BEGINNER’S GUIDE - Chapter 3
Evaluating essential oil purity & quality
Purchasing essential oils from a trusted and reputable source is an important element of essential oil safety.
Impure or low-quality oils can contain harmful chemicals, which is the opposite of what you’re looking for in your efforts to enhance your health and wellbeing naturally.
Promises, guarantees, and grades of oils
As you begin shopping for essential oils, you’ll quickly realize that there are a lot of ways that each company will try to convince you that their oils are pure, safe, high-quality, and maybe even the only ones you should trust. While there are many reputable sources of essential oils out there, there’s also a lot of marketing to contend with.
First of all, there is no such thing as a grade of essential oil. So therapeutic grade, high grade, medical grade — these are all terms that anyone can use without having to prove it. Simply put, there is no recognized organization that certifies or grades essential oils. Essential oils are only either pure, or impure, and their purity can only be determined through a lab test called a Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry test, or GC/MS for short.
To confuse things even further, sometimes even reputable companies will use terms like therapeutic grade in response to competitive pressure. At Aromatics International, we call our oils therapeutic quality. We avoid the word “grade” because we know it can be confusing and a bit misleading.
The importance of GC/MS testing
GC/MS testing is the most reliable test of an essential oil’s purity. The test can isolate every component within an essential oil, as well as the exact amounts of each component.
Once the test is complete, it takes an expert chemist who is familiar with the properties of essential oils to read the test report and determine if the essential oil has the correct properties and is free of any added or unexpected ingredients.
Most reputable essential oil companies run these tests, and transparent companies make the test reports available on their websites.
Don’t be afraid to ask for this information if you aren’t able to find it on your own.
There is no reason why an essential oil company shouldn’t be testing their products or making the information available to help you make informed decisions as a consumer.
If you aren’t sure how to read GC/MS reports, that’s ok. We’ve provided some details to help you get started if you’d like to learn more, but just knowing that a company tests their oils and provides the reports is a step in the right direction toward trust.Reading GC/MS reports
Look for wildcrafted, organically grown, or certified organic essential oils
The way that plants are grown can make a significant impact on the quality of the essential oils they produce. If you’re moving toward a natural lifestyle that’s free of harmful chemicals, you’ll appreciate essential oils that come from plants grown as close to nature as possible.
There are multiple designations to be aware of that yield a pure and natural result. We stick with certified organic, organically grown, or wildcrafted essential oils. All three sources produce high-quality oils grown without pesticides or other chemicals.
Certified organic Certified organic means that the plants were grown by farmers who have completed the organic certification process. While organic certification is important, there are many places in the world where it is either unavailable or cost-prohibitive for farmers.
Organically grown Organically grown means that while the farm may not be certified, the farmer followed organic practices, including eliminating chemicals and pesticides from their farms.
WildcraftedAnother fantastic method is to find plants in the wild, where they grow best. Harvesting naturally occurring plants is called wildcrafting, a method that produces all-natural and high-quality oils. It’s important to keep sustainability in mind when wildcrafting, leaving enough of the plant behind to re-seed and grow again for future years.
At Aromatics International, we get to know each of our distillers on a personal level and work with small-scale producers who share our values of quality over profit. These relationships, combined with GC/MS purity testing, are a critical way we ensure purity and quality essential oils for our customers.
Additional ways to evaluate essential oil companies
Since finding a trusted source of essential oils can be a confusing process, we wanted to share a few other things to keep in mind to help you evaluate the companies you purchase from and ensure your essential oils are pure and safe to use.
- Is the company run by a certified aromatherapist?
- Is it a large national corporation that may be more interested in profit than reputation or quality?
- How long has the company been in business?
- Do they have a consistently positive reputation online?
- Do they have a close, personal connection to their farmers, distillers, and producers?
- Do they provide clear and complete information, including safety precautions and batch dates for their products?
- Do they provide GC/MS test reports for their essential oils?
If you feel comfortable with the answers to those questions, you are likely on the right track. Remember, if you aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and get the information you need to feel safe and confident in your purchases.