Synthetic Essential Oils Effective?


We sometimes will see people we care about trying to save a few dollars by buying essential oils that are synthetic.  Unfortunately most of them are marketed as “pure” when they have the warning label you see to your left. It does not take a scientist to realize that without the food supplement label and with multiple warnings, this product may not be good for you even topically.  Especially when we remember that our skin is the largest organ of our body.  However below is a great article from, showing how synthetic essential oils  compare with natural ones.  You may be surprised.

This is an important topic for us, we share with many others how we really need to focus on what we are putting in, on and around our bodies to help achieve maximum health.  If in our quest for health, we are duped by labeling, then naturally we are not helping but potentially creating a hazard for our fragile bodies.

As reported by

“The three Taiwanese research scientists who authored the study we will discuss today have the most eclectic background.

Shing-Hong Liu is with the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology at Chaoyang University of Technology, Taichung. Tzu-Hsin Lin is from the Department of Cardiology at Lin-Shin Hospital in Taichung. Kang-Ming Chang is connected with the Department of Photonics and Communication Engineering, Asia University, Taichung, and the Graduate Institute of Clinical Medical Science, China Medical University, also in Taichung, Taiwan.

What is so impressive about the research of these three scientists is their multipronged approach to their study. Equally important and a research bonus is that this study tested an essential oil against its synthetic counterpart!

First, the researchers explain that in our modern society “ . . . job-related stress is a substantial problem because 40% – ­50% of all relative work misses [absences] are related to stress.”1 Work-related stress, they say, adds to disease risk, including cardiovascular disease, the chronic diseases of aging, neurodegenerative diseases, and metabolic syndrome.

They reviewed aromatherapy/stress studies and found that bergamot, lavender, and geranium were the most studied essential oils, and inhalation was the most common delivery system. Next, the researchers decided on the best method to scientifically show stress and any reduction caused by aromatherapy.

The researchers report that “The autonomic nervous system includes sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. When people feel physical or psychological stress, the sympathetic system becomes more active. When this stressor disappears, the parasympathetic system reduces the heart rate and the breathing rate. The response of the autonomic nervous system can be monitored using the heart rate variability (HRV), which is derived from heartbeat interval time series.”2 So heart-rate variability was the main method chosen to measure autonomic nervous system activity.

The researchers actually had two major points to explore, so “The experiment comprised two phases. The purpose of the first phase was to verify the effect of aromatherapy by using two blind tests. We used natural essential oil extracted from plants and synthetic essential oil made with chemical materials to do the aromatherapy.”3

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) was the essential oil chosen for the study. The study explains that 100 percent pure, natural bergamot essential oil was used as the control, and a synthesized, chemical essential oil served as the placebo. We are not surprised that “ . . . only the natural bergamot essential oil had an effect.”4

The tests were carefully blinded. Although the synthetic and the natural bergamot had a similar scent, the researchers thought that some people might be able to distinguish a difference if they were able to compare them together. So there was a week between the two experiments (where the teachers would receive real bergamot and then a week later, they would receive the synthetic version via an ultrasonic ionizer aromatherapy diffuser.

The teachers that were tested were required to abstain from alcohol, smoking, and coffee for the six hours prior to thearomatherapy treatment. They were asked to sit quietly in a chair and rest for three minutes. Their blood pressure was measured and an ECG administered. The aromatherapy treatment was 15 minutes; and at the completion of the testing period, the participants’ blood pressure was measured again along with a three-minute ECG. During this first phase, the synthetic version, unlike the natural bergamot, was found ineffective at relieving stress.

The second phase analyzed the performance of aromatherapy with only the pure bergamot essential oil for teachers with varying workload. “Each participant underwent aroma treatment twice: once during a heavy-workload state [defined as teaching more than four classes a day], and once more during a light workload state [teaching less than two classes in one day].”5

The researchers quoted a previous aromatherapy study6 that showed that age and gender affect heart-rate variability. So intergroup differences among age, gender, BMI (Body Mass Index), and the degree of anxiety were also analyzed.

And what were the results of this carefully crafted study? “The response of autonomic nervous system has a significant change after the natural essential bergamot oil treatment. We also analyzed the effect of aromatherapy at different workloads. The aromatherapy may alleviate the symptoms of physical and psychological stress. The results also suggest that age and BMI factors affect aromatherapy performance when teachers have a heavy workload.”7

We love learning how bergamot essential oil can relieve stress in elementary school teachers. It is fascinating to know that the researchers also charted age and BMI influences in the study. The full study is available at:

We must admit, our favorite part of this study will always be: “Table 3 shows that the results obtained for the synthetic essential oil did not have any indicators with a significant difference.”8

The next time shysters try to sell you an essential oil adulterated with synthetic compounds, tell them NO THANKS! You know better!”

Ready to ditch synthetic?  Order Young Living Therapeutic Grade essential oils here.


Liu SH, et al. The physical effects of aromatherapy in alleviating work-related stress on elementary school teachers in Taiwan. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:853809. [Epub ahead of print]


Chang KM, Shen CW. Aromatherapy benefits autonomic nervous system regulation for elementary school faculty in Taiwan. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2011;2011:946537.