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What to Look For When Buying Essential Oils

What to look for when buying essential oils

Have you been wanting to start or expand your essential oil collection, only to be overwhelmed by all of the different products on the market?

You’re not alone: this is probably one of the biggest problems faced by novice and even intermediate essential oil users.

In this post, I’d like to explore what to look for when buying essential oils. You’ll discover the basics to look for, what the different “grades” of essential oils really mean, and how to buy legitimately pure essential oils.

This post purposefully makes no specific brand recommendations, since just about any reputable brand will follow the guidelines we discuss below.

Let’s begin:

What makes an essential oil pureThe Basics of Buying Essential Oils

Until you’ve found a handful of brands you know and trust, be prepared to do a little investigation on the oils you buy—more on that below—but for now, here’s a little checklist of the absolute basics to look for if you want high quality oils:

  • Essential oils should always be stored in dark glass bottles. Typically, oils come in brown bottles, but other dark colors like cobalt blue are also great. This is to prevent UV rays (light) from degrading the oils.
  • On this note, do not buy oils contained in clear glass, plastic, or aluminum bottles.
  • It is exceedingly uncommon for pure essential oils to be stored in bottles with rubber eyedropper caps. These are almost certainly impure “fragrance oils.” While not always the case, be sure to double check before buying these kinds of oils.
  • Check the label. It should include a single ingredient—the name of the plant.

On a final note, keep in mind that while it is possible to purchase essential oils on sale or for a great price, a good rule of thumb is that pure essential oils tend to be somewhat expensive. In other words, the likelihood of finding 10ml of a legitimately pure essential oil online for $5 is very, very low. Prices vary but tend to range from $25 to $65 and more for a 10ml bottle.

Needless to say, essential oils are an investment that you would be wise to protect!

Understanding Different “Grades” of Essential Oils

If you’ve been doing some shopping for essential oils, you’ve no doubt noticed that many will be labeled with claims such as therapeutic grade, aromatherapy grade, or even clinical grade.

Here’s the thing about “graded” essential oils…

There isn’t any official—or even “unofficial”—organization that grades essential oils. To be perfectly clear, the FDA doesn’t grade essential oils and neither does any other governmental or otherwise official body.

So, what does it mean when essential oil manufacturers put these claims on their bottles? Is it all just marketing? Can they be trusted?

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t automatically distrust a company if they put these kinds of labels on their products. They may have their own grading standards which could be quite stringent, and that’s a good thing. However, since anyone can say that their product is “such-and-such grade,” it’s also not an automatic stamp of approval either.

The long and short of it is that you must do your own research. To help you determine which oils you should be using, we’ll explore the qualities that the community generally accepts as good manufacturing practices in the following section.

How to tell if an essential oil is really pureThe Manufacturing Process & Purity of Essential Oils

A whole host of factors can ultimately determine the purity (and thus efficacy) of an essential oil, but it’s generally accepted that the two most important factors are:

  • Distillation process
  • Type of ingredients

There are several different kinds of distillation processes, so which are the “best”? It depends on the kind of oil, but it’s usually accepted that the best methods (i.e., resulting in the purest oils) are steam distillation and cold pressing.

Steam distillation involves passing steam through a plant. The essential oils from the plant are released. The result is water with a layer of oil on it, which can be easily separated. This is why steam distillation is generally considered a very pure way to extract essential oils: the only additional “ingredient” is water, and not even that ends up in the final product.

Cold pressing, sometimes called expression, is often a superior method to steam distillation for creating certain types of oils, such as those from citrus plants. In this method, the organic product is mechanically pressed to extract its oils.

As for ingredients, you’ll usually want to look for a very short list. For example, if you’re buying lavender essential oil, the ingredients list should say something like: “100% Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)” and that’s it.

Avoid oils with phrases on their labels like the following:

  • Perfume oil
  • Fragrance oil
  • Identical oil (tip: it’s not identical at all)

These products are usually synthetic compounds and may not even contain the organic matter on the label. In simpler terms, a so-called vanilla “perfume oil” may not have a shred of vanilla planifolia in it.

What to Do With Your Oils Once You Have Them

Once you start a collection of pure essential oils, there’s really no limit to what you can do with them or how they can benefit your life!

Most of us started with diffusing, and that’s just one of the many wonderful things you can do with essential oils. Check out some of these posts I’ve written for inspiration:

Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Charity

Charity is a mom, wife and avid essential oil user. She teaches classes on essential oil usage and describes herself as a “forever student” of the oils. Charity resides in Colorado and is active in volunteering in her community.  

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