So what are “therapeutic grade” essential oils and why does it matter? Essential oils have been prized and loved for a variety of benefits since earliest Bible times. Essential oils are not drugs. They are highly concentrated, delicately fragrant, and elusively volatile liquids obtained from the roots, bark, stems, leaves, seeds, fruits, flowers and buds of plants, shrubs and trees. As the term therapeutic implies, there is potentially a variety of ways in which various oils might benefit one’s health Properly distilled they may contain hundreds of minute chemical constituents which work in synergy to affect the balance of therapeutic properties. However, needless to say, a great many variables are involved. There are differences as to species, sub-species, and varieties of plant, different chemotypes of the same plant, whether it is native to the region in which it is grown and collected, soil and mineral content, weather and growing conditions, time and methods of planting and harvest, ensuring there is no contamination from pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals. One may think the “USDA Organic” label ensures purity, but even this cannot be relied upon. Even with those making every effort to follow the rules in applying pesticides, drift may occur days or even weeks after application. This is because vapor and particles can easily be carried through the air long distances due to the effects of rain clouds, wind, and more. Chemicals may also seep into groundwater, eventually finding their way into streams and wells long distances away. Further, the USDA standard allows certain substances, such as fluoride, to contaminate the organic standard as they consider it “inert”, even though it is in fact a persistent poison which does not degrade and which accumulates over time in soils, plants, animals, and humans.
Besides all of these considerations, minute differences in cooking times, temperatures, and the distillation equipment itself all play a significant role in the quality of the end result product. Just because a distillation is done resulting in an essential oil, even one that may have a pleasant fragrance, still does not necessarily mean the procedure has been correctly done in a way to ensure that all of the hundreds of minute compounds are present in the necessary balance and proportion to achieve the desired results. Frankly, it takes a lot of years of research to even have a modest understanding of what those components are for a particular oil and the methods and recipes needed to achieve that balance. It takes practice and years of comparing the results of complex tests. More essential oil companies are learning that some testing is needed, but very few will spend the money or effort needed for the highest quality testing. An important test to look for is Gas Chromatography (GC) which separates and measures minute percentages of the plant’s biochemical constituents ranging from one hundred to several hundred in number. Combined with Mass Spectroscopy, which breaks the compounds with electron impact into multiple pieces that can be checked to correspond with compounds in a known chemical library, enables even greater identification. However many companies and industries whose primary interest is “fragrance grade” have learned how to extend, engineer, and adulterate essential oils with a variety of synthetic compounds and additives in order to earn higher profits. These kind of essential oils may still be variously labeled as “pure”, “organic”, “therapeutic”, etc and yet posess few therapeutic properties, and worse, may even be harmful. GS-MS testing can reveal some synthetic additives, but not all. It is important to do Chiral GC testing as well which determines the right-handed and left-handed orientation of molecules to more certainly identify whether they are natural or synthetic. Solid-phase Microextraction (SPME) in which a handheld device extracts a small sample of essential oil vapors directly from plants which can then be inserted into a GC or GC-MS for comparative analysis of the plant’s essential oils is also okey, as will as High-performamce Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) which separates and measures molecules of high molecular weight and plant biochemcial constituents which are water-soluble.
These are just a few of the considerations that go into developing what is truly a “therapeutic grade” essential oil. Demand has particularly inreased in the last decade, resulting in many more companies trying to offer essential oils with some type of claim as to therapeutic benefits. However, only one company consistently uses all of these tests, GC-MS, Chiral GC, SPME, and HPLC as well as a number of other regular tests. And only one company has been operating for more than 20 years and has a chemical library of over 200,000 compounds attached to the GC-MS instruments. That company is Young Living.
For more information on the leading essential oil companies, their history, testing, and quality standards, check out the 45 page Young Living/DoTerra report
If you like this report and would like to make a small donation to help defray the costs of time and research, you may click the donate button here:
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and this information is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.