Determining the Purity of Your Essential Oils

In my recent webinar with the American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) on February 7th, (HERE) I covered a broad range of topics in regards to essential oil safety. In the Q&A portion, the question was asked about how to determine the purity of your essential oils. I would like to cover that topic in more detail here, in order for you to be able to establish a quality essential oil.

*This post is not brand specific and non-bias. 

1. Your Nose Knows-Performing Organoleptic Testing

Your sense of smell is oftentimes your strongest ally in determining if your oils are pure. Certain adulterants can be sniffed out via sensory evaluation, better known as organoleptic testing.

Compare and contrast various oils from different companies. A less costly oil like Peppermint Mentha piperita is a good place to start. You will find ones that smell very candy like and others that are still very much reminiscent of mint, but have an earthy tone to it. See what your nose is telling you, use your sense of intuition; it will not fail you.

Understand that experience in this area will grow over time, the more you use your nose, the stronger it becomes. As it becomes more skilled, if an oil smells off, believe me you’ll know it.

2. Compare More Than Scents-Look at The Price Tag!

You may have been in a grocery store or health food store recently and seen a generous display of essential oils, many companies that you may have never heard before. Do a little investigative work. Do they have multiple oils all at the same bargain price? If so, this should be a warning sign. Essential oils should vary in price.

Specific essential oils can be quite costly. Let’s look at Rose otto Rosa damascena from Bulgaria as an example. I quickly compared prices from 5 different essential oil companies, and found an average price of $175 for 5mls. If you find a company selling the same oil for much cheaper, and is claiming to be 100% essential oil, not an oil blend with carrier oil, this is a red flag. Make sure you are paying attention to pricing.

3. Gain More Confidence-Know How To Read Your GC/MS Test-Gas Chromatography (GC) and Mass Spectometry (MS)

Gas chromatography (GC), mass spectrometry (MS), analyzes the constituents in essential oils. The testing provides a blueprint, and it can reveal additives. The GC/MS report is not the ONLY method to use, but it is a great place to start.

A GC/MS test can detect if an oil has been rectified. It will also reveal traces of solvents or mineral oils, so there is value within the report. Understand that a GC/MS is not pointing to “quality”, but “purity”.

There are many companies who share the results of their testing on their website for each batch of oils, available for you to download and review. I tend to choose companies who are transparent here, and download the reports to view before purchasing. (See links below for tips on how to read these reports) This unfortunately, may exclude smaller suppliers, as the testing is expensive. This brings me to #4, knowing your supplier.

4. Know Your Supplier

Work to develop a relationship with your supplier. Ones that want your business will answer any questions you have, happily. If you buy a significant amount of oils, you can skip the middleman so to speak and go directly to the distiller. Many will provide a small sample for you before you commit to purchase.

Qualities to look for in a company:

*Look for a company who has a relationship with their distillers

*Make sure your company has a strong noncontroversial reputation in the industry

*Pick a company who has been in the field for a number of years and is well known/recommended by aromatherapy practitioners/educators. They are in the know.

*As mentioned above and is crucial, your company should be dedicated to answering all of your questions.

5. Important “Parts” Of The Oil To Know

All companies should share with you the common name, Latin name (genus and species), type of extraction (steam distilled or cold pressed, etc.), chemotype when relevant, and how the plant was grown (conventionally/traditionally, wild-crafted, or organic). The more you know, the better.

Closing

It is important to understand that all of these five points should be used in tandem to be sure of the quality of your oil. For example, you should not go just based off of scent alone in your determination. Be willing to explore various companies, ask questions not only of the company but also of professionals in the field, and utilize some of these key tips to make sure you are better able to determine the purity of your essential oils.


Resources

How to read a GC/MS Report courtesy of Laboratoire PhytoChemia

Part I

Part II

Like so many practices in life I encourage you to become educated on the proper use of essential oils. When using them, please do so cautiously, understanding that there is often misinformation on the internet.  You can be assured that I support only educated and proven resources. While essential oils should not be feared they should be respected and used properly to ensure the safety of the individuals using them.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

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