I kept seeing the term "therapeutic grade" or "certified therapeutic grade" in relation to essential oils.  After researching and speaking with numerous experts in the field, it became apparent that this was simply a marketing term that was coined in the 90's, and does not have any real meaning.  Essential oils are inherently therapeutic, and while there are specifications for what constitutes an essential oil, set by the International Organization for Standardization, there is not a set of specifications that would define an essential oil as "certified therapeutic" and no independent bodies that certify essential oils as such. 

Purity is a major issue when using essential oils, particularly if you are using them therapeutically, internally or topically.  The most important issue is to know your company.  What type of testing do they do?  Do they test all batches?  Are the oils grown indiginously?  How are they harvested?  If your oil company cannot answer these questions to your satisfaction, then use another company.  In my opinion, there are a few companies that have consistently high quality oils.  Good luck!

In response to my request for testing results, the company I reached out to explained that they do testing each month, but if I wanted to review the tests I would need to sign a non-disclosure agreement owing to the proprietary information in the results. I am also guessing that they were not willing to share the results of their testing for other privacy reasons given how competitive this market has become. To receive this information, I would also be required to grant them access to a private Facebook group I manage where the discussion had first sparked my questioning. (I can only assume one of the members of this group approached the company directly asking the questions that were being raised.)

The MOA will conduct various tests on each batch of oil. These tests will include Gas Chromatography having a column length 50 or 60 meters in order to accurately determine the oil constituents according to their certification process. This is not the only method that will be used due to the fact that creative chemical engineers can sneak synthetic ingredients into oils that GC equipment alone cannot pick up. However, using other methods, we will be able to determine whether or not an oil has been adulterated.

Absolute essential oils are similar to their pure distilled and cold-pressed counterparts, but for various reasons the extraction process is more involved and requires the use of chemical solvents that are removed later in the production process. NOW Solutions offers two absolutes, Rose and Jasmine, which are extracted with solvents and clearly listed as such on our product labels. These two absolutes are produced by using the solvents hexane and ethanol in sequence, which are then actively reclaimed and removed via a stripping distillation process that leaves the essential oil portion intact.
Demeter stands for products of the biological-dynamic economy way, which is the most sustainable form of land cultivation and ensures the continuous growth of the humus layer. As an international organic brand, Demeter is represented on every continent. The Demeter guidelines for biological-dynamic cultivation is in 38 countries and more than 3,500 companies with an area of around 100,000 hectare accepted. TAOASIS® is a member of the Demeter association for many years now.
Love this article and your references!! Much appreciated from someone who is new to the aromatherapy world and wanting more information. I hope to understand how to use EO for my family. I signed up with DoTERRA to get training and so far a month in haven’t received much training. So now I look for articles like this…wish I had a friend who was certified in aromatherapy so I can help my whole family understand what to use and how to use it with different problems. Reading articles helps but I definitely get overwhelmed with all the information…anyways love this article! Thanks!!
I hate to be harsh here but what an utter load of pure NONSENSE!!! First let me say that I live in Indiana, one of the largest mint producing states in the country. I have visited mint distilleries and farms on several occasions (you can see some photos of one of my visits in the album entitled “Mint Farm in Northern Indiana”). NOBODY STEAM DISTILLS THE SAME MINT LEAVES MORE THAN ONE TIME!! The plant is distilled for basically 2 hours and its done, no more oil is coming out so they shut the still down. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that the distiller, after watching his oil come over, seeing that his oil level is not growing, shuts the still down and then later thinks to himself “gee, I bet if I fire this still back up (wasting thousands in fuel and labor) we can get some more oil out of that spent mint leaf we distilled yesterday.” Where do people come up with this stuff!!?? Now the MINT OIL can, and often is (thank God), taken for some further redistilling and/or fractional vacuum redistilling that can take place to further improve the quality of the oil by removing nauseating components of the whole oil (just tiny amounts of very bad smelling components get removed in this process). But NOBODY distills the mint biomass a second or third time. This is generally true, not just for mint, but for essential oil distillations in general. When I tried to explain it to the person posting this rubbish she basically did not believe me because her “research” of talking to retailers of essential oils apparently was of higher credibility. If people would just use some common sense they could look at this kind of misinformation and come to the conclusion that none of it makes sense. From an energy standpoint, why would anyone plan to shut down their distilling process just to start it up again later? The amount of energy required to get massive amounts of water boiling and enough steam generating to liberate the oil from large vats of biomass is quite astonishing and costly. Why not just keep distilling and just start collecting the oil produced at the tail end of the distillation in a separate container, if you want to collect what you think might be a different quality at the end of the run than at the beginning (by the way this is done with Ylang Ylang oil which is why there are the different grades of extra, I, II, III and complete). But aside from ylang ylang most all essential oil distillations are collected in one combined lot. And the only time I have ever seen a distiller shut down his process and restart it later was because of mechanical problems, running out of fuel, or just getting too physically tired to continue (in the case of sandalwood for example the distillation can go on for more than 24 hours and oil is still in the wood). I hope that this post will finally do some damage to this myth that has been circulated for decades now and we can finally put it to bed. Please share this post with as many people as you can and firmly admonish anyone who continues to state that “my oils only come from the FIRST distillation.” Yeah right buddy, just like everybody else’s oil. LOL

Young children and the elderly may be more sensitive to essential oils. So you may need to dilute them more. And you should totally avoid some oils, like birch and wintergreen. In even small amounts, those may cause serious problems in kids 6 or younger because they contain a chemical called methyl salicylate. Don’t use essential oils on a baby unless your pediatrician says it’s OK.
I feel very sad that many people are being duped by people who are exploiting the wants of good people to make this world a better place. However, I am afraid that there may be some people who have not been educated in the safe practice and application of E.O’s, which may lead to someone getting ill, or worse still losing a baby. This in turn just leads to the belief that aromatherapy is hocus pocus which is detrimental to the profession as a whole. It is a shame that people who are affliated with the correct authorites and who are making headway with scientific based research in the main stream may be damaged in the longterm but those who are out to make a buck.
The uniformity and health of oil producing plants will significantly impact the value of the oil’s final chemical analysis. The EOBBD inspection of the plant and the crop that produce essential oils is extensive. It includes, not only the health of the harvested plant, but also an assessment of nearby plants that may impact the compounds within the final oil yield. 
Let’s just think about this logically for a second. Let’s imagine you rub poison ivy on your skin and you get a really bad rash. Is that just your body detoxing? Of course not. Come on people, if you get a rash or burn from putting something on your skin its because its IRRITATING YOUR SKIN. Furthermore, this “detox” explanation seems to ignore the very definition of what it means to detox. Generally, a detox reaction is a response that the body undergoes when it has something TAKEN AWAY from it. Think of the body of a drug addict “detoxifying” during the withdrawal process as he tries to get off the drugs. But in the case of using an essential oil on your skin we are ADDING something new to our bodies that your body has no prior experience with, any bad reaction could not logically be classified as a detox reaction.
There are several different extraction methods and they vary depending upon the essential oil desired. Dry steam with minimal pressure is the desired process for 90% of essential oils. Cold expression, however, is ideal for citrus oils. For fragile, flower-based essential oils, such as rose and ylang-ylang, hydraulic distillation in a water bath is best. The process used to extract oils from the plant matter impacts the final quality of the essential oils and, if done correctly, preserves their longevity. 
You may be asking yourself, “so, which brand would you recommend I buy, Christina?” and that would be the same question that I was asking myself.  With all of these brands telling me that theirs was the best, I wasn't sure which brand to pick. I had been using Now Foods essential oils and Aura Casia for quite awhile and was seeing success with these brands. I was curious if these more affordable essential oils are working so well, how much better would the “high-end therapeutic grade” essential oils perform?
The most important terms to look for regarding the way the plants are grown and harvested are: Certified Organic, Wild Harvested, or unofficially organic (sometimes called “unsprayed”). A reputable essential oil company will freely disclose all information about where and how their source plants are grown, and they’ll be proud of their organic choices.

Bergamot, another essential oil with "multitasking" capabilities, is often used as part of a treatment for depression because of its ability to reduce stress responses. When inserted into oil diffusers, it helped create a positive mood in patients. Besides its uplifting effect on mood, it can also be used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent against E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus.
The ISO created quality standards for essential oils under the TC-54 Guidelines.  One of these quality guidelines is to use Gas Chromatography to test for the active phytochemical content of each oil and if it does not meet these minimum amounts, the oil is not considered of value.  Most essential oils companies do not even consult these guidelines when purchasing their oils, thus they cannot be of any theraputic value even though they may use that term as a marketing strategy. If an oil is not ISO certified, then do not buy it.
As far as I can tell, ‘wintergreen oil’ is not listed anywhere by the FDA. Methyl salicylate IS permitted by the FDA as an indirect food additive, when is is a constituent of an adhesive. It is not on their ‘regular’ indirect food additive list – only the one that applies to adhesives. But I can’t see it on any negative list, and I can’t see a maximum permitted amount.

According to Avery, while specific dilutions can vary based on personal needs and individual essential oils, the general rule of thumb is to aim for a one to five percent dilution. "A one percent blend is six drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier, while a five percent blend would be 30 drops per ounce of carrier," she says. For specifics, check out Aura Cacia's handy dilution guide.
doTerra is not an ethical company, if it was, they wouldn’t propogate lies for profit… The “CTPG” that you refer to is NOT a “certification” for EO’s, as they would have you believe. It is a “Registered Trademark”, signified by the little circled R behind the “CTPG”… There are many other things of which I could address, but that is for another day.
Ingesting essential oils for health benefits has been prescribed for centuries by experienced professionals. This process, when administered safely and correctly under supervision, can have profound healing effects on your body with issues like digestion, immune defense and hormonal imbalances. However, ingesting the wrong oils — or even the right oils in the wrong portions — can have disastrous and permanent effects on your internal tissues and overall health, and worst of all, you may not even realize any damage has been done until decades later in your life.
With the exception of one of our jasmine oil blends, which is clearly labeled as synthetic, all NOW Solutions essential oils are naturally derived. Pure, natural jasmine oil is hard to source and very expensive even at wholesale, which translates to exorbitant retail pricing. Synthetic jasmine is much less expensive and its aroma is equivalent to that of pure jasmine, which is why we offer this option to our customers. We also carry a pure jasmine absolute blended with carrier oil as a natural alternative.

In mainstream medicine, often called allopathic, rational or Western medicine, doctors use drugs primarily to alleviate symptoms. In this approach, the core problem is seen as the symptoms. The disease symptoms are viewed as the target and locus of treatment and a treatment is chosen to directly address the symptoms on the physical level. Success is measured by the slowing or remission of the disease or by the reduction of symptoms in the body.
“Fractioning” or re-distilling which takes place at low pressure and can isolate certain constituents or produce, for instance, a terpeneless oil. Some terpenes oxidize rapidly, which changes the aroma, longevity and solubility of the oil. One should take care when encountering these terpeneless oils because the natural synergy of the oil has been changed. It now has a higher percentage of the other constituents.
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Organic essential oils are not only good for sustainable agricultural practices, they also have the greatest healing properties, says Josh Axe, D.N.M, C.N.S., D.C. founder of DrAxe.com, best-selling author of Eat Dirt, and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition. “Having nothing else added in during the extraction process is the only way to guarantee they are unprocessed and sourced directly from the plant,” says Dr. Axe. Organic is definitely more expensive than conventionally grown, but you’re also getting a superior essential oil.
I looked into the proprietary claim a little further and there really isn't much to it. Pure oil is pure oil. You would see the compounds of plant matter and maybe the location of origin. That's pretty much it. The best oils on the planet, each specific one, typically comes from only a few locations, with each region having distillers that work with a specific plant. I sent the following email last year in response to their request for the non-disclosure in exchange for lab results, and their request to know how they were going to be used.
Bergamot, another essential oil with "multitasking" capabilities, is often used as part of a treatment for depression because of its ability to reduce stress responses. When inserted into oil diffusers, it helped create a positive mood in patients. Besides its uplifting effect on mood, it can also be used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent against E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus.
Actually John, that isn’t entirely true. Unlike many products EOs are not required to list everything that is in them. Some grocery and drug store brands of EOs come already diluted only this isn’t mentioned on the bottle. You can unknowingly over dilute your EOs by adding additional carrier because you think the product you have gotten from the drugstore is pure.

Essential oils prices at The Ananda Apothecary are fair, not too steep but also not too good to be true. Their specialty oils like Sandalwood, Helichrysum, or Rose are properly and fairly priced higher (as they should be), indicating a true quality product behind the label rather than a quick sale. Certain essential oils are just more expensive due to the incredible amount of effort and volume of plant materials required to produce the bottle of oil you buy.

I’m trying to decide which EOs to buy, to start out with, and where to buy them from. I’ve noticed that many of doTerra’s oils are MUCH more expensive than those from Mountain Rose Herbs. Why is that? Is one vastly superior over the other one? I’m on a budget and would prefer to spend less, if possible, but don’t want to sacrifice purity or quality, either.
Amy, organic crops may be contaminated by pesticides from nearby farms, but 100% organic is not impossible, and contamination is the exception. Distillation probably does reduce the proportion of a biocide, but most of them do carry over and will be present in the corresponding essential oil, usually in the 1-10 ppm range. You will get very much more biocide into your body by eating non-organic foods than you ever could from a few drops of essential oil containing 2 ppm of a biocide. Getting back to your question, most certified organic essential oils are biocide-free, but some may contain biocides, and the only way to be sure is to analyze the oils. The presence of a biocide would be regarded as a contaminant, not an adulterant. (An adulterant is a substance intentionally added for profit reasons.) The bottom line is that a certified organic oil is, on average, very much lower in biocide contamination than one that is not certified. Having said that, some oils are biocide-free but are not certified. You might find this website helpful: http://www.ifoam.org/about_ifoam/standards/index.html

Great article! I like the way everything is explained in detail. I love essential oils and use few kinds for aromatherapy, but the thing I always wanted to do is to include essential oils in my homemade cleaning solutions. In your article I found all the information and advices I needed, so now I already can use essential oils for cleaning too. Thank you for the hints!

I don’t know much about EOs yet…I’m just learning. However, there are some vitamin B1 patches that are sold as bug repellants. They must be put on 2 hrs before exposure. Just a thought, as you work out your recipe for repellant. A natural vitamin supplement is a gentle way to keep the bugs away. Also, anyone who is bitten will usually become sensitized to bedbug bites about 2 weeks after the first time they get bitten. After that, their skin will start to react to bites just like yours does.

There are several EO blends or normal oils that are safe, like oregano. There are others that are toxic to the body internally, but fine diffused. When in doubt, do the research. Obviously, if you can eat the plant, like cinnamon, the oil, if taken in a gel tab isn’t toxic. Drinking it directly will burn. Hot oil vs cool oil. Some like lemon, lime, orange, peppermint are fine in water. Learn each oil, as each one, like each child, has its own properties and should be used in the right way.
I have to give an honest review for this. I have spent one full week spending hours trying to search for the "best" essential oils to use especially that I am just a beginner. I read so much about the top brands like doTarra, and Young living etc, but also read great stuff about this brand which is not as popular. I decided to give it a try 4 things to mention
When I had my second baby, my hair thinned out so much. I used essential oils for regrowth. It’s been 8 months and my hair has fully grown back. In an 8oz glass amber bottle, I put 15 drops Cedarwood (Atlas), 15 drops Rosemary (Spanish) and 10 drops Lavender and filled the rest of the bottle with Witch Hazel. I would spray my hair after a shower every day. It worked for me! I use Edens Garden Essential Oils….those are the only oils I use for my family. Also, we’ve been medicine free for about 3 years. I love them. Hope this helps.
Knowing the average cost of a good quality oil needs to be taken into consideration when purchasing from large companies with large marketing agendas. Marketing costs a lot of money, as do quality essential oils, so be certain that every dollar of your hard-earned money is going fully into the quality of the essential oil rather than its promotion, advertising and salespeople.
Ingesting essential oils daily will damage your microbiome, in my opinion. Is there a study to prove this? No, as the doTERRA advocates will point out. Is there one showing that it does not. Ummm no. But there is research showing how powerful these oils are at killing bacteria. And we know that they will make contact with the microbiome. It isn’t rocket science, you ingest a powerful antibacterial and you will kill your bacteria.
Torre has been Vegan since 1998! He is a bodybuilder that gets 100% of his vitamins, nutrients and PROTEIN from his diet, he doesn’t believe in supplements. Aside from his hugely successful YouTube channel, Torre also has an extremely resourceful website that can offer you much support on your path towards a fit, vegan lifestyle! Check it out here.
BTW you don’t die instantly from eating highly processed foods, smoking, drinking…some don’t even feel immediately sickly, doesn’t mean that it’s good for you and that your liver is loving it. So while you can smear EOs all over your newborn or ingest a cocktail each day without noticeable ill-effect and regardless of well documented warnings, it doesn’t necessarily make it safe to do. And if/when you do find out that it causes damage, it’ll be too late.
These texts, as well as other sources of scientific information, detail specific physical and chemical properties of a particular oil. A partial list of the components that we analyze include Specific Gravity, Refractive Index, Optical Rotation, Flash Point, Infrared Absorption (as published in FCC), Ultraviolet/Visible Spectroscopy (UV/Vis) for pigment detection, Solubility, Taste/Odor, Color/Appearance, Heavy Metals, and Predominant Active Chemical Components.
Smell plays a big role in how essential oils may affect the body: When breathed in, these plant oils stimulate smell receptors in the nose that send chemical messages through nerves to the brain's limbic system, which affects moods and emotions, and may have some physiological effects on the body, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). (When used on the skin, the oils are absorbed into the bloodstream.)
One very public example of this came in September of 2014 when the FDA cited both dōTERRA and Young Living, multi-level marketing essential oil companies. FDA agents found clear evidence that some of Young Living and dōTERRA reps were making claims that their oils could prevent and cure Ebola and many other illnesses! The situation was quickly remedied.
One recent study of 300 patients found that those who breathed a mixture of ginger, spearmint, peppermint, and cardamom had much less nausea after surgery. Other research shows that lavender oil can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and inhaling lemongrass aroma before a stressful event can prevent anxiety. Studies also show that tea tree and oregano oils can fight microbes, making them popular treatments for dandruff and toe fungus. Others can be used as an anti-inflammatory.
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Thank you so much for posting this. I had a reaction to my pure, therapeutic grade Frankincense on my skin and it left me with an itchy rash for over a week. It left me really wondering about the claims the MLM supporters make. I have had great experience in using my oils, but it is foolish to claim they can do no harm. I really appreciate a scientist’s take on all of this.
“Fractioning” or re-distilling which takes place at low pressure and can isolate certain constituents or produce, for instance, a terpeneless oil. Some terpenes oxidize rapidly, which changes the aroma, longevity and solubility of the oil. One should take care when encountering these terpeneless oils because the natural synergy of the oil has been changed. It now has a higher percentage of the other constituents.
I have called DoTerra on the phone to ask them questions. I believe they have some kind of essential oil that’s for bugs. Bedbugs are an awful thing! I don’t know if you should even sleep in that room at all until it’s “fixed”…debugged, fumigated or whatever is required. Geesh. It sounds like a nightmare. I wish you well with the essential oils. Go to DoTerra.com and call them up. These people (or Young Living) would probably guide you better with their experienced staff. Hang in there.
Recently, terms such as “therapeutic grade” or “clinical grade” have been used by essential oil suppliers to claim the superiority of their oils over other suppliers’ oils. These terms are not standardized and mean whatever the supplier using them wants them to mean. These suppliers are not necessarily being misleading about their essential oils, yet the terms they are using are not standardized within the industry to meet any specific criteria.
Essential oils prices at The Ananda Apothecary are fair, not too steep but also not too good to be true. Their specialty oils like Sandalwood, Helichrysum, or Rose are properly and fairly priced higher (as they should be), indicating a true quality product behind the label rather than a quick sale. Certain essential oils are just more expensive due to the incredible amount of effort and volume of plant materials required to produce the bottle of oil you buy.
Most common essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, tea tree oil, patchouli, and eucalyptus are distilled. Raw plant material, consisting of the flowers, leaves, wood, bark, roots, seeds, or peel, is put into an alembic (distillation apparatus) over water. As the water is heated, the steam passes through the plant material, vaporizing the volatile compounds. The vapors flow through a coil, where they condense back to liquid, which is then collected in the receiving vessel.