How Do We Check the Purity of Essential Oils?

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Essential Oils Philippines - As we study more in depth with essential oils, we've learned that companies or suppliers of essential oils have made their "own" standard and quality grading like what we see on labels as "certified pure therapeutic grade" or "therapeutic grade" as a form of classifying essential oils. The EO industry is still new and is an emerging market that started 10 to 20 years ago.

Although, we know that Ancient civilizations have been using essential oils for its aromatic or medicinal properties for a thousand years ago, the business of essential oils booms into a multi-billion dollar industry in just recent years. And so the controversies we've read online that involved top MLM companies that sells essential oils are everywhere. There is so much politics in the world of aromatherapy as to who will reign supreme in the production of the purest essential oils and who gets the biggest market share. The market is competition-driven with a number of brands selling EOs.

Now, let us check what are these classifications of essential oil that is believed to be orchestrated as a marketing strategy to assure consumers and users of essential oils for its authenticity, purity, potency and quality.

There are 4 Grading Classifications:

Grade A – Essential oils are said to be 100% pure therapeutic quality. Free of contaminants, fertilizers and pesticides. Not adulterated or altered. Could be organically grown and properly extracted especially through steam distillation and is classified as "Pure Therapeutic Grade".

Grade B
– Essential oils are considered food grade, 100% pure but may be adulterated. It could contain fertilizers, pesticides, some synthetic substances might be added, or some natural constituents of a related plant is added to the oil to either enhance its aroma or therapeutic properties. Sometimes, a bit of carrier oil is added maybe to extend its shelf life.

Grade C
– Essential oils are used in perfumery business or what they say as "perfume grade". Adulterants are added as well as synthetic substances to enhance its fragrance. It is definitely affordable and mass produced for the creation of perfumes.

Grade D – These are hydrosols or what we commonly call as Floral Water or Rose Water. Hydrosol is the liquid or water byproduct after steam distillation of a plant. It might contain a few percentage of the essential oil residue. It is often used in cosmetics, skin and hair care products.

Please note, that we currently do not have any third party governing body or a regulatory board that specifically or exclusively monitors the production of essential oils  to check its purity or what they call as "therapeutic grade".

These so-called standards established by the companies themselves are not approved by FDA nor it recognizes such essential oils grade.

Suppliers of essential oils can make a Structure/Function claim for their essential oils that are currently regulated as cosmetics by FDA. They can never make a claim that it is a product to cure or medicine or even an alternative medicine for illnesses and diseases. They should be FDA-compliant.

Anyone or brand can label there products with "therapeutic grade" as there is no current industry standard regulations, yet. This would also give consumers the confidence that what's been purchased has been produced with  higher standards of quality and guaranteed 100% pure essential oils. But then again, these are only self-serving standards by the companies themselves.

For a common user or buyer of essential oils, there is no way we can detect the oils we purchase are pure and authentic at home or at our capacity unless we are a CHEMIST! The chemist is the only person who can identify the chemical constituents found in a specific essential oil through testing using GC/MS tests. GC stands for Gas Chromotography and MS stands for Mass Spectroscopy/Spectrometry. 

Will separately explain these tests in our next post.

However, we can always request a test documentation report from the supplier of the essential oils showing the chemical make up of the oil. And if we have the budget, we can have it tested with a third party chemlab or seek the services of a chemist to do the GS/MS testing.  But that is impractical and costly for us normal consumers.

Of course, there are still a number of tests that chemists can do to check the purity of the oil whether it is not contaminated, adulterated or rectified.

We hope that in the near future, there will be a stand alone Regulatory Board exclusive for essential oils and aromatherapy observing standards and ethical practices. We can wish for the endless possibilities in this very promising industry.

This is the video version of this article:

The truth about grading system in Essential Oils

Article Source Acknowledgement: Rebeca Park Totilo, an Apothecary formulator, best selling author, certified Aromatherapist and instructor of Aromahut Institute, a NAHA approved school in Clinical Aromatherapy.

*This article is written with confidence by a Certified Essential Oil Specialist.

For further reading and reference, Dr. Robbert Pappas is the leading authority or chemist in the world testing the purity of essential oils, pls. refer here

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