Essential oils are the big thing right now. I don’t say it like that to down play them. I do believe they have their place in aromatherapy and other applications, but over the years you see trends come and go. Not to say that using essential oils should go.
Certain essential oils have some great benefits (I love Tea Tree oil!) and can be a great addition to a natural lifestyle, but caution should always be taken when using them. I am not an expert whatsoever, but I have researched enough to know that essential oils, though natural, are not always safe. I’ve read stories of people having bad reactions. Some of these stories were people using the essential oils improperly, but some of the stories were people using them in a way that they had been told was ok by a company or sales rep. Some people may be allergic to certain oils, while another person is not. You can even get sensitized to some oils after using it for a period of time.
My point is, I see this huge push for essential oil use. Some people want to have everything natural, even candles, using more natural waxes and using essential oils in candles. They don’t realize, however that just because something is “natural” doesn’t make it safe or effective to use and that it also depends on the form that you use it in.
I see these MLM companies pushing their products and making all sorts of claims, even going as far as to say that it’s ok to ingest essential oils, which, from what I’ve been researching, is not necessarily ok, especially on an ongoing basis. I think we need to view essential oils more like we view traditional medicine and take the same cautions and do the research on how to use them for certain things. They are highly concentrated and very strong. Some can burn your skin if used without a carrier oil. They enter your blood stream through your skin. We need to be careful with these claims of “natural”. Natural doesn’t always mean safe or effective.
One more thing to add. I think we need to remember that, yes, essential oils have been used for thousands of years, but how were they used? They didn’t have a commercial market for them like we do today. Usually it was the wealthy that were able to buy precious oils, and other oils were used medicinally meaning they didn’t use them all the time. They used them as we do traditional medicine today, only when needed. It would’ve cost too much to use them often anyway back then so I believe they used them sparingly. There are a lot of things that our ancestors did that they thought helped, health wise, that as time has gone on, people realized was not the right way to do things. (like bleeding people…..) So why are we so insistent that essential oils are some sort of great natural miracle. Has anyone talked to people throughout time to see how they were helped by them, or what some of the side effects were? Could some of it be superstition? Just something to think about.
We need to quit taking all these “natural” things and making them out to be miracle cures. They are not cure-alls. Yes, some essential oils are great for natural anti fungal and anti bacterial. Those are proven and you can see the results pretty quickly (I’ve used Tea Tree oil for fungal infections, bug bites, etc…). Some are excellent for helping clear your nose up when you have congestion just by smelling them. But then we get into the other claims that don’t have much clear proof to back them up. Some oils like lavender may promote calmness, but I believe that is mainly a placebo effect. I’ve used lavender essential oil recently for about a month straight,at bed time, diffused, and have not noticed any difference in relaxation and sleep. It smells good, don’t get me wrong, and sometimes just the smell of something can promote relaxation or energy, but that doesn’t mean there is any chemical reaction taking place in our body because of the makeup of the essential oil. I get that same peaceful or enjoyable feeling when I burn a beautiful smelling candle or wax melt that uses fragrance oil.
Now, back to the point of this post and off my soap box for just a moment.
Can you use essential oils in soy candles?
You can…. but should you? There have been many, many candle makers that have tried using essential oils in soy candles in place of fragrance oils that are specifically made for burning in candles. The one thing I hear in our Facebook group of nearly 8,000 members, is that essential oils just do not give off much scent and they are too expensive for the amount of oil you need to use for candle making. I have tried a few essential oils in my soy candles in the past and the only one that burned with an ok hot throw, was Lemongrass. Thankfully lemongrass essential oil is a lower cost oil, but it is still more expensive to use than a fragrance oil.
The other problem with using essential oils in candles is that essential oils are volatile, meaning they vaporize very easily (which is great when diffusing). However, this also means that they are not as stable as fragrance oils, and when burned in a candle, the essential oil loses it’s aromatherapy properties making it useless for that purpose. Some essential oils can even become toxic when burned, which, of course, defeats the purpose of why one would want to use essential oils in their candles in the first place.
Where’s the Proof?
I’ve been doing some digging to find sources that confirm this and found that heat does break down essential oil properties which is why it is best to use them in a cool mist or other type of non, or very low heat diffuser. Below I’ve listed some links to a few sources that confirm this.
This first link is to the DoTerra website. I do not promote DoTerra. They are an MLM company, which in itself is not necessarily bad, BUT, I believe their oils to be very expensive considering there are many other non-MLM companies our there that sell quality essential oils without the high markup because of having to pay distributors. I do no believe them to have some “special” secret to making their essential oils that somehow makes them far superior to any other company that sells them for less. Expensive does not always equal better quality. It just may be better marketing…. Anyway, I do like that they explain a little bit about how temperature affects essential oils though. www.doterra.com/US/en/brochures-magazines-doterra-living-winter-2015-2016-ask-dr-hill
Here’s another one from Young Living. I have the same sentiments about this company as I do DoTerra. They are MLM as well, and have their oils marked up quite high because of it. I’m sure I will get some backlash in the comments about my statements of these two companies but so be it. I hate seeing people I know spending a ridiculous amount of money on essential oils (or other products) that I know they could get for half the cost from many other sources that have been around longer than these two companies! BUT, again, Young Living also states that heat does break down essential oils, making them less effective or not at all: www.youngliving.com/blog/essential-oil-storage-the-basics/
Ok, here is one more source. This one is quite technical, but I was able to pick out that essential oils do degrade when exposed to heat. Some may tolerate higher temperatures than others, but from my research in a few other places, they don’t do well once the temp gets to around 80 degrees F and above. This means that if you need to heat your wax over that temperature (most soy candle waxes need to be heated to at least 100 degrees F just to get to the melting point), it will begin to break down the essential oils as soon as you add it to the candle wax, not to mention the heat once you begin burning the candle.
From Wiley Online Library. Here’s the link to the full study on essential oil stability onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12006 “Ambient temperature crucially influences essential oil stability in several respects: Generally, chemical reactions accelerate with increasing heat due to the temperature‐dependence of the reaction rate as expressed by the Arrhenius equation (Atkins 2002). Based thereon, the van’t Hoff law states that a temperature rise of 10 °C approximately doubles chemical reaction rates, a relation that can be consulted to predict stability at different temperatures (Glasl 1975). Hence, both autoxidation as well as decomposition of hydroperoxides advances with increasing temperature, even more so since heat is likely to contribute to the initial formation of free radicals (Choe and Min 2006)”
Sorry to be a Party Pooper…
While it may be very tempting to use essential oils in your soy candles so you can market your candles as all natural or use the “made with essential oils” or “aromatherapy benefits” label, I do not recommend it. There are many great fragrance oils that are specifically made for burning in candles and are phthalate free. If you need to find a good fragrance oil supplier, check out our “Best Fragrance Oils for Soy Candles” article and be sure to sign up to our newsletter to get a complete suppliers list!
I am open to your views on this topic as long as they are stated respectfully. If you have evidence for or contrary to what I have shared above, please respectfully share in the comments. As I said before, I am not an expert on essential oils. I have only done what research I could to find whether they are truly beneficial for use in soy candles.