The Difference Between Essential Oils and Man-made Fragrances
By John P. Thomas
Health Impact News
Naturally fragrant essential oils can heal illness, but manufactured scents can make people sick and even cause death. Can you tell the difference? Are man-made artificial fragrances making you ill?
We call the highly fragrant plant oils that are extracted from rose, lemon, and frankincense “essential oils”. These essential oils have the capacity to heal illness when they are inhaled, applied to the skin, or taken orally. Essential oils that have the ability to heal illness must be completely natural and cannot be altered through human intervention.
Essential oils are usually produced through distillation and are expensive to produce. Their availability is often very limited, because large amounts of plant material are required to produce a very small amount of oil, or the plant species are rare. They are also in high demand for medicinal purposes.
Most Fragrances are Synthetic and Inexpensive
Because of the high price and limited availability of essential oils, many large corporations have turned to much less expensive synthetic fragrances for use in their products. Perfumes, colognes, cleaning products, “air fresheners,” laundry products, and most all other household and personal care products contain artificial fragrances made in laboratories from petroleum and coal tar. These man-made smells attempt to imitate the fragrance of essential oils at a tiny fraction of the cost.
Cheap manufactured fragrances enable marketing firms to emphasize their “special fragrances” when they market their products. They often market the fragrance as much as they market the functional purpose of the product. They attempt to get customers to develop brand loyalty based on the scent of the product. Their advertising campaigns attempt to convince consumers that they should want to purchase products that “smell nice” — the way their superior brand smells. Approximately 95% of the fragrance compounds in scented products are synthetic and not made from natural essential oils. 
Artificial Fragrances contain Unhealthy Chemicals
Most natural essential oils are quite volatile. They easily dissipate into the air, which is why the smell of roses or lilacs spreads for hundreds of feet from the plant. On the other hand, manufacturers of synthetic fragrances must add toxic solvents to make their synthetic fragrances become volatile so that they can dissipate into the air. They also add toxic chemicals to make the airborne fragrance molecules become sticky so they will cling to clothing, hair, furniture, and skin. This causes the smell to persist for hours or days or months. Additionally, fragrance manufacturers routinely add chemicals that have narcotic and hormone-like effects.
With respect to perfumes and colognes, the chemicals that are added have powerful effects. They ease emotional pain and make people feel good (narcotic effect), or make people feel sexy or attract the interest of the opposite sex (hormonal effect). They also can be carcinogenic. 
Exposure to Perfume and Cologne Causes Addiction
Daily exposure to the chemicals in perfumes and colognes creates chemical dependency (addiction). As with all other forms of addiction, people tend to use more and more fragrance over time and switch to stronger and stronger fragrances, because they don’t feel the desired effect.
This addiction effect increases sales of perfume and cologne, and builds brand loyalty. There are many people who feel that they are not ready to start the day until they have had their coffee and have put on perfume or cologne. They feel that they are not fully dressed until they put on their scent.
Exposure to Artificial Fragrances Causes Illness
A large number of chemicals that are contained in synthetic fragrance formulas are known to be carcinogenic and neurotoxic. However, the fragrance manufacturing industry is not required to prove safety. Consequently, synthetic fragrances are not evaluated for health risks to adults or children. 
Many people spend thousands of dollars trying to solve health problems caused by synthetic fragrances. Numerous conditions clear up when people reduce their exposure to toxic fragrances.
My Recovery from Chronic Sinus Congestion Caused by Toxic Fragrances
I experienced such a recovery after many years of illness. I suddenly developed chronic nasal congestion in the 1980s, and quickly became addicted to over the counter nasal sprays in an attempt to treat my constant discomfort. After a half dozen years of daily use of nasal spray and drops of all types I decided to seek medical help. My doctor said he could refer me for allergy testing, but he discouraged me from going that route, because he said that very few of his patients benefited from testing and treatment with anti-allergy injections. He suggested that I try to find a prescription drug that would work for my condition.
Over the next three years I tried a whole host of pills and sprays that all promised relief without side effects or addiction. Many of them did nothing to help my condition, and most had side effects. I remember taking one of the oral medications that threw me into a stupor-like condition for weeks. When I took that drug, I completely lost all my will to do anything. I would sit for hours in front of the TV being mesmerized by the Shopping Channel.
Next I went to a physician who focused on homeopathic treatments. I discontinued my prescription pharmaceuticals and tried his curative treatments. I noticed some improvement, but the problem still persisted. Suddenly, I noticed one day that I didn’t have the problem anymore. I was thrilled! I didn’t really know what brought about the change, but I didn’t care. I could now breathe normally.
Eight years later I suddenly noticed a return of the sinus congestion when I was in massage therapy school. The condition was triggered whenever I received a massage from a fellow student while lying on the linens that she had laundered. Then, I remembered the smell. Some of my fellow students were drying their linens with antistatic dryer sheets. When I was face down on the massage table, I would inhale the chemical residue from the laundry products and would immediately experience the old familiar sinus blockage. From that point forward, I only received massages on sheets that I had laundered and the problem never returned.
Why did my allergy disappear eight years earlier?
I eventually put the pieces together. In the early 1990s my first wife started being bothered by the smell of the dryer sheets that she was using. This happened a couple years before she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. She decided to switch to fragrance free dryer sheets, and to only use ¼ of a dryer sheet per load. After she made these changes, she felt better and my sinus problems completely disappeared.
My insurance company and I spent thousands of dollars trying to treat or cure a sinus allergy condition that was caused by nothing more than our choice of laundry products!
Artificial Fragrances Stress the Immune System
A few months after my wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1995, she began to experience strong adverse reactions to perfume and chemical smells. Even though she stopped using scented products in the dryer a couple years earlier, and discontinued the use of her own perfume around the time of her diagnosis, her immune system was becoming more and more sensitive to synthetic fragrances.
As her immune system became increasingly overwhelmed by the constant effort of resisting the advancing cancer, she could no longer handle exposure to toxic substances. When she was exposed to the perfume worn by other people, she would fall into fits of unstoppable coughing and experience shortness of breath with feelings of panic. It was awful to watch what a single whiff of strong perfume could do to a seriously ill person.
My Addiction to Artificial Fragrance
Eventually my wife began to complain about my cologne. This irritated me. Why was she being bothered by the cologne that she used to like? Observing her increasing sensitivity, I decided to discontinue my use of colognes despite my resentment. I gathered up nine of the ten bottles of expensive cologne and aggressively threw them in the trash one after another. I didn’t understand my anger at that time, but I now know that anger is one of the most common reactions to being faced with external pressure to stop an addictive habit. I saved one bottle, just because I didn’t want to be without any cologne. I thought, “What if I need it?”
Even though I never used that last bottle of cologne again, I wasn’t willing to throw it away until several months after my wife died. By then my addiction had been broken, and I didn’t need or want the cologne any longer.
Pure and Natural Essential Oils are Nothing like Artificial Fragrances
People who are familiar with natural essential oils and use them for medicinal purposes can immediately distinguish between the fragrances that God has provided to us, and the imitation fragrances that come from fragrance factories. After working with essential oils for over a dozen years, I now experience the synthetic fragrances in perfumes, colognes, scented laundry products, and air fresheners as possessing a disgusting stench. For me it is like placing my nose near an automobile exhaust pipe when the engine is running and taking a deep breath.
The experience of smelling synthetic fragrances is nothing like the experience of smelling the gentle fragrance of living flowers and plants. When I stand beside a blooming rose bush on the seacoast of Maine or beside a fragrant hedge of lilacs in early summer, I am captivated by the splendor of God’s creation. I can’t help praising God for the gift. Natural essential oils have the capacity to heal, because they preserve the life-giving substances that were naturally present in the plants from which they were produced.
In contrast, when I walk into a room containing scented candles or a plug-in air freshener, or attend a morning meeting where people smell of freshly applied perfumes and colognes, I want to pinch my nose and run. Even though I only experience a small number of negative health reactions to artificially scented products, I am repulsed by them. These synthetic smells attempt to imitate life — but they can’t do it. They are nothing but dead concoctions of chemical compounds.
Artificial Fragrances are more like Gasoline than Flowers
Artificial fragrances are made from petroleum and coal tar. They are not made from plants.
To the readers of this who do not yet understand the qualitative difference between natural essential oils and synthetic fragrances made in a factory, please consider this analogy. Have you ever filled the gas tank of your car with a leaky gas pump handle and gotten gasoline on your hands? Most people have done this, and usually don’t like the experience. They can’t wait to wash off the gasoline.
For me and many others, when we shake hands with a man who has recently sprinkled cologne on his hands prior to rubbing it on his face and neck, I feel like I just grabbed hold of the gas pump handle — his smell is now my smell.
Hugs are nice, but when a woman is wearing highly scented designer hand lotion and gives me a hug and rubs her hands on my clothing, I feel like she rubbed gasoline on me – I am now wearing her scent.
When someone comes to visit me in my home, and sits on my furniture with clothing saturated in detergent fragrance, fabric softener fragrance, and dryer sheet fragrance with anti-static chemicals, the smell can linger in my house for days. 
There are some brands of laundry products, whose fragrances are so persistent, that they can linger in the fabric of furniture for several months. The experience is like having a guest deposit a few drops of gasoline on your sofa during an enjoyable visit. Yes, the visit was enjoyable, but what do you do with your sofa after your guests have gone, if you can’t sit on it without getting a migraine headache, having an asthma attack or falling asleep?
Constant Exposure to Artificial Fragrances dulls the Sense of Smell
Some people will be honestly puzzled by the preceding information which described the strength of synthetic fragrances. Some will say, “I know that I use scented detergent and dryer sheets; but I absolutely don’t smell anything on my clothing.” Or, “I know I put perfume on this morning, but that was hours ago; I can’t smell it at all now.”
These responses are similar to the responses of heavy cigarette smokers who often don’t realize or believe that their clothing, skin, hair, home, and automobile all reek of stale tobacco smoke. They don’t understand the extent to which the old smoky residue clings to them. It is only after they have given up smoking and their body begins to cleanse itself that they begin to realize how much their habit affected other people.
Constant exposure to tobacco smoke, synthetic fragrance, or any noxious odor dulls the sense of smell, which eventually can lead to permanent damage to olfactory sense organs.
Is Your Immune System being compromised by Artificial Fragrances?
People in the early stages of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) may also experience an impaired sense of smell, so that they are no longer aware of the substances that are challenging their bodies. This is especially true for substances that are used daily. In later stages of MCS, when the immune system can no longer handle the toxicity, the sense of smell becomes hypersensitive. In the hypersensitive stage, chemically sensitive people can smell other people’s laundry products when they are 10 to 20 feet away.
Many people in the early stages of MCS have absolutely no idea how strong their perfume and colognes are until friends and coworkers begin to complain about the air pollution.
I remember a summer day several years ago when two women passed by my home doing a lunchtime power-walk. I was 75 feet away from them in my backyard when I was suddenly struck motionless for a moment by the intensity of their perfume. They probably didn’t smell a thing. No healthy person would ever put on that much perfume.
Warning: You May be in Serious Danger of Developing an Environmental Illness!
Let this be your warning! If you no longer smell your scented laundry products and if people have told you that you are putting on too much perfume or cologne, then you may be in serious danger of developing an environmental illness. If you stop your constant exposure now, your immune system can still recover. If you choose to continue your habits, then a chemical induced disability might be in your future.
 “Fragrance: A Growing Health and Environmental Hazard,” Positive Health Online. http://www.positivehealth.com/article/environmental/fragrance-a-growing-health-and-environmental-hazard
 “Does Your Perfume Include Toxic Chemicals?” mercola.com. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/11/27/toxic-perfume-chemicals.aspx
 Conscious Choice: Smells Can Make You Sick, “Lynn Lawson has written one of the definitive books on the subject, Staying Well in a Toxic World: Understanding Environmental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Chemical Injuries, and Sick Building Syndrome. She says that every year there are a thousand new synthetic chemicals introduced into our environment for commercial use and the aroma chemical industry is largely unregulated. In personal grooming products alone, there are more than 5,000 different fragrances in use. But because chemical formulas of fragrances are considered trade secrets, companies aren’t required to list their ingredients and can label them as containing merely “fragrance.” One commissioned study conducted by an industry lab specializing in fragrance testing analyzed Calvin Klein’s “Eternity” cologne and found forty-one ingredients that were “toxic to the skin, respiratory tract, nervous and reproductive systems, and [in some cases] known to be carcinogens.” Testing for respiratory, neurological, and systemic effects are not part of the testing to determine whether fragrance chemicals are safe. Lawson, who has MCS herself, suggests that those who suspect they may be sensitive should test themselves in a grocery store. “One telltale sign,” she says, “is if you walk down the detergent aisle, where it’s mostly new synthetic products [chemicals] in fabric softeners and detergents…and the smell is very pungent and you get a prickling in your nose or a little pain in your head, a weakness in your muscles, a sick feeling in your stomach or nausea or cough or something like that. You can be pretty sure that you’re already chemically sensitive or are on your way to becoming so.”
 Anti-Static Chemicals in Dryer Sheets, Dryer Sheets contain Alpha Terpeneol Ê Benzyl Acetate Ê Benzyl Alcohol Camphor Ê Chloroform Ê Ethyl Acetate Limonene Ê Linalool Ê Pentane. Three of these chemicals appear on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste List. http://nontoxic.com/nontoxic/toxicfreedryersheets.html
The following links provide information about synthetic fragrances and chemical related illnesses, the specific chemicals that have been discussed, the health risks to all people who use chemically scented products, and the steps that physicians and various organizations are taking to improve indoor air quality and promote health. This list will help guide you to the information that you may need. It is not an endorsement of any of these organizations. You can find many additional resources by using your search engine to search for chemical sensitivity and fragrances.
“The Reckless Self-Interest of the Fragrance Industry,” mercola.com. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/22/the-reckless-selfinterest-of-the-fragrance-industry.aspx
The Chemical Injury Information Network.
A complete resource for the chemically injured (includes an extensive library of medical research). http://www.ciin.org
Chemical Sensitivity Foundation. http://www.chemicalsensitivityfoundation.org
Environmental Working Group — Skin Deep database. This is the most comprehensive list of safe skin care products, cosmetics, and cleaning products on the internet. http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/index.php?nothanks=1
“Fragrance-Free Encounters and No-Fragrance Spaces” – Not Just a Personal Preference, but a Vital Matter of Health (Brochure). http://www.ourlittleplace.com/fragfree.html
Global Recognition Campaign for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Chemical Injury, Chemical Hypersensitivity, Environmental Illness and other chemically induced illnesses and diseases affecting Civilians and Military personnel. http://www.mcs-global.org
Health Risks of Perfume. http://www.ourlittleplace.com/perfume.html
MCS Referral and Resources. http://www.mcsrr.org/
Medical Help for MCS Persons: Treatments that May Benefit the Immune System. http://www.citlink.net/~bhima/medother.htm