As you get to know the different kinds of essential oils and their wonderful benefits, you may begin to hear a very common phrase used among them being “therapeutic grade”. You may also begin to notice that not all oils are labeled this way, but why is this important? Is it better for you?
The main surprise factor here is that there is no regulated standard within the United States that measures the therapeutic quality of any oil! I know, that sounds completely shocking and backwards! However, it’s true and the FDA does not regulate the labeling of these products and while many companies claim to maintain in-house quality controI standards, there is really nothing that enforces this. Therefore, it’s important to have as much information about your essential oils as possible in order to discern a true therapeutic grade product from an off-the-shelf imitation.
Today we’ll look into therapeutic grade essential oils and help to answer your questions so that you can decide what role therapeutic oils should play in your life.
What Does “Therapeutic Grade” Really Mean?
As mentioned, the term “therapeutic grade” means the oil is meant to be pure and of the highest quality. When you want to explore the varied health benefits of essential oils, quality becomes increasingly important.
Essential oils are extracted from their source through a handful of proven methods such as distillation, CO2 extraction, or expression. The process through which an oil is extracted can affect its quality, as can improper handling anytime during the manufacturing process. Soil conditions, the quality of the seed, the harvesting process, and the bottling and storage process, can all cause variations in quality as well.
When a company attaches the label “therapeutic grade” to its product, it is meant to imply that the oil is pure, has been handled properly, and has not had any other ingredients added to it. However, as there is no standard to be met or enforced, anyone can identify their own standard of purity and still call their product therapeutic grade. It then becomes vital to conduct additional research to determine the quality of a truly pure essential oil. The first time I used a truly therapeutic grade essential oil, I was blown away by the strength and concentration of just ONE drop, compared to the multitude of drops I was splashing from the generic oils I had been using up until that point.
What Can Affect the Quality and Purity of an Essentail Oil?
What other factors can affect the therapeutic value of an oil? Purity seems to be the most essential standard and regulated or not, a reputable essential oil company will offer at least some sort of purity guarantee. If they don’t make any claims of purity, testing, or manufacturing processes, it may be best to assume they don’t have a quality control standard and move on. As you review testing standards, be sure to familiarize yourself with what testing is done and by whom? Other factors to consider: are plants sustainably sourced? Are they organic? Do they test on animals or use harmful pesticides?
Next, take the time to compare costs. If an essential oil seems to be selling for a price that is too good to be true, well you know how the saying goes, it most likely is! Be cautious of those that seem remarkably lower. For example, just ONE 5 ml bottle of rose essential oil from Young Living sells for over $200! However, you can find rose oil (with purity guarantee and all) online for as little as $10 a bottle. Hhhmmm, now that’s certainly something to always keep in mind. Such a glaring disparity should put you on high alert.
How to Discern Which Oils are of the Best Quality
Reputable manufacturers oftentimes conduct testing and maintain quality control standards that include a very specific manufacturing process or extensive in-house testing and purity verification. This may include testing the specific gravity (or weight) of an oil, or a Mass Spectrometry (MS) or Gas Chromatography (GC) test, which tests for the exact makeup of an oil to confirm its purity.
Many companies also coin their own phrases that let the consumer know their products are of therapeutic quality. For example, Young Living Essential Oils has a “Seed to Seal” guarantee that promises utmost purity and handling from the time a seed is planted to the time the finished product is sealed inside the bottle. Similarly, another leading essential oil company, doTerra has trademarked the term “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” to assure consumers of the quality of their product.
Now, since we’ve learned that no one is enforcing these claims of quality, it may seem like a waste of time to rely on the statements made by individual companies themselves. However, we have found that what CAN happen is through a “Good Manufacturing Practice” certification, or GMP, a company can assure their stated standards are adhered to through all stages of sourcing and manufacturing. So, it appears it’s all about looking past the label and verifying those claims.
What About Organic Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils?
Beyond the scope of therapeutic grade oils, there are also organic therapeutic grade essential oils. While, like regular therapeutic grade oils, the FDA still does not regulate claims of purity and quality, they do regulate the organic component of this claim. So if a product claims to be organic, the FDA does, in fact, verify that the plants being used are organic. This is a positive step in the right direction.
Are There Companies I Can Actually Trust?
With the plethora of non-regulated information out there, are there actually companies you can trust? The good news is that the answer is yes! There are many essentail oil companies that appear to put in a true effort to create a high-quality product that maintains a variety of industry standards. You should always do additional research yourself, but below is a list of just some of our favorite essential oil companies that we believe offer quality therapeutic grade essential oils that you can trust:
Young Living Essential Oils: This company owns and operates all of their own farms, allowing them to oversee the process, as they’ve trademarked, from “Seed to Seal”.
doTerra: Uses quality testing standards (such as the Mass Spectrometry and Gas Chromatography processes described above).
Eden’s Garden: A holistic company which not only avoids animal testing, they adhere to a 100% purity standard which states “nothing is added, nothing is taken away”.
NOW Foods: Utilizes a variety of testing through their state-of-the-art, 263,000 square foot facility.
The Final Verdict
While regulation of therapeutic grade essential oils is clearly non-existent from an FDA standpoint, there are still trustworthy options out there! The most important thing you can do is read the label and verify the information presented to you by looking into the company itself and seeing what their standards are and how they guarantee them. Always buy your oils from a trusted, reputable source where the purity and quality are clearly outlined. Don’t just relying on potentially misleading verbiage from a bottle.
We hope we’ve given you a healthy dose of aromatic food for thought and as always, happy oiling!