Essential oil quality is certainly one of the hottest topics within the aromatherapy community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten into a debate in one of the many online natural health forums out there.
Many companies can be downright unethical in order to create a higher yield for less money. Practices like cutting expensive oil with less expensive/similar smelling oil such as Rose with Geranium, adding synthetic lauryl acetate to Lavender to make up for poor growing conditions or even diluting an essential oil with Jojoba and labeling it as undiluted are just some of the many ways big oil companies try to trick the public. The FDA does not regulate essential oils and because of this, variations exist. Companies can and do claim anything they want to on labels such as “100% pure undiluted oil” and the public is none the wiser.
It is frustrating as a trained aromatherapist to hear people claim that they have tried essential oils for a symptom and have been unsuccessful. Meanwhile they are purchasing low-grade essential oils thinking that they are buying quality. It gives aromatherapy and essential oils a bad name. If they only knew to invest a bit of money and research when acquiring quality essential oils from a reputable supplier, they would soon find out just how incredibly effective they can be.
While reading Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell this weekend, I came across her clear set of guidelines to help differentiate quality essential oils from those that are poorer in quality. It’s probably the best set of guidelines I have seen in writing and I’d like to share them with you. Emphasis is mine.
*All oils should be packages in amber, cobalt or violet glass bottles unless they are a sample size.
* All bottles should have tamper-proof caps and/or orifice reducers.
*All bottles should be labeled with the following information or should be readily available on the company’s website, catalog or brochure:
- Common name (i.e. Thyme)
- Scientific or Latin name (i.e. Thymus vulgaris)
- Chemotype, if applicable (i.e. Thymus vulgaris ct linalol)
- How oil was extracted (i.e. steam distillation)
- Part of plant oil was extracted from (i.e. Flowering tops)
- Country of origin (i.e. France)
- Amount of oil in bottle
- Company contact info
- growing method: wildcrafted, organic, conventional, etc
- The words “100% pure essential oil” or ingredients if blended
*Price – it should always be more than you want to pay. if it is a cheap deal then be ready for cheap oils. For instance if you see a 1/2 oz of Neroli being sold for $14 at one supplier and for $100 at another, you should know that something is up with the $14 one.
*Avoid large commercial brands in pharmacies, supermarkets or health food stores. These oils will always be of lower quality with a higher price tag to account for a series of middlemen they pass through before hitting shelves.
*The best oils are obtained via mail order.
*The best suppliers are usually small companies.
*The best companies usually do not sell essential oils and fragrance oils (synthetics). There are of course exceptions.
*The best suppliers can answer all of your questions in an educated and professional manner.
*The best suppliers have appropriately priced oils that show a large variation in price. Oils should never be similarly priced or priced the same per bottle.
*The best suppliers will most often have formal aromatherapy training and may even be educators, authors or chemists.
*The best suppliers offer a large variety of oils and show a great interest in distillation, offering rare and hard to find oils, such as Basil, Thyme, Hyssop or Rosemary chemotypes.
* The best suppliers will stress how the plant the oils came from was grown and will often have a wide selection of organic, certified organic, genuine or authentic oils.
*The best suppliers travel far and wide to source their oils and develop relationships with growers and distillers. They may freely share their travel stories with you or even detail them in sales materials.
*The best suppliers often run out of things! Only a certain amount of an essential oil is distilled each year, seasonally.
*The best suppliers know whats going on in contemporary aromatherapy and are well read in topics such as current issues and trends.
* The best suppliers often are partnered, with or recommended by, aromatherapy organizations or schools.
* The best suppliers go to great lengths to provide customer service and an excellent product because, in the end, their oils represent them and how they do business.
*The best suppliers will always make samples available for free or at a reduced rate.
*The best suppliers/distillers will have each distillation tested and be able to provide you with the results of the tests as well as an interpretation of the test. The test results will match the oils lot number.
*Glossy brochures and full color materials do not a good supplier make!
*Avoid multi-level marketing companies. While some of these companies may provide good quality oils, they are always overpriced, and they are most often sold via distributors who usually lack the knowledge and training necessary to help you make an educated purchase. They also often recommend the use of exorbitant amounts of oils in their suggested treatments, for obvious profit reasons.
*Fancy labels are not always synonymous with quality.