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Applications and operation

Fragrance as a factor in commercial success

There can be little doubt that the US market leads the way when it comes to brand development and retail expertise. In many respects, and certainly in commerce, America provides a model for organisations in Europe.

In America fragrance and commercial success have been seen to fit very well together. Extensive marketing and retail research have demonstrated that the introduction of fragrance can increase sales by as much as 20%!

The effects of essential oils are right at the heart of the successful commercial application of fragrance.

Werking van essentiële olie

At Vital Air we supply more than just fragrance. Although fragrance itself has proven commercial worth, the real added value of essential oils is in their vitalising properties, more specifically their purifying and even curative effects. In this section you will find information on the various applications of essential oils and their effects on humans.
See also: What are essential oils

Fragrance and atmosphere
Atomisation allows volatile oils to create a pleasant atmosphere, providing a sense of well-being and promoting relaxation. The Japanese have long used essential oils to produce effects like this in the working environment. Staff feel good, there is less sickness absence and greater productivity.

Removing undesirable odours is of course another welcome effect of essential oils. Powerfully scented oils like lemongrass, litsea, clove and cinnamon are ideal for this purpose.

Another benefit of atomisation of essential oils is the increased uptake of oxygen in the body. One school of medical thinking sees crucial links between illness and inadequate oxygen uptake. Too little oxygen means insufficient biological energy, resulting in fatigue. Essential oils are thought to increase the oxygen content of the blood. They contain molecules including atoms of oxygen and are thought to have the capacity to transport these molecules to the cells.

Pine oil is known to increase the quantity of ozone and negatively charged ions in the air: and the higher the levels of ozone and negatively charged ions in the air, the lower the risk of bacterial growth. Positively charged ions may accumulate in the air just before a thunderstorm and when large groups of people gather. This may give rise to feelings of oppressiveness, disquiet and anxiety. Essential oil atomisers are increasingly found in doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms, where they are thought to help patients relax and breathe easily.

Antiseptic properties
It is particularly important to combat pathogenic organisms in enclosed spaces, such as offices where the air conditioning hums all day and windows cannot be opened. Most significant factors: an improved working and living environment for staff and customers, and reduced sickness absence. Health effects like drowsiness, headaches, apathy and irritation of the eyes and the upper respiratory system are common. An immense amount of research has been carried out on the causes and prevention of this "sick building syndrome".

One significant explanation of this effect is the capacity of essential oils to penetrate bacterial and other cell membranes and so affect cellular metabolism. Oils are able to penetrate the cell membrane because they consist of very small molecules with lipophilic (fat-loving) characteristics. This allows them to render bacteria and even viruses harmless. Lighter molecules in particular can be readily atomised and distributed through the air. It is the so-called monoterpene compounds in essential oils which possess these powerful germicidal and air-purifying properties. All oils from the pine family (Pinaceae) and citrus family (Rutaceae) contain high levels of monoterpenes in their oils, giving them a powerful antiseptic effect in air. Oils such as olibanum also contain high levels of monoterpenes.

As early as 1955 Keller and Kober discovered the effectiveness of essential oils in knocking out bacteria in air, so controlling their numbers. They found a total of 21 essential oils with the capacity to reduce or even totally eliminate the microbial presence when atomised in a relatively enclosed space. Their tests included the following harmful microbes, each of which can give rise to health effects: Escherichia coli, Eberthella typhosa, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Streptococcus faecalis, Streptococcus pyogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus megatherium, Corynebacterium diphtheriae and Candida albicans.

Bardeau (1976) was also most enthusiastic about the use of essential oils in purifying the air. He investigated which oils had the most pronounced air purification effects. Oils were atomised and tested for their capacity to knock out bacteria like Proteus, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. 90% of the microbes were destroyed within 3 hours. The most effective oils were clove, lavender, lemon, marjoram, peppermint, niaouli, pine, rosemary and thyme.

Research carried out by Utrecht microbiologist K B Teeuw showed a clear link between the levels of a toxic bacterial product (endotoxin) and problems experienced with inflammations of the eyes and the upper respiratory tract. It is also possible that fungal spores can spread through dry air and cause their pathological effects.

In Australia, where sick building syndrome has resulted in high levels of sickness absence, a substance known as Bactigas was developed for dosing into air conditioning systems. This contained essential oils including tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia). The material was sprayed into the system at set intervals. It was notable how this led to a substantial reduction of fungal spores in the air, and even their complete disappearance. Building occupants experienced an increased sense of well-being and sickness rates declined. As well as these fungal spores, Bactigas also resulted in cleaner air with lower levels of pathogenic bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Pine oil has been atomised into the air supply in a number of British hospitals, particularly in burns units. The level of infection, a particular problem with burn injuries, was found to fall off as a result of the atomisation of pine oil.

Asthma and the common cold
Essential oils have long had a place in the composition of cough remedies, where they often serve as the active ingredients. In their 1970 study Oyd and Sheppard concluded that expectorants (including many oils) are far more effective when inhaled than when they are swallowed.

Charron (1997) used spike lavender (2 drops in a basin of hot water) with 40 patients with bronchial and sinus congestion. All patients benefited from the treatment. Some had used antibiotics over a period of years, and in several cases this was no longer necessary.

Machon (2001) looked at the effects of a mixture of eucalyptus, ravensara, pine and peppermint on sinus infections. 8 patients used 3 drops in a steam inhalation (10 minutes) 3 times daily for a total of 5 days. 3 other subjects used the steam inhalation alone, without the addition of the oil mixture. The group using essential oils improved to the extent that 3 of the 5 subjects were now free of congestion and a further 2 were almost free of respiratory complaints. After the fifth day their mucus was found to be completely clear. In the control group the level of congestion was unchanged and the mucus discharge remained discoloured, a sign of infection.

Asthma can also be improved through the administration of some (but not all) essential oils. Certain types of eucalyptus and benzoin have been used by health professionals.

Like to know more?

Read more about commercial applications of fragrances:

Brand Strategy Blog

Brand Sense door Martin Lindstrom

Lees meer over de kracht van geur:

Oxford Journal - wetenschappelijk onderzoek naar het Proustian effect.

Sense of smell institute

Lees meer over verbetering van de luchtkwaliteit door essentiële olie:

Onderzoekster Diotima von Kempski in Journal of the Human-Environmental system

Bardeau, F. (1976) - use of essential aromatic oils to purify and deodorize the air.
*/Le Chirurgien-Dentiste de France/* pp. 46-53

Boyd, E., Sheppard, P. (1970) - nutmeg and camphene as inhaled expectorants
/Archives of Otolaryngology (Chicago)/ 92: pp. 372-378

Buckle, J. - Clinical Aromatherapy - Churchill Livingstone 2003

Charron, J. (1997) - use of /Lavandula// latifolia/ as an expectorant /Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine/ 3(3) pag 211

Filipsson, A. (1996) - short term inhalation exposure to turpentine, toxicokinetics and acute effects in men/Occupational and Environmental Medicine/ 53(2) pp. 100-105

Hellema, H. - Geur en gedrag. Uitgeverij De Brink - 1994

Keller, W., Kober, W. (1954) - Möglichkeiten der Verwendung ätherischer Öle zur Raumdesinfection /Arzneiforschung/ 5 (4), pp. 224-229

Lockhart, N. (2000) - Inhalation of frankincense and its effects on asthmatics Unpublished dissertation in Buckle, J. (2003)

Machon, L. (2001) - Use of four essential oils in the treatment of sinus infections -unpublished dissertation in Buckle, J. (2003)

Pitcher, L. (2001) - the effects of /Mentha// piperita/ on chronic upper respiratory symptoms in adults - unpublished dissertation in Buckle, J. (2003)

Stevenson, C. (1995) - Aromatherapy In: Rankin-Box, D. (ed) - The Nurses' Handbook of Complementary Therapies - London Churchill Livingstone, pp. 52-58