An Essential Read

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | March 1, 2017

Industry expert Nadim Shaath takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the history and the future of essential oils.

Christ, Cleopatra and kings—all were anointed with oil. The Bible alone includes 188 references to essential oils, and they are still cherished and widely used today. In fact, a recent study by Zion Research predicts the global essential oil market is growing at a CAGR of 9% and will reach $9.8 billion in sales by 2020.

Essential oils have a rich history and much of it has been beautifully captured by Nadim A. Shaath in his new book, Healing Civilizations, The Search for Therapeutic Essential Oils & Nutrients (Cameron Books, 2017 and available on Amazon.com). Together with photojournalist Thomas Hartwell, Shaath traces the routes of Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta and Christopher Columbus. His journey took him from Egypt, Jerusalem, Turkey and Greece to Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Uzbekistan, India, China, Japan and the Americas—a 25-year odyssey where he unearthed many of their therapeutic and aromatic benefits. During his quest, Shaath met with farmers, scientists, industrialists, healers, and historians to uncover the hidden power of these natural materials.

At the conclusion of his journey, the author had one key message for his audience: “We must go back to nature,” asserts Shaath. “Old ideas are new again.”

Benefits from Nature

He noted that, until recently, modern product formulators have largely overlooked or avoided including natural aromas from plants and flowers. But the author provides many good reasons to include these ingredients in a variety of formulations. He calls essential oil blends the ultimate mixture to effectively treat a variety of complaints. For example, anxiety, nervousness and panic may be treated with blends of basil, coriander, rose and jasmine—all calming and soothing oils.

Before his world travels to uncover the secrets of essential oils and fragrances, Shaath fashioned an impressive resume that includes a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Minnesota. He served as the executive vice president and technical director at Felton Worldwide and later, founded Kato Worldwide Ltd. Today, he is president of Alpha Research & Development Ltd., White Plains, NY.

Plenty of Beauty, Science and Advice

Hartwell’s photos of exotic lands, peoples and plants are visually stunning in this coffee table book and will certainly inspire conversation. But the hard-core chemist is not ignored in Healing Civilizations; Shaath provides details on 50 essential oils and absolutes, including physicochemical properties, regulatory status, safety data, price and perfumery scale, countries of origin, aromatherapeutic properties, stability and storage condition.

As Shaath explains, “I have listed in this chapter practically everything that the reader, or the user or quality evaluator will need to characterize and represent each of the 50 essential oils.”

These oils range from aniseed to clove to marjoram to ylang ylang.

Similarly, the reader will discover details on 20 fixed oils and therapeutic nutrients, including aloe vera gel, moringa oil, turmeric oil and virgin coconut oil.

He even provides advice regarding documentation when purchasing bulk fixed oils. These include: MSDS, specification sheet, certificate of analysis, naturalness and authenticity, Certificate of organically grown (if applicable), and A writeup of its constituents and properties and analytical data (GC/MS) where available.

But don’t take Shaath’s word for it; he’s a firm believer in analysis and quality control. In fact, he devoted an entire chapter to the topic. Through a masterful blend of story-telling, commentary and knowledge of chemistry, Shaath brings out essential oils’ glorious past as well as its promising future.

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