The term aromatherapy is used very loosely these days and usually by someone wanting to sell something to describe a powerful aroma or scent. This of course has caused confusion for the general public.
Considering 95% percent of essential oils are produced for products within the perfume, cosmetics, personal care, food, confectionery, alcoholic beverages, juices, pharmaceutical preparations and cleaning industries, that only leaves five percent of essential oils that are used for their true therapeutic values in the health and beauty industries. And considering seventy percent of the true aromatherapy industry is adulterated it makes it very hard to navigate your way through all the hype and sensationalism associated with essential oils.
It is vital to sort through the overwhelm, become more educated and purchase essential oils from a reputable retailer and supplier as they will be the ones who should take great care to ensure their products are of a high standard. It is important to also note there are a number of variables that will contribute to the value, quality and purity of high grade essential oils.
Before any batch is bottled, a thorough testing process is usually undertaken to analyse the major, minor and trace constituents that make up an essential oil. The majority of essential oils have anywhere between 200-400 constituents. Tests are done by screening the compounds of the oils separately through a number of different processes, one of the main ways is gas chromatography.
Modern science has learned how to copy the major and minor constituents and consequently synthetic oils are produced at a much lower cost. However, Mother Nature still reigns supreme as scientists cannot yet create and copy the trace constituents.
It is these trace elements that are considered the plant’s fingerprint, which can also add to give the oil its overall therapeutic quality. It is in nature’s laboratory that the complexity of an oil is created, one that cannot be reproduced, and one that works in synergy with our own body.
You want to look for the words ‘pure essential oil’ on the label of the bottle. This of course still will not stop adulteration, but it will stop suppliers in their tracks if they are caught for being deliberately misleading.
The most important thing about organic essential oils is that you can be assured of the best farming methodologies, which includes extensive testing. Organic products must be free from any chemicals, pesticides and other contaminants.
This also means that most organic essential oils will be sourced by professional oil growers and chemists to verify species, environmental considerations and harvest times and yields.
To obtain organic certification means it takes a lot of effort and benchmarks that cheaper alternatives do not do.
Within the certification is also a grading of oils. Generally speaking oils are graded as with the following stars.
1* – commercial oils
2* – premium commercial essential oils
3* – blended natural essential oils
4* – 100% pure essential oils blended origin
5* – 100% pure essential oils conventional
6* – 100% pure essential oils certified organic
The top of the range 6* star certified essential oils are unsurpassed in their quality and aromatic vibrancy. They are grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers or GMO’s, with a focus on environmentally sustainable practices through soil and land health, and balanced eco-systems.
These oils have been produced from the named Botanical species, from one single origin, and by the specified methods of extraction. They contain no inputs or other technical additions. They have not been blended or formulated.
Because essential oils are highly concentrated, potent substances, their production, farming and transportation costs affect the price. Each essential oil is priced according to its availability, locality, yield and extraction method, which is why their prices will vary.
Take Rose oil, for example. The rose has been held in high regard throughout history and symbolises love, youth, beauty, perfection and immortality. The essential oil that is extracted through steam distillation has a very rich, dense, sweet fragrance.
It takes about forty roses to make one drop of oil, or approximately 4000 kg of flowers to yield one litre of rose oil, hence the high price tag. With the massive influx in interest and purchasing of essential oils the price of Rose has almost doubled in price the past two years. Many oils have increased in price to meet the demand. The more expensive an essential oil is the greater risk of adulteration.
Reputable retailers and therapists will also offer the more expensive oils with an extender like a carrier oil such as Jojoba, which makes them much more affordable and accessible. If this is the case, it will be stated clearly on the label, usually reading something like ‘2.5 % in Jojoba’.
Because carrier oils such as Jojoba are not essential oils, you can safely apply these pre-blended oils directly on the skin but they are not as effective in a vaporizer or diffuser. Some of the pre-blended oils you will find are Roman and German Chamomile, Jasmine, Melissa, Neroli and Rose.
If you found an essential oil range all fairly similar in price then you can almost guarantee the range is not pure or has been adulterated in some way. Price is a fairly good indicator of whether an essential oil is pure or synthetic.
Another important point to remember when purchasing ‘pure essential oils’ is to look for the botanical name on the label. Synthetic oils will certainly not display this.
It is also helpful as several pure essential oils may have different plant species under the same name; for example, Rosa Damascena and Rosa Centiflora are both beautiful types of Rose used in aromatherapy.
Ethical values of the company
Once you become more familiar with essential oils and your suppliers, you will
learn how to be satisfied with the smell and quality of your purchase. In order to gain the most from your oils I would strongly suggest seeking out only the best oils you can from a variety of companies to gain this understanding.
Look at the company ethos. Who is running the company? Are there qualified people involved? What other products do they sell? If they have a high commitment to being wild harvested, organic and chemical free you can feel satisfied in what they sell overall.
If a company sells ‘high grade oils’ for example, yet offer other products in their range such as food, skincare or cosmetic products that contain questionable chemicals, preservatives and additives then you might want to investigate their essential oil quality further. Does this make them trustworthy across the board?
Many side effects associated with the use of essential oils such as headaches, nausea or dizziness can be attributed to the synthetic compounds or additives found in fragrant products. When used correctly, and with education, side effects from pure organic essential oils, is rare.
So, as you begin your journey into the world of essential oils and aromatherapy test various suppliers, ask lots of questions and become informed. Essential oils can become an important part of your daily life – and it can start as simply as using a diffuser in your office so you, and your team can take in a beautiful scent throughout the day.
By Kim Morrison