Aromatherapy–A Growing Industry

EOs and bottlesAromatherapy is a complementary therapy that has been on the rise over the last several years and has gone mainstream. More specifically the increase use of essential oils is making its presence on the market. The Aromatherapy and essential oil market had a record breaking year in 2015 displaying large revenue for essential oil participants (Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Markets, 2016). According to various research articles, the top two multi-level marketing companies had revenue over $1 billion each in 2015 (Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Markets, 2016).These numbers are very promising for aromatherapy and essential oils.

The reason for the big increase in the Aromatherapy market is, in part, due to the use of herbal medicine treatments. Globally, Aromatherapy is trending as a self-treatment to avoid doctor visits (Saha, 2016). This trend is leading to a huge increase in the market for essential oils, creating a large demand for more oil. Top oils globally include: Basil, Black Pepper, Clove, Eucalyptus, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Sandalwood, and Tea Tree (Saha, 2016). The high demand for the oils is good news for multi-level marketing companies (Saha, 2016). These companies are the key players in the Aromatherapy market, and vary in quality. With Aromatherapy predicted to have a great impact on the global market by 2025, more companies are getting on board.

Quality in oils

The question that needs to be asked is, how will the big demand for Aromatherapy affect essential oils and essential oil availability? Right now it is too early to say, but there is already growing concern for the sustainability and the ethical harvesting of the plants used in the production of essential oils. An increase in demand suggests that there will be an increase in essential oils and essential oil companies. Big retailers in the United States such as Wal-Mart and Target are beginning to sell various brands of essential oils in the store, but also sell Aura Cacia in their online store. Wal-Mart has launched their essential oils with claims that 7 of the 9 are 100% pure essential oil (Jenkins, 2016). This is a bold statement since no information could be found to backup their claim that their oils are 100% pure. The essential oils also retailing at $5.97 for all the oils in the line.

With essential oils selling at $5.97 each, something isn’t quite adding up. Anyone who is familiar with essential oils knows that not every oil is going to sell for the same price. Right away this is a red flag because it begs the question what are they putting in bottle to sell at a low price?

Over at Essential Oil University, Dr. Robert Pappas has done some testing on the essential oils sold at Wal-Mart. According to his analysis, the oil labeled as Cinnamon oil in fact contains Cassia oil which cost a fraction of true Cinnamon bark and has a different chemistry. Additional testing also disclosed that the Lavender oil was not Lavender, but the lesser expensive Lavandin essential oil. From the odor alone Dr. Pappas could determine that the oil was not Lavender but rather Lavandin, a hybrid of Lavender oils. Lavandin has different Aromatherapeutic benefits when compared to lavender, so customers will be getting different results. Dr. Robert Pappas also goes on to evaluate Peppermint with predictable results, finding that the oil in the bottle was Cornmint. Not all the oils from Wal-Mart were not tested, but there was a pattern of deceit.

GuruNanda will be launching their essential oil blends into Wal-Mart this April with a $10.99 retail price across the board and scratch and sniff lids (Johnsen, 2016). The maker of GuruNada had this to say about their blends, “We’ve taken the guesswork out of Aromatherapy with these blends that combine carefully selected ingredients for maximum effect,” (Johnsen, 2016).

Any aromatherapist knows that their work isn’t “guess work” and actually involves a lot training and knowledge. If aromatherapy was about guessing then anyone could be an Aromatherapist. Once again it should be noted that no testing has been done yet to determine if the blends are pure. Production of an essential oil can vary from plant to plant which in turn affects the final cost. Quality of essential oils needs to be a high priority, even more so now, with the growing trend of Aromatherapy and essential oil use.

The future of essential oils

The growing field of Aromatherapy is great and wonderful for everyone. There are so many benefits from practicing Aromatherapy, but there should also be caution. With the growing popularity of Aromatherapy there is much concern for the quality and availability of essential oils. Creating a better awareness for essential oils, and how they are obtained, as well as their sustainability status is needed.

References

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Market 2016. (2016, February). Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/ctdhw4/aromatherapy_and

Jenkins, A. (2015, June 3). Essential Oils Review. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://whoawaitwalmart.com/post/120626397235/what-we-think-earthly-elements-hello-friends

Johnsen, M. (2016, February 26). GuruNanda brings latest aromatherapy offerings to mass outlets. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.drugstorenews.com/article/gurunanda-brings-latest-aromatherapy-offerings-mass-outlets

Saha, S. (2016, February 22). Aromatherapy Market To Make Great Impact In Near Future by 2025. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://empowerednews.net/aromatherapy-market-to-make-great-impact-in-near-future-by-2025/1882526/

Dr. Robert Pappas Essential Oil University Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EssentialOilUniversity/

Website: https://essentialoils.org/

by Bryant Hernandez, Graduate Healthcare Administration

the big, burning question, answered (sort of), part i of iii

I am sharing this blog piece written by a dear friend who is always aver so eloquent in expressing her point of view (often shared by myself and so many others in the aromatic community). I highly encourage anyone engaged in buying essential oils to read this. (PS…there’s no brand bashing)

Of all of the questions I’m asked as an aromatherapist, the question about “which brand” of essential oils I recommend is BY FAR the most commonly posed — it’s also one of the most problematic and troublesome questions to answer. It’s especially precarious to provide a pat answer on a blog….

For me to really address this question meaningfully takes a lot of energy, honesty, and context, especially as I find it impossible to answer in short fashion. So I’ll be “answering” this question in three parts.

My “big picture” has to be in place for you to understand and appreciate my response, not least because my thinking challenges the context of the question itself.

So, rather than answer the question by naming a company, I’m going to walk you through how I address this question in the context of my workshops–and that’s going to take more than one post. My response will come in three parts: my perspective on…

View original post 1,758 more words

Cancer and Essential Oils

Frankincense resinCancer is a concern that affects millions of people around the world. With such a prominent disease there are a lot of researchers working diligently to develop treatments. A treatment that has been gaining a lot of traction in the most recent years involves the use of essential oils; more specifically, the use of Frankincense (Boswellia Carterii) essential oil. Despite the links to Frankincense essential oil and the treatment of cancer, it is not a miracle cure. In world where news sources are posting misleading articles it is important to discern what is good research to determine what benefits Frankincense actually possesses.

Frankincense resin  

It is important to understand how and why Frankincense is being linked as a cancer treatment. This essential oil is produced from the Boswellia trees found in India and Africa. The cancer treating chemical in Frankincense is boswellic acid which has anti-neoplastic properties. Anti-neoplastic properties have the ability to prevent or inhibit the development of a tumor. This information is where most claims regarding Frankincense being a cure for cancer are derived. However it is important to know that Frankincense oil does not actually contain boswellic acid, as the molecule is too heavy to be volatile (Tisserand, 2016) and therefore does not come out in the distillation process. Boswellic acid can be found in Frankincense resin because the molecular weight can be supported. So far there is limited research involving Frankincense resin and cancer. While some of the results are promising there isn’t enough to conclude the resin as a treatment.

Good research              

When it comes to Frankincense research most studies are done in vitro. In vitro studies are studies conducted outside the body’s biological context in single case. This type of research isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means the research is a long way away from being a treatment. Researchers Mark Barton Frank, Qing Yang and their colleagues did a study testing Frankincense oil.This study involved a range of concentration of Frankincense oil in which the oil was able to distinguish cancerous cells from normal bladder cells (Frank and Yang, 2009). Frankincense oil was able to induce bladder cancer cell death via multiple pathways activated by the oil. The important thing to note about this study is that it states that this isn’t a cure for cancer and more research is needed. Overall the study provided good evidence that could suggest future treatments involving Frankincense.

This research article makes no claims. As stated before, Frankincense oil contains no boswellic acid, but the resin does. This study tested the oil and had results regarding cancer cell death. The researchers further explain that this study is in vitro in an attempt to explain the benefits of Frankincense oil however in vitro testing (in a petri dish) does not necessarily translate to the same or similar effect in the human body. Acknowledging that Frankincense resin has anti-tumor properties allows for further research with the oil to determine if the oil has these similar properties. A follow-up study can be done to see if the resin has a greater effect on bladder cancer cells than the oil. While this research is well done, the final results show some promise but further research needs to be done to prove Frankincense oil as a treatment.

False claims      

In the last couple of months, there has been an article floating around on various Aromatherapy groups making false claims regarding Frankincense oil. Most of the people in the (facebook) Aromatherapy groups were debating the accuracy and credibility of the article. This article made outrageous statements with regard to breast cancer. It stated that topical treatment of Frankincense oil can cure cancer, as it claimed to have cured the author’s own cancer. This is a single claim by one person and one that has not been validated by credible source. It could be true that this author had their cancer cured, but that doesn’t mean that it was cured by Frankincense oil nor does it guarantee it will work for everyone. This claim also doesn’t include any other methods or treatments the author was receiving that could have contributed to their cure. It is also important to note that since doing research and writing this blog post the article has been taken down. There are no current records of this article, and the group posts have been deleted.

If this author did cure her breast cancer that is a wonderful thing and nothing should take that away from her. The problem is suggesting that it can cure all breast cancer and it puts light on the Aromatherapy industry. Making these claims without any research can give people false hope that their cancer can be cured. The article then goes into detail making more individual cases of Frankincense curing cancer, which is nothing more than shared testimonials that have not been evaluated and validated. There is no definitive research available on the oil or resin that suggest Frankincense can cure any form of cancer. Research is being done to determine the connection between the oil or resin and treatment.

For a fun look at the reality of scientific research check out this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Rnq1NpHdmw

References  

Frank M B, Yang Q, Osban J, Azzarello J T, Saban M R, Saban R, Ashley R A, Welter J C, Fung K-M, Lin H-K. (2009). Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity. BMC Complement Altern Med. 9 (6). Published online. Available: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664784/. Last accessed 8 March 2016.

Tisserand R. (2016). Frankincense Oil and Cancer in Perspective.  Available: http://tisserandinstitute.org

Additional resources/reading

http://tisserandinstitute.org/frankincense-oil-and-cancer-in-perspective/

http://roberttisserand.com/2015/03/frankincense-essential-oil-and-cancer/

http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=15052

 

http://tisserandinstitute.org/citrus-oils-and-breast-health/

by Bryant Hernandez, Graduate in Integrative Health Technologies

Improving the Immune System

Essential oil.fruitveg.supplmntSix essential oils for boosting immunity  

Spring is here and that means so are stuffy noses and annoying coughs. With seasonal changes we are more susceptible to becoming ill. A good way to avoid being under the weather is to keep the immune system strong. The immune system is the line of the defense for the body and is what keeps us healthy. There are many ways to boost immunity from essential oils to minimal exercise. Keeping the immune system healthy isn’t a one time job, it takes work and requires different methods to keep it in top shape. Great ways to boost your immunity include essential oils, herbs, food and vitamins.

Essential oils  

Using essential oils to boost immunity is an excellent way to ensure you stay healthy through seasonal changes. These essential oils are some that have great immunity properties; Spearmint, Balsam Copaiba, Sweet Orange, Rosalina, Clary Sage, and Tea Tree. Of course there are more oils that can improve immune system but these six oils have specific properties which are for the immune system.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

This essential oil has a great scent but also contains the chemical carvone. Carvone is part of the ketone functional group and possesses antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Carvone is abundant (62.85%) in Spearmint. Using a little Spearmint (1 drop per 5 ml) in a massage oil or 3-4 drops in a diffuser for 20 minutes twice per day is a great way to boost the immune system as it helps to loosen and expel mucous and cool and reduce fever.

Copaiba Balsam (Copaifera langsdorfii Desf., Copaifera officinalis)

Copaiba Balsam is rich in β-caryophyllene (65.7%), a chemical with biological activity that helps improve immunity. β -Caryophyllene is part of the sesquiterpene functional group and can be useful immunostimulant as well as having antiviral properties. It is also used to relieve general aches and pains that accompany illness. It can be used in massage oil and diffuser blends and pair well aromatically with Roman Chamomile, Cedarwood, and Jasmine.

Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) 

When it comes to boosting immunity d-limonene, a monoterpene gets the job done. Sweet Orange essential oil is rich in d-limonene (96%) containing more than Lemon essential oil (65%).  Limonene-rich oils are an excellent general tonic for the immune system. They are also wonderful decongestants, are antibacterial and effective antioxidants making very efficient for boosting immunity. The aroma of limonene-rich oils is bright and pleasant and can add a little sunshine to the otherwise gray outlook that comes with illness.

Rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia)

Rosalina is in the Melaleuca family and is also known as Lavender Tea Tree. Rosalina is rich in linalool (35-55%), a monoterpenol. Linalool is commonly found in Lavender in smaller amounts (approximately 37%). Linalool is wonderful in combating airborne microbes making it a useful addition to air mists/spray and for blends used in vaporizers and diffusers. Linalool also helps to relax the nervous system encouraging much needed rest. Consider blending the pleasant-smelling Rosalina with Lavender, Lemon, and Tea Tree. Blending these oils and using in a diffuser for 20 minutes twice per dayis an excellent way to boost the immune system.

Clary Sage (Salvia sclerea)

Rich in linalyl acetate (50-75%), an ester, Clary sage essential oil is great for balancing the body and allowing it to function properly. The bioactive properties of linalyl actate include, but are not limited to, reducing pain and inflammation, fighting bacteria, relaxing the nervous system and stimulating the immune system. This essential oil is also nice for improving mood by lifting the spirits. Clary Sage blends well with Lavender, Cedarwood, and Bergamot.

Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Tea Tree essential oil contains terpinen-4-ol (30-80%), a monoterpenol that is highly antibacterial and antiviral. Terpenin-4-ol also helps to boost white blood cells, hence improving immunity making Tea Tree essential oil a “must have” in the medicine cabinet. Use the oil during seasonal changes in a diffuser or environmental spray mist.

Essential oils aren’t the only way to help the body to help itself improve immunity. Another great way to improve the immune system is through the use of herbs.

Herbs

We have been using herbs to improve immunity for centuries. Plants are one of the oldest and purest ways to improve the body. Two herbs that can improve the immune system are Ginseng and Echinacea.

Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) 

Ginseng root is known for its immune building properties. Extracts from the stems, leaves and mostly the root have shown to maintain homeostasis of the immune system. The root of the herb also increases resistance to illness and microbial infections. The way Ginseng does this is by boosting the immune system functions. Macrophage activity increases when Ginseng is consumed. Macrophages are a type of white blood cell that will consume foreign substances. Increasing macrophage activity will put the body on alert allowing it to combat foreign substances more efficiently. Ginseng can be consumed in many forms, pills, powder, and tea. When buying Ginseng products it is important to note what parts of the plant are being used and what percentage of the product is actually Ginseng. Looking for a product label to ensure that the whole plant is used. If the whole herb isn’t being used then the benefits of Ginseng may not be as effective.

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Echinacea is one of the most popular herbs, especially in the United States. Echinacea, when used preventatively is great for reducing cold symptoms. The herb itself is great for boosting immunity, as it contains chemicals derived from the root; such as polysaccharides, flavonoids, chicoric acid, polyacetylenes and alkylamides. The root contains high levels of volatile oils which are odorous compounds. An example would be isobutylamide, an alklymide that provides taste and smell of Echinacea. As for the plant portion it has polysaccharides which set off activity in the immune system. Polysaccharides release TNF (tumournecrosis factor) which will increase the levels of macrophage interlekin-1 and interferon beta-2. Alkylamide and chicoric acid will also boost immunity by stimulating phagocytosis. The chemicals in Echinacea stimulate phagocyte activity improving the body’s health and wellness.

These are just two of many herbs that improve immunity, however they are the two that are most readily available.

Food and vitamins

Incorporating certain foods and vitamins into the diet is another way to increase immunity. Great foods to introduce into the diet would be garlic, red bell peppers, broccoli, and ginger. Garlic helps increase immunity by having sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin. Allicin is a organosulfer compound that has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral activity. Red bell peppers are high on vitamin C and is a great source of beta-carotene. Vitamin C maintains skin health and prevents colds, while beta-carotene helps maintain proper eye health. Broccoli is a great food with vitamins A, C and E. This vegetable is also loaded with antioxidants which helps prevent certain types of cell damage. Finally ginger has similar effects as it contains vitamin C. In addition, ginger has the added benefit of helping the body to reduce cholesterol. This plant contains many vitamins and minerals such as; thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, iron, and magnesium. The combination of these vitamins and minerals allows the body to reduce cholesterol and maintain a balanced immune system.

Vitamins provide a great impact when comes to supporting the immune system. The foods listed above have the necessary vitamins to help boost the immune system, but they can also be consumed in pill form as well. Some of the best vitamins for boosting immunity are vitamin A, C, E and B12.

Using a combination of essential oils, herbs, food and vitamins can be a very effective way way to improve immunity. Keeping a strong immune system is a year long task and requires many different ways to keep it healthy.

By Bryant Hernandez, Student Health Administration

Is Aromatherapy safe for babies and children?

Adorable little blond kid relaxing in spa with having massage

Photo: romrodinka/iStock

Aromatherapy and children–Is it safe for my kid? What oils should I use? What works? And what doesn’t? These are questions that have been circling the Aromatherapy community for some time. Even experts debate what is suitable for children, and what dosage should be used. When using essential oils with children it is always important to do research; nothing beats well cited articles with credible sources. Aromatherapy is used to help the body to heal itself. There are many ways Aromatherapy can enhance the body and improve how it functions. Aromatherapy is safe for children when used in a safe and knowledgeable way. There are many ways essential oils can be used for kids, one just needs to follow the ground rules.

Carrier oils

Carrier oils are key when using essential oils for children. Diluting the oil will ensure that the children don’t get overexposed to certain oils. There are many different oils that can be used as carriers; for example sweet almond and grapeseed oil.

Sweet Almond oil

If your child doesn’t have a nut allergy sweet almond oil is great oil for lotions, creams and massage. The oil works well for dry, normal and combination skin. Almond oil can help reduce itching, cracking, and inflammation.

Grapeseed oil

This carrier is derived from grape seeds from spent grapes used in wine making. Grapeseed is a great basic carrier oil that can be used for all skin types. The oil is light, has no smell, and penetrates the skin quickly. The carrier is great for children because it doesn’t cause allergic reactions.

Essential oils and baths for your children

The benefits of Aromatherapy are wonderful and these benefits can be experienced by children. Essential oils have stimulating and healing properties that can greatly influence the lives of children of all ages. It is important to note that when using essential oils with toddlers and infants the oil needs to be diluted. As they are still growing, children’s systems haven’t fully developed, diluted oils will still give them therapeutic benefits without over stimulating their senses. It is important to note that these essential oils will be diluted before using them therapeutically. Always combine the essential oil with the milk prior to adding to the bath water. The milk helps to disperse the essential oils as the oils and water do not mix. Skipping this important step allows the essential oil to sit on top of the water where they will be quickly absorbed (undiluted) by the skin. Essential oils like to be in a lipid substance most like itself, as in your skin’s sebum (natural oil). Mixing the essential oils in milk allows for proper dilution and dispersion in water making it a safer application for babies and children. Milk can also be substituted with a teaspoon of honey or castile soup (olive based).

3 days to 3 months

Essential oils that would be beneficial for infants are Roman chamomile, lavender, and mandarin. Remember that the oils need to be diluted and should not applied neat. These oils can be used for a baby’s bath by mixing 1 drop of Roman chamomile, lavender, or mandarin into 1 teaspoon of milk or cream before adding it to the bath water. One drop of any of these three oils when mixed with milk (as an emulsifier/dispersing agent) then diluted in a tub of water is a very safe way to use the essential oils with a baby.

3 months to 5 years

As your child grows, so does the list of essential oils that can be used. In addition to the oils mentioned above, your toddler can also use bergamot, cedarwood, frankincense, geranium, ginger, lemon, rose, rosemary ct. verbenone (for children over the age of 2), sandalwood, tea tree, thyme ct. linalool and ylang ylang (for children over the age of 2). A bath blend for toddlers 3 months to 3 years is the same as it is for infants but there is a wider selection of essential oils that can be used. For children 3 to 7 years, the amount of essential oil can be increased 2 drops of essential oil from the approved list combined with milk and added to the bath water.

Using citrus oils in the bath diluted as indicated falls far below the 1 drop in 15 ml guideline to avoid phototoxicity, however if you are still concerned you can use distilled lemon instead of the expressed oil and bergamot FCF (furanocoumarin-free) as the phototoxic elements have been removed.

5 years to puberty

At this age all oils that are safe for adults can be used, but in smaller amounts. A bath blend for this age range (5 to 10 years) is 3-4 drops of an approved essential oil combined with 1 tsp of milk. For 10 years and up the amount of essential oils can be increased to 5-6 drops with 1 tsp of milk.

The KEY to using essential oils in the bath is in adding the essential oils to milk or castile soap first, then adding it to the bath water. This is an important step in properly diluting the essential oils and dispersing them. Simply dropping the essential oils in water does not dilute them as they do not mix. The oils will simply float on top until it comes in contact with the skin where it is absorbed (undiluted).

Safe formulations for children 

Coughs and colds (3 months and older)

Essential Oils: Lavender, lemon or bergamot, and tea tree

Massage Treatment: In a non-reactive bowl combine 1 drop of each of the essential oils (lavender, lemon or bergamot, and tea tree) with 4 tsp of sweet almond oil. Use for a chest and back massage.

Overexcitement (3 months and older)

Essential Oils: Cedarwood, frankincense, sweet orange, rose, sandalwood, and ylang ylang*.

Bath Treatment: Combine 1 tsp of milk with age-appropriate number drops alone or in combination of essential oils (cedarwood, frankincense, sweet orange, rose, sandalwood, and ylang ylang*) then add to warm bath water.

When creating blends for children it is important to remember what oils are suitable as well as how much of each essential oil can be used for each age range.

Overall essential oils are safe for children to use when handled correctly. Always in moderation; a few days on and a couple of days off. Using essential oils with children can enhance their quality of life by positively affecting their behaviors, mood, and sleep quality.

*Ylang ylang not to be used with children under the age of two years old.

by Bryant Hernandez

Inside Agarwood and its Oils: Oudh and Boyah

By Trygve Harris

The following are some personal notes regarding the Indian trade of Ouhd and Boyah and the author’s experience in shopping for the oils.  You can read the full article in the Winter 2013 issue  (Vol. 2, Issue 3) of the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy (IJPHA).  For more information or to subscribe visit www.ijpha.com.

agarwood_The Green Investment Co.

                                 Agarwood trees © The Green Investment Co.

The chaos of India                                                                                         In India, when I was in the Northeast Agarwood area of Assam in 2010, the legal status of Agarwood meant that in order to be certified as “legal” and exportable, the wood and oil had to go through certain channels. This required the distilleries be in certified industrial areas of certain towns like Kanpur or Guwahati, for example. The problem with such an approach, which probably seemed like a fine idea on paper, is that Agarwood trees are grown everywhere in Assam and no one is going to send their wood away. It seems Assam (and the surrounding states) are some of Agarwood’s best terroir. So, many households grow a few trees in their yards, with the expectation that eventually the trees can be cut and sold. While these homegrown Agarwood trees are not so valuable that they need high security (like Sandalwood does) they are still valuable enough to keep close. These are small households; they don’t usually have an extra man or two who can take the time and expense to travel with the wood down to Guwahati with no guarantee that the whole scheme wouldn’t end in disaster. No one is going to send their wood away to be distilled by someone else. It would almost certainly be stolen. It’s better to have the entire family around. So if there is no neighborhood still, portable stills come around, set up in the yard, and people can accurately log their production, while distilling their wood within full view, as they go about their daily life and chores.

Unfortunately, this wood is “illegal” because, even though it is grown on private land, with the precedent of hundreds of years, and even though it will benefit the people who grow it, it hasn’t been distilled in Guwahati or any of the other Indian industrial areas whose presence is somehow deemed necessary to convey the “legal” blessing on Agarwood oil.

This scenario has been in place since 2000 and is still the law, as far as I know. The idea was originally to control the timber trade from the forests, which was probably a good idea, but the absolutely massive, unbelievably complicated and extraordinarily irritating behemoth of Indian bureaucracy sat down on top of it, asphyxiating all legal free movement of this traditional industry and even stripping the States of power regarding their own forests and industries. The central government told the thousands of small local farmers that they (the government) would have a solution “within six months” and to please “stop your industries” in the meantime. That was in 2000. So now local people were faced with the illegality of cutting down their own backyard Agarwood trees to cover their household expenses of university fees, weddings, etc. The backyard Agarwood trees were an income source that most people counted on for their entire lives and their parents before them, and so on.

As they were no longer legally allowed to cut and distill their own trees, people did what was necessary to protect themselves and went around the system. The sudden illegality of a valuable forest commodity created some unique opportunities for a few. First of all, with the government out of the picture, it was no longer possible to legally distill, sell, or export Agarwood, it was a perfect situation for someone powerful to step in and take charge of the situation, with great financial benefit as well.

A large company located in Assam that seems to have a monopoly on the Agarwood trade as they have of millions of Agarwood trees under their control and have the capability to transport the wood to the Gulf for distillation.  With hundreds of outlets across the Muslim world, most of them in the Gulf Countries, they now control the Agarwood trade from India, although there are a few other companies. The company prefers to give the perception that they are an Arabic company and most Arabs I know do think they are a local (Emirati) company based in Dubai. They certainly do give that impression, even on their new website. It doesn’t seem that they lie, exactly, as they don’t actually say where they are based. India is barely mentioned on their website, including their list of offices. I am not saying this is wrong of them, but it is interesting how well it’s done and seems like an excellent example of marketing genius.

They are based in Hojai, Assam. I have been there, seen their facilities, had lunch with them, and spoken to two of the Ajmal brothers (whose first language is Sylleti.) They have very strong and direct links to the Gulf, particularly the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. They have a research and development center as well as an office and a large religious school for boys in Hojai and have many local charitable undertakings, such as hospitals and clinics. The large facility is also well protected, with excellent security, necessary with so much Agarwood around.

Indian Boyah can be soaked for six months at a time, then distilled for three, then soaked another six, then distilled again for three. The final product for that scenario is the lowest quality possible and the end distillate comes out as foam. The margins are very small here, and the only expense is the fuel used to keep the still going.

A shopping experience                                                                           Nearly all of the Agarwood comes to the Gulf: all qualities, different grades of wood, different grades of oil, hundreds of retail perfumes, and all manner of specialty products. There are many big perfume companies in the Gulf: Ajmal (the largest), Al Hariman, Al Rasasi, Arabian Oud, Qureshi, and many, many more.

There are a few teeny tiny suppliers from India who don’t work under the Ajmal umbrella. These are producers who have their own connections relating to export customs and the companies are very small, selling tola sizes of about 11 grams. These companies sell at a very high price, probably because of their small volumes and also because they can, as they sell directly to Western companies through online forums and the like.

Like any worthy product, when a large company like Ajmal controls a market, they set the pricing, for what they buy it for, what they sell it for, and to whom. They control every aspect of it. And the small distillers, who take their stills around and/or receive local wood to distill at their own facilities, must distill to that company’s specifications and are paid according to that company’s agenda.

For example, I tried many Indian oils when I was in Assam. I was buying samples to present at the Omani Royal Court. I wanted only the best quality. I made it known who I was buying for, as well as my own small company, as I wanted to be taken seriously and not treated as a fool because of my gender and nationality. That is common and even the status quo in many places. American + woman = fool. It can work to one’s advantage but not in this case.

I settled on a distiller I liked very much, and visited with them over two days. I tried three of his oils, repeatedly. I don’t speak Hindi or Assamese and I was with someone whom I had known for years as the “Agarwood Farmers Advocate.”  The second day in the village I selected my Oudh. I was sure that between the distiller, the advocate, and my own nose, I would find excellent samples to bring back to Muscat. As the people related to Oman’s Diwan (Muslim Council of State) Agarwood procurement have sophisticated palates, excellent taste and plenty of money, any oils they liked would be ordered repeatedly in the future, and they would pay a lot for the best. We would all benefit. The Diwan, the distiller, the community, the farmers, the advocate, and me too. I didn’t worry because it was in everyone’s best interest to do the best we could. I was slathered with many oils and then stoned from the Agarwood at night; when I made my selection the next day, I simply picked the one that smelled the most sublime.

After making my purchase I drove back to the state capital of Guwahati and the next day I flew out to Kolkata and then Coimbatore to meet a friend. He is also a distiller and even though he doesn’t have much experience in Agarwood, he knows a lot about everything else and produces wonderful Vetiver  (Vetiveria zizanoides) and Nagamotha (Cyperus scariosus ) oils and I know his honesty. By the time we met, I was feeling disturbed, as I didn’t like the smells coming from my arms. It was a crude disassociated brutal smell recognizable from the Agarwood family but quite obviously not what I bought. It had a paint thinner note and a dull, nasty side note. I opened the one I bought from the distiller and smelled it and it smelled great. I couldn’t figure it out.  Finally my friend suggested we call the Agarwood distiller. The farmer said he couldn’t talk to us and to please contact the advocate/Ajmal representative. So we did.

It was explained to my friend that they (meaning all the distillers who distill under the Ajmal umbrella) have to remove the oil every three days during the distillation.  While white wood always produces Boyah, any wood will produce Boyah eventually.  Once that oil comes out in the consistency that hardens at room temperature, the oil is no longer very valuable. So great care is taken to make sure the oil is pulled off before that happens. It is distilled in fractions. Theoretically they are combined to make an oil. But when you are distilling for a large company you need a standard oil. So it’s kept in fractions and goes off to the Ajmal lab to be “processed.”

They had sold me the top fraction. Only. That’s why it smelled terrible. It was great for about an hour, but as time passed it turned sour and horrible. The body and tail were missing. The oil was decapitated! The advocate/Ajmal rep was laughing, telling my friend that they just sold me the head; who cares, and what did I know, anyway? An American lady?  It’s quite obvious I was stupid and easily dupable. My friend reminded the advocate about the oil going to the Omani Royal Court, thinking that would make a difference as Arabs know their Oudh.  The advocate promised to send the other two fractions to a friend in Mumbai who deals in Agarwood and could be trusted to receive two fractions for me in sealed bottles. But he never sent them. It was more important and exciting to bilk me out of the $200 I paid for a sample than to establish a new customer from the Palace in Muscat. It’s unfathomable behavior to me. The farmer had no say in it. A potentially great future for him and his family were vaporized. If Agarwood had been legal in India his story would have been different, but he was at the mercy of the advocate and the large company, proving why these controls are a bad idea.

The information shared is the opinion of the author based on her personal experiences and is not necessarily the opinion of the IJPHA and its associates.

Aromatic Chocolate Ganache

ganache_slobblogs Photo by: Slobblogs

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and we know what is on everyone’s mind… CHOCOLATE! What better way is there to celebrate the romantic holiday than with some Aromatic Chocolate Ganache.

Aromatic Chocolate Ganache

12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips

10 oz heavy cream*

Essential oil (3-5 drops)**

*For a dairy-free version, substitute 10 oz coconut milk (not lite)

  1. Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl, set aside.
  2. Warm the cream or coconut milk in a pan until just before boiling.
  3. Add 3-5 drops of essential oil to the cream. Stir well to incorporate it. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let sit for a few minutes to melt the chips.
  4. With a small whisk, whisk the chocolate and coconut milk into a smooth ganache. Work quickly and move the bowl around to get the chocolate that sticks to the side. The more you whisk it, the darker the color and it becomes shiny. (Tip: add a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor.)

ganache_chefeddy Photo: Chefeddy

Pour the ganache over cake or ice cream.

To make chocolates for your sweetie, fill chocolate liquor toasting cups (available at most liquor stores) with the flavored ganache. Keep refrigerated.

**Experiment with flavors. Try 4 drops orange with 1 drop geranium, or 3 drops lemon with 2 drops lavender, 4 drops lime with 1 drop basil, 3-4 drops of peppermint, or 2 drops rose. Top with candied fruit peel, organic lavender buds or rose petals.

By Lora Cantele