The concept of pure and authentic essential oils is one of the most difficult. Social media is flooded with information from companies in aromatherapy industry and it is one of the most common questions asked by those who are trying to find the truth. A pure essential oil is the one that was produced from a specified botanical source and have not been modified in any way. A genuine essential oil means it is completely unaltered.
The Aromatherapy industry adopted the following terms: therapeutic grade, pure and natural, true aromatherapy grade, genuine and authentic and more. These terms are used by both discerning and non-discerning companies making it very difficult to judge an essential oil just by the marketing material a company presents. All the above terms are used for marketing purposes and there are absolutely no regulations at this time to govern an aromatherapy essential oil industry. Rose, Lavender, Jasmine, Melissa and Sandalwood are most commonly adulterated essential oils.
Common Adulteration Techniques
- Alcohol or vegetable oil added to stretch the volume of essential oil
- Cheaper oil added or distilled with the main essential oil
- A completely synthetic product is produced in laboratory and can be marketed as natural
- A synthetic chemical constituent is added to the main oil to increase the volume
Basic Purity Tests
- Place a drop of essential oil on a clean white sheet of blotting or watercloth paper. The essential oil should evaporate within 24-48 hours (usually much faster) leaving no stain. This method should not be employed with citrus oils, colored and viscous oils.
- Place a drop of essential oil in a clear glass of water. If the water becomes discolored or turns milky, then the essential oil has been diluted with water and an emulsifier has been added to keep water and essential oil together.
- Our sense of smell is the most powerful tool we have although to be able to effectively smell the quality essential oil one could spend time smelling diverse aromas in the environment and a range of qualities of essential oils. There should be a distinct difference in the quality and the effect of essential oil from a cheap grocery store and an excellent quality essential oil.
How to smell an Essential Oil
Essential oils are very powerful. It is best to begin by holding a bottle approximately 4-5 inches from your nose and then move it upward toward your nose depending on how close you need it to enjoy its aroma. Gently move the bottle back and forth from the left nostril to the right. This way you will feel the full spectrum of aroma. Synthetic “oils” tend to attack the nose with a strong odor and then die off. Natural, high quality essential oils will be pleasant to the nose and continue to expand and develop as you smell them.
Two most common tests used to ensure basic purity:
- Gas chromatography: chemical analysis instrument used to separate and identify individual constituents found within a given essential oil.
- Mass spectrometry: a technique that allows for the detection of compounds (chemical constituents) by separating ions by their unique mass. Mass spectrometry is used to identify specific compounds registered on the gas chromatography report. An individual trained to read GC/MS data will then clearly identify the exact constituents and their quantity (e.g., 3% linalol, 20% camphor, and so on) present within a given essential oil sample.
Although a GC-MS report on an essential oil is very helpful, it should not be used as the sole definitive guide to purchase a high-quality, pure, unadulterated essential oil. GC-MS report should be used along with other methods of appraisal, such as your sense of smell and confidence in the supplier and their intentions.
Qualities to look for in a supplier:
- Owned by aromatherapy practitioner and essential oil specialist
- Supplier who can readily provide GC-MS spec report on oils they sell
- Supplier that provided reasonably priced oils
I’ve recently contacted one of the largest MLM companies in U.S. and they refused to provide GC-MS spec reports on oils they sell although I informed them that I am a certified Aromatherapist. As a customer you should always be able to ask for quality report and it’s a red flag if the company refuses to provide it.