Essential Oil Quality Grades
Recently Dr Cole Woolley has talked about the essential oil quality grades. He is a well-known analytical chemist who has tested the quality of most essential oils from different companies. He has also spent considerable time around the world with growers and distillers of essential oils. Let’s learn from him and choose our EO wisely. Here comes the extract from his Facebook:
There are different grades of essential oils. I count four quality grades for essential oils from the highest quality (GENUINE Grade) to the lowest quality (SYNTHETIC Grade). I find it best to picture these Quality Grades as a triangle to represent the volume of these Grades sold in the market as “essential oils”.
-GENUINE Grade – 100% all-natural essential oil, highest quality
-MANIPULATED Grade – blend of essential oils, fractions & isolates
-PERFUMED Grade – blend of essential oils + synthetic fragrances
-SYNTHETIC Grade – blend of synthetic fragrances, lowest quality
The main reason for these four grades of essential oil quality is money. Most essential oils are harvested from plants or trees just ONCE/YEAR. The DISTILLERS and EXPORT BROKERS have learned how to extend the volume of essential oil by blending lower quality with high quality.
(1)GENUINE Grade Essential Oils –
It’s not easy to guarantee 100% GENUINE Grade essential oils (100% Pure & Natural). Companies have to control the supply chain from GROWERS to CUSTOMERS. In addition, QUALITY CONTROL testing must verify the GENUINE Grade.
SUPPLY CHAIN CONTROL. If you grow it and distill it, then you can control GENUINE Grade quality. Farms/Distilleries owned, co-owned, exclusive partners, or contract partners by essential oil companies influence and control essential oil quality. Control seed quality, eliminate herbicide and pesticide use, schedule harvesting and control distillation process.
QUALITY CONTROL Testing. Before essential oils are put into 5ml, 10ml or 15ml bottles for customers it should be tested to verify GENUINE Grade status. Here’s some important tests for quality: color, odor, specific gravity, refractive index, fatty acids analysis, evaporation spot test, optical rotation, FT-IR, residual solids, GC, Chiral GC, GC-MS, Chiral GC-MS, and GC-IR-MS. Companies need to develop quality test standards in order to guarantee GENUINE Grade. It also takes great scientists with knowledge of analytical testing and GENUINE Grade essential oils.
From PLANTS-to-CUSTOMERS. Imagine you grow Lavender in your garden, you pull and hoe weeds, you harvest the flowering spikes, then you steam distill your own Lavender essential oil. Imagine the same process on a large scale – that’s the definition of Genuine Grade essential oils.
(2) MANIPULATED Grade Essential Oils – Lower Quality
The TRICKS that are played in the EO market! Most of the “all-natural” essential oils sold for aromatherapy are MANIPULATED Grade – a lower quality than GENUINE Grade. I’ll give you lots of examples. MANIPULATED Grade oils contains all-natural molecules – blended essential oils, blended essential oil fractions and blended essential oil isolates. Check out the groups A, B & C with lots of examples.
A–BLENDED Genuine Grade Essential Oils–
This type of blended all-natural essential oils is very common.
-EXAMPLE 1: Melissa oil + Lemongrass oil. Melissa oil is very expensive because the natural yield from the plant is so small. Cheap Lemongrass oil can extend the Melissa oil volume and enhance the fragrance.
-EXAMPLE 2: Lavender oil + Lavandin oil. This is a French specialty. French sources of Lavender oil love to put in a 5-50% share of cheaper Lavandin oil. Check out a product sold in WalMart that contains 95% Lavandin oil + just 5% Lavender oil, but labelled as “Lavender Oil”.
B–BLENDED Genuine Grade oil + Essential Oil FRACTIONS–
The term “fraction” means a portion of an all-natural essential oil. Distillers can “fractionate” essential oil producing a “light fraction” and a “heavy fraction”. Then they use these fractions to “extend” and “enhance their products”.
-EXAMPLE 1: Peppermint oil + DMO . What is DMO? This ALL happens in India. It is De-Mentholated Oil. It originates from Corn Mint (not peppermint) that contains 70% Menthol. Then they freeze the oil to force Menthol to form solid Menthol crystals. Then they pour off the liquid (which now has only 30-45% Menthol) and call it De-Methylated Oil. Most of the Peppermint oil sold is Peppermint + DMO! Shocking!
-EXAMPLE 2: Patchouli oil + Patchouli terpenes. Again, by fractionating (redistilling) Patchouli oil a “light fraction (terpenes)” and a “heavy fraction (perfume fraction)” is created. Simple blend the cheap Patchouli terpenes into Patchouli oil to extend the volume. Can you see the challenge that respectable essential oil companies deal with to bring you GENUINE Grade essential oils?
C–BLENDED Genuine Grade oil + Essential Oil ISOLATES–
An “isolate” is a “single molecule that is fractionated from an oil”. Isolates are all-natural. Liquid isolates are usually expensive. Solid crystal isolates are cheap, like Menthol crystals and Thymol crystals.
-EXAMPLE 1: Melissa oil + geraniol isolate. Melissa oil is expensive. An “isolate” is a “single molecule that is fractionated from an oil”. In this case geraniol isolate comes from Geranium oil. It is almost impossible to detect the adulterated blending of Melissa oil + Geraniol isolate. Very crafty indeed!
-EXAMPLE 2: Lavender oil + cis-beta-Ocimene isolate. Yes, I’ve seen this one. The molecule cis-beta- Ocimene can be isolated from Citrus peel oils. Lavender contains about 2% cis-beta- Ocimene, but the ISO standard allows up to 8%. So, why not add cis-beta-Ocimene isolate to extend the volume of Lavender oil. Very difficult to detect with analytical instruments.
LOTS of essential oils are MANIPULATED Grade! Only the best essential oil scientists can detect Manipulated oils. Fortunately Manipulated Grade oils are ALL-NATURAL. However, you are being cheated with a lower grade as you pay for a higher grade.
(3) PERFUMED Grade Essential Oils – Poor Quality
There are so many DECEPTIVE TRICKS played on innocent customers of essential oils. More PERFUMED Grade oils are sold in the market than you can believe. These contain SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES that are created chemicals from crude petroleum. Synthetic molecules ALWAYS have a small amount of undesired by-product. Sometimes the by-product is poisonous. This is where the problem exists for people with sensitive skin and lungs. There are 2 groups: A & B with examples.
A–Genuine oils + SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES–
-EXAMPLE 1: Lavender + synthetic Linalyl acetate. This is very common. Typically, synthetic Linalyl acetate is created from natural Linalool from Chinese camphor + synthetic acetate. If you have Lavender which is consistently 34%, 36%, or 38%; then you likely have synthetic Linalyl acetate in your Lavender oil.
-EXAMPLE 2: Geranium + synthetic geraniol. Synthetic geraniol fragrance adds even more rose aroma to Geranium oil. This is also very common.
-EXAMPLE 3: Melissa + synthetic Geranial and Geraniol. Melissa is very expensive. Adding synthetic Geranial fragrance adds a citrus/lemon aroma. Adding synthetic Geraniol fragrance adds more rose aroma. Watch out!
B–Manipulated oils + SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES–
-EXAMPLE 1: Lavender + Roman Chamomile + synthetic Linalyl acetate. I saw this one on the market. Some companies import huge quantities of synthetic Linalyl acetate to enhance Lavender oil aroma.
-EXAMPLE 2: Neroli + Orange + synthetic Phenylethyl alcohol. Neroli (orange blossom oil) is expensive. So, add inexpensive Orange oil for sweet/citrus notes. Then add synthetic Phenylethyl alcohol for rose note. Totally Perfumed oil.
PERFUMED oils make up a huge chunk of essential oils in the market. It is common for people to have airborne allergies and skin allergies to PERFUMED oils due to the addition of synthetic petroleum chemicals and their undesirable by-products. Some essential oil companies place a high priority on sourcing CHEAP oils. Customers trying to save money on essential oils are usually purchasing lower quality PERFUMED oils.
(4) SYNTHETIC GRADE Essential Oils – Lowest Quality
You may think it’s impossible that a company could sell 100% synthetic essential oils. You would be wrong. It’s more common than you think.
The biggest motivation to sell SYNTHETIC Grade oils is profit$. Be careful with online purchases. SYNTHETIC Grade oils are common for perfuming wax melts. SYNTHETIC Grade oils are common in perfuming personal care, skin care, and dental care products.
Here are three major groups of SYNTHETIC Grade oils: A, B and C with examples.
A–Alcohol + SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES–
Alcohol + synthetic linalyl acetate (synthetic lavender)
Alcohol + synthetic benzyl acetate (synthetic jasmine)
Alcohol + synthetic phenyl ethyl alcohol (synthetic rose)
These are very, very cheap oils that are sold as perfumes or essential oils.
EXAMPLE 1: Methyl Salicylate (Oil of Wintergreen).
Many of you will disbelieve this. Over 90% of the “Wintergreen oil” sold on the market and as an “essential oil ingredient” is SYNTHETIC. Yes! Natural Wintergreen from China is 98-99% Methyl salicylate with 1-2% other natural molecules. Synthetic wintergreen which is 99.5-99.9% Methyl salicylate and 0.1-0.5% synthetic by-products is very, very, very, very, very, very common. By USA and Canada law this synthetic Wintergreen oil can be called “Oil of Wintergreen” or “Wintergreen Oil” on the label.
Only the best essential oil scientists can find the synthetic by-products. Analytical testing is important!
C–Vegetable oil + SYNTHETIC Fragrances–
EXAMPLE 1: Castor oil + synthetic indole + benzyl acetate (Synthetic Jasmine). Look out for this cheap version in the market. Many times this is used as an essential oil ingredient to perfume skin care and hair care products. Be aware!
EXAMPLE 2: Fractionated Coconut Oil + synthetic linalool + synthetic geraniol (synthetic Rosewood). You can’t buy Rosewood oil on the market. It’s illegal. So if you find Rosewood essential oil you know you are getting a SYNTHETIC oil. Adding synthetic Linalool creates a sweet/floral aroma. Adding synthetic Geraniol gives you a floral/rose scent. All perfectly SYNTHETIC.
Look out for these cheap oils. If the price is unbelievably low compared to most essential oils, then you know it is SYNTHETIC Grade.
The BEST Essential Oil Company
I received lots of questions about “the best essential oil company”. You need to answer that. You need to ask the critical questions about essential oil quality.
Every company will say they have “the highest quality essential oils.” You need to ask questions about:
A) SUPPLY CHAIN quality and B) QUALITY TESTING.
For you the “best essential oil company” may be:
- The essential oil quality
- The marketing story
- Your local leaders
- The feeling of being in a family
- The products that enhance your life
- The essential oil blends
- The infused essential oil products
- The company leadership
We hope everyone has a deeper understanding of high-quality essential oils and knows how to choose the best essential oils. We wish you all a happy new year and abundance of health, wealth and prosperity!
Information extracted from Cole Woolley, PhD (Facebook)