What to Look for When Buying Essential Oils
As we progress as a society, we are understanding that ancient civilizations may have had it right the first time. Specifically, when it comes to essential oils and their health benefits. Essential Oils should be a part of your home therapy experience, but what should you be looking for when buying them?
There are dozens of choices and several things to keep in mind when shopping for essential oils. This article is to help guide you in your quest for the perfect distributor, to ensure you get what you pay for and the maximum health benefits.
Concern Yourself With Buzzwords
Your first web search will reveal words such as pure and therapeutic grade, but what does that actually mean? Since there is no standard definition of purity, or since essential oils are not regulated by the FDA, words like “pure” and “therapeutic” have little value. Even if an oil actually can be classified at 100%, it still may not have been properly processed and give you nothing more than a pleasant fragrance – if you’re lucky.
While perfumery oils, fragrance oils, and flavorings do offer a pleasant fragrance, they do not offer the therapeutic benefit of true essential oils. Based on where the plant is grown, and several deciding factors during that growing season, the amount of effective chemical components can vary from season to season.
The concern with oils not being pure is a valid one. The Herbal Academy tells us “For many reasons, often related to a distiller or supplier wanting to make more money, adulteration of essential oils is a serious problem.” There are so many mitigating factors involved in the process and finding of an honest retailer it is a key to reduce the risk of low-quality oil.
If all of this falls into place, and the essential oil extraction process is successful and consistent, along with proper packaging, care, and shipping, you still do not know whether or not you are buying pure oil. There is no way to know, other than through research and trial and error.
What To Avoid
As we start to take charge of our health, we need to be more vigilant in the products we choose. Here are several things to watch out for as you make your discoveries of what is best for you:
Make sure the products you are ingesting are natural. You shouldn’t have to read a paragraph of text for Lavender Essential Oil.
Low Level Ingredients
Some manufacturers will overemphasize the amount of oils they claim are in a bottle. This gives them the ability to be “honest” in their description, however misleading the consumer.
Vegetable is a common oil added to true essential oils in order to give it more volume. Avoid essential oils that have been diluted with vegetable oil. To test this, place a couple of drops on a piece of paper. If the drop leaves an oily ring, it likely contains vegetable oil.
As a rule, avoid buying essential oils from a company that prices all of its oils the same. The process of extraction can vary enormously from one plant to the next, and it makes no sense that an expensive and rare essential oil could be priced anywhere near the same as a common and lower priced essential oil. Pricing practices like this suggest that the oils are either synthetic or of low quality.
Never buy essential oils in plastic bottles as the oils can dissolve plastic and contaminate the product.
Terms such as “therapeutic grade” or “clinical grade” have been used by essential oil suppliers to claim the superiority of their oils over other suppliers’ oils. This had become commonplace and these terms are not standardized and mean whatever the supplier using them wants them to mean. As stated before, essential oils are not regulated by the FDA. Although these suppliers are not necessarily being misleading about their essential oils, they are using specific words that do not apply to specific properties.
Check The Date
When buying essential oils locally, watch for oils that have dust on the top of the bottles or boxes. This is an indication that the oils have been sitting around. As time passes, most oils oxidize, lose their therapeutic properties, and their aroma diminishes, rendering them ineffective.
What To Look For
We started with what to avoid. This allows us to cull our enormous amount of choice into something manageable. Now, let’s focus on what to look for when purchasing essential oils.
Unfortunately, the term “organic” means different things in different countries, but it is one more possible indicator of quality. Looking for oils that are organic should be your first choice. If plants are treated with pesticides, any contaminants will be even more concentrated in the essential oil. This is especially important for citrus oils since they begin high in the tree and are easier targets for pesticides. Some retailers also carry oils that are “unsprayed,” where the farms are not certified as organic, but they do not spray their crops, and many high-quality oils are also wildcrafted.
Essential oils should be sold in dark amber or blue glass bottles. Clear glass allows unfiltered light to enter and can cause the oil to spoil.
Prominent companies tend to list the Latin name and common name of the label as well as the country of origin. This helps to assure the consumer that you are buying the proper oil and not a generic competitor. Some oils perform better from one country to the next.
Many companies say they have 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils which basically doesn’t mean anything. It’s a fictitious term that rarely had any scientific backing. Organic essentials oils have at least undergone screening to be labeled as organic and are a safe bet.
How to Sample an Essential Oil
Now you have chosen where and how you will buy your oils. Before you start smelling and diffusing the night away, keep a few things in mind going forward. If purchasing an essential oil for aromatherapy or ingestion, you don’t want to test it in the same way you would a perfume. Rather, there are some simple rules to follow when evaluating a scent:
Do not place your nose right up to the open tester and take a huge breath. The undiluted oil is incredibly strong and can give you a headache. Instead, hold the lid at least five inches from your nose and waft the scent towards you while gently sniffing.
Be Mindful of Possible Allergies
Do not put the oil on your body in the event you may be allergic to it. It is better to start with a single drop on the inside of your arm. Apply it, wait for several, then proceed.
Cleanse your Palate
When comparing a variety of oils, take a break in between scents. Leave the area and give yourself a break. Sniffing oils too closely together can overwhelm the senses and reduce your ability to discern the fragrant notes.
Tips To Maximize Your Investment
By now, you have realized that essential oils are not inexpensive. There are a few more things you will want to keep in mind to maximize and protect your investment:
Less is More – Always buy less rather than more. A smaller bottle will likely last you many months, even with frequent use. Buying too much can lead to spoilage and waste.
Cool Off – Typically, you should use an essential oil within a year, although shelf life can vary. If needed, you can extend the shelf life by storing the oil in the refrigerator (not the freezer).
Remember the Glass Bottles – When purchasing oils online, larger sizes of essential oils may be shipped in plastic containers to avoid breakage and reduce shipping fees. We recommend asking what type of container is being used, since essential oils can dissolve plastic bottles and the quality of the oil can deteriorate more rapidly.
You may want to find another source for your oils. If you do receive oils shipped in plastic or clear glass, be sure to immediately transfer the essential oils to dark-colored glass bottles.
Choosing An Essential Oil Brand
It is important to look for vendors that provide accurate and detailed information about their oils. This is to give you confidence and assure you that their knowledge and background are acceptable.
Most suppliers will not check off everything on the above list but, as you inspect these potential suppliers and their websites, you will get a better feel for who you are dealing with. A reputable supplier will be happy to answer any, and all, questions you may have. If they are hesitant to do so, move on. There are multiple places that would love, not only your business but the opportunity to contribute to a healthy lifestyle for you and your loved ones.