Essential Oils Blog

Vibrant Vanilla!


Most of us instantly recognize the scent of vanilla.  For me, it brings back treasured memories of watching my Mom work her magic in the kitchen.  As a young girl, I felt proud to “help” her measure vanilla extract into the measuring spoon and then add it to the cake batter or cookie dough.  I often spilled it, but she still let me try each time.   😉

Have you ever wondered why real vanilla beans and vanilla extract are SO expensive?  Growing, harvesting, and processing true vanilla beans is time-consuming, painstaking, and still mostly done by hand!

Vanilla “beans” (properly called pods) are the fruit of the Vanilla planifolia orchid, and it’s the most commonly grown variety of vanilla. The orchid is native to Mexico and other Central American countries but is now grown world wide, with most of today’s commercial vanilla crop coming from Indonesia and Madagascar. [1,2]  Initial attempts to grow vanilla outside of Central America failed completely; Spanish conquistadors who brought the orchids back to Europe failed to recognize that vanilla fruit won’t grow without being pollinated by a certain type of bee!  The method of hand pollinating vanilla was discovered  and refined in the mid-1800s, allowing vanilla to be grown in various locales. [2]

Since vanilla flowers only last about 24 hours, the orchids must be inspected each day and hand-pollinated one at a time.  Once the pollinated flower “sets” fruit (a process which takes 5-6 weeks), the pods will mature on the stem for about six months before they are harvested.

Harvesting and curing vanilla pods is even more intensive work than the hand pollination process.  To avoid producing an inferior product, suppliers hand-pick pods at precisely the right time, just when the bean begins yellowing and the terminal end starts to split.  The curing process begins after harvesting, which involves “killing” the bean (stopping the maturation process) by various methods.  Beans can be dunked in boiling water, frozen, “scratched” down their length, heated in a low oven,  or dried  in the sun.  Further curing  includes “sweating” the pods, drying them, and then “conditioning” them. The whole process involves at least another six months before the lovely aromatic beans are ready for grading and shipping. [3]

People often ask, “What type of vanilla essential oil should I use/purchase?”  First, technically speaking, there is no such thing as a vanilla essential oil.  The term “essential oil” refers to products obtained during steam distillation or cold pressing of plant material. Since they are not obtained by either process, the term “essential oil” can’t be applied to vanilla products. For aromatherapy purposes, vanilla is obtained either by solvent extraction (vanilla absolute or oleoresin) or by C02 extraction (vanilla C02).  There are two vanilla products offered by Plant Therapy, vanilla oleoresin and vanilla 12% C02 extraction.


Vanilla Oleoresin       10mlBottle-vanilla-front

Vanilla Oleoresin is a concentrated product made by removing the solvent (usually ethanol) from vanilla extract. Depending on how  concentrated the product is, it can be liquid or semi-solid. This explains disagreement in the aromatherapy community as to whether or not vanilla oleoresin can be used in diffusers. I’ve owned both a semi-solid and a more liquid oleoresin; I found that frequent use of the thicker oleoresin tended to clog my diffusers.  The more liquid oleoresin I currently have from Plant Therapy has not clogged them.  The type of diffuser may  have some bearing as to whether or not clogging will occur; ultrasonic diffusers that use water may clog less, and nebulizing diffusers that spray just a mist of the product might tend to clog more.

As vanilla oleoresin only emulsifies (mixes) fully in ethanol (alcohol), it’s a bit more challenging to work with when making product blends.  For instance, when you put vanilla oleoresin into a carrier oil, the oleoresin will sink to the bottom in a “blob” and remain there. But if you put a bit of oleoresin into an alcohol like vodka, it will dissolve completely.  I did a little experiment and took pictures to illustrate what I mean.

IMG_0922             IMG_0917

In the first photo we see plain jojoba oil and vodka in the two beakers.  In the second photo, I placed 3 drops of vanilla oleoresin into each beaker. You can see that the oleoresin remains in a “blob” at the bottom of the jojoba oil, but the oleoresin emulsifies (mixes) completely in the vodka.  If you want a product where there’s no separation of components (as seen in the jojoba and oleoresin example)  then you’d be better off using vanilla C02 extraction.

I make a luscious salt scrub using vanilla oleoresin, coffee essential oil, and sweet orange oil–it smells like a caramel latte!  Here’s the recipe:

  • 1/2  cup finely textured sea salt (it doesn’t have to be fancy, though–plain table salt will do.)  I whizz up my salt in the spice grinder to make sure it’s extra fine.
  • 1/4 cup carrier oil.  You can use any oil you wish–olive, sweet almond, etc.–for this recipe I chose jojoba.
  • Coffee and sweet orange essential oils and vanilla oleoresin (108 total drops for a 2% dilution–experiment with a few drops of each first to see if you like more of a coffee, vanilla, or orange aroma to stand out.)

Add the essential oil/oleoresin combination to the carrier oil and mix; let stand for a few minutes to meld the aromas together.  Then, drizzle the oil mix into the sea salt, stirring until you get the consistency you like.  If you like your scrub “runnier”, add more oil; if you like it “scoopable” or with a firmer texture, use more salt.  Place into a container with a lid and use within a couple of weeks, as the product has no preservative.

(Note: the scrub contains no water, so it *technically* needs no preserving….but if you’re using it in the tub or shower, it’s going to get wet and it will eventually grow mold.) For these kinds of products, it’s better to make smaller batches more frequently than to make a larger batch that may spoil before it’s used up. You can also substitute brown sugar for the salt for a luscious sugar scrub.



Vanilla 12% C02             5mlBottle-vanilla12percent-front_2


Vanilla 12% C02 is obtained by the method of supercritical carbon dioxide (chemical formula: C02) extraction.  Under pressure, C02 gas transforms into an “almost” liquid phase called the supercritical state. Plant material (in this case, vanilla pods/seeds) is placed into an airtight receptacle and carbon dioxide gas is pumped in under pressure; low heat is also applied to aid extraction.

As the pressure inside the container rises, C02 gas nearly liquifies, bathing the plant material in supercritical C02. The combination of high pressure and low temperatures encourages the plant material to releases its aromatic components. After a period of time, pressure is reduced and the supercritical C02 then changes back to its gaseous state, completely disappearing from the extracted material.

Vanilla 12% C02 extraction emulsifies completely in carrier oil; I love   infusing it into jojoba oil for lip balms.  Add 18 drops of vanilla 12% C02 per ounce of jojoba oil and mix thoroughly; then you can use the aromatic infused jojoba oil as the liquid oil part of your favorite lip balm recipe.

I’m often asked what the “12%” refers to in the title of the product. 12% refers to the percentage of the naturally occurring component vanillin, which provides vanilla with its characteristic warm, sweet aroma. There are also C02 extracts containing 26% and 30% vanillin; these are often used in perfumery and are a bit more challenging to work with as they are solid or semi-solid at room temperature.

Finally, people ask why Plant Therapy labels vanilla C02 extract as safe for use in children, but not the oleoresin.  Since oleoresin incompletely emulsifies in carrier oil, it’s possible that undiluted particles of oleoresin would come into contact with skin when mixed in a blend.  The chances of an adverse reaction are very small, but as safety is our priority, we prefer to label the products in this manner.

We want you to learn as much as you want to about essential oils and how to use them safely. If you have any questions, comments or other concerns, you’re welcome to email us at Or come join us on Facebook at Safe Essential Oil Recipes!

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.33.55 AM



  1.  Lubinsky P, Bory S, Hernandez-Hernandez J et al.  Origins and Dispersal of Cultivated Vanilla.  Economic Botany 62 (2): 127-38, 2008.
  2. Correll D.  Vanilla: Its Botany, History, Cultivation, and Economic Importance.  Economic Botany 7: (4), 291-358, 1953.
  3. Havkin-Frenkl D, French JC, Pak FE, Frenkl C.   Interrelation of Curing and Botany in Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) Bean.  Acta Horticulturae 2004: 93-102.


Topical Application vs. Inhalation: When & How to Choose

Do you have questions (2)

We are often asked, “How do I know where to put these essential oils on my body?” or “Where can I apply ______ for the best results?” Well, let’s take the guess work out of it by answering a few questions and using this handy chart!

Choosing topical vs. inhalation-2

These are not “hard and fast” rules about how to use essential oils, but rather is a general guideline. You may find that a certain way works better for you! We all know how amazing a good massage can be and you can certainly use essential oils for relaxation during a massage as well :) As long as you are following safety precautions and using essential oils suitable for you or the person who will be using them , then you’re doing just fine.

As always, we want to hear from you! Contact us by emailing for any questions, concerns or comments you may have. You can join our Facebook group Safe Essential Oil Recipes and participate in lively conversation with other essential oils users. We have your safety in mind – so come hang out with us to learn even more! We look forward to seeing you there!

How to make a Compress!

Edited Banner PT creative-2

Ever wondered what it means to make a “compress”? This is a technique that is truly a lost art for many of us. A compress is an absorbent pad applied to an area of the body that requires some additional love. Creating a compress is very simple, and takes only simple ingredients. Let’s take a look below how to create your very own compress.

Untitled design

When choosing the temperature of your compress, you’ll want to consider the reason for use. Did you overwork your muscles at the gym this morning? Try a warm compress to relax the muscles. Do you have a bruise or did you step down on your ankle wrong? Try a cool compress to discourage additional bruising.

To begin, Epsom salt or himalayan salt  should be added, 1/4 cup per cup of water. Stir well to dissolve. Then take a soft cloth and soak in the epsom salt/water mixture. Wring out and apply to the area of concern. This is the most basic compress you can create.

I like to boost the benefits of these compresses by using hydrosols. Calendula, chamomile, helichrysum and lavender are all very nice when dealing with minor bumps, bruises and broken skin. To relax muscles reach for eucalyptus, marjoram,  peppermint or rosemary. You can add 1/4-1/2 cup per cup of water for a total of 1 – 1/2 cups plus the 1/4 cup epsom salt. I especially like using marjoram compress on my neck and shoulders after a long day, the warm, relaxing compress is very soothing and is a great way to find some zen just before bed!

Of course, adding essential oils can further bump up the benefits for your compress. Remember that less is more! A few drops are all that will be necessary. Try 2-3 drops of lavender or roman chamomile in a cup or so of water for your compress to soothe your fussy toddler when teeth begin to make their appearance. Apply to outer jawline for a few minutes, as tolerated.

Always be certain that the choices you make (either hydrosol or essential oil) is considered safe for the person using the compress. When using hot water, be sure it’s a safe temperature before applying to the skin and keep hot water away from small kids.

As always, we want to hear from you! Contact us by emailing for any questions, concerns or comments you may have. You can join our Facebook group Safe Essential Oil Recipes and participate in lively conversation with other essential oils users. We have your safety in mind – so come hang out with us to learn even more! We look forward to seeing you there!

Hydrosol Profile: Geranium


Geranium Hydrosol is much lighter in scent that the essential oil. In fact, I prefer it in room sprays since it’s lighter fragrance isn’t as overpowering!


What else can you do with Geranium Hydrosol? Check out a few other ideas below:

  • When you need a mood boost, spritz yourself with some Geranium hydrosol
  • Use 1 cup of water with 1/4 cup of geranium hydrosol in a spray bottle to mist clothing fresh out of the dryer. This accomplishes two goals, a soothing, soft scent along with loosening any last wrinkles from the garment

You should have a collection now, between the essential oils profiles and the hydrosols! Don’t forget, these are printable!! Our goal is to get you as much information so you can make educated decisions for yourself and your family when using natural products! Enjoy! If you have any questions regarding these or any other recipes you find on our blog, please be in touch by emailing us at We look forward to helping you in any way that we can.

Ambient Diffusion

Edited Banner PT creative-2

We often talk about diffusers and how to use them. However, what if you don’t have one? Ambient diffusion is your answer – this simply means allowing the essential oils to scent the air without any mechanical means or through the use of heat. Remember those bags of potpourri that line the shelves of craft stores in the fall & winter? That is an excellent example of passive or ambient diffusion. There are a few other ways you can accomplish this outlined below.

Aromastones can be handmade by you using a porous clay and simply rolling to into small shapes. You can decorate them if you wish, but don’t use paint of any kind – this won’t allow the essential oil to absorb. Clay decorations are another fun way to passively diffuse essential oils. These shapes can be round or even cut outs. Think fun cookie cutters! Get your kids involved, this is one where they can express their creativity too.

Untitled design

Dried fruit, pinecones and other items from nature. Go on a scavenger hunt with your kids and gather up small twigs, pinecones, leaves and other fun organic items. Bring them in (be sure to check them for hitchhiking bug, then shoo those outside) and place them in a pretty bowl. Now, add a sprinkle of your favorite scent and leave it sit on your hall table or bathroom vanity!

Finally, check out out aromashell diffuser. This little guy gently heats the oil that you drop into a metal pan. It’s inexpensive and a nice way to scent your home without overdoing it!

As always, we want to hear from you! Contact us by emailing for any questions, concerns or comments you may have. You can join our Facebook group Safe Essential Oil Recipes and participate in lively conversation with other essential oils users. We have your safety in mind – so come hang out with us to learn even more! We look forward to seeing you there!