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In this article, I reveal to you the most telling indicators of high-quality essential oils and how you can use these indicators to spot and reject the fakes.
I will also arm you with a couple of simple tests that you can perform to give you the knowledge, power, and confidence to challenge the sellers.
With a global market size value estimated to be worth 18.62 Billion USD in 2020, growing to 33.26 Billion USD by 2027, the temptation to create fakes is overwhelming.
High Quality Essential Oils Selection Guide
Ignore The Hype
100% pure essential oils have only one ingredient, (essential oil), so beware if the ingredients list says otherwise.
Sadly, some of the bottles on the shelves are stuffed with fillers, extenders, and synthetics hidden from view by misleading descriptions and advertising.
So the first piece of advice I have for you is to take nothing at face value. Ignore the fancy packaging and hype, and do a little research.
Loud colors, bold statements, and fancy sales reps are not part of the product.
Therefore step one is to follow the steps below and concentrate fully on the product, not the noise.
Always remember that pure high-quality essential oil has but one ingredient.
Fake essential Oil Clue 1 – Bottle Type
Essential oils of high quality will always be sold in tightly sealed dark-colored glass bottles. (brown, blue, amber)
Under the cap, you will find an orifice reducer that will enable you to measure the oil out into single droplets.
The reducer will also limit the exposure of the oil to oxygen, reducing oxidation and prolonging the oil’s shelf life.
High-quality essential oils oxidize immediately with oxygen, so a bottle without a seal must be rejected.
Sometimes the seal will resemble an eyedropper but beware if this dropper is made from thin plastic.
Plastic and essential oils are a poor combination as essential oils are highly volatile, chemically complex, and react with plastics.
If your essential oil is being offered with thin plastic bottles or droppers, walk away immediately.
They are not the real deal, and if the plastic has contaminated the essential oil, it may now be toxic.
Only ridged HDPE plastic droppers should be used as this type of plastic can resist the power of the oil.
Fake essential Oil Clue 2 – Storage Location
Essential oils can be fragile and will be irreversibly damaged by exposure to U/V light, heat, rapid temperature variations, and any exposure to oxygen.
Therefore never buy your oil from a storage location that could involve any or all of those factors.
Examples would include oils being sold from shop windows, near radiators, or frequently opened for customers to test the aroma.
This is the reason why responsible companies spend so much on comprehensive packaging.
It is also why storage should be a determining factor in your decision to purchase.
Fake essential Oil Clue 3 – Price
Essential oils should never be cheap; the production costs from seed to bottle are just too high.
Therefore, the price can be taken as an indicator of quality, but beware, the price quoted can be too cheap but it can also be too high!
Like any brand name on the market, you can end up paying for the name as well as the product.
Please don’t fall for the marketing hype. All the information is on the bottle; you just need to recognize it.
Arrogantly some of those prices are deliberately inflated to give credibility to a brand name and exploit your ignorance of the subject.
So don’t use high prices as your primary indicator of a good quality product but think of it as just one of your indicators among a list of others.
To effectively use price as a guide, know that each oil is different, and so each bottle price should vary.
If you find essential oils of the same bottle size and all are similarly priced, no matter the variety of genus, walk away!
Genuine 100% pure essential oils are never priced in that way. Therefore it almost guarantees that the oils are fake or have been adulterated in some way.
Prices can also fluctuate for many reasons, such as low crop yields, government taxation, and market conditions.
A wise buyer will never expect prices to be constant from year to year or bottle to bottle.
So the way to use price to your advantage is to compare your variable prices against other significant stockists and brands.
If the price of your advertised high-quality essential oil is similar to what others are quoting, it’s a good indicator that your oil is genuine.
To spot the fake remember that, if the price seems too good to be true, then sadly, it probably is.
Fake essential Oil Clue 4 – Latin Name (Botanical Information)
All high-quality essential oils should display both the common and Latin names of the plant used to make the oil.
It should also be clear which genus of the plant is being used, as Eucalyptus globulus is very different from Eucalyptus Radiata.
In fact, the genus of Eucalyptus spans more than 660 species of shrubs and tall trees and each genus creates its own unique oil.
Therefore, a simple eucalyptus description is inadequate and indicates a fake essential oil.
Fake essential Oil Clue 5 – Labeling
If it is a pure and high-quality essential oil, then the label should specify 100% pure essential oil and have only one ingredient.
It is NOT an essential oil if it doesn’t specify the word essential.
For example, if it says essence oil, then it is a blend of essential oil(s) and a carrier oil such as jojoba.
This could still be a high-quality essential oil but not the high-quality pure essential oil you are looking for.
Another example is “fragrance oil,” which is a synthetic compound created purely for the aroma.
These oils have no beneficial natural compounds and can be diluted with other substances and be toxic to pets.
Please read my article: Essential Oils and the Danger to Cats, Dogs, and Birds?
In addition to displaying the plant’s common and Latin names, the label must also state what part of the plant it was derived from.
For example, “Plant part leaf and twig, or, distilled from the herb.”
Other information will include;
- The extraction method (distillation or expression)
- How it was grown, i.e., organic, wild-crafted, traditional.
- Net contents. (including metric measurements)
- Name and address of manufacturer or distributor.
- All ingredients. (100% pure essential oils only have one ingredient)
- Country of origin.
- Batch or Lot number.
- Directions of use.
High-Quality Essential Oil Grading System
Multilevel marketing (MLM) essential oil market leaders have (self) introduced the standard of therapeutic grade in relation to the grading of essential oils.
Please note that this is purely a trademarked term and not a term that identifies purity.
The term is used as a marketing ploy to suggest to the general public that these oils are of very high quality.
In fact, it is meant to suggest that this, “therapeutic grade essential oil” is of a higher quality than that of the competitors and so if you buy from the competitor you are buying a lower quality oil!
It also infers that the oil is ingestable and safe to use undiluted on the skin, however, I would never advocate using essential oils in either of these two ways unless advised by a medical practitioner.
Essential oils are highly volatile potent substances and are dangerous and possibly toxic if misused.
There is simply no industry-accepted standard that defines essential oils as having a therapeutic grading.
Nor is there an organization that screens or monitors oils in the United States for purity levels.
The simple truth is that all 100% pure essential oils could theoretically be graded as therapeutic grades; or even grade A, B, C, D, etc.
Therefore grading should not be seen as the accepted quality measure that defines all high-quality essential oils.
It is purely a marketing ploy dreamt up by the marketing department to differentiate its company from its competition. And not wishing to be seen as inferior, the competition took up the term and ran with it.
High-Quality Essential Oils Selecting And Testing
High-Quality Essential Oils – The Smell Test
Testing the aromas of essential oils is an indicator of quality, but it can only be a minor indicator for the general public.
Only an experienced aromatherapist or dedicated herbalist may be able to accurately spot a fake from its aroma.
Furthermore, like fine wines, essential oils often smell very different from batch to batch based on individual growing conditions and distillation processes which adds a further layer of complication to the process.
However, if it says lemon but smells of roses, then something is distinctly odd. Turn away; it’s a good bet that it’s a fake, or worse, toxic.
High-Quality Essential Oils – The Feel Test
To do this test, simply place a drop of vegetable or nut oil on the pad of your index finger.
Next, place a drop of essential oil on the pad of your other index finger.
Now rub the oils with your thumbs and index fingers and see if you can notice any difference between the two.
Genuine essential oils feel light to the touch and have a little slip, but do not feel greasy.
However, there are exceptions such as Patchouli, German chamomile, Sandalwood, and Vetiver as they are by their very nature naturally thick, heavy and richly colored oils.
High-Quality Essential Oils – The Blotter Test
Essential oils are not true oils at all, and, unlike oil, when they dry out, they do not leave a ring of oily residue.
It is this little quirk that we can exploit to expose the fake oils from the genuine ones.
But a quick word of warning, this test will only ring true in most cases, as there are a few exceptions.
So please be aware that this test is not 100% accurate.
To perform a blotter test, you will need a perfume test strip, recommended, or a piece of white paper.
Simply dispense a drop of your pure essential oil on your test paper and leave it to dry.
The exact drying time will depend upon many varying factors, so don’t expect immediate results.
If a visible ring of oily residue is left behind, then the oil is probably not 100% pure essential oil.
Exceptions to the blotter test are the essential oils that are heavier in consistency and deeper in color. These oils are typically Patchouli, German chamomile, Sandalwood, and Vetiver.
Another exception is when a pure essential oil has been extended with a less expensive pure essential oil. (not a synthetic oil)
Here the blend has been created with two pure, high-quality essential oils; therefore, this blend will not leave an oily stain.
However, the oil will be of high quality but not the pure single oil type you are paying for.
Extending oils in this way enables companies to make higher profits from both the cheaper oils and the expensive ones.
It is these two quirks that make the blotter test less than 100% accurate.
That being said, the blotter test is still a good and reasonably accurate test for spotting the purity of high-quality essential oils.
High-Quality Essential Oils – The Water Test
High-quality essential oils may be extended by adding surfactants and emulsifiers to them.
This form of adulteration is done in an attempt to save costs and boost profits.
However, there is a very simple and highly effective trick to expose this adulteration.
Pure essential oils do not mix with water and will gently float along, whereas emulsified mixtures do not.
Therefore, to conduct the water test, simply place a drop of oil into a bowl of water and wait for a moment.
Any emulsifiers present will eventually seep out of the oil and leave a milky or opaque solution in the water.
High-Quality Essential Oils – The History Test
Researching an essential oil brand’s history can tell you a lot about its trustworthiness, transparency, and quality of the product.
So when looking for high-quality essential oils ask yourself the following questions:
- How long has the brand existed?
- Do they have a long history in the aromatherapy industry, with a professional reputation?
- Is the brand featured in related magazine articles?
- Has the brand failed third-party testing, and if so, how did they handle it?
- Does the company have any recent online reviews or accredited awards?
- Does the brand display or is recognized for its strong standards and ethical beliefs.
Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) Testing
These tests may be quoted on the bottle, packaging, website, or articles about the brand to evidence the purity of the product.
Gas Chromatography (GC) separates the volatile compounds in essential oils into individual components.
A linear graph is then produced to visually chart these components.
Mass Spectrometry (MS) identifies each of these components and the percentages involved.
This process identifies any adulteration, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers within the essential oils tested.
Some companies display that their oils have been GC-MS tested and use this as proof of purity.
However, these tests are not infallible and can miss many adulterations in the essential oils subjected to testing.
My advice is to take the test results only as an indicator of quality but not as a guaranteed purity test as fake oils would be unlikely to offer themselves up to GC/MS testing.
Where To Purchase High-Quality Essential oils
Don’t be fooled by rave reviews on high-traffic websites where people search for the cheapest product.
Many reviews are just as fake as the goods that they are supposedly reviewing.
Some reviews are paid for, many others are sponsored, and some reviews are written before the product has even been opened.
And if your reviewer is Derick from Sandpoint you should be asking yourself the question, should he be able to ship that many high-quality essential oils from his tiny apartment?
Similarly, is your local truck stop or drug store the best place to find the highest quality oils on the market?
Remember, the place you choose to buy your essential oils from is important.
An oil with suspicious origins may not only be fake, but it could also be toxic for you, your pets, and your family!
Do Unknown Brand Names Produce High-Quality Essential Oils?
Although a good brand name is a fair indicator of quality, it should not be considered a defining one.
Many reputable companies buy directly from farms that log and test everything and then they simply rebottle the product.
Therefore, If you buy directly from these same unbranded suppliers, it will save you money.
The production, distillation, testing, and purity controls are the same and are verified on the labeling.
This is where good research comes into play, and there are many high-quality essential oil suppliers that you can discover.
Make it your mission to free yourself from all the hype offered by multilevel marketing companies and sales reps.
In short, don’t believe the hype, and don’t fixate on a brand name but look for a good essential oil supplier with a great reputation in the field or locally.
When looking for a reputable supplier over a brand name, I would consider the following points.
Qualities to look for in a high-quality supplier:
- Size is not an indication of quality. (big brands do not rule)
- Are the big brands buying from this supplier?
- Does the supplier have a long, transparent, and uncontroversial history admired by other essential oil specialists? (qualified aromatherapy practitioners)
- Is the oil supplier used by qualified aromatherapists or other essential oil specialists?
- Does the supplier have contact with the distillers?
- Can the supplier provide small batch-specific MS/GC testing on each essential oil that it sells?
- Does the supplier have a strong and recognized reputation and ethical code?
If you can find a supplier who fulfills some or even all of the above points, then you can avoid most, if not all, of the fakes.
High-Quality Essential Oils And Third-Party Testing
A company that does all of its tests in-house may not be completely honest about its results.
However, a company that freely subjects its oils to be tested by a third party has no such conflict of interest.
Third-party testing is done without payment or favor, and the host company has no control over the results.
Therefore, a company wishing to place consumer confidence in their high-quality essential oils will favor third-party testing.
Third-party testing, therefore, can be seen as a fair indicator of company and product quality.
But once again, I advise you to not make it your only indicator.
Third-parties testing may only include Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry testing, and these are not infallible.
Are G.R.A.S Essential Oils Always Of High-Quality?
Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS) will appear on the packaging of some essential oils.
However, this does NOT make it safe to ingest whole drops daily, and I class this as unsafe advice.
Now there are plenty of people who disagree with that statement, but I stand by it.
Essential oils do have therapeutic and holistic value but do not conflate these with the term GRAS.
GRAS standards apply to parts per million in commercial food and drink products, NOT whole drops in food or water.
Moreover, individual chemicals can be recognized as GRAS, and this means by default that adulterated and synthetic essential oils also can.
Essential oils that have GRAS status, therefore, do not need to be pure, and they don’t even need to be organically grown.
In truth, they don’t even need to have come from a plant!
Therefore, for me, any recommendation to ingest or use neat upon the skin raises my suspicions.
As I stated earlier, essential oils are highly volatile and extremely potent complex chemical compounds.
These compounds can easily disorientate the brain, burn the skin, or poison the body if misused.
Furthermore, essential oils that are not 100% pure can be adulterated with anything to make them go further.
So who knows what you are ingesting when you take them.
So beware of advice to put them in or onto your body to aid your internal health!
Why Do Essential Oils Cost So Much?
High-quality essential oils come in small bottles and cost a lot of money because of the massive production costs involved.
Believe me, it takes a lot of time, effort, and plant material to make a high-quality essential oil!
Consider this, an organic farm must organically grow and harvest a single plant genus for an entire season and make sure that no external factors adulterate the crop.
Think of the running costs involved in labor, water, feed, natural bug repellants, equipment, and harvesting.
The plant material, (let’s say lavender) must then be separated into flowers, stems, leaves, and roots before being steam-distilled. And this distilling incurs further costs.
The result of all of this effort would be about one pound of lavender oil per one hundred pounds of plant part.
Now we have to add the extra expense of the bottles used, labor, labels, packaging, transport, advertising, selling, and shipping!
It’s little wonder that a small bottle of high-quality essential oil can command such a high price!
The Main Points – In Conclusion
So there is a lot of information to take in so here is a quick roundup of the main points.
There is no one hard and fast test that you can use to determine if your high-quality essential oils are pure or fake.
However, there are many small tests and indictors that are at your disposal to help guide you through the minefield.
And you don’t need to buy from sizeable multilevel marketing companies that charge you more than you need to pay.
Learn to look at price as not the best indicator of quality but rather as only one of them.
Small independent companies can provide you with high-quality essential oils, so don’t be afraid of them.
Remember, it may be those same small farms and independent companies that are supplying the big boys!
Qualified aromatherapists and essential oil specialists use brands that they trust, so ask them their opinions.
These are the real experts at spotting the fakes and giving good advice; use them.
Don’t be drawn in by grading or the term therapeutic when selecting your essential oils.
However, if you’re putting essential oils on your skin or hoping for a therapeutic effect, you need to be using a dilution of 100% pure essential oils.
And next time you spot some “pure rose oil” over a radiator at a drug store… smile politely and keep on walking!
Overall, my advice is cheap means fake, and when in doubt, trust your senses and don’t buy it.