Why Therapeutic Essential Oils Cannot be Made in a Lab

Natural and Synthetic Oils

There are major differences between synthetic oils (made in a lab) and botanical oils (derived from plants).  Essential oils with therapeutic qualities can only come from a plant which has been properly cultivated, harvested, and distilled.

Now we’re going to talk a little chemistry here, but I promise it will be painless!  Some of these terms will probably start to ring a bell from your high school chem class!

Let’s Look at Wintergreen…

To better illustrate the differences in botanical and synthetic oils, let’s take a look at wintergreen.  The main component in wintergreen essential oil is methyl salicylate, with the chemical formula of C8H8O3. (I know, bear with me!)

Of course, a chemist can certainly create methyl salicylate in the lab with the chemical formula of C8H8O3 – 8 carbon atoms, 8 hydrogen atoms, and 3 oxygen atoms.


Now you may remember learning about isomers once upon a time.  If not, isomers are two or more compounds with the same molecular formula but different molecular structures.  In other words, those 19 atoms of C8H8O3 can arrange themselves in many different ways, creating molecules of many different structural shapes.  These different shapes are responsible for creating C8H8O3 molecules with different properties.

There are 25 known isomers of the formula C8H8O3!  When a plant, like wintergreen, produces methyl salicylate, it only makes a single, pure isomer.  When a lab tries to create a single isomer, the result is a mixture of at least two isomers.

Why is This Important?

Natural and synthetic oil compounds can have the same chemical formulas, but different structural formulas and, thus, different effects upon our bodies.

– David Stewart Ph.D., Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple

Different isomers of the same compound can have completely opposite properties.  Some are helpful, some are harmful and even downright toxic.

Some essential oils available are a mixture of actual essential oil from a plant and synthetic oil.  Sadly, because there are no labeling regulations for this, a mixture of synthetic and natural oil can still be labeled as 100% Pure Essential Oil.

It is so important to understand where your oils are coming from!  Lesser quality oils should never be used for therapeutic purposes.

This is why I use the Young Living Essential Oil brand!  Only nature, in combination with careful growing, harvesting, and distilling, can create these oils!

*Disclaimer:  The information on this website is based upon my research and personal use of Young Living Essential Oils. I am not a doctor. Statements, products, and techniques mentioned have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  Read the full disclaimer here.

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