understanding therapeutic grade essential oils and their benefits

The Myth of Organoleptic Testing for Essential Oils

What is Organoleptic Testing?  This refers to simple tests that stimulate the senses, in other words visually judging the oil by its color or clarity, judging how it feels to touch, how it tastes and how it smells.  Pure essential oils, especially those correctly grown, harvested and distilled to maximize their therapeutic benefits, are often costly and can delight the senses.  Unfortunately, some companies and other sites attempting to provide helpful information about essential oils sometimes provide misleading information when it comes to Organoleptic testing.

While it is true that Organoleptics can be a valuable part of testing essential oils, and all users who intend to make therapeutic use of essential oils should be encouraged to learn all they can, the  limitations need to be understood.  Organoleptic testing, if it is done by experienced and trained professionals, can be one aspect of a multi-faceted testing program by an essential oils company with high quality standards.  However, it is not a substitute for the variety of complex testing that should be completed in laboratories with state of the art testing equipment.  Any given essential oil contains hundreds of minute biochemical compounds.  Even trace amounts are significant when it comes to evaluating the potential therapeutic qualities of an essential oil, and many of these do not even show up except with the most sensitive testing equipment.  Since the predominant market is for fragrance grade and food grade oils, very few laboratories, especially those in North America, even have equipment capable of detecting these minute quantities.  Laboratories have been able to create synthetic imitations of certain essential oils with some of the main molecules, and they may have a strong, even pleasant fragrance.  However, the labs cannot reproduce the vastly complex chemical structure created by nature and not only are many of the ingredients necessary for the oil’s full therapeutic properties missing, the synthetic components can be harmful if the oil is used for this purpose.  Many of the synthetic compounds created by laboratories to extend or alter fragrance and food grade essential oils for mass production are completely odorless and tasteless.  It is impossible for anyone, however well-trained and experienced, to accurately state the hundreds of minute biochemical constituents of a particular oil simply by looking at it, touching, smelling, and tasting it.  Nor can they easily state with certain whether an oil is pure or has synthetic additives by Organoleptic testing alone, even though sometimes professional Chemists and Aromatherapists and others  with years of training and experience may quickly be able to tell some things about an oil by this means, or recognize certain impurities.    It is even less possible for the average customer and consumer of essential oils to accurately make these kind of assessments of an oil’s purity or quality by taste, smell, look, and touch.  It requires years of intensive training and experience – much more even than can be gained simply by Aromatherapy certification, and is not something that can be learned in a few years of using an essential oil or working at an essential oils company.

However, much misinformation has been published leading many consumers to feel “empowered” and able to accurately judge the therapeutic quality of an essential  oil simply because they like how it smells or feels, or that they can be “smart consumers” and purchase certain oils from one company and certain others from another to get the best deals and save money.  This is really not true and is likely to result in the purchase and use of oils which may contain synthetics the average user is unable to detect, and this can also be true even if the product label says it is “100% pure” or “certified organic”.

For more information on the leading essential oil companies, their history, testing, and quality standards, check out the 45 page Young Living/DoTerra report

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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. 


Author: ocequine3

Brenda Tippin is a Biologial Technician, Free-lance writer, and Morgan horse historian who has studied and used natural health products for more than 30 years. She is an independent distributor of Young Living Essential Oils which she has used successfully for herself, family, friends, horses and other pets. Brenda has written more than 40 articles for The Morgan Horse magazine since 1985, as well as other equine publications. She is a consultant and member of the project team for a new documentary film being developed on the Morgan as America's first horse breed, and is currently working on a book of her compiled articles and research. Brenda is also the author of the 45 page Young Living/DoTerra report avaliable for free download (small donations appreciated to help defray costs of research.) Brenda has worked for the US Forest Service since 1979 in a variety of projects including wildlife surveys and 26 seasons staffing a remote fire tower to spot forest fires.

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