It takes a little research to know if the essential oils you are considering are really the best quality essential oils. How do I know if a particular brand is good?
Don't be fooled by big box stores, online sellers, state fair or bazaar vendors, and others who offer essential oils at very low prices or charge the same price for all of their oils. The comforting thought when investing in true, pure essential oils is that since the oils are so highly concentrated and so little is required for most applications, even an expensive oil like rose otto can end up being cost effective in the long run.
It takes 250 pounds of rose blossoms to produce one (1) ounce (30ml) of rose oil, which explains the very high cost of pure rose otto or rose absolute. Some oils are easier to produce, but every oil requires a large amount of plant matter to produce a small amount of oil. So good quality essential oils will never be cheap. This does not mean that more expensive oils will always be better than less expensive ones.
So let's dig a little deeper to determine what you need to know to determine quality essential oils …
You can tell when you have a lesser product if the fragrance is weak. However, you do not want the oils distilled longer or heated to make the smell more palatable. There is no official standard for how oils are distilled and I found information on how you can get a sweeter, candy-like smell when distilling peppermint oil if you distill it at a higher temperature, or redistill. Sometimes they are just reheated to make them smell more palatable. Remember … oils should be distilled at low temperatures, so reheating is not good.
So … Perfumery oils, fragrance oils, and flavorings often provide a stronger pleasant fragrance but do not offer the therapeutic benefit of true essential oils.
There should be nothing added and nothing taken out that should be left in. CODEX allows for oils to be labeled “pure” with only 3% of the pure oil in the bottle.
The Label Test: A company can write whatever they want on a label, but if it is a single oil, shouldn't it be 100% pure oil stated on the label? Some oil blends will need to list a number of oils, but they should not dilute with carrier oils and if it is diluted it should state it on the label. However, some companies will state they are selling pure oils, but in fact, they have added synthetic fillers.
The label should list:
- The botanical name
- The country of origin
- The distillation date
- The expiration date
- The extraction process used
Other Things to Consider
- Organic – Since essential oils are highly concentrated plant essences, the effect of any pesticide residue in the oil can be magnified. Make it a point to look for essential oils extracted from organically grown crops, with proper certifications attached, if possible. There are certain situations when essential oils are extracted from wild plants rather than cultivated crops. It may not be possible to obtain organic certifications for such products, but they may still be pure, and even more organic than certified products. It could be safe to buy them if you have a trustworthy source.
- Additives – “oil experts” know what the tests watch for, so they add things to the oils or alter them in other ways to make them “pass the test.” They will adulterate their oil so that levels are where they want them to be.
- Fillers – adding fillers like propylene glycol and others make it more profitable for the company to produce the oils. They can offer more than those that have truly pure oils at a lesser price. Truly pure oils are more expensive BECAUSE they are pure.
GRAS – Generally regarded as safe (to ingest)?
Essential Oils that can be safely ingested:
- Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Neroli oil (Citrus aurantium)
- Lemongrass oil (Cymbopogon flexuosus)
- Sweet Orange oil (Citrus sinensis)
- Lemon oil (Citrus limon)
- Lime oil (Citrus aurantifolia)
- Clove Bud oil (Syzygium aromaticum)
- Nutmeg oil (Myristica fragrans)
- Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- Melissa oil (Melissa officinalis)
- Spearmint oil (Mentha Spicata)
- Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita)
- Cinnamon oil (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
Standards of Production
It is essential that essential oils are extracted properly under low temperature and low pressure. Chemical solvents should not be used for extraction if at all possible. Some of the companies distill at high pressure and high temperature to get more oil produced faster.
To distill essential oils, you put the plant parts and water in a distiller and, under low pressure and low temperature, you distill the essential oils out of the plant. They go through tubing and into a vat – along with the steam. The oil collects on the top of the water and is removed.
The highest quality and most expensive/most therapeutic oil is the oil that is collected during the first part of the distillation period. This is what is called “first distilled.”
- Cold Pressing – Cold-pressed essential oils smell fresh and have a light color. Since the raw materials are not subjected to heat, they retain the exact aromatic content of the original plant parts. They are considered superior among essential oils for this reason, but this process is not suitable for the extraction of many essential oils. This method is usually used with citrus oils.
- Resin Tapping – This is the method used to acquire Frankincense and Myrrh resins. The bark of the tree is scarred producing a resin which is then harvested by hand.
- Low-Heat Steam Distillation – In this process, steam is passed through the raw materials in a closed container. The volatile oils get vaporized and they rise up with the steam and pass through a vent into a condensation chamber. Both the aromatic vapors and the water vapor turn into liquid here, but they form separate layers thanks to their immiscibility.
- Solvent Extracted – A chemical process where a suitable solvent is used to bind with the volatile oils in the raw material. The solvent is then separated from the mixture to get the end product, which is called absolute. Alcohol has been the traditional solvent in many essential oil extraction processes because of its easy availability. It easily evaporates, leaving behind the absolute oil. However, modern solvent extraction processes now use several other volatile organic compounds like acetone, propane, and hexane. The possibility of these chemicals leaving behind toxic residues in the absolute casts a doubt on their safety, so they are not used therapeutically.
The oils should be produced from plants that grow naturally (in their indigenous locations). Some companies source their oils from plants grown in the U.S. Many of these plants are not indigenous to the U.S.
Producing essential oils from plants sourced locally allows companies to have control from beginning to end and lowers production costs. However, these plants are not grown naturally in their indigenous locations.
Availability/Ease of Purchase
Online companies make access to quality products available more readily to the customer, even if there is a shipping charge. The convenience to the customer is vital in maintaining that customer as a long-term customer. Look for sellers that will offer free shipping with larger orders. Amazon Prime has a yearly fee, but that provides free 2-day shipping on Prime products.
Everyone has a cap on what they can spend on their oils. Just be aware that as the quality increases, so does the price. Just know that if the price seems to be too good … it probably is!
- Why amber bottles? – Many essential oil producers bottle their products in colored glass bottles. The color provides a natural protection for the oils from the sun’s UV rays. While some sellers now prefer a brighter, eye-catching color for products, many still choose amber-colored glass for practical reasons. Clear bottles can be used to highlight a uniquely colored oil to attract consumer attention but may not be the practical choice.
- Why glass bottles? – Many oil producers prefer to store their products in glass bottles. Using plastic bottles can compromise the quality of the oil and in some cases, the low-quality plastic containers may even leak the oils during storage. The concentrated oils can eat through the plastic container. Diluted oils, such as those used in recipes for lotions and creams, can safely be stored in a plastic container. Essential oils also need to be protected from sunlight, heat, air, and moisture. All of those factors must be considered when choosing the right oil bottle in order to protect the integrity of the product, especially for oils with a substantial shelf life.
- 3rd Party Testing – Many sellers have internal testing, but it is great when you find a company that lists 3rd party testing. The company's website should provide this information for you.
- GC/MS Test Results (Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry) – Provides data about what components are in the oils and how much of each component there is. Be aware that GC/MS tests cannot determine if synthetics have been added or if the oil has been heated to burn off more “herby” smells (i.e. eucalyptus, Globulus or Peppermint).
Again, I want to stress that each person will react differently to essential oils and there is no “one-size-fits-all” guide to know exactly what will work for you. However, there has been research, trials, and years of experience to show us what can “generally” be expected.
I have tested the oils and researched the Rocky Mountain Oils company and find they have a quality product for a fair and reasonable price. Their selection may not be as vast as Young Living or doTerra (which have great products as well), but I trust their process and their reputation more and I feel they are a little more reasonably priced.
I will continue to bring more information as I find it. Be sure to check back often and follow us on social media to get updates on new articles.
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