What oil quality is needed for Therapeutic Essential Oils?
Are All Essential Oils therapeutic? How important is oil quality?
How do I know I am getting therapeutic-quality essential oils?
What does therapeutic mean?
The medical dictionary says: a treatment, having a medicinal or healing property: a healing agent
So What are Therapeutic Essential Oils?
Essential oils are the life force of plants. When you crush the petal of a rose or tear the leaf from a peppermint plant, a liquid substance emerges. Citrus oils are pressed from the peels or rinds of fruit. These tiny drops of liquid are called essential oils. This liquid intelligence or life force of the plant is energy from the sun, it can balance internal systems. Throughout history, essential oils have been used to: Heal the Sick, Refresh the memory, Calm the body.
Essential oils are highly concentrated, volatile (evaporate quickly) plant extracts that contain hundreds of organic constituents and other natural elements. Essential oils carry the beneficial properties of the plants they were derived from and provide a natural form of herbal energy when they have a oil quality of high therapeutic value. Most essential oils are lighter than water and yet are not water soluble, and they are able to dissolve in body fats.
Therapeutic Essential Oils are Nature's Pharmacy. They may be used as mood creators, perfumes, and fragrances. Natural scents keep you connected to the world around you by rekindling emotions and feeling. Essential oils with high oil quality have therapeutic value.
How Are Essential Oils Extracted From Plants?
Oil quality is not only affected by where it is grown, and the spieces but also on how it is handled during extraction.
Steam distillation is the most common, and probably the oldest, form of extracting liquid from leaves, stems, and barks.
Most essential oils are produced by forcing steam into containers of plant material where the glands of the plants are ruptured, releasing the oil. Following a cooling phase, the oil flows through an outlet into a waiting container. It sounds simple, but it can take several hundred or thousands of pounds of plant material to distill an single pound of essential oil.
Each plant releases its oils at optimum distillation times. Geranium, for example, releases its oils after a short distillation period, while tea tree requires a longer process to release the necessary properties. All distillations must be performed accurately or the oils lose important constituents. Each plant has unique and special properties. With exact distillation, these properties can be optimized and secured in the oil quality.
Solvent extraction is a modern technique used for delicate plant materials that cannot be steam distilled. Jasmine, rose, and neroli (orange blossom) are examples of these. Solvent extraction goes through multiple stages before the floral absolute is complete. First, a concrete is produced by a hydrocarbon type solvent, where both the volatile oil and waxes are extracted. Another step of solvent extraction, involving pure alcohol, where waxes are only slightly soluble. This process is repeated a number of times. The wax material is thus removed, and the alcohol evaporates. The residual remnants of alcohol can be removed by gentle vacuum extraction leaving, in the case of a superior product, zero parts per billion of solvent residue in the final product.
Expression, also known as cold pressing, is performed exclusively to obtain citrus oils. The oils that are contained in the outer layer of fruit peels are pressed and filtered, yielding fragrant oil. With the exception of lemon, citrus oils smell better pressed than distilled.
This is just a short explanation of how we get the essential oils from the plant material and how oil quality is affected by it. A more detailed description can be found on my Extraction of Essential oils page.
Do All Essential Oils Have Therapeutic Effects?
In the flavor and fragrance industry, essential oils are redistilled, blended with additives and sweeteners. This helps them create the scent and flavor. These commercial essential oils are usually inexpensive. So you can see - not all essential oils have therapeutic oil quality.
Therapeutic essential oils should be pure, unaltered, and single specie.
Genuine oils are much more expensive than adulterated oils. But even though genuine oils are expensive they are also the most potent, and therefore the most cost-effective to use. They require the smallest amount to achieve their effects, so in achieving the results you want from them, they are actually less expensive then their adulterated oils. You don’t want to pick out your oil by the size of container compared to the cost, but by the oil quality in the jar.
A 15 ml (1/2 oz) bottle provides about 400 drops of oil
A 5 ml (1/6 oz) bottle provides about 125 drops of oil
Most often you’ll only use a few drops per application.
But What Is A "Pure" Oil?
A pure essential oil is one that does not contain added chemicals or additives of any kind, including vegetable oils. A pure essential oil has nothing added to it. However, a pure oil does not necessarily have a high therapeutic value. In fact, the therapeutic benefits of a pure oil can be very low. What you want is a pure essential oil that has the highest therapeutic content. Only a GLC (gas liquid chromatograph) test and a proper reading can determine the therapeutic oil quality of an essential oil.
What Are "Folded" Oils?
The term folded refers to oils that have been redistilled several
times to remove constituents, with the aim of changing the scent of the oil for use in the food and drug industry. Folded oils are not suitable for use in aromatherapy.
What is Linalool?
Linalool is found naturally in many oils. It is the substance that creates the sweet smell. Some companies add natural or synthetic linalool to low-quality oils to create a sweet smell. These are not suitable for use in aromatherapy.
What Are Single-Species Essential Oils and what does it have to do with oil quality?
To understand this look at the following example:
One Lavender Essential oil is a pure therapeutic "single species" French lavender (Lavendula vera) high altitude lavender with an excellent GLC reading. True French lavender is in very short supply and is difficult and expensive to obtain.
Another company many not want to pay the price for such a high oil quality or may want to have larger profits so they might do any of the following:
Mix a low quality of any species of lavender with linalool to smooth and sweeten the aroma.
Mix the French lavender with Bulgarian lavender, or a combination of hybrid lavenders such as Spike and Lavandin. (hybrid lavenders have a high yield but low quality therapeutic content) You no longer have a single specie.
Sometimes a company will try to grow their own plants, on soil or in a climate that does not truly support the best species. (The best lavender grown in the United States cannot come close to the therapeutic value of the best Lavender grown in France.)
"Enchance" the scent by adding other oils to smooth out the smell. This makes an inferior product and is not longer single specie.
In blends check to make sure each oil in the blend in a single-species.
Essential oils from "Single-Species" are more therapeutically powerful than even the best "non-single-species" essential oils. Non-single-species oils may have a very low, or NO therapeutic value whatsoever.
How do you Select an Essential Oil Supplier ?
Virtually every company will tell you that they have the best Essential Oils in the world, so how do you make the right choice?
Following the following guidelines:
1. Ask the company if ALL of the oils are single species
including the blends. (most companies oils are NOT from "single-specie)
2. Check for the scientific plant name on the bottle
(special blends are the exception, they will usually
not have each oil listed - but you should be able
to find them out) This is not a fool proof method,
but it is a good place to start. Not all companies
that put a plant's scientific name of the bottle
provide oil quality of pure single-specie therapeutic oils. But
companies that do provide pure single-specie oils
always list the scientific name of the bottle so
that you know exactly what you are getting.
3. Find a company that has INDEPENDENT (outside their
own company) testing of the oils to verify purity -
by highly respected, qualified professionals.
4. Only buy oils which have not been diluted or have
any additives. This is very important. Essential
oils are NOT OILY. If it feels oily, or leaves a
visible oil ring after drying on tissue - it has
been diluted with a carrier oil.
5. Check to see if they have Endorsements from the
most respected professionals in the industry.
Remember, an oil can be labeled "100% pure" (and actually be so) and have little or not therapeutic value. An oil can be labeled "unadulterated", but still contain "natural adulterants". Many companies accept certain levels of adulteration.
One very popular company adds almond oil, sesame seed oil, jojoba oil or olive oil, (carrier oils) to 16 of their blends. Several of their "single oils" are actually "blended." This is very common in the industry.
If you have spent time working with genuine oils your nose is often (but not always) a reliable partner in distinguishing oil quality and the diffence between genuine oils and their synthetic counterparts.
For aromatherapy oil quality is very important. You want to use oils that are guaranteed to be 100 percent pure, genuine, authentic, unadulterated, holistic, single-specie, therapeutic-quality essential oils released during the first distillation. After distillation, they should not be chemically altered or changed by additives.
You can find many companies that sell perfumed oils, or even oils that are commercial grade. There are many companies who secretly "stretch" oils through dilution and adulteration. There are only a handful of companies in the world who offer high quality therapeutic content oils. The selling of adulterated essential oils is widespread. With informed buying and more demand for higher quality oils used in aromatherapy maybe we will see more companies who make quality oils according to the stringent demands of aromatherapy instead of the perfume and fragrance industry.
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