Comments on a response from Chrissie Wildwood, over a letter from the Aromatherapy Trade Council (UK):By Tony Burfield

I would like to point browsers to Martin Watt’s website (see link below), to read a reply by Chrissie Wildwood to an article entitled “Environmental Issues and Aromatherapy” by Sylvia Baker representing the Aromatherapy Trades Council (ATC). This first appeared in Natural Medicines Society's Newsletter, Spring 2003.

Meanwhile here are some additional comments:

Personally I find it rather curious that Sylvia Baker on behalf of the ATC, should advocate a policy, which continues the exploitation of Rosewood species (see link), rather than look for possible alternatives. Sylla Sheppard-Hanger and I have just completed an article for inclusion in the next edition of Aromatherapy Today, which attempts to follows the BMA’s replacement policy on this; I quote a small section of the article:

“Part of a proposal by the Botanical Medicinal Academy (BMA) recommends investigation of the use of substitute plants for endangered or threatened plants (Yarnell E. & Abascal K. 2001). In the absence of any lead in this direction from any professional aromatherapy organisation, and with the BMA’s policy in mind, the properties of Brazilian rosewood oil (Aniba spp.) is now considered, and possible suitable replacement oils are examined.”

Further it was red rag to a bull for Sylvia to make this statement:

“With wood oils, such as rosewood and sandalwood, the trade is fully aware of the need for sustainable sources and the governments involved have strict procedures in place to control production.”

The failure of the loggers to comply with the Brazilian government’s legal requirement to replace felled rosewood trees with an equivalent number of replanted ones, is precisely what has deepened this crisis. Further, the “strict procedures in place to control production” did not actually stop many essential oil traders importing smuggled sandalwood oil from India by the ton in the past few years. It just makes me wonder where the ATC was in stopping this semi-universal practice - surely it was aware it was going on?

And again:

“Responsible essential oil traders that are members of trade associations, such as the ATC, are able to trace their supplies of essential oils back to their origins.”

That’s an amazing statement. Rosewood oil shipped from the States is universally acknowledged to contain synthetic linalol – its called US quality. Please verify this by looking at any reference book – Coppen (1995) page 30 says: “American oil, … is stretched by addition of synthetic linalol to give a slightly lower price oil”. Unless your ATC members universally purchase from companies shipping out of Manaus (and to my certain knowledge they don’t) then its ‘origin’ is some vat in the backyard of an aroma chemical company’s premises. Many buyers regard that the only way of certifying Rosewood oil quality is not by any sort of reliance in tracing back to origin, but by actual chemical analysis of the oil - here eremophilene levels are taken as a quality indicator by some analysts (see article mentioned above). 

Fiddles with Sandalwood “oil” are even more extensive… perhaps that subject can be explored another time, producers employing solvent extraction of the spent distillation saw dust wastes to produce an “oil” which is added back to the low pressure steam distilled oil have caused me some particular problems in recent weeks….

“All in all, it is fair to say that while the aromatherapy industry must remain ever vigilant, it is not the villain in the demise of plants.  Other much larger industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry, must take much of the responsibility for this and campaigners should be targeting those larger industries that really can make a difference to sustainable sources.”    

We all have different experiences, but I personally believe that the ethics of some aromatherapy oil sellers are considerably poorer than those I have experienced in international companies who have their reputations to consider. But basically this is a disgraceful pro-AT industry cop-out – Sylvia is playing the politician by saying it’s somebody else’s problem. It isn’t. It’s everybody’s problem. 

….To see the article you just need to follow the link