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Aromatherapy has indeed gained a lot of ground during the last 10 to 20 years which is amazing news! Not so amazing though is the fact that a lot of fraudsters have come on the market and all are stating they are selling pure, unadulterated oils.
How dangerous are impure oils?
Well, let me be super straight with you: adulteration is dangerous for human health. Both on short-term and long-term, using toxic substances can lead to migraines, skin issues, hormone disruptions, high toxicity in the body. It is better not using anything at all to using non-pure oils.
I am imagining the reason you are giving a try to aromatherapy is improving your wellness and health. Using essential oils that are adulterated simply defies the purpose.
How are oils adulterated?
Essential oils can be adulterated in 2 manners:
- by adding synthetic substances that imitate the actual plant
- by adding a natural yet cheaper variant.
First method is dangerous as what you are buying is basically a replica of a pure natural oil.
Second manner is not so detrimental to health, but it is another way of fooling you to pay for a product that is not what the label says it is.
In the first case, you should be aware that most expensive oils are very prone to adulteration: Rose, Jasmine, Melissa, Sandalwood. However, cheaper oils are not exception. For instance, synthetic menthol is often added in Peppermint oil to boost flavor and pocket extra cash.
In the second case, in place of true Lavender you might be buying Lavandin or that Lavender might be mixed with some carrier oil. The therapeutic effects won’t be the same. Same can happen with cinnamon that usually gives 2 different oils obtained from the leaves and the bark. The oil obtained out of the bark is 5 times more expensive.
8 things to follow when buying essential oils:
1. Therapeutic grade vs organic vs pure
What is the difference? Isn’t it the same? Nor really, but these labels are used by some companies as marketing gimmicks.
Just so we are clear: all 100% pure, unadulterated essential oils are therapeutic. The potency can slightly differ depending on the yield, season of cultivation etc. However, there is not such a thing as"therapeutic grade". There is no institution that can certify therapeutic grade so don’t fall for this trap.
Moving on, organic means the plant was grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, however this doesn’t guarantee the oil is pure. Oils can be organic but adulterated during processing so that deems them impure.
Pure means the plant wasn’t adulterated in any way and it expresses the entire range of therapeutic properties as the initial plant.
There are also wild-crafted oils that are even better than organic ones because they grew in the natural habitat. Usually those would be more expensive.
2. Botanical name
Is botanical name mentioned on the label? If it’s not, this is a red flag.
Botanical name should be written in Italics under the popular name of the plant. Writing the genus and species is one sign that the supplier is honest and has knowledge of aromatherapy as opposed to someone who just wants to make quick money.
3. Country of origin/plant part/distillation method
These details are important and another reason the company you buy from is knowledgeable and authentic.
The chemical profile of a plant varies a lot depending on where the plant was grown and under what conditions. Some plants naturally grow better in one climate and not so well in others. They can be cultivated still but the quality of the yield will be much better in the country where the plant thrives best.
As already mentioned above, plant part is crucial is determining price. Distillation method tells how the oil was obtained.
One first thing to consider is that essential oil prices vary a lot depending on the yield (how much oil you get from the plant) and season. If Rose requires 3-4 tones of petals for 1l of yield, Lavender only requires 200kg. Of course, this will be reflected in the price.
With that in mind, if you see rose, jasmine or sandalwood being priced almost on par with their fellow cheaper siblings, Lavender, Lemongrass or Mint, you will know these are not pure. Moreover, even oils from low to moderate price category should be differently priced because each has different extraction method and yields differs from season to season.
Our suppliers change their prices every 2 weeks depending on the demand and availability. That dynamic the market is.
Moreover, GC testing is another factor that can increase the price.
Last but not last, some companies work under MLM models so the essential oil prices will reflect the need to pay commission for all distributors. That doesn't mean the price is justified for a regular customer.
So our recommendation is don’t go for the highest priced oils on the market, but also not for the cheapest either.
5. Safety and dilution
Are safety measures specified for each oil? As an example, lemon obtained through cold pressing is phototoxic while if it’s obtained through distillation, it’s not. If it is phototoxic, it should not be used over a certain dilution, especially when exposed to direct sunlight. That can cause skin inflammation and burns. . Is the company telling you all this? If not, please keep on searching. Real and dedicated aromatherapists care for their customers. Would you ever buy a drug without knowing its prescription? I guess not. Same should be for essential oils.
6. Testing for Quality
Testing is a very debated topic especially in India. The Aromahead Institute in the US that I studied with considers testing a must for essential oils. Each batch should be tested and results should be shared with clients. The most popular test is GC/MS but there is also GC-FID. Basically, all these tests decompose the oils into different chemical compounds and verify purity by checking against some industry accepted ranges. The problem is these tests are quite costly and the small suppliers especially don’t afford to perform them. Another reason is that there is no government regulation to certify the purity so many companies simply don't feel bound to abide by a rule that is more ethical and legislative in nature.
At “The Oil Stories” we strive to bring you best quality so we test every batch we get from the suppliers with a third party lab and upload the reports on the website.
Train your smell and you will become better at “sniffing” the fake oils. Of course, this is hard at the beginning and not 100% reliable even for the most experienced aromatherapists. However, if something is heavily adulterated with synthetic substances it will smell from a distance. I remember when I first ordered some samples, they were stinking so badly that even after closing the lid tight the heavy odor would persist and make me nauseous. Another easy tip: if the fragrance is giving you instant headaches or repulsion that oil is for sure not pure.
I have met people with allergic sneezing who were surprised essential oils didn't trigger a reaction, same as perfumes or other chemical substances would. Even our bodies can tell the difference between natural and chemical, right?
8. Trust your supplier/company
This is not easy but when you choose an essential oil company you should pick someone you trust. If the company dedicates a lot of effort in educating and caring about their customers this will show for sure in the quality of their products and overall service. Learn to trust your intuition.
Whether you buy from us or any other company we want you to be safe and enjoy the therapeutic effects of the plants fully!Be well,