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Why I no longer use essential oils at Hedgecraft Herbals

Posted by Sarah Stogryn on



Earlier this month I announced that I would be unveiling new formulas, packaging, and labels for Hedgecraft Herbals, to be more in line with the wise woman tradition and philosophy of healing. The wise woman way believes that the whole is greater than the mere sum of parts and that respecting the earth and all her gifts is of paramount importance. In the wise woman tradition we aim to nourish and support the person as a whole so that they can activate and manifest their own healing.

Hedgecraft Herbals products are born from love, intuition, experience, and education,  and are made to nurture the latent healing abilities uniquely encoded within our body.

The biggest shifts you'll see are that I am no longer using essential oils in my products, and am moving away from plastic packaging to amber glass (which you can wash and re-use at home).

These shifts are something I've been thinking about for a while.  I have been using essential oils personally for 20 years, and have seen the industry grow and change to the point where it is no longer sustainable.  I wasn't at all surprised to see the report this week from the US Department of Justice detailing the penalties for Young Living having illegally harvested essential oils from endangered plant species in order to meet consumer demand for the product.

Essential oils of course still have benefits, and many people even refer to them as a ‘gift from God’. It's a brilliant marketing move. By infusing religion into their branding, companies have made it ‘sinful' to even question best uses of essential oils -- after all they are a gift from God and who are we to question God?  I'd like to clear this myth up as it directly relates to why I'm no longer using essential oils at Hedgecraft Herbals.

It is not the essential oils separate from the plant which are the gift. The plant as a whole is a gift and by routinely separating out the ‘essence’  from the whole, we are actually disrespecting, even abusing, the sacred gift of plant medicine. 

It takes 25 lemons to produce a standard 15mL bottle of lemon essential oil;

One pound of peppermint leaves to make 15mL of peppermint oil; 

315 pounds of rose petals to produce 15mL of rose essential oil (no, those aren't typos).

Once the essential oil has been stripped from the plant the rest is left to waste.  That seems to me to be a terrible way to treat something which is supposed to be a sacred gift. Essential oils have become both a shortcut to, and disconnect from, true plant medicine. Herbal medicine is the people's medicine but essential oils are not something the average person can craft themselves. We are reliant on manufacturers with specialty equipment to create these substances for us to purchase (often at a price that makes them out of reach for many) which disconnects us from the plants and lets us make use of them without having become close enough to truly understand or appreciate them.

I have come to view essential oils as pharmaceuticals of the plant world: Concentrated. Effective. Relatively consistent in formulation. Must be purchased. And they come with greater risks. They are primarily used as a ‘break and enter’ approach to healing rather than a ‘connect, listen, nourish, tonify, support’ approach. It has its place, but just like we now know that taking antibiotics for a common cold does more harm than good, I believe we will soon come to understand that using essential oils  for every little thing rather than judiciously and intentionally when their strength is needed, does more harm than good too.

Of course there are those who say that part of the 'gift' of essential oils is that because they are all natural and 'from God' this means that they have no risks or side effects or potential harms. This is magical thinking that is contrary to both evidence and experience. If essential oils are powerfully effective and can have a significant positive impact in the body then they can ALSO have a significant negative impact. The positive and the negative are two sides of the same coin which cannot reasonably be separated no matter what marketing magic says to the contrary. 

I have always made my products with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and infancy in mind - using only very low dilutions of high quality organic essential oils and according to the safety guidelines recommended by Tisserand & Young in their world-renowned Safety Guide 2nd ed. I have chosen those low concentrations intentionally to maximize benefits, minimize risks, and respect the gift of the plant. That being said, the concentrated nature of essential oils means that even when diluted they can be too strong for the immature livers and thin skin of young infants to handle well. And even when used judiciously, by using them at all in my products I was contributing to a culture that disconnects us from the fullest gifts of herbal healing and plant medicine.

By shifting exclusively to the use of whole, premium, organic or wildcrafted herbs, Hedgecraft Herbals will be truly made with mother earth and the most vulnerable family members in mind.

Creating new products is probably my favorite part of business and so I am beyond excited to make this shift happen and get new, better, products into the hands of my friends, family, and of course each of my customers.

If you would like to learn more about sacred plant medicine, or the wise woman way, I would encourage you to check out the following links and resources:

http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/February05/healingwise.htm

http://www.susunweed.com/Article_Spirit_WiseWoman.htm

https://www.youtube.com/user/wisewomantradition

https://www.amazon.ca/Sacred-Plant-Medicine-American-Herbalism/dp/1591430585

If you want to dig deep into the world of healing plants I recommend contacting healers from Indigenous communities close to you &/or wildcrafting traditional herbalists in your area who can guide you towards local sources for learning and connecting. In the Quinte region, Native Renaissance II in Tyendinaga has a great selection of books available for purchase. 

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