Finding Quality Essential Oils

By Lisa Barger

In his book, “The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy” Salvatore Battaglia estimates that only 5% of all essential oils are produced specifically for the aromatherapy market. And the folks at Amrita tell us that the vast majority of essential oils are grown and produced for the food, perfume or pharmaceutical industries. Unfortunately, these industries focus more on a stable, predictable yield than the botanical purity of their oils. So how do you know you’re getting a quality product? Here are some things to look for:

Botanical Purity–If you’re new to aromatherapy, it’s important to realize that the words “aromatherapy” and “essential oil” don’t guarantee that you’re getting a botanical product. Potpourri oils, for example, are usually synthetic fragrance products not intended for use on the body. Authentic essential oil will be labeled with botanical information stating both the common plant name and the official botanical nomenclature.

Specialization–Whether you buy at your local health food store or directly from an essential oil producer you should look for oils marketed specifically for use in aromatherapy. Though they’re almost certainly going to be more expensive, these oils are produced with their therapeutic qualities in mind.

Opaque Containers–Opaque containers protect your oils from damaging UV rays. Most essential oils are sold in amber or dark blue glass bottles but aluminum bottles are growing in popularity. Bottles should have tight-fitting hard plastic lids—essential oils should never be sold with permeable rubber bulb-droppers already attached.

GC Testing–If you’re purchasing in bulk, especially if you’re purchasing directly from a grower, your supplier should make GC (gas chromatography) test results available. CG is a standard test–if a supplier balks at sending you this information or acts offended by your request, look for another supplier.

Full-Disclosure Labels–To assure that you’re buying from a supplier who knows what he’s doing, I recommend only purchasing oils labeled with the following:

Common Name (for example, Peppermint)
Botanical Name (for example, Mentha piperita)
Plant Part Used (for example, Leaves)
Country of Origin (for example, USA)
Extraction Method (for example, Distilled)
Lot Number (or production date)

Unfortunately, adulteration, dilution and outright fraud are far more common that many people realize. Buying from a reputable company (and as far up the supply chain as possible) is one of the best ways to protect your investment.

Lisa Barger is a traditional naturopath specializing in natural health education. To learn more about Ms. Barger’s belief in “Empowerment through Education” or to take a free online natural health class see her website,

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