Essential Oil or Snake Oil?

Fraudulent products with questionable medicinal uses are known as snake oils. Some skeptics believe that essential oils fall into this category. Essential oils are extracted from plants and highly concentrated. Many herbs and flowers have powerful medicinal properties, and natural products are not necessarily inert. In fact, essential oils are potent substances and their use in both cosmetic products and food is strictly regulated. One of the reasons that essential oils require regulation is because essential oil molecules are very small and have the potential to cross the skin barrier and enter the bloodstream. This article introduces the properties of a few essential oils and outlines their use.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is an interesting example, because it is widely used in food, medicine and cosmetics. Yet, despite this fact, in certain circumstances it can be classified as a poison. [pullquote]Eucalyptus oil is an interesting example, because it is used widely in food, medicine and cosmetics. Yet, despite this fact, in certain circumstances it can be classified as a poison![/pullquote]This illustrates a key point about essential oils, which is that – much like medicines – they can be extremely beneficial when used appropriately. However, if used wrongly, or excessively, they may be dangerous.

Eucalyptus oil is extracted from the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree, which is native to Australia. Nearly all substances are dangerous when taken in excess, and eucalyptus is no exception. Undiluted eucalyptus oil is classed as a scheduled poison in Australia. It can be especially toxic to children, who are more susceptible to eucalyptus poisoning because of their body size. However, eucalyptus can be used safely at the right dose. In small amounts, it can even be used as a food flavoring. It is also popular in fragrances.

The various medicinal benefits of eucalyptus oil are well recognised. It has an antibacterial effect and relieves pain, so it is often used as a skin treatment for wounds and inflammation. Additionally, eucalyptus oil is found in cough drops and other products that alleviate cold and respiratory symptoms.

Rose Oil

Rose oil is the essential oil most often found in perfumes, and it is popular because of its rich and flowery smell. Simply inhaling its strong, sweet fragrance is soothing, so it is used in aromatherapy to treat a variety of ailments that include depression, anxiety and even menstrual cramps.

Preliminary evidence gathered across several scientific trials supports the view that rose oil has the power to diminish anxiety and promote relaxation. Additionally, stress causes chemicals to be released by the body that have a damaging effect upon the skin. By reducing the chemicals associated with stress, rose essential oil has been shown to reduce water loss from the skin, which is thought to lessen skin damage.
It takes a staggering 2,000 pounds of rose petals to make 16 ounces of rose oil. For this reason rose essential oil is extremely expensive to produce and is often adulterated or substituted for potentially irritating artificial fragrance oil. At Ishtar Skinlights, when we use rose essential oil in our formulas we trace the supply route very carefully and only work with trustworthy sources whose oils are fully tested for purity and quality.

Balsam of Peru

Balsam of Peru, derived from the Myroxylo tree in Central and South America, is known for its sweet smell of cinnamon and vanilla. Like rose oil and eucalyptus oil, it is a common ingredient in fragrances and flavorings. However, it also has significant healing properties. Its mild antiseptic properties are the reason Balsam of Peru is used in ointments for wounds.

Balsam of Peru carries a high risk of causing inflammation due to allergic reactions. A patch test can be performed to determine whether an oil will irritate the skin. Since Balsam of Peru is a common allergen, a patch test is especially recommended before using products containing this essential oil. Due to the allergen potential, we do not use this particular essential oil in Ishtar Skinlights products, but this is not to say that it does not have benefit is used appropriately in specific cases.

Lavender Oil

Lavender grows in northern Africa and the Mediterranean mountains, and lavender oil is distilled from the flowers of this plant. Most lavender oil comes from Bulgaria. The medicinal uses of lavender are both external and internal. Externally, lavender oil can be applied to burns and insect stings because of its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It can also be applied to skin as a treatment for hair loss.

Dried lavender can be consumed in teas for its mild sedative effects that help with insomnia, anxiety and restlessness. The scent of lavender oil is known to have the same calming properties when used in aromatherapy. Lavender essential is extremely safe and well tolerated by all skin types. Although concentrated aromatherapy products should not be applied to the skin during pregnancy as there is a possibility that they may cross the placenta and reach your growing baby’s circulation, lavender is considered safe if used in dilution.Within guidelines, it is safe during pregnancy and for children or nursing mothers. Due to these beneficial properties, we use small, regulated amounts of lavender essential oil in several Ishtar Skinlights products.


Essential oils  can cause allergic reactions and even poisoning, which proves they possess a power that can be harmful. However,  when used correctly, they can be extremely helpful. The term snake oil refers to products with unknown ingredients and false claims about efficacy, and essential oils are far from being snake oils. The active chemicals in the plants are well documented, and many of the medical benefits of essential oils are supported by scientific studies.