The issue with essential oil "grades"

Posted by Micki Mutch on

Can I start this off with a sorry-not-sorry to the essential oil industry? 

I'm writing this because we are often asked about the grade of our essential oils. So much so that I wanted to come clean about some vernacular that exists in this industry. There is no such thing as therapeutic grade essential oils! 

There! It feels so good to say it =) 

Have you ever gone searching for therapeutic grade oils?

Well then you know it's not hard to find. No essential oil company would say they have anything else, because it's an unregulated term. I've been guilty of this too. When people ask if I sell this grade I ultimately said yes, instead of educating them that it's not a real thing. 

Therapeutic Grade is a made-up, unregulated, non-standardized marketing term.

The reality of essential oils is that there is no grading system. Nor are there certifications of grades or qualities of oils. 

Misleadingly though, some multi-level marketing companies have created their own certification that they claim has been given to them by the FDA. In reality, it is a trademark they own, which leads to the perception that there is some sort of standardization that only they have achieved. I'm not saying they are low quality, I'm saying they have made up a certification that is not regulated anywhere in the world. It's up to you to decide if that makes it real or not ;)

So how should I buy essential oils? What should I look for? 

Instead of searching for grades try asking about the genuine nature of the oils, purity and authenticity or even organic certifications if that is important to you.

According to aromatherapy expert and Ph.D. Kurt Schnaubelt (2004), a genuine essential oil means it is completely unaltered and an authentic essential oil means it is from a specified plant variety. Again, these terms aren't regulated but they can be understood on a more human level which is why we prefer them around here.

Any company can say they are 'therapeutic' but can all companies say they are unaltered? Nope. 

How does The Olfactory manage oil quality? 

After much research, here is what we are doing to ensure the best quality products:

  • We never choose oils that contain fillers. We only use pure and genuine essential oils
  • We don't use 'economical' species or oils that would be used to water down more expensive varieties. This is how we stay authentic
  • We have a close relationship with our supplier in Ontario
    • They are a small operation of herbalists who trained in England and have a wealth of knowledge about which species produce the best oils and fragrance compared to those which would be more economical
    • They purchase oils in small batches so that we can buy from the best performing regions, year round
    • They support organic growers. Most of our oils are organic (though we aren't advertising this until we are 100% organic)  because how we impact the Earth is important to us
  • We stay informed on the oils market - some years Lavandula angustifolia is better from Bulgaria and some years Hungary's crops outperform. The weather is unpredictable therefore so are the crops - we are fresh

Like any commodity, essential oils should be bought from the region that had good crop performance as well as strong farming practices. It's my belief, as a farmer's daughter, that the plant quality strongly affects the oil quality, which is why I emphasize that we do our best with our supplier to source from the leading regions.  

When shopping for essential oils we recommend that instead of looking for therapeutic grade, look for pure plant oils free of fillers or synthetic ingredients. 

Lots of love, 

Micki 

Creator of The Olfactory Shop