So far for Word Rant Wednesday I’ve gone over the challenge with terms like natural/botanical and bee keeper. The word we are going to take a closer look at today is one used in the food and flavoring industries that spills into perfume and body care: isolates.
There are two types of isolate molecules, the first one has been “isolated” from the source material like geraniol from geranium, usually utilizing some type of fractional distillation. The second, and most prevalent, are isolated molecules which have been recreated in a lab, “patented” and then sold as natural and organic, even if the source material is not from nature and contains GMO’s.
As I’ve shared in the history portion of my classes on aromatherapy and botanical perfume how modern medicine, in its current format, was created by men with an agenda to promote their patented pharmaceutical drugs instead of the wise woman path of plants. For example aspirin instead of white willow bark or the removal of an organ from the body instead of working with the patient to change on dietary and lifestyle changes are two excellent examples.
By using isolates in perfume and body care companies and niche, natural & botanical perfumers, are able to pump up certain types of scents in the products easily and cheaply. Thus the company creating the components and the user are mutually benefitting. The planet and sensitive human beings are the ones who lose because these lab created chemicals are not harmonious with creating the terrain of healthy microbes we ideally need to be cultivating.
Why not just use the first type of isolates, those derived via fractional distillation? Good question, the challenge is two fold, first of all isolates are not whole and thus do not contain the entire spectrum of nature in all her wisdom. Secondly when sourcing these isolated molecules it is know if the component is actually derived exclusively from an essential oil or one of the second type, which is being sold under the guise of natural & organic.
How do you know if your using essential oils that contain isolates? Avoid conglomerates, many located in New Jersey, that sell both synthetic and natural aroma chemicals. Ask your essential oil supplier lots of questions and demand clear and concise answers.
Many companies we normally associate with green beauty like Weleda use isolates to fragrance their products, mainly because of industry requirements. In the field of natural perfume the secondary group of lab created isolates have become somewhat “in” to easily boost a note by using a single molecule. Recently I was about to order Citron essential oil that I had assumed was whole since it was listed as an essential oil with a country of origin. To my surprise, the supplier warned me against it since he knew I was very specific about not wanting any essences that contain isolates. Citron is a yellow, lumpy skinned fruit with a sweet, tangy green and floral notes. For now I’ll be sticking with Bergamot instead of Citron or a chord with Lemon, Bergamot and a few others to continue on the path of formulating complex, authentic, botanical perfumes without compromising on ingredients.
If I wanted to get really fringe science with you, sorta Phillip K. Dick / sci-fi realm, we could contemplate the idea of the conglomerates mimicking nature and then wiping her out so that they would hold the patent on all life forms, but that would be a little over the top, right? Let’s instead smell some heirloom roses and pretend I never implied such a crazy idea.
Read more about what is happening with isolates in this article from Cosmetics Design.
Text, imagery and photos © Roxana Villa