Thursday, January 12, 2017

Essential Oil Myths Busted; The Real Purity Proof Explained!

I’m often asked, how to choose the best quality essential oil?  What criteria should I look for?  There are so many misconceptions and misinformation in the world of Aromatherapy and I wanted to address a couple of them.  It is so important that we are able to have specific things to look for to ensure that we are using the most pure essential oils.

1. How do you know you’re purchasing from a reputable seller?
     You’ll want to find out how long they have been in business?
     How do they conduct themselves as a business? 
     What are their customer satisfaction ratings?  
     What knowledge and education do they have in the industry? 

         A certain amount of trust is gained when a company has been established for a while.  This provides the needed time for them to display what type of a company they are and show if they are able to gain the trust of consumers to maintain a business overtime. 
         With essential oil companies I specifically want to know that I’m dealing with an honest, transparent, eco-conscious, safety educating, and charitable company.  This may take a bit of research and a couple of phone calls but I think it’s important to know how they conduct themselves.  I want to know that the company has a reputation for putting ethics and values as a priority rather than profit being the sole focus.  Knowledge truly is power, and a company willing to invest in educating their customers on safe essential oil practices is something I value highly.
         Go to their website to see if they have product ratings.  If they sell on other big box sites (i.e. Amazon) check the ratings on there.  Also see what their return policy is, do they offer free return shipping, do they have 100% satisfaction guarantee so you can return for a full refund no matter your reasoning.  I want to know that if there’s an issue, I don’t have to explain myself in order to return the item.  I want to buy from a company so confident in their product that they guarantee my satisfaction.  The accessibility of customer service, can you reach someone right away via phone or an online chat?  There’s nothing worse than calling with an issue and being put on hold for 30 minutes, listening to elevator music, an occasional automated voice saying “thank you for holding”.  I want to speak to a live person, who resolves my problem without having to spend significant time on hold. 
         I want a company that maintains staff that is formerly educated in essential oils and aromatherapy.  To have access to ask an expert questions, be kept uprise of current safety recommendations, and be given proper usage guidelines by someone with knowledge is empowering. 

2. Does Therapeutic Grade mean it’s the best? 
     What criteria or testing is associated with a Therapeutic Grade Oil? 
     What does Therapeutic Grade mean?

         Here’s an exerpt from an interview with indistustry expert Robert Tisserand
“There is no such thing as therapeutic grade, or clinical grade. These are not grades that are independently verified, they are words that are marketing terms created by the company selling those oils so they will tell you that they are the only people selling clinical grade oils. Well yes, because no one else is making that claim, you are the only people selling what you call clinical grade oils.”
So unfortunately with there being no requirements, criteria, or third party verification associated with the terms “therapeutic or clinical grade”, anyone can claim the term.  It does not translate to quality.
         That being said essential oils DO have therapeutic benefits that can help improve your overall sense of well being.  Clinical studies have been done that show exactly how the chemical constituents in an essential oil benefit a person both physically and mentally.  By ensuring you’re using the best quality oils, you will be able to optimize the therapeutic benefits you get from the chemical constituents in the oils themselves.

3. What if a company invites the public to visit their farms?  Surely that must mean it’s the best?!        
     Have these plants been moved from their indigenous environment?

         First I have to say that it’s so awesome to be able to visit botanical gardens!  However, this does not translate to quality.  A big concern with many of these farms is that they are highly controlled and often grow non-indigenous plants.  This means that they have taken the plants from where they naturally grow and have put them in a new environment.  I’m very traditional in my belief that plants, like animals, do best in their natural environments.  Just as the therapeutic qualities (from the naturally occurring chemical constituents) can be affected by altitude and rain, it can also be significantly affected by being grown in a foreign place.
         You will find that some of the best essential oil companies will actually go overseas to personally visit the farms they want to purchase from.  They observe the process, question the procedures, and ensure practices of sustainability and quality are in place.  This in itself is a great show of the commitment a company has to ensure they are providing the best quality essential oils while still allowing them to flourish and grow in their indigenous environment.

4. What if a company is USDA Certified Organic?
 Yes!  USDA is a third party agency that has strict standards that they impose on companies wanting to be certified through them.  Some of these standards include;
    No GMOs: Genetically Modified Organisms are prohibited in organic products. This means that an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds and an organic producer can’t use any ingredients containing GMOs.
    Clean soil: The land where the products are grown must not have had any prohibited substances applied to it for at least 3 years before the harvest of an organic crop. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.
    No harmful pesticides: Crop pests, weeds, and diseases are controlled primarily through physical, mechanical and biological efforts. If for some reason these methods are not working, a biological, botanical or synthetic substance that is approved on the National List may be used.
    All organic, all the way: Operations must use only organic seeds and other planting material.

This is a great standard to use to ensure that you are getting the highest quality essential oils.  It is a certification that has strict standards that cover all aspects of the growth process.

That being said it is a very costly certification, some farms may not be able to afford those expenses.  So if an oil is not USDA Certified Organic, it does not mean it isn’t of the highest quality.  In those instances I would encourage you to get to know the farm and growers.  Find out their practices and operations.  If you’re unable to do that type of research, looking for that USDA Certified Organic seal is a fabulous way to know their process is closely regulated for quality.

5. If the company provides their GC/MS reports does that prove quality?
 Yes and no, this one is tricky.  A GC/MS report is a chemical analysis of the constituents in each batch of oil.  There are certain things you want to look for;
           The testing is done by an impartial third party.
           Testing is done both on the initial sample, as well as after the actual batch is                  received.  (testing is expensive and many companies only test the sample).
           You have access to the full report, the details are very important!
           The report should show the company, chemist, and be a batch specific report.
           The education and experience of the actual chemist is important to ensure it’s expertly interpreted.

6. What information should I look for with each individual essential oil?

Transparency is key, you want the specifics of each oil.  Ideally they will openly provide at a minimum, the following information.
     Botanical name
     Country of origin
     Extraction method

         Common names of a plant can vary from company to company, the botanical names however are the same across the board.  Knowing the botanical name lets you know exactly what plant you’re getting.  Let’s say for example that you want to purchase Frankincense (Boswellia frereana) for your skin blend.  If the company only tells you that it’s ‘Frankincense’ you could be getting any one of many different species of Frankincense, which all vary in their chemical constituents and may not be ideal for your intended purpose.  Having the knowledge of the botanical name empowers you to know exactly what plant you’re choosing. 
         Where a plant is grown can determine both the chemistry as well as the scent of the plant.  I have 2 different lavenders, one from Bulgaria and one from France.  The one from Bulgaria has a deeper, more herbaceous aroma while the one from France is more floral and reminiscent of what most people associate with the true scent of lavender.  With this information it can help me determine which country of origin I prefer. 
         The extraction method is important to me because I want to know how I got my oils from the plant.  Some extraction methods of the same plant can make a difference in an entire constituent being, or not being present.  For example, German Chamomile extracted with a CO2 process has Matricine (highly sought after for dry and/or reddened skin), whereas when it’s steam distilled that constituent is absent.   Another reason I want to know the extraction method is because of concerns of phototoxicity.  If lemon or lime are cold pressed you have to exercise extreme caution in the sun, however through steam distillation extraction these oils don’t carry concerns of phototoxicity. 
 So there you have it myths busted, things to look for, and a better understanding of how you can ensure you’re getting the best essential oils from the very best company! 

So there you have it myths busted, things to look for, and a better understanding of how you can ensure you’re getting the best essential oils from the very best company!