What is the difference between a “therapeutic essential oil and a regular essential oil?
There are no agencies governing the use of the words “therapeutic essential oils” or “aromatherapy grade”. Anybody can use these terms to describe any oil. Do be wary of the terms “fragrance oil, nature identical, or perfume oil. These are not essential oils.
The truth is that there are MANY therapeutic grade standards. The problem is, which one do you trust? Its important for people to realize that all of these standards are INTERNAL standards developed by the company themselves and may or may not include quality control by a third party lab. Furthermore, if a third party lab is used, does this lab really know what they are doing? It’s also important to know what the company defines as being “therapeutic grade” does it simply mean that the oil is pure or does it mean something beyond purity and carry with it a quality standard as well? Let’s face it, an oil can be pure as the driven snow but still be low quality... Judgements about essential oil quality take more than just good chemists and good equipment, they require many years of experience in odor evaluation and knowing what specific minor components are desirable in an oil and not just focusing on the major components.
What are “pure” oils?
The word “pure” has no meaning in aromatherapy nor essential oils. An essential oil can be a "pure" oil but can come from a poor crop, poor growing conditions, can be old, can be adulterated with a cheaper essential oil to cut costs, etc.
Some helpful pointers:
Do not buy from companies whose prices for their oils are similar. Frankincense and rose oils are expensive, citrus oils are not. This should be reflected in the prices.
The botanical name and the country it came from should be available to you and/or listed on bottle.
Just because a company owns the land an essential oil is grown on does not guarantee the quality of the oil. Some plant crops need to be rotated every year while others do not. Weather conditions affect the quality of essential oils. France can have an exceptional year for lavender one year and the next, a quality lavender oil may come from Bulgaria due to better weather conditions.
Fragrance has nothing to do with the quality of the oil when it comes to therapeutic use, aromatherapy use, perfumery, and the flavouring industry. We use a high menthol peppermint essential oil for some of our products. When fresh, it has a skunky note. Not great when using it for scent but amazing when using it for its pain relief.
Ask if a GC (gas chromotography) and MS (mass spectrometry) is available for the oil you wish to purchase. If not, don’t buy it. These will not only tell you the purity of your oil but also tell you the quality.
Every oil has certain ranges of specific contents it should have. If it falls below acceptable limits, you may still have a pure oil but it may not be of any value for use in what you purchased it for. It is a widely held view that up to 75% of essential oils on the market are either adulterated or of poor quality. This is one of the reasons people believe that essential oils don’t work. The oils they have used are probably not pure or of poor quality.
Beware of claims of FDA certification; the FDA has no certification or approval process for essential oils
You get what you pay for! Recently, bottles of “pure essential oils” were purchased from a well-known department store for MS and GC testing due to their low price. After testing 3 oils, peppermint, lavender and cinnamon, all three were NOT what they claimed to be. See Essential Oil University Facebook page to see analysis. Three independent labs tested these so that there would be no doubts or favoritism.