One important fact about essential oils is that they have the most therapeutic value when they are grown in their natural habitats. This may seem self-explanatory to some, but it is actually not the norm in the essential oil industry. Many essential oils you will find in the market are extracted from plants grown in countries that they are not native to or are even grown in greenhouses. While this may mean that they can be certified as organic, it actually produces oil that is far inferior to those harvested in their natural environments. Plants grow best in their native environments with optimal soil conditions, climate, and water/sun levels. Plants also need to be exposed to their native environmental threats such as pests/insects, viruses, fungi, etc. If plants are grown in greenhouses or even in countries other than their native lands, they will not have to face these threats and therefore will produce oils that do not have as many beneficial chemical constituents.
On that note, when we are shopping for essential oils, how do we know which type is best? A quick glance in the health food store is all it takes to bring on a whole new level of confusion. In my local store, I can easily find over twenty different brands of essential oils, all claiming to be the best. With labels such as “100% pure” or “therapeutic grade” and even “certified organic,” shoppers typically resort to whichever brand is the least expensive. While I love a bargain and usually will shop around for the cheapest deal I can find, I am quite picky when it comes to essential oils. The reason is that there is no governing body regulating these labels on essential oils and ensuring that these standards actually mean something. Even if a bottle is labeled as “therapeutic grade” or “100% pure” and in fact is 100% oil (which is not typically the case despite these claims), it is quality that matters.
There are various standards of therapeutic grade available on the market and even essential oils undergoing third party testing may not be of the most optimal quality. Third party testing requires a skill beyond that of typical chemists using good equipment. It requires a skill set developed by years of experience in evaluating odor characteristics, identifying intrinsic minor components desirable within oils, and being able to distinguish between varying levels of purity.
Next time you are reading about essential oil quality and third party testing among various companies, look beyond the scientific words and fancy equipment to determine exactly who is performing this third party testing and what their level of experience within the industry has been.
You will see many different internal standards developed by individual essential oil companies who label their oils with their own brand of therapeutic grade. This is not necessarily a bad thing, although it does require some further explanation. Until there is a regulating body overseeing the essential oil industry, many companies have taken it upon themselves to develop their own standards to set them apart from other companies.
After researching many of the leading brands of essential oils and their varying levels of quality, I chose to purchase my oils from a company called doTERRA. They are one of the newer essential oil companies on the market, having come into the scene within the last decade. Although they are younger than some of the other brands, they are wise beyond their years and their top quality has allowed them to quickly grow to the the leading essential oil company in the world. You can read more about their quality in this post about their trademarked CPTG labelling.