The founder of 21 Drops shares her secret Essential Oils tips and tricks.
Beginners in New York, this week I am interviewing Cary Caster, aka the Essential Oils lady behind the popular aromatherapy-to-go brand 21 Drops. With a solid background in ethnobotany and aromatherapy studies, Cary has agreed to share some of her secrets about how to use essential oils safely, the ways in which aromatherapy can be a great help to treat minor ailments, and why you should never ingest essential oils (despite it being all over Instagram. Don’t do it. Trust me on this one.)
21 Drops has made aromatherapy history by selling high-quality, already-prediluted essential oil blends that are ready to use. Conceived to help with a range of pretty common discomforts (sleep, stress, concentration…), their adorable packaging in convenient rollerballs and their glorious ingredients conquered my green heart a while ago. So much that the 21 Drops Wellness Gift Set was one of my favorite wanderluster holiday gift ideas in 2017. So if you have been curious about what essential oils are like, keep reading!
You have a long-lasting passion for nature. What inspired you to create 21 Drops?
Cary Caster: My passion for nature started when I was in high school and it led me to study Ethnobotany, the study of plants’ uses by indigenous cultures around the globe. I was particularly interested in learning about all the ways civilizations used plants as medicine. When I found out about essential oils along my journey, I decided to further my study in Aromatherapy in the UK in 2002. When I returned home after that year abroad, I realized that this modality was not being practiced to the same extent here in the USA. I really wanted more people to know about essential oils’ curative powers, but provide them in a simplified format. 21 drops® is my answer to creating essential oil solutions for customers without them needing to go through all the education that is necessary to make well-informed decision about using them.
How has New York City helped the launch of your brand?
Cary Caster: When I made the decision to create 21 drops®, I attended the Health and Beauty Expo at the Javits Center. There I heard several branding and packaging experts present to the audience and the rest was history. Even though I lived in FL, I traveled each month to NYC to take advantage of the numerous resources available, from packaging suppliers, manufacturers, to PR and marketing firms. NYC had endless great tried and true companies to choose from in all these areas. It was an especially fun and memorable experience to sit with over 15 big book editors within 3 days on a whirl wind tour when we first launched!
How can aromatherapy help treat minor discomforts?
Cary Caster: Aromatherapy is an easy way to treat many ailments because when we inhale the essential oils’ (EOs) tiny molecules through the nose, they travel directly across the blood/brain barrier to effect many systems of the body through the brain, our body’s control center. Their naturally occurring chemical component makeup resonate and effect our own chemistry and easily bring balance where systems are out of whack. For instance, when we are stressed, certain EOs contain chemical components that can calm the nervous system; if we have a stomach ache, certain EOs have the ability to reduce bloating and flatulence, etc…
21 Drops are pre-diluted and ready to be applied on the skin with no danger. What is the proper way to use essential oils?
Cary Caster: Essential oils can either be inhaled or applied to the skin in various form factors to bring about desired changes in the body. Because essential oil are highly concentrated, one would never want to put undiluted essential oils directly onto the skin, as it is both wasteful and too strong for the body. One should always dilute EOs before putting them onto the skin and while some oils may not cause an immediate skin irritation, this practice could cause sensitivities over time as well as being stressful on the eliminating organs of the body at full strength. The benefits of using a small amount of EOs throughout the day rather than too much at once is the proper way to experience EOs. One can also use EOs in a diffuser to spread the molecules into the air for inhalation, but the setting should be intermittent so as not to overwhelm the olfactory sense non stop.
What is your opinion about ingesting essential oils?
Cary Caster: While it seems ingesting EOs is all the craze lately, this is actually a very dangerous practice. Essential oils’ extremely concentrated nature can be damaging to the internal lining of the mouth, esophagus and stomach, especially after continued use. Taking essential oils internally actually disrupts the natural enzymes in our mouth and digestive track. Also, because the body’s enzymes begin breaking down the aromatic molecules immediately, one is not necessarily getting the direct benefits of their naturally-occurring active components. In addition, the antimicrobial nature of essential oils can greatly disrupt the natural flora of the mouth and stomach, thus, distressing the digestive track and the assimilation of one’s food. The other misconceptions is that adding EO’s to water will dilute them, but they are “oils” and do not mix in water without a solvent, so they are being ingested at full strength.
Are the 21 Drops blends safe for children and pregnant women?
Cary Caster: It is best to avoid using too many scented products with either natural, artificial or synthetic ingredients, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, if pregnant women are experience morning sickness, slight depression, sleep issues or other minor discomforts after the first trimester, essential oils are a gentle way to alleviate these uneasy sensations without concern if diluted properly (1-2%) or inhaled. For common pregnancy concerns, try Muscle Ease for lower back pain, De-Stress for anxiousness, Breathe for keeping your immune system functioning optimally, and Sleep for aiding in restlessness.
We recommend inhaling our 21 drops® blends instead of rolling them onto the skin, as they are diluted to a 5% concentration in organic jojoba oil. Pregnant women and children under the age of 2 can still get the same benefits from inhaling the safely diluted blends, as this is milder on the system than applying topically throughout the day, since there is still so much we don’t know about how essential oils affect the developing fetus.
What are your most popular blends?
Cary Caster: Our Sleep blend is by far our “hero” blend, with countless reorders since we launched 8 years ago. Our Focus, Detox and De-Stress blends follow close behind as favorites! And for those who suffer from aches and pains, our Muscle Ease has been a savior.
You have recently reformulated some of your products. What inspired you to make those changes in your lineup?
Cary Caster: We reformulated some of our blends to accommodate the availability of Organic ingredients as well as the overall popularity of certain scents. We took into consideration all the suggestions that were written in over our 8 years of being in business, and had many reviews of the new formula changes with positive feedback.
On your website, you talk a lot about GC-MS testing to explain why some essential oils are cheaper than others. Would you mind explaining that concept to our readers in simple terms?
Cary Caster: Because natural scents are easily replicated in the laboratory, a GC-MS report will tell if a particular batch has been adulterated or meets compliance standards of high quality. These batch specific tests are done by a sophisticated apparatus (Gas Chromatography- Mass Spectrometry) that actually separates out and identifies all the naturally occurring chemical components that exist in a particular sample of essential oils. If additional laboratory created scents are added to enhance the fragrance of the oil, this will disrupt the overall balance of naturally occurring chemical components within the sample. Thus it is always best to source your oils from companies that provide these test results because these test will show if there’s been any adulteration.
Aside from your essential oil rollerballs, do you have any other products in the works?
Cary Caster: Yes, we recently launched our diffusing oil concentrates and will very soon be offering some mist elixirs, as well as some single note oils.
Anna Ayers, the co-founder of the green hair care brand Rahua, left this question for you: What inspires you?
Cary Caster: I enjoy reading biographies of people in varying industries who made a conscious effort to make positive changes in the world. Their inspiring words motivated me to take the initial steps to follow my dream.
What would you like to ask our next interviewee?
Cary Caster: What makes your heart sing?
**As a note of precaution, we recommend that you consult your physician prior to using essential oils, especially if you have any health conditions. The opinions stated in this article do not constitute nor substitute proper medical advice and treatment.**