How to Choose Essential Oils
The most important factor to consider when buying essential oils is that you're getting the purest form of the oil that will allow you to harness its aromatherapy benefits.
Elmarie de Bruyn from HERBS-APLENTY shares her guidelines on how to make sure you get the best in terms of purity and quality.
READ THE LABEL
You should be able to see:
- The botanical name of the plant
Knowing the Latin name for the plant material used to produce the oil is important as it has the biggest impact on the oil profile. The more information, the better.
- Where the ingredients are grown
Knowing where the plants included are grown and how the oil is produced is important information indicating a controlled chain from sourcing to selling.
- The batch code, or when the oil was distilled and/or bottled
This is an important indication of the traceability of the process and therapeutic beneft of the product.
- A '100%' gaurantee
Watch out for descriptors like 'pure', 'fragrance oil', 'nature-identical oil', 'perfume-oil', 'therapeutic grade' and 'aromatherapy grade'. These terms do not adhere to international standards, and are often variable and in-house.
- Organic certification
Even though organic certification is not necessarily a guarantee of oil integrity, it does assure that the production, processing and packaging practices are monitored and audited.
- Safety precautions
Statements like 'keep out of reach of children' may vary from product to product, but providing some safey information is important.
- Market-related pricing
Is the cost comparable to other brands of the same essential oil? Could it be a blend with a cheaper carrier oil? If the price seems too good to be true, you may want to pause and reconsider the quality and therapeutic benefit of the oil.
Appropriate packaging is important, as chemical degradation can occur from exposure to temperature variation, light or oxygen. Bulk essential oils are batched in steel drums with a special lining, and then bulked in 5 - 20 kg aluminium or special fluorinated HDPE plastic containers for storage, shipping and distribution. The 10 g aromatherapy bottles are then batched in opaque containers with a tight closure.
- Verifiable supplier details
A company should be transparent about where it gets its ingredients or oils, and how they are produced. They should also be able to back their claims with tests and verifications that demonstrate that the products and proceeses have been audited according to responsible business practices. Things to ask include:
- Is record kept of the processes? Which tests are run? When are the oils tested?
- Is the company willing to provide the test details?
- Is the company willing to provide test results for the specific batch you will be purchasing?
- Two common tests run are the gas chromatography and mass spectrometry tests, often referred to as GC/MS. Can you find these on the company's website?
- Some suppliers also provide results for other tests or MSDS sheets. Quality retailers are usually transparent about their products, and are willing and able to answer product-related questions.
- Pay attention to the educational background that the supplier provides, as well as how long they've been in the business.
All of the remarkable qualities of essential oils are provided by Mother Nature, but can only be utilised efficiently when the oil is produced properly and packaged and distributed responsibly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elmarie de Bruyn started her career as a scientist and analyst, made a detour into design and tourism and then found her niche some 25 years ago in the world of organic botanicals. She heads marketing and product development at HERBS-APLENTY, a company involved in the total cycle of the production of botanicals as well as the producer of the ELLI organic aromatherapy oil range.