According to Dr. Robert Pappas and Aromatic Plant Research Center, 80% of the essential oils on the market are adulterated. Is the number exaggerated? I think not, based on my 18 years of experiences purchasing oils from various companies. So, it is very likely that the essential oils you are using are not as pure as they are claimed to be.
In my clinical practice and teaching, I have seen people using essential oils from companies who sell them at unbelievably low prices and got allergic reactions due to the additives in the essential oils.
Essential oils use large quantities of plant materials. For example, it takes 50 rose flowers to create ONE drop of essential oil. How in the world can a 10ml of Rose otto costs $18.95 on Amazon? There are approximately 200-300 drops in 10ml! So we are looking at at least 10,000 roses to make 10ml! Can you buy 10,000 roses with $18.95?!
So how do you know if the company you purchase oils from is trustworthy?
First, let’s understand what an authentic essential oil is?
Genuine means absolutely unaltered. This means the addition of even natural substances is not permitted. Genuine essential oils should be
- 100% natural: this means no synthetic esters, emulsifying agents, petrol-based diluents such as mineral oil, dipropyleneglycol, phthalates, or any other synthetic additive.
- 100% pure: no similar essential oils may be added. For example, lavender is often extended with hybrid species called lavandins to create the oil.
- 100% complete: oils shall not be decolorized, recolored, or deterpenated. – Kurt Schnaubelt: Medical Aromatherapy 1999 Frogs Books
Second, why should you use only authentic essential oils?
Essential oils are the second metabolites of the plants, used by the plants to fight infections, attract pollinators, repel insects and other animals and to prevent competing plants from growing nearby. As you see, they are complex and complicated. They are not just a combination of various components, but an organic expression of plants’ survival and reproduction. By using authentic essential oil, we become truly holistic – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Moreover, essential oils’ trace components are as important as major components and they form a synergistic energy and provide therapeutic properties for multiple systems in the body. Once this delicate equilibrium is broken by adding foreign ingredient to it, natural or synthetic, the essential oils will lose their inherent therapeutic properties. And your hard-earned money! You don’t want to spend it on some fake stuff, not to mention potentially dangerous, causing some allergic reactions.
Lastly, the guidelines to use when purchasing essential oils.
- do not believe the marketing gimmicks such as 100% pure, food grade (whatever that means), therapeutic etc. If the oils are genuine, they are therapeutic and 100% pure. The term food grade is for food industry that uses industrialized essential oils as food additives.
- Industrialized essential oils mean the essential oils are produced under high heat and high pressure in order to obtain the maximum amount of production. Under high heat and high pressure, some therapeutic properties are destroyed. Look for small scale distillers who use low heat and low distillation process to maintain the purity and potency of their essential oils. Quote Kurt’s definition.
- do not purchase essential oils on Amazon, Ebay or Etsy, or any other commercial platforms where anyone can sign up and sell.
- do not purchase essential oils from companies that also sell soap making crafts.
- does the company purchase directly from their distillers and producers? Some boutique companies can not afford to purchase every single oil from distillers. This is fine as long as the majority of their oils come directly from their distillers.
- does their website provide in-depth essential oils education/blogs?
- does their label list the source of the essential oil and their corresponding Latin name?
- does the company’s website provide detailed essential oils’ profiles such as origins, properties, safety, distillation date and shelf life and their batch history? Distillation date is very important. Essential oils except a few such as Patchouli, start degrading once extracted. And essential oils do have shelf life!
- does the company have sustainability practice that gives back to the local community?
- does the company have in-house labs to test the essential oils for purity, pesticides, heavy metals etc? If they don’t, do they outsource the testing? And who is the outside lab they use?
- Does the company provide GC/MS report? Manufacturer’s Certificate of Compliance or CoA means nothing when it comes to the purity of the essential oils. However, if a company does not provide GC/MS report, it doesn’t mean that the company is selling adulterated oils. Many times, it is due to the limit of their resources.
- what does your nose tell you? Smell weird? Trust your nose!
- if the price is too good to be true, then it is!