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The history of lavender oil: Disturbing inferences for the future of essential oils

Contact Author E.F.K. Denny
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In Greek tragedy the hero is often depicted as elevating himself to the point where he challenges the gods, who then destroy him. By learning from nature, the fine chemicals industry has made great advance, which are helpful to the perfumer. But the belief that whatever nature can do, science can now do better, is a dangerous illusion. The consequences of the illusion may already be showing in the perfumery industry's balance sheet.

As any perfumer could tell his or her policy-making superiors, our first lesson from nature is that she never makes a well-rounded and attractive perfume without backing up the main components with a small quantity of mixed trace constituents. Sometimes these traces are the most important part of the foumula. The difference between Otto of Rose and the simple mixture of citronellol and geraniol that comprises most of the oil is quite obvious. It is arguable that users of the otto are paying over thirty thousand dollars per kilo for the trace components, and are getting value for the money.