Essential oil smells vs. their edible counterparts
OK, so this is a little off-topic from actual cooking, but since many essential oils are made from products that are also used in cooking (and since several google searches on this have revealed nothing) I thought I'd ask you all anyway, in case someone can help enlighten me about this.
So I cannot stand the smell of essential oils. I experience them as suffocatingly overpowering and cloying, with the exception of pure citrus oils, which I find very pleasant. Because of this I have a very negative association with them and have stayed away from them completely.
Then yesterday a client of mine came in with some essential oils on her hands that apparently had something to do with boosting the immune system among other things (I have no opinion on the validity of this idea, btw). She said it was a combination of orange, clove, cinnamon, and thyme. Now if I had these exact things simmering in water on my stove I would probably love the smell, but in essential oil form I found it overpowering and disgusting. Anyhow, a few minutes later I had a bizarre coughing attack, and then a few minutes after THAT my previously very clogged sinuses cleared completely. I was intrigued, and yet because of my extreme aversion still don't really relish the idea of using the oils.
It got me thinking, though, I have told a number of people about my reaction to essential oils, and so far no one seems to share it. I googled many variations on the sentence "I find essential oils cloying and disgusting" and found nothing. So I thought I would ask you, a community of people who I assume have a pretty refined sense of smell on the whole, are there others like me out there? Is it merely the intensity of the smell of the oils that makes me react to the oil-version so differently than the food-version (citrus excepted)? Is there something present in, say, thyme oil or cinnamon oil or that is perhaps mitigated by other compounds present in thyme-the-herb or cinnamon-the-spice so that it doesn't bother me in food-form? Any thoughts?
It may be that you are taking too much of a 'hit' of the essential oils. Essential oils (with volatile odor components) are highly concentrated and the reason you don't have reaction when they are in whole form is because in plant form, it's extremely dilute. Sometimes so dilute that it is difficult to measure even with the best spectroscopic instruments. Each oil has it's own particular chemical structure which is what makes a clove oil smell like cloves and citrus oil smell like oranges, lemons, or limes. Some are much more potent than others, as you found with most except citrus oils.
When using essential oils, you almost always use a drop or two unless you are making a large batch of something (cookies, lotions, perfumes, etc).
You may also be more sensitive to volatile oils (fragrances) than most people. There are people who get ill from perfumes that linger, even minutes after the wearer leaves the room.
I have a theory that you had a reaction to the cinnamon oil. Cinnamon oil can sort of give you a bit of a high as well.
So use it diluted and use it sparingly.
@Susan W: yes, the heat/humidity is atrocious, but it was even worse a few weeks ago! I live out in La Mesa, so the temp is even higher here. And I'm so glad you mentioned that restaurant! (I've never been there (I don't eat in north county that often b/c I live in east count), but our local Mexican joint that we used to love has gone downhill over the past few years so I am very glad to get recommendations for a replacement - thanks!
Off subject, but it's so horribly hot and humid here in SD. Even right down on the boardwalk in Mission Beach. AND..have you been to Agave in Del Mar? OMG..some of the best mole I've ever had and what a great little spot. Up on the hill in Del Mar Plaza with a nice view of the ocean.