"My essential oil bottle says "therapeutic grade."  Isn't that good enough?

Terms such as ‘therapeutic grade,’ ‘medical grade’ or ‘pharmaceutical grade’ are not regulated nor defined and are used as a marketing tool.  Essential oils must be pure and of high quality. By “pure” we mean a lack of adulteration by synthetic fragrance oils or other contaminants and that the oil in the bottle is the same as that listed on the label. Adulteration is an increasing issue as demand increases for these often limited resources.  Adulterated oils are less effective and have the potential to cause skin sensitivity, headaches and other symptoms often associated with synthetics.

At a minimum, essential oil labels should contain the common name of the plant from which the oil was extracted, the botanical name, country of origin, method of extraction (ex: steam distilled, absolute, CO2 extraction or cold-pressed), lot number or other tracking method as well as any required precautionary statements. Suppliers should be able to provide a GC-MS (Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry) analysis to show the naturally occurring chemical components of the oil. These reports help validate the source plant, country of origin and can help identify adulteration. GC-MS cannot identify most pesticides and herbicides, hence the emphasis on using organic oils or those extracted from crops grown without sprays or synthetic treatments

Your best strategy when looking for essential oils is to find a supplier who validates their oils through independent testing. They should be willing to share results. Your local trained aromatherapist is a great resource.


My article, "Essential Oil Quality" can be found in the October issue of Aromaculture. You can also find it on my blog in April, 2020. Contact me if you have questions!