You've probably already heard about VOC's in paints and know that going into your home after using certain paints, you should probably be wearing a gas mask.
But did you know that in natural products, namely essential oils, there are naturally occurring VOC's?
The idea of this can be daunting to a new or expecting parent when they reach out to me wondering if they should still use their Prana+Therapy because they've heard that VOC's are bad.
The good news? Pure Essential Oils are natural VOC's — but we need to know what those are and why they are different to synthetic VOC's. Their purpose is not to harm us or our children.
In fact, they actually help us!
The difference between natural and synthetic VOC's
To understand the difference between VOCs in essential oils and VOCs in synthetic chemicals, you must first understand what a VOC is.
VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. A volatile organic compound is a type of organic compound that evaporates at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.
In other words, anything that has an odour or scent that you can smell at room temperature and rate of airflow (atmospheric pressure) is a VOC.
Please note that not all VOCs are dangerous, some of them are entirely harmless, and some have therapeutic use.
But be careful! Just because something is therapeutic doesn't mean it isn't dangerous.
At the same time, it means the danger depends on how much and how often it is used.
Good VOCs and Bad VOCs
Essential oils are volatile organic compounds, which is good news. They not only give off VOCs, but they are also VOCs.
However, VOCs released by synthetic chemicals accumulate in the body and cause inflammation.
At the same time, the VOCs in essential oils break down and clear away synthetic chemicals stored in your body and relieve inflammation and infection.
By the way, this fundamental understanding is what led to the development of Prana+Therapy.
Breathe in the Good VOC's
The truth is that essential oils have compounds that inhibit microbial growth in the body.
VOCs have been present in the earth and atmosphere long before humanity existed.
In fact, essential oils are non-toxic when used in the appropriate dosage or in safe forms. They are incredibly effective at killing mould and fungus. However, VOCs that come from chemicals inhaled can harm your health.
Air diffusers that use essential oils spread a minimal amount of oil into the environment. Unlike toxic chemical-based synthetic air fresheners, you cannot overdose on them, which can cause many adverse side effects.
Aromas emitted from essential oils help cleanse and purify the air, remove bacteria and mould, and detritus from our cells to facilitate improved cellular communication.
"Volatile" Sounds Dangerous.
The term "volatile" is a physical property describing how quickly the substance changes from a liquid to a gas at room temperature.
When someone says that essential oil is a "volatile substance", they state a fact, not expressing an opinion. Most things we come into contact with daily emit VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).
The word "organic" means different things in different contexts. In chemistry, anything containing carbon can be called organic. Carbon atoms can form long chains of molecules, making larger molecules called polymers.
You cannot remove all chemical VOCs from your environment, but you can use essential oils to make your home healthier and smell better.
VOCs are the silent danger.
VOCs omitting from chemicals don't just have an unpleasant smell. When highly concentrated inside your home and office, they become incredibly harmful to your health! When VOCs mix, their concentrations increase, resulting in a chemical stew and even more hazardous to your health. Note: Just because the environment may be absent of smell or aroma doesn't mean it is free of VOCs.
Indoor synthetic VOCs can cause or contribute to chronic headaches, eye and respiratory irritation, loss of coordination and nausea, damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system, and cancer; chemical VOCs cause reproductive harm by reducing fertility in men and women.
Mould and VOC's
There is a heresay that chemical VOCs kill mould. However, this is a fallacy! Moulds can live indoors or outdoors, even in cold environments such as refrigerators. Almost all moulds need moisture to survive, growing so well in bathrooms and basements. Since mould is so widespread, eliminating it from your house or office may be impossible, and using dangerous chemicals as cleaning agents may actually make the problem worse.
Essential oils are an effective, non-toxic way to prevent and eliminate mould growth. There hasn't been a lot of research on essential oils' abilities to kill mould. Still, research does show that essential oils containing highly concentrated terpene compounds can kill moulds because terpenes inhibit the growth of fungus, bacteria viruses* and other microbes.
There are unique chemical fingerprints in each essential oil. We instinctively sniff pure essential oils, and with just one single whiff of one tiny drop, our whole body is affected emotionally and physically.
The lungs are capable of quickly absorbing essential oils into the bloodstream. Because messages travel through the bloodstream and influence every cell in our bodies, the nose directly affects our brains. It is common to see a response to an essential oil immediately, or it may take longer, up to 20 minutes.
Essential oils contain hundreds of chemical constituents with many beneficial properties. However, not all essential oils are created equal.
Most commercially available essential oils are not in the pure form; they contain artificial chemicals or contaminants added during or after distillation.
Chemicals are everywhere in our environment. There has in the past been the thought that they make our lives easier. Particularly as they are readily available. We find them in just about everything from plastics, pesticides, cleaning products and even skincare.
Fortunately we are living in an age where we have choice. I personally feel that essential oil based products that use pure essential oils and natural ingredients are the best options.
This is because they have been used for centuries in many cultures and societies. Primarily used as household remedies for a variety of applications, ranging from medicinal to cosmetic to spiritual.
Studies show that essential oils can be effective in warding off disease-causing bacteria, parasites and viruses, protecting our internal organs and even boosting brain function.
All in all, essential oils can be a great way to add natural scents to your home. But it's important to do your research and remember the options that are available to you.
You don't want to just choose any product without considering whether or not it will actually do you good. As long as you approach your use of essential oils with mindfulness, you should have no problem at all.
* Wani AR, Yadav K, Khursheed A, Rather MA. An updated and comprehensive review of the antiviral potential of essential oils and their chemical constituents with special focus on their mechanism of action against various influenza and coronaviruses. Microb Pathog. 2021 Mar;152:104620. doi: 10.1016/j.micpath.2020.104620. Epub 2020 Nov 16. PMID: 33212200.