From time to time my students ask about fragrances and are they natural. They tell me that the site where they purchased their fragrance oils from say it is natural. So I thought I would share with you and with the help of industry experts to define what the three types of fragrances are; natural occurring, nature identical and man made.
- Natural Occurring Scents aka Essential Oils come straight from the source. They are extracted or expelled from the flower, bark or leaves of a plant, tree or flower. These scents include herbs such as chamomile and lavender (flower) , peppermint (leaves) and cinnamon (bark). They may also come from the resin (secretion) of a tree or plant such as frankincense and myrrh. These scents have both aromatherapy and therapeutic properties. Such as tea tree oil can be applied directly to a minor cut and process antibacterial properties to heal the cut.
- Nature Identical scents are the chemical equivalent of a natural scent. This means it has been created in a lab that duplicates the natural scents exact chemical structure. Though the chemical structure is the same nature identical scents should not be used for aromatherapy or therapeutic purposes.
- Man Made Scents aka Fragrance Oils are synthetic aroma chemicals. They may include essential oils in their formulation but by no means are they to be considered natural occurring scents. These scents will be things like cinnamon buns, banana cream pie, wedding cake, baby powder and even things like fresh apple.
To better understand the difference between essential and fragrance oils, I asked industry expert Certified, ARC Registered Aromatherapist Kayla Fioravanti to provide an example. She shares from her new book “The Art, Science and Business of Aromatherapy” that “The differences between essential and fragrance oils can best be described by comparing a real orange to a piece of orange candy. The real orange has health benefits for the body and comes directly from nature. The orange’s color, shape, flavor, scent, taste and vitamins, as well as the psychological and physiological benefits, all come directly from nature. It was designed to nourish our body as well as provide vitamin C for health benefits. On the other hand, a piece of orange candy gets its sweetness from refined sugar and its shape from gums. It is artificially flavored and colored, has no health benefits whatsoever, and can actually be bad for our bodies.
In that example an essential oil is the orange, and fragrance oil is the piece of orange candy. The body gains nothing of value from fragrance oil because this man-made substance was only created to duplicate a natural aroma and not the properties. Whereas the essential oil is a function and byproduct of a plant created to protect, heal and pollinate life and is far more beneficial. The hormonal, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral properties of a plant are captured in the essential oil and enable the human body to use the plants vital energy to benefit itself.”
So why use Nature Identical or Man Made Scents? The answer is simple…cost and consistent scent. Kayla Fioravanti further shares that “synthetic fragrances are cheaper and always smell consistent because they are lab created. Nature does not always produce the exact same scent with each and every harvest of plant material. Essential oils can vary due to environmental differences from year to year and with the varying countries of origin for plant material.
The unfortunate side of a synthetic fragrance is that the manufactured scent does not contain the therapeutic properties of their counterparts, whole-plant based essential oils. Thus, the true power and purpose of aromatherapy is lost. For example, one drop of peppermint fragrance oil does not contain the same natural pharmacy that one drop of the essential oil has. The synthetic version only attempts to duplicate the aroma and not the properties transferred from the plant material itself.”
So there you have it. A better understanding of what the different scent terminology means and the reason why you may consider using nature identical or man made scents versus essential oils. If you want to have a more in depth reference Kayla’s book “The Art, Science and Business of Aromatherapy” is available on Amazon.