How to check the quality of an essential oil? Is it within the reach of anyone or does it require a BAC+5 in organic chemistry? From the point of view of an expert in aromatherapy or a trader, the knowledge to accumulate in order to master the quality of these products must be both specialized and vast. But from the point of view of a user of essential oils, it is quite possible to make the difference, to separate the good bottles from the mediocre ones, even the bad ones. This is the objective of this guide: to make you autonomous in the critical analysis of the quality of an essential oil.Related articles [View] - Essential oils: which is the most effective against your problem? - Choose an essential oil according to its biochemical composition - Precautions for use of essential oils - What essential oils can I use? - Which essential oils for which property?
Essential oils are natural products, with powerful therapeutic virtues and in general with a high market value. The offer available on the market of essential oils is consequently very diverse in terms of quality, for 3 main reasons:
The subject of essential oil quality is therefore a very critical one. This is not nitpicking, but real impacting factors. The purpose of this article is to help you navigate this if you are looking for 100% natural, pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. To learn more about the intrinsic quality variations in essential oils, go here :Why does the quality of essential oils vary so much?
First of all, let's get the facts chemically straight. A plant containing pesticides will yield an essential oil containing pesticides. Distillation does not filter out pesticides, and they are unfortunately present in essential oils. The use of pesticides in organic agriculture is very regulated and more restricted than in conventional agriculture: the few authorized phytoprotective substances have in common that they have no intrinsic toxicity. Moreover, the organic regulation imposes to use these substances only as a last resort, when no other preventive measure could be implemented. Contrary to a conventionally grown plant, an organic plant has a low risk of containing pesticide residues.
From a physiological point of view, it should be remembered that the bioavailability of essential oils is excellent: this means that the components of essential oils are very quickly present in the tissues and the bloodstream. This is what makes their strength, and their potential toxicity. If you have pesticides in your bottle and you use that bottle for therapeutic purposes, then you will be administering pesticides (you don't know which ones) to yourself where they can act directly, without a filter. The use of non-Organic (conventional) essential oils to treat oneself should therefore be absolutely avoided, for health reasons above all.
If you are looking for therapeutic quality, we also recommend that you avoid any brand that distributes organic and conventional essential oils depending on the product. This often happens, as these brands adopt the organic label for products where the price difference is not significant (Tea Tree, Peppermint, Ravintsara, etc.), but switch to conventional essential oils as soon as the price difference is greater, for reasons of raw material cost (Italian Helichrysum, Chamomile, etc.), supply difficulties, etc. This is a weak signal for the whole brand, which is voluntarily located on a less therapeutic ground (well-being diffusion, soaps, detergents, etc.).
From the point of view of biodiversity, it is also valuable to defend the BIO channels, which are prohibited from using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. And for good reason, pesticides have a strong impact on terrestrial fauna, herbicides are responsible for the decline of many flowers and seeds essential to many species of insects and birds and nitrogen fertilizers have negative impacts on aquatic biodiversity. In fact, on average, 30% more species and 50% more individuals are found in organic plots than in conventional plots.
Finally, from the point of view of fraud control and traceability, it is important to know that the requirements of organic certification, even if they are not sufficient, participate in a greater control of the quality of essential oils. A 100% ORGANIC brand assures you that monitoring processes are in place, and that these are regularly audited (twice a year on average). This helps to avoid a good number of fraudulent batches, which are much more numerous in conventional batches than in organic batches. For example, at the moment, almost all the batches of Gaultheria present on the market in conventional contain about 30% of synthetic methyl salicylate. In BIO, the fraud rate on this product is much lower.
To conclude: should you only use organic essential oils to treat yourself? For all the reasons mentioned above, this seems pretty obvious. Taking it a step further, one could even say that one should favor brands marketing only ORGANIC essential oils for any therapeutic use.
Chemotype is a word commonly used in aromatherapy jargon, but its interpretation varies, and continues to evolve as the industry becomes more professional. Originally, this word referred to the necessary distinction that had to be made between a Thujanol Thyme, for example, and a Thymol Thyme, and this distinction therefore only concerned a few species: thymes, rosemary, lavender, etc.
Today, when we talk about a chemotyped essential oil, we are talking about an essential oil whose 3 components are known by the manufacturer and specified on the label:
A chemotyped essential oil is therefore an essential oil defined, right down to the label, on these 3 criteria: botanical (precisely) + composition (approximately) + origin (precisely). If you aspire to benefit from therapeutic virtues via essential oils, orally or dermally, the use of chemotyped essential oils is capital, for reasons of effectiveness, but also safety. So check your bottles well, and greatly favor brands indicating the origin of the lot sold.
Your essential oil is ORGANIC, it is chemotyped: this is already very good, and rather rare. If you use this essential oil to purify the air in your home with a diffuser, or for a recipe for a DIY cosmetic cream, this is good enough. If you're expecting a therapeutic use, you're almost there. All you have to do is check the brand's transparency regarding the testing they do for each batch.
Within the framework given above, the following analyses should be performed and analyzed for each batch of essential oil, in order to reject those that do not meet expectations.
Of course, the established control plan should not be reduced to these analyses, but in terms of systematic analyses, batch by batch, we have here a sufficient basis.
As there is no certifying body for this quality requirement, the voluntary transparency of the brand about its specifications and the tests it performs for each product is decisive in the trust you can place in it.
If we recap: to ensure the therapeutic quality of an essential oil, it is therefore first and foremost necessary that it be OCN certified, that its chemotype be specified and verified (that it be chemotyped), and last but not least that the results of its analyses be accessible.