what goes into a single millilitre of essential oil. To make it, depending on the oil, you may have to kill a one-hundred-year-old tree. You may have to plant 600 vanilla plants just to get one bottle of vanillin oil. It takes 27 square feet of lavender flowers to make one 15-ml bottle of Lavender oil. These oils are precious. They take up agricultural space that could be used for the production of food for people; they are often planted with no biodiversity, and it's really, really hard for the inexperienced person to find PURE oils that are unadulterated by contaminants. (I'm looking at YOU, 'Now,' and 'Young Living,'). Young Living is currently confusing its customers with rebranding that no longer claims that it is 'therapeutic grade' (which means nothing, by the way, other than being a marketing tool), and other companies are using old reports on oils suspected to have been provided from known pure samples while selling adulterated samples to the public. On top of that, there are 'wildcrafters' out there who are defying the respective governments' orders against cutting down any more Sandalwoods, Atlas Cedarwoods, and other endangered trees, and selling the oil under legitimate-looking names. It - is - a - mess.

But, to get to my key point: from now on, once I run out of vanillin, I will be looking for a decent-smelling vanilla fragrance oil. I've already decided that for extinction reasons, Riverside Soaps will never be using the following oils:

Sandalwood

Frankincense

Rosewood

Spikenard

Agarwood

Cedarwood Atlas

Vanillin

Now, I know what you're going to say - buh- buh - buh - you used Cedarwood AND Rosewood! Yup. You're so right. I did. Turns out, like with the cloth diapers, I was so busy trying to provide lots of natural options, that I really didn't do enough research. I knew about Sandalwood and Frankincense, but I honestly had no idea about Cedarwood Atlas or Rosewood. So again - once I am out of these oils in my shop - I will no longer be carrying them, and they will be replaced with their fragrance oil equivalents if there's an obvious gap that needs to be filled. 

I've pushed so hard against fragrance oils for so long because I felt that there was more than enough artificially fragranced product on the market, and I wanted to turn to nature for what she had to offer. I can justify a beautiful field full of lavender (I've been to the Lavender farm on one of the Hawaiian Islands - don't ask me which - I was pregnant and nauseated from switchback roads - and it is AMAZING) but bringing the huge, beautiful Sandalwoods to extinction, I can't live with. What do you think? Should governments be doing more to protect the trees and plants that are being harvested by wildcrafters for their oils? Or should we all just boycott them because after all, no demand = no reward for these thieves?