The following is a modified version of a Guest Post from Robin Phillips at Grasping the Essence
Since the term “therapeutic grade essential oils” is not regulated by any independent group, what do I mean when I use the term? And what is the difference between the therapeutic grade essential oils provided by Young Living and other over-the-counter essential oils that claim to be ‘pure’?
The distinction is of utmost importance, since 90% of the essential oils marketed in the United States would not qualify. To start with, ‘therapeutic-grade’ is not simply an indication of purity. Young Living produces oils that have an unusually high concentration of therapeutic components. You can’t get that without having your own farms and doing your own distillations – or in the case of Frankincense, have access to the finest plants (trees) in the world.
To get these high concentrations of therapeutic components, Young Living uses a process that involves strict attention to detail right from the seeds sown to the plants harvested. This ensures that the oils they provide are the purest, most potent essential oils available. This precise, detailed method is known as the ‘Seed to Seal’ process.
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Young Living essential oils are:
• 100% pure
• Sourced only from known botanical species
• Sustainably grown and harvested
• Grown on chemical-free lands in carefully nourished soil (organic)
• Unmatched throughout the essential oils industry
• So pure and natural, they’re used and recommended by integrative health professionals around the world
The fact that Young Living’s oils are organic is more important than food being organic. Since essential oils are the concentrated essence of the plant, any contaminants in the soil or on the plant will become present in the oil.
When we compare Young Living ’s ‘therapeutic-grade’ essential oils with the type of “pure essential oils” available at wholefood shops, we find significant differences in quality and purity. For example, the Essential Oils Desk Reference tells us that:
“Pure frankincense is often extended with colorless, odorless, solvents such as diethylphthalate or dipropylene glycol…unfortunately, a large percentage of essential oils marketed in the United States fall in this adulterated category. When you understand the world of synthetic oils, as well as low-grade oils cut with synthetic chemicals, you realize why unsuspecting people with their untrained noses don’t know the difference…
“Anyone venturing into the world of therapy using essential oils must use the purest quality oils available. Inferior quality or adulterated oils most likely will not produce therapeutic results and could possibly be toxic.”
The Four Grades of Oils
Basically, there are 4 grades of essential oils:
1. Grade A oils are pure, therapeutic, and superior quality. They are usually made from organically grown plants, and are distilled at the proper temperatures. “Virgin” soil may also be used.
2. Grade B oils are the most common essential oil and they are sometimes labeled as “pure.” However, they may still contain pesticides, fertilizers, synthetics, extenders, or carrier oils. While Grade B oils are considered “food grade,” I would never recommend ingesting these oils.
3. Grade C are perfume grade and usually contain the same type of adulterating chemicals as Grade B oils. They also often contain solvents which are used to gain a higher yield of oil per harvest. Solvents are not healthy. Still, these oils are sometimes used in aromatherapy or for making perfume products.
4. Floral Water is a byproduct of the distillation process. It can be very high quality if superior, organic material is used and it comes from a “Grade A” distillation process. However if it is from compromised raw materials and/or a poor distillation process, it will be a very low quality. Floral Water is often used for more expensive oils, such as Rose Oil, since it takes 5000 pounds of roses to make just one 1 pound of essential oil.
FDA Says Only 5% of Ingredient = ‘pure’
In her book, Their Leaves for Healing: The Divine Gift of Plants That Heal, Elizabeth Flores writes that:
90% of what is sold in the United States as ‘pure’ essential oil is fragrance-grade and diluted. (The FDA has determined that a product need contain only 5% of the ingredient on the label in order to use the word pure.) These oils are found on the shelves of many health food stores and at online discount houses. They may be less expensive, but they will not be useful for healing.
Questions to Ask
When trying to decide which quality of oils to buy, these are some of the questions that need to be asked (taken from The Essential Oil Desk Reference):
- Are the fragrances delicate, rich, and organic? Do they “feel” natural? Do the aromas vary from batch to batch as an indication that they are painstakingly distilled in small batches rather than industrially processed on a large scale?
- Does your supplier subject each batch of essential oils through multiple chemical analyses to test for purity and therapeutic quality? Are these tests performed by independent labs?
- Does your supplier grow and distill its own organically grown herbs?
- Are the distillation facilities part of the farm where the herbs are grown (so oils are freshly distilled), or do herbs wait days to be processed and lose potency?
- Does your supplier use low pressure and low temperature to distill essential oil so as to preserve all of their fragile chemical constituents? Are the distillation cookers fabricated from costly food-grade stainless steel alloys to reduce the likelihood of the oils chemically reacting with metal?
- Does your supplier personally inspect the fields and distilleries where the herbs are grown and distilled? Do they verify that no synthetic or harmful solvents or chemicals are being used?
- Do your essential oils meet AFNOR or ISO standards?
- How many years has your supplier been doing all of this?
- Do your essential oils have a shelf life of just a few years? [If so, this means they are probably mixed with a carrier oil (like almond oil) that will go rancid.] This means the oil is certainly not pure.
- Do your essential oils come from an edible plant, yet have a warning on them not to take them internally? [This is a huge red flag!]
“Here is an example of the importance of precise timing during distillation. Cypress has 280 known chemical constituents, and all 280 constituents must be present for Cypress to have medicinal and healing potency. If it is distilled for 20 hours, only 20 of the 280 properties are released. If distilled for 26 hours, none of the properties are released. Most Cypress available in the US market is distilled for about 3 1/2 hours. The correct length of time for distilling Cypress is 24 hours, releasing all 280 properties.” Debra Raybern
Taken from the Bio/Tech News newsletter:
About 98% of essential oils produced in the world today are not intended for serious, therapeutic and/or medicinal use. Most are produced for the perfume, cosmetics, and food industries. Therefore, criteria like purity, potency, organic, etc. are not important for these uses.
Because the raw materials and the extraction process for Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils are so expensive, many oils on the market have been cut, diluted and adulterated in various ways. Sad to say, some marketers bottle these poor quality oils and sell them for therapeutic purposes to unsuspecting consumers.
A Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil is more than a “certified organic” oil. It is an oil that is complete in the makeup of its constituents, having the fragrance, frequency, and chemistry that are necessary to give it all of its unique, therapeutic qualities and effects.
As we have already mentioned above, a quality, Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil is chemically complex and all of its sometimes fragile components need to be present after distillation of the final product. This requires not only a lot of understanding of the makeup of the oil on the production side but also a great deal of time and expense to care for the proper species of plant.
To insure proper potency, plants should be grown on virgin land, uncontaminated by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides and away from pollution sources. The plant materials must be kept free of petrochemical herbicides and pesticides, since these can react with the essential oil during distillation.
The soil should be conditioned with enzymes, trace minerals, and organic bio-solids, since plants lacking in certain minerals and nutrients yield oils low in therapeutic value. Irrigation should be done with reservoir, watershed or mountain stream water.
Plants need to be harvested at the proper time of the season to insure highest potency. Sometimes even a few hours can make the difference. For example, German Chamomile needs to be harvested in the morning since it then yields an oil with far more azulene than when it is harvested later in the day.
The steam distillation method of extracting the oils from the plants requires careful and proper low temperature and pressure monitoring. Too high of temperature or too much pressure can be deleterious to the fragile aromatic molecules of the plant. In addition, batch sizes need to be kept small and the distillation chamber must be made out of food-grade stainless steel instead of copper or aluminum to avoid reactions with the oils.
Producing pure, Therapeutic Grade Essential oils is a costly venture. The methods required are time-consuming and labor-intensive, and it often requires several hundred, sometimes even thousands of pounds of raw plant material to produce a single pound of essential oil. For example, it takes 5,000 pounds of rose petals to produce one pound of rose oil, and it takes three tons of Melissa to produce one pound of oil.”
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