The English Aromatherapist


Essential Oils Contain Chemicals

Essential oils contain chemicals

I recently wrote about the “chemicals debate” in an article about using essential oils as cleaning products.


However, I’ve decided to separate this into a separate blog post, because it’s an issue I’m seeing more and more online.


So often we see blog posts about using natural products in order to avoid chemicals – those nasty, evil things that are harmful to our health and the environment.


Are essential oils free from chemicals


It’s important to remember that not all chemicals are bad. Water is a chemical formula of hydrogen and oxygen. And I think we all agree that water is essential for health, along with the air we breathe – which contains all-important oxygen, another chemical!


We’re shown lots of pretty images online about essential oils being “chemical free”, but this is simply not true.


Essential oils are made from dozens of chemical constituents, some of which are extremely potent. Lots of things are toxic – but the dose makes the poison.


You gotta love this recipe for “Chemical-Free Bleach” that I found online. Take a look at the first ingredient on the list, after the 1 gallon jug!

Chemical free bleach


And what about this advert for dish soap, which apparently “cleans your dishes without chemicals”. And what’s the second ingredient on the list, after water? Decyl glucoside. Yes, it’s still a chemical, even if it’s plant-derived.


Natural dish soap with Thieves oil


Why say it?


Of course, I completely understand WHY essential oil reps like to market their products as being “free from chemicals”.  It may be true to say they are free from synthetic chemicals. But free from chemicals completely? No. Even if they’re natural chemicals, they’re still chemicals.


The same applies to anything labelled “free from toxic chemicals” or “free from harsh chemicals”. You could argue that some essential oils are potentially toxic if misused. The dose makes the poison. And what’s their definition of a “harsh” chemical?


This is a great article that addresses the growing problem of “chemophobia” – a fear of chemicals. People are being misled into making unsafe choices, based on inaccurate science. They’re being told to “ditch the chemicals” and use essential oils for everything, even when it’s not appropriate.


Sometimes a “scary” chemical preservative is needed, particularly in a water-based product. A cleaning spray that claims to be “preservative-free” isn’t necessarily something you want to use.


Essential oils are natural, but that doesn’t make them automatically safe and risk-free (it’s called a logical fallacy – read more about that here)




In summary, essential oils contain chemicals. Loads of them!


Pinene, Limonene, Geraniol, Linalol, Eugenol, Carvacrol…these are all chemicals found in common essential oils.


Think about your words when you’re promoting essential oils to your clients, friends and family.


What to read next: Essential oils and Cleaning


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