September 27, 2007
Events of Interest
ALLIANCE OF INTERNATIONAL AROMATHERAPISTS: After 5 years of developing educational newsletters and teleconferences as well as a staging a successful conference in 2005, the group formed as Aromatics in Action has officially launched under their new name, Alliance of International Aromatherapy. Now a fully-formed 501(c)3 nonprofit, they are holding their second major conference in Denver CO October 18-21, entitled Celebrating the Past - Creating the Future of Clinical Aromatherapy. Presentation topics are diverse and contemporary and are sure to challenge and excite those who attend, covering safety issues, sustainability, clinical research, product quality and purity, global and planetary healing and a wide range of issues confronting aromatherapy. . . including, very smartly, a session on Growing a Successful Organization presented by Sonja Simpson who will help inform strategies as a potential plan of action for the continued success of AIA. The efforts of this emerging organization are to be commended and the event appears a welcome turn towards a more progressive organized effort for aromatherapy in the U.S. The only downside is that the event conflicts with other important gatherings in the broad range of interest to some who might otherwise attend.
WILD PLANT HARVEST: OPPORTUNITIES AND THREAT: Aromatic plants, along with their medicinal, food and ornamental counterparts, are more and more frequently harvested from the wild, including public lands. If harvested in a sustainable way, these nontimber forest products (NTFP's) can provide economic benefits to forests and the people who harvest them, largely in rural communities. The 2007 Janet Meakin Poor Research Symposium scheduled for Friday, October 19, will feature a variety of topics to address ecological implications, sustainable harvesting, policy issues and international trade, and other management issues. Keynote luminary, Dr. James A. Duke will present a slide lecture covering Medicinal Plants of the bible featuring slides by Peggy Ann K. Duke and a highlight will be the presentation of an international, multidisciplinary collaborative effort to value the pharmaceutical potential of plant diversity of Cuc Phuong National Park in N. Vietnam, presented by Dr. Djaja Doel Soejarto, professor of pharmacognosy and biology, University of Illinois at Chicago. Other featured speakers include Colin Donohue, executive director of the National Network of Forest Practitioners (NNFP), Dr. Tamara Ticktin, associate professor of botany U. of Hawaii at Manoa with others. Online registration deadline October 12.
If you have a major symposium or conference you wish us to announce in this periodic column, please send information and internet link to [email protected].
September 26, 2007
Aromatherapy Massages With Music Dramatically Reduced Stress Levels In Nurses
ScienceDaily reports on research done in Australia and published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing that found that nurses working in an emergency room reported that their anxiety levels fell "dramatically" when they were given aromatherapy massages while listening to music.
Researchers found that 60 per cent of the staff - 54 per cent in summer and 65 per cent in winter - suffered from moderate to extreme anxiety.
But this fell to just eight per cent, regardless of the season, once staff had received 15-minute aromatherapy massages while listening to relaxing new-age music.
Reference: "The effect of aromatherapy massage with music on the stress and anxiety levels of emergency nurses: comparison between summer and winter." Cooke et al. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 16, pages 1695-1703 (September 2007).
The Air Freshener Wars
The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) has published the results of a study that suggests that common air fresheners contain hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates. 12 of the 14 fresheners that they investigated contained the phthalates, which are used in many consumer products, including as solvents in perfumes and fragrances, but are considered by many (including the State of California) to be harmful and are "known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm." The NRDC article called for further research on air fresheners, and the study led to at least one large retailer taking the offending fresheners off the shelves.
Not surprisingly, the American Chemistry Council put out a press release yesterday responding to the study and charging that "these claims about air fresheners and phthalates are baseless and irresponsible." They maintain that the chemicals are perfectly safe and anyway are found in such small concentrations that they couldn't possibly be dangerous.
I spent a lot of time reading about phthalates during the controversy over lavender and tea tree last February, and my conclusion at the time was that the best you could say about them is that they are "controversial." The ACC press release threw out several diversions to "prove" its point, including referring to research finding on their safety in cosmetics (not exactly the use here) and minimizing the levels found.
An earlier NRDC press release points out that air fresheners are now a $1.72 billion industry in the US, with an estimated 75% of households using them. NRDC scientists are suggesting that the best alternative to avoiding potential problems is to open a window.
What ever happened to good old fashioned aromatherapy?
September 25, 2007
Essential Oil use in Food Packaging
Essential oils are increasingly being used in food packaging to kill microorganisms, infuse preservatives, enhance the aroma, or remove undesirable materials such as oxygen or ethylene. These uses are subject to regulation because of safety and effective issues, and the EU has set limits on how much of certain compounds can be used. I've come across articles describing research into packaging methods and viability.
One article in Sample Preparation describes research into a method called HFLPME (hollow fibre liquid-phase microextraction) which helps obtain samples from the packaging headspace for measuring how the essential oils migrate through the packaging. The research described was published in the Journal of Chromatography.
Another study described in the Journal of Food Engineering on the "Effects of plant essential oils and oil compounds on mechanical, barrier and antimicrobial properties of alginate–apple puree edible films," discovered that carvacrol and oregano oil were the most effective against E. coli, a foodborne pathogen (at least of the six essential oils products studied).
The data show that the antimicrobial activities were in the following order: carvacrol > oregano oil > citral > lemongrass oil > cinnamaldehyde > cinnamon oil. This study showed that plant-derived essential oils and their constituents could be used to prepare apple-based antimicrobial edible films for food applications.
It appears that there will be increasing use of essential oils in food packaging in the future, and that safety and dosage considerations will be required to assure that EU regulations are followed (in the EU, at least). No mention here of how the FDA will view these issues.
September 24, 2007
Mint leaves have global following but not for Oil
The mint crop in central Oregon has shifted from oil production to tea production in recent years, according to an article in the Bend Bulletin. Mint grown in the area is widely sought after for tea, and production for tea is less expensive than production for essential oils. The value of 2006 production was over $1.3 million from 1,136 acres. Many farmers grow the mint, mainly peppermint and spearmint to increase crop diversity and increase overall farm income.
Over-regulation Could Destroy Natural Aromatics
Cropwatch (Tony Burfield et al) presented a keynote paper on Regulation of Natural Aromatics at the 38th International Symposium on Essential Oils in Graz, Austria on 12th Sept. 2007. A copy of the full paper is posted on the Cropwatch website here. We'll be blogging about this in more detail, but if you have time, you should read the entire paper, which goes into many details about how natural aromatics are being over-regulated.
The paper presentation starts out with this historic photo:
[Note to American Readers: this may seem less relevant to us because Cropwatch is trying to deal with the European Union regulations, but they are coming after us, too. Between the Codex attempts to "harmonize" food regulation, global trade laws, and side effects from confusion over the proper role of the FDA which under-regulates some things and over-regulates others, we may at some point find outselves fighting the same battles.]
September 18, 2007
Vietnam promotes crassna plantation for essential oil
Vietnam is expanding the land dedicated to the production of what they call "do tram" which is actually Aquilaria crassna, the tree that is commonly known as Aloeswood, eaglewood, or agarwood, according to a press release on mathaba.net. They currently have more than 10,000 ha (hectares, or 25,000 acres) of do tram trees, and plan to add 30,000 additional ha (75,000 acres). It has been estimated that growers can earn a profit of 100-300 million VND ($6,200 - $18,600 in US$) per ha of do tram trees a year. According to a paper on the Conservation and use of Aquilaria crassna in Vietnam: A Case Study from 2001, the production of do tram in plantations should reduce the pressure on the wild populations, and it can be grown in plantations and is also suitable for under-canopy planting in agroforestry systems. The species has been identified as threatened in Vietnam due to exploitation of wild stocks, and it is on the 2007 IUCN Red List.
This appears to be another example of expecting the income to come soon, while in fact it may be many years before the trees grow to maturity, and in the case of this species, become infected with a fungus that actually produces a resin from the heartwood that is the valuable material that is used in incense and can be distilled into the essential oil called oud or oudh. The Vietnamese plan to transfer the technology for oil production to the farmers by 2010, which seems a bit premature. The wood must be damaged in order to stimulate the growth of the fungus. One seller of the wood claims that the best product comes from trees that are hundreds of years old, but that may just be hype. There has been research done in Thailand to see if mechanical methods can be used to stimulate aloes wood formation, but the results of one study suggest it isn't too successful.
Trygve Harris points out in this post from 2004 that the trees have been planted all over southeast Asia for the last 20 years, with the anticipation that there would be a great income from it--but that in fact the oil produced from the non-infected trees is very poor quality and has little economic value. As she points out in this post about the wild production, the process of wood collection (the best product comes from dead infected trees that have been on the forest floor) and distillation is very complex and time consuming.
So, given the probable increasing rarity of the wild trees, and the difficulties of producing fine quality oil from the plantation grown plants, we can probably continue to expect fine quality agarwood and oud oil will remain rare and expensive. And there will be those who promote the low quality oil as better than it is.
September 10, 2007
CCD Diagnosis and solution may actually be at hand
An article published in Science on September 6 (and discussed in Technology Review) may actually be the solution to Colony Collapse Disorder, the malady that has been killing bees and which unchecked could be a major disaster for the pollination of plants, including aromatic plants. By running a genetic analysis on samples from 100 hives, they were able to identify a virus that is potentially the cause of the problem, Israeli acute paralysis virus of bees (IAPV). While the authors stressed that further research will be necessary to confirm this, they have made a good start, and the technique used shows potential as a method of identifying other toxic organisms in the future.
UPDATE: Sep.15. A post by the editor of BeeCulture on the Daily Green points out that these results have thrown the beekeeping world into a tizzy; Congress is considering banning bee importation from Australia where the virus originated but WTO rules may restrict them; the problem seems to appear here when the virus encounters Varroa mites . . . there are lots of questions, but where are the answers?
September 06, 2007
Steam Distillation Website Established
A new website has been established on the subject of "Steam Distillation of Essential Oils: Modeling and Characterization" by Dr. Manuel Cerpa of the University of Valladolid, Spain. The site is mostly in Spanish with some English content, but it can be translated using the Google toolbar (which unfortunately doesn't do a very good job on this site because many technical terms don't seem to be in the Google dictionary) or other translation programs. The site presents the results of experiments with steam distillation of some aromatic plants, including lavandin, rosemary, hyssop, Spanish marjoram, and fennel, with place markers for additional oils including eucalyptus, and some others that Google doesn't translate but which I believe are lemon verbena, muna (Bolivian medicinal plants), and Pink Pepper (Schinus molle).
Pages are included to introduce the subject and define terms, present the problems, review the state of the art, discuss alternate technologies, and present experiences, methodology, scale, documentation, links, and author's information. Detailed information, pictures of equipment, diagrams and graphs are included.
This site appears to be based on the results of Dr. Cerpa's doctoral research. As such, it includes references and a full discussion of the subject. From the standpoint of the English-reading user, it has some deficiencies because of the translation difficulties. However, if you are willing to puzzle out the meanings of some of the words, and not laugh too hard at Google's botched translation (e.g. escalado <--> climbing when it apparently means scaled) the site is an excellent overview of the steam distillation process.
Notes and News
- The Diabetes Blog features an essential oil product that is a topical treatment for diabetes neuropathy. "Neuragen is made of a proprietary blend of essential oils from special species of geranium, lavender, bergamot, eucalyptus, and tea tree." Clinical trials have shown it to be effective in 70% of patients for the pain associated with diabetes.
- Per the Salina [KS] Journal, new uses for perfume: "A 13-year-old Salina boy was referred to juvenile court after allegedly spraying an 8-year-old boy with perfume, then igniting the perfume, causing second-degree burns. "
- Another lavender farming Blog with some good pictures of a copper still and more Whidbey Island scenery from Lavender Wind Farm, down the road from Penn Cove Farm.
- Fragrance sales have plummeted in the US despite strong global figures, according to Cosmetics design.com. 2006 sales dropped by 4.5% to $5.9bn, while global sales grew by 6% to around $30.6bn.
- A paper in the International Journal of Cardiology reports the results of a study that showed decreases in serum cortisol levels but no changes in blood pressure or heart rate after Lavender aromatherapy treatments. (Abstract)