What is Natural?

This seems to be a simple question, but in fact, “natural” means different things to different people. Many of us want to use “natural” products, and “synthetic” just sounds gross. I think a lot of us use these two words almost as a shorthand and we have certain expectations about what they mean. And herein lies the rub, as they say.

Many, many, many products have the word “natural” on their labels; in reality, different countries and even different states have different percentages of non-natural ingredients allowed, and yet can still call the product “natural”. Also, there is a question of “naturally derived.” Your ingredients might be made from natural ingredients, but have gone through rectification, extractions, heat, whatever. This isn’t a post about the different ways to adulterate; it’s just to acknowledge it happens, it’s common, it’s normal, and people have levels of credulity and of comfort.

Even I like some commercial products, synthetic products, OTC bodywash or lotion, perfumes…… I usually enjoy these based on the memories they evoke.

When I did chemotherapy some of my friends were a bit freaked out that I craved Tuscany and Fahrenheit, colognes my father used to wear. And I wanted nothing to do with most essential oils. Never mind that those colognes have been reformulated since the 1980s; I was still after the comfort. It’s just an emotional process. I think many people go through emotions triggered or comforted by smell.

So, now this has been established, let’s get back to natural. If you are reading this, and you shop with us, you know that you can rely on us to be as strict as possible with our “natural” definition. This is what we do, so in addition to satisfying ourselves that there are no synthetics added, and no components taken out (think rose), and no cheap naturals added (think geranium) and no chicanery going on regarding balance (think lavender.) How? 1. We test our oils, especially if we don’t know the supplier well. It takes years before we’re so comfortable we just trust someone, and there are not many suppliers who fall into that category. And we still occasionally test. 2. We actually get to know the supplier and try to visit. Yeah, we’re not a big fragrance house and we can’t just nip off to Italy or Japan whenever the mood strikes, but we can get an idea from a distiller—not from any of their claims, or any religious claims to God or meditation, or enlightenment, or new age. None of that impresses us at all. Neither do medical claims, assertions of miracles, celebrity testimonials. Really we couldn’t care less about any of it. In fact, anyone who brings God, or enlightenment, or miracles into an oil explanation, we will turn off immediately. Claims of spiritual purity or piety have no place here. Snake oil.

What are our criteria? There are many things, and I won’t list them all, obviously. But we meet the people involved, and try the oils; we can watch any videos or presentations they made but we try to see who they are, if that makes any sense. How do they act, what do they eat, how knowledgeable are they? How well do they know their oils? How familiar are they with their own process? And where are they geographically? Who is representing them? We take samples. We GC test, of course, and we use labs that specialize in essential oils as we need their experience. Many oils are adulterated with cheap or fake constituents that show their GC peaks at the same point as naturally occurring constituents (think patchouli), meaning the adulterant effectively takes cover under a similar one. And we have a chance, we go to the production facility. Are there barrels of aroma-chemicals like linalool or cineole sitting around? Of DOP? This happens a lot. How clean is it? Are there happy healthy animals around? What about the staff? Etc.

This is so that, whatever your degree of wanting to use natural, fresh, whole, sparkling, sustainably harvested, fragrant, good vibrational essential oils, you don’t have to think about it when you buy them from Enfleurage. That’s our job; we love it and we’re good at it.