Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils: Fact or Fantasy?

Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils: Fact or Fantasy

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Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils: Fact or Fiction

While searching for essential oils on the internet you may come across some companies claiming to be approved by the ISO or to meet and/or exceed guidelines established by AFNOR or to be GRAS approved and even one company claiming to have Certified Pure therapeutic grade/FDA approved. What exactly do these mean?

As an aromatherapy practitioner I feel blessed to have grown up, so to speak, with the aromatherapy essential oil trade. I feel even more blessed to have first experienced the high quality of European essential oils and then to have come into the United States to experience essential oils from different companies here.
quality or adulterated essential oils, after all, how could they do so and still have sales?

Where does that leave us? Shortly we will explore what ʻtherapeutic gradeʼ means to individuals who utilize essential oils therapeutically. For now, let us explore other marketing terms which may arise in your search.

The Quality of Essential Oils
By Jade Shutes, BA, Dipl. AT., Cert. Herbalist

It gives the appearance of being approved by some kind of higher authority and it has been said that the company states it is a FDA approved to use this label. According to Elston (2009), “This registered word mark has not been provided to them by the FDA as they claim and is meaningless in proving that an outside certifying body has declared or designated that DoTERRAʼs essential oils are certified pure therapeutic grade.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from over 100 countries, one from each country. ISO’s work results in international agreements, which are published as International Standards. In addition to quality and environmental management systems, ISO also publishes standards that set criteria for film speed, data stored on ATM and credit cards, wine glasses for use in competitions, crayons, and more.

After the concept of ʻtherapeutic gradeʼ entered the market other companies quickly joined in, saying that they too offered ʻtherapeutic gradeʼ. Today, just about every company selling essential oils states that their essential oils are of ʻtherapeutic gradeʼ.

What I would like to know is if there is actually a company out there that states it sells ʻnon- therapeutic gradeʼ or ʻgrade c, b, or dʼ essential oils. Actually, just did a search and NOPE, not a company out there claiming to sell grade b, d or c essential oils and not a one selling non-therapeutic grade. Very suspicious!!

When I first began my aromatherapy education in England (1988) there were only a handful of companies selling essential oils specifically to the aromatherapy market. Because the British market was practitioner-driven, the essential oil quality was initially quite high. With such an increase in companies offering essential oils, differentiating between companies selling high quality and low quality essential oils became incredibly challenging particularly for the newcomer.

According to Burfield and Kirkham (2006-07), “many aromatherapists have unfortunately become unwitting victims of a marketing ploy by essential oil traders that advertise “approved” essential oils of ʻtherapeutic gradeʼ. Let us be quite clear on this– there is no such thing as a ʻtherapeutic gradeʼ essential oil, and no quality standards for the authentication of essential oils specifically exist in aromatherapy.”.

The quality of essential oils is often a contentious subject bringing up feelings of protectiveness and challenging beliefs. I have written this article, not so much as a definitive answer to discerning quality, but rather to raise some valuable points of reference.

Letʼs start with the marketing term: Therapeutic grade
It was invented by some very clever marketers who wanted people to believe that there were somehow therapeutic grade essential oils and then all others. The main company marketing this concept also wanted individuals to believe that they and they alone somehow had the only therapeutic grade essential oils on the market (as if the market had somehow not existed until they existed).

The truth is that there is no such thing as ʻtherapeutic gradeʼ (or grade b, d, or c) in the sense that some organization or higher power has bestowed on
A grading system, quite simply, does not exist for essential oils. From a marketing perspective there had to be another way to market a line of essential oils other than saying ʻwe sell the best essential oils on the marketʼ which is rather boring in comparison to ʻtherapeutic gradeʼ.

The quality and authenticity of the essential oils we utilize are the very heart and foundation of aromatherapy.

This paper is being written not in the hopes of bringing the question of quality to an end but rather to offer up information to better enable you to understand some of the fundamental issues you may encounter when searching for a high quality, unadulterated, genuine, and authentic essential oil in the market place.

The International Organization for Standardization (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.”.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.  These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.  If you believe you have a disease, consult a medical professional.  Portions of the article have been quoted and/or paraphrased from an article written by Jade Shutes, B.A.

REFERENCES: Bensouilah, J. and Buck, P. (2006). Aromadermatology. Abingdon, U.K.: Radcliffe Publishing Company. Burfield, T. and Kirkham, K. (2006-2007). “The ʻTherapeutic Gradeʼ Essential Oils Disinformation Campaign”. Retrieved on November 10, 2009 from http:// Burfield, T. (2005). A Note on Gas Chromotography-Mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Retrieved on Octboer 2, 2005 from Elston, M. (2009), Retrieved on May 14, 2010 from 2009/11/19/one-more-time-there-are-no-fda-certified-pure-therapeutic-grade-essentialoils-part-i/ Harris, B. (2001). Editorial. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 11 (4), p.181-182. Harris, B. (2006). Editorial. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 16 (2), p.55. Schnaubelt, K. (2004). Aromatherapy Lifestyle. San Rafael, CA: Terra Linda Scent and Image

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