These days it’s very easy to get your hands on a whole range of essential oils, what’s harder is making sure those oils are pure, good quality, and unadulterated. While this isn’t as important for every use, if you’re using them for your health you really want to ensure your essential oil is 100% pure. The most important reasons being that impure, or adulterated oils do not offer the full health benefits that 100% pure oils do, and may even contain additives that potentially come with harmful side effects. Beyond that, low quality can refer to poor crops, improper handling, dilution with carrier oils, unknown additives, or even simply artificially scented.
So how can you tell if the oil you’re buying is the real deal? Ideally, your essential oil should be a bottle of potent liquid that’s been distilled from the flower, root, leaf, or rind of an aromatic plant. The following signs may not be individually definitive, but they are all excellent clues to use to avoid getting ripped off.
1. The container
Look for dark coloured glass containers.
Most vendors sell quality oils in sizes of 4 oz. or smaller, contained in a dark colored glass bottle with an eyedropper bulb. Storing the oil in a glass container is essential due to the strong chemical compounds in the oil that break down and react when coming in contact with plastic. The glass needs to be a dark color too, such as amber or dark blue, in order to keep the oil from ultraviolet degradation. If you’re purchasing your oil in person, such as a health food store, be sure that the bottles are in a cool place – if they’re subject to heat it can cause negative changes in the chemical composition of the oil.
If the essential oil you’re buying is stored in a plastic or clear glass bottle, give it a miss.
2. The name
Most people shop online for essential oils these days. If you’re one of them, as you add those items to your cart, make sure the online store includes the common name of the oil as well as the Latin name. If the Latin name isn’t there, it may actually be a non-essential oil that simply has perfume added to give it its scent. For example, when purchasing peppermint essential oil, look for something that reads: Peppermint, Mentha x piperita.
3. Very cheap price
Choosing the highest priced essential oil doesn’t necessarily indicate that it’s of high quality. However, it’s a good idea to be cautious of an essential oil with a very low price.
A high-quality essential oil usually does come with a fairly high price tag, because it takes a rather astonishing amount of plant to produce them. The quantity does change depending on the oil, but consider that:
– 150 pounds of lavender flowers is required to produce just one pound of lavender oil
– more than 250 pounds of peppermint leaves are needed to make a pound of peppermint essential oil
-in one of the most extreme cases: it takes at least 4,000 pounds of Bulgarian rose to produce a pound of essential oil.
4. Harvest and production methods
Because essential oils are created from plants, buying an organic oil is important in order to avoid potential pesticide contamination.
Look our for an official seal such as the USDA seal, or EU organic logo. You should also look for an oil that is labeled “wild-crafted.” That means that the plant used to make the oil was harvested in the wild, and not farmed – which indicates that it hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals.
If price is a serious concern, the most important type of essential oil to purchase as organic is citrus oils as they’ve been shown to contain the most pesticides.
5. Purity statement
The label should always indicate if the essential oil is 100% pure essential oil. If it doesn’t, that means there’s a high chance that it’s been altered, or mixed with something else.
If you purchase an oil from the same company, but it doesn’t smell like the others of the same type you purchased, that’s actually a good sign.
There are lots of things that will influence the scent. The amount of rain the crop received, the temperature of the air, the length of the growing season, the soil content, etc. – similar to wine. Wine from the same grape varietal, grown in the same location, from the same producer may yield a vastly different tasting wine from year to year.
If the oil consistently smells exactly the same every time you buy it, then odds are, the company is adding chemicals, probably synthetic, to achieve the same smell profile. While the chemical constituents of an oil may remain the same, the ratio of each will not.
Once you have your oil and unscrew the cap, look at the dispensing ability. It should be plugged with something called an “orifice reducer.” This plug controls how many drops come out at once. That’s not only helpful to ensure you get the right dose, but it also helps to prolong the shelf life of an oil that’s prone to oxidation, by limiting its exposure to air.
You may also come across droppers, if these are used they should be made of glass; both plastic or rubber materials tend to break down, which releases synthetic impurities into your oil.
8. Purity test
When you get your oil, there’s a simple test you can do to determine it’s purity.
Just place a single drop onto a piece of white paper (computer printer paper works great), and then allow it to dry for up to 12 hours. If an oil ring is left behind, it’s usually not a pure essential oil.
There are exceptions: some oils are deeper in color and heavier in consistency and can leave a slight tint behind, but it shouldn’t be greasy. Examples are sandalwood, patchouli oil, and German chamomile.