Essential oils are derived from plants - flowers, shrubs, trees, roots, seeds.
They are the “life-blood” of plants providing plants the necessary elements to heal and regenerate from damage, to defend from external forces, assist in photosynthesis, support the internal immune system, and to thrive in their nature environments.
In the body essential oils assist with nutrient delivery, removal of toxins and aid the body's natural healing process. Essential oils are chemically structured to penetrate cellular membranes, entering the cells themselves, providing the cell with additional oxygen and nutrients helping to boost the immune system.
"Therapeutic Grade" & "CPTG - Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade" Essential Oils:
The terms "therapeutic grade" came into practice in the 90's as a marketing term to promote the sale of specific brands of essential oils; "CPTG" is another recent term to promote a sense of higher quality. These marketing terms are meant to have consumers believe that specific companies have superior products over competitors.
In actuality there is no grading system for essential oils.
ISO: International Organization for Standardization
ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 162 national standards bodies. Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.
According to ISO in their Vocabulary of Natural Materials (ISO/D1S9235.2) defines an essential oil as follows: “An essential oil is a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials.
Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.”
ISO is the main certifying body recognized for its universally accepted standards for individual essential oils not standards for differentiating the quality of essential oils. Thus providing a guide for the creation of new batches of essential oils so as to minimize alteration in flavor or fragrance in the in finished products.
Most aromatherapy practitioners have been trained to understand that chemical variations occur as a result of harvest time, country of origin, soil and climate conditions, part of plant used, distillation, transport and storage parameters.
In short, when looking for essential oils look for:
Safety concerns regarding adulterated essential oils:
Interference of adulterants with the natural composition of the essential oil can affect the synergy and the expected physiological and psychophysiological activities of the oil.
Toxicity implications of the adulterants can reduce the therapeutic benefits of essential oil treatment, increasing the likelihood of adverse reactions and potentially introduce toxic compounds into the body.
Essential oils vary on factors such as what part of the plant the oil was made from and the type of extraction method used to obtain the oil. 100% pure, unadulterated essential oils retain their “chemical makeup” because the extraction process preserves rather than depletes their beneficial properties. Extraction methods using high temperature distillation, high pressures, chemical extraction, or metals such as copper or aluminum decrease the therapeutic properties of the oil. Although these methods of production are less expensive for manufacturers resulting in lower prices for the consumers. The cost-saving extraction methods decrease the healing properties of the oils, so that although the oils may be less expensive they will also be less beneficial for the body.
Examples of extraction methods for essential oils, natural oils and other herbal oils:
Of the “100% pure essential oils” found in retail stores, approximately 2% are. The FDA requires only 10% of essential oils in a bottle to be considered “Pure Essential Oil”.
Be cautious of “price friendly” essential oils that claim to be “100% pure, 100% natural, therapeutic grade.” Check the sourcing and extraction methods of the oil. Although the bottle might have labeling with highly attractive, sought after wording the oil inside the bottle might contain additives that can cause negative reactions.
Personally, when I first started using essential oils, looking at various manufactures for oils at a budget friendly price, I ordered from different places what I received were oils that ranged greatly in quality. Some smelled more like manufactured cleaning agents than 100% natural, therapeutic grade essential oils as the bottle claimed.
What I learned, if it's a low cost, large quantity (1 ounce or more), it most likely is too good to be true. Especially if you know it's an oil that is difficult to distill, requires an extremely large quantity of plant/plant parts to produce, if you find that oil in a large quantity at a very low price point, it may have additives to decrease production costs.
When looking for essential oils you will find absolutes, CO2 extracts, and organic extracts. Knowing the differences will help when determine which will best fulfill your needs.
Dilutions: usually 2% to 10%, pure essential oils or absolutes diluted in a carrier oil. A economical way to include rare or expensive oils into your aromatherapy practice.
Absolutes: concentrated scented oils well suited for natural perfumes. Absolutes are extracted with chemical solvents then undergo a two step process of concentration, with hexane, and refining to remove plant waxes and other particles, using ethyl alcohol. The result is a highly, concentrated, scented liquid or semi-solid smelling very similar to the notes of the original plant. Absolutes can be used alone, blended with essential oils, CO2 extracts, or other extracted scented oils. Then turned into liquid perfumes fixed in alcohol or a fixed carrier oil, or combined with beeswax plant waxes to create solid perfumes.
CO2 Extracts: have properties of essential oils and absolutes. Carbon dioxide, pressure and ambient temperatures are used for supercritical CO2 extraction. SCO2 extraction is relatively new and costly. More efficient than stem distillation because of the capability to include a broad spectrum of plant components and result in notes truer to the original plant without using chemical solvents. Additionally, SCO2 uses lower temperatures than stem distillation and the carbon dioxide gas used is nontoxic, odorless and easily removed from the final extracted oil. If low pressure is used the result is a select extract; normally a complete liquid comprised mostly of essential oils. If a high pressure is used for extraction the result is a total extract containing more constituents of the plant and thus have whole plant characteristics than just the plant’s essential oils. Since CO2s are not chemically extracted and have favorable characteristics there are often used in food, body care and herbal industries. They are also commonly used for natural perfumes and in aromatherapy.
Hydrosols: Also called hydrolats, floral waters, herbal waters, etc. Hydrosols are the co-product of essential oil distillation; hydrosols should not be confused with products that combine distilled water with essential oils or absolutes. During distillation plant materials release essential oils, this vapor and steam cools resulting in the essential oil and the condensed cellular water of the plant, the hydrosol. The hydrosol is made up of water-soluble plant components and micro-molecules of the essential oils. One liter of hydrosol has 0.05 to 0.2 milliliters (<1%, approximately 0.01 to 0.04%) of essential oil. Additionally hydrosols have carboxylic acids, a component of anti-inflammatories, thus why hydrosols are often used to treat inflammation. Hydrosols are excellent for children, elderly and those with sensitive skin, they can be used as the hydration component of creams and cleansers, they make exceptional toners, facilitate wound healing and combat inflammation. Hydrosols can be used directly on the skin without the need of further dilution. The average shelf life is 12 to 24 months when properly refrigerated,
Organic Extracts: created with contemporary non-heat methods of enfleurage from flowering plants using organic solvents, fixed oils, and alcohol to release the aromatics of plants. Used for personal care, aromatherapy and natural perfumes. Organic extracts allow specific oils, such as Jasmine oil, to be used for true aromatherapy whereas previously was only available as an absolute and not recommended for therapeutic applications.
Natural Exudates/Resins/Resinoids: natural aromatic oils or essences from the resin of tree bark. Common examples are amber dragon's blood, frankincense and myrrh. Used in varnishes, adhesives, food glaze, incense and perfumes. Extracted by tapping into the bark of trees.
Attar/Attr/Ittar: natural perfume oil from flowers, herbs, spices or plant parts produced by hydro or stem distillation into a wood base, commonly sandalwood oil then aged between one and ten years. Highly concentrated, 100% pure, free from alcohol or chemicals. Floral Ittars: created from single floral species. Herbal Ittars: a blend of floarl, herbal and/or spices. Ittar Mitti: created from neither flowers or herbs by a distillation of baked earth over a base material. Warm Ittars: increase body temparature, often used in cold months. Cool Ittars: cool the body, often used in summer.
Destructive Distillation Oils: created with non-traditional oils producing materials super heated until oil is obtained. Choya Logan, an oil unique to India with a smoky, leathery aroma, is an example.
Disclosure: None of these health benefits have been evaluated or approved by the FDA. They should not be used in place of personal judgment or medical treatment when needed, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. (Only your doctor can diagnose and treat disease.)
Important Note: Oil profiles is for educational purposes only. This data is not considered complete and is not guaranteed to be accurate. General Safety Information: Do not take any oils internally without consultation from a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Do not apply undiluted essential oils, absolutes, CO2s or other concentrated essences onto the skin. If you are pregnant, epileptic, have liver damage, have cancer, or have any other medical problem, use oils only under the proper guidance of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Use extreme caution when using oils with children and give children only the gentlest oils at extremely low doses. It is safest to consult a qualified aromatherapy practitioner before using oils with children. A skin patch test should be conducted prior to using an oil that you've never used before.