Finding the right essential oils can be complicated. How do you know the difference between high-quality essential oils and additive-riddled, ineffective ones? Every step in the manufacturing process will ultimately end up affecting the quality of the oil – but finding relevant information can often be difficult for the consumer.     

Many essential oil manufacturers label their products as being “therapeutic grade.” Does this term have any official meaning or is it just a marketing buzzword? Read on to learn everything you need to know about therapeutic grade essential oils: 

How High-Quality Essential Oils are Made

In order to know how to identify the best essential oils, first, let’s take a look at how they’re made. Essential oils are distilled from plants. The entire plant might be used or just one part such as the flowers, leaves, bark or roots.

The plant materials are distilled down to a highly concentrated oil. Aromatic compounds from the plant make up the majority of the concentrate. This is why essential oils have such a strong smell.

Adding Carrier Oils for Topical Use

Pure essential oils are too strong to apply directly to the skin. So the essential plant extract is mixed with a carrier oil, a vegetable-derived oil. The carrier oil makes the essential oil safe and comfortable for topical use.

Therapeutic essential oils for topical use aren’t especially complicated. Regardless of the manufacturer, the oils will contain a plant essence and a carrier oil. So, what makes any brand of essential oil different from its competitors? 

How the Essential Oil Manufacturing Process Influences Quality

When selecting between brands of essential oils, the biggest differences will involve distillation and manufacturing process. The purest, most potent oils will have oversight from beginning to end.

Creating an essential oil is divided into three key sections. First, the plants must be grown. The healthier and more potent the plant, the more effective the essential oil will be. Reputable essential oil companies will implement strict quality controls over plant production. This will often include specific guidelines for:

  • Soil conditions
  • Seed quality
  • Climate
  • Growing conditions

Once the plant is grown, distillation can begin, which is the second key section in creating an essential oil. For most plants, the best type of distillation process will be cold expeller pressed. This method uses minimal heat during processing. Excessive heat can rob the oil of valuable nutrients.

The third section of creating an essential oil is bottling and storage. Essential oils can be fragile. They should be stored away from direct sunlight in a cold, dry location.

What Potential Problems can Essential Oils Have?

Without proper safeguards during production, essential oils can become contaminated. Researchers identified two different types of potential contaminants. First, the completely artificial matter could contaminate an essential oil. Poor manufacturing conditions are the likely cause here. Materials from elsewhere in the factory are finding their ways into the oils.

The other source of contaminants is different types of plant materials. For instance, the manufacturer is blending a cheaper oil with the essential oil being sold. This can be caused by disreputable manufacturers or improper manufacturing conditions.

What Does the Term “Therapeutic Grade” Mean?

Today, essential oils are commonly associated with aromatherapy and holistic health. But that wasn’t always the case. In order to help consumers understand the purpose of essential oils, many manufacturers labeled their products are “therapeutic grade.” This was intended to signify that the oils were safe and pure enough for therapeutic uses. 

It’s important to understand that “therapeutic grade” isn’t an official FDA designation. There’s also no industry-wide regulatory body which oversees all essential oil manufacturing. Anyone who makes any type of essential oil is free to use the therapeutic grade label.

Any type of contaminant in an essential oil can potentially cause a problem. At the very least, additives can decrease the effectiveness of the oil. At worst, potential contaminants can cause major problems. For instance, if the oil is actually a hidden blend of oils, a rash, burn or allergic reaction could occur.

When using any essential oil for the first time, only apply a small amount to a small section of your skin like the back of your hand. Any rash or the potential problem will develop within five to 30 minutes. If your skin remains unbothered by the oil after 30 minutes, applying more is usually safe. 

How to Find High-Quality Essential Oils

Therapeutic grade essential oils might have been manufactured under strict quality control guidelines, but they could also be poorly made and filled with additives. When selecting an oil, you need to look beyond the term.

Instead, learn everything you can about the manufacturer. Each company sets its own standards for manufacturing. You’ll want to know how the company grows the plants, what type of distilling process they use, and how they bottle and store the finished product.

Reputable companies will go into great detail about their processes, usually on their website. If you can’t find a lot of information, that’s a sign you’ll want to avoid the company and their products.

The term “therapeutic grade” can actually tell you a lot about the quality of the essential oil – but not in the way you may think. If an oil uses the phrase as a major selling point, you should be skeptical. Any brand can label their oils therapeutic grade, so if that’s the only benefit an oil can claim, they might not have much to offer overall.

Final Thoughts

High-quality essential oil manufacturers will usually go into great, often exhaustive lengths to describe how their oils are made. Major brands understand these details matter to customers. Practically every aspect from seed to bottle should be easy to learn about. 

Essential oils have a variety of great benefits for both your physical and mental health. But you don’t want to put too much trust in the words “therapeutic grade.” Instead, research the company carefully to ensure the oils are safe, potent and effective.      

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