Essential Oils: Let's Talk Purity!
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know which oils to use in both situations (Anonymous, 2018).”
What you will learn in this blog:
- How to find the purest essential oil brands and credible vendors.
- The average lifespan of essential oils.
- And which oils to avoid with direct sunlight.
Let’s elaborate on each of these a bit shall we?
Within the past decade, essential oils have made their grand entrance into the millennial lifestyle — especially with millennial mothers, as they are searching for safer alternatives for their little ones. Essential oils have been around for hundreds of years, and make up one of nature’s powerful tools to enhance our lives, health, and wellbeing. These oils are truly amazing! We inhale our favorite oils, with the hope of exhaling tranquility. However, because these oils are so potent and powerful, they can be dangerous if not used correctly. That is why I am writing this blog, as many people misuse them or use a synthetic version, which can cause you more harm than good..
Are you ready? Let’s dig in!
LET’S TALK PURITY!
Surprisingly, to date, there have not been regulations put in to place by the FDA regarding essential oils. Don’t be deceived by “pure” or “natural” labels. Companies can throw the word “pure” or “natural” around faster than we can spell it with no accountability. Pure means just that - Pure. In fact, an oil that you buy from a grocery store or health food store which is labeled “100% pure,” may only contain 10% of the true essential oil. For an essential oil to have the true therapeutic qualities, the plant extracts need to be pure. Serious problems can arise when companies make false or unsafe claims regarding the purity of essential oils. Disreputable sellers can cost consumers countless dollars but more seriously, such sellers can cause significant harm to their customers.
When I first started exploring essential oils, I had no idea what I was purchasing or any of the science behind the various essential oils. When I saw oil at a local store or online, I thought I was getting a great deal and making a good investment, what I was not aware of, is that I was paying for mostly water and chemicals! Yikes! Thinking about that still makes me squirm. Now that I have obtained an education and understanding of the science behind these oils, I'd like to share some of the information I’ve learned with those of you who are getting curious and exploring the world of essential oils.
What is one key factor that you, as the consumer, should be keen on when purchasing an essential oil? Know the source your oils are coming from to ensure their purity and quality of each single batch! Your source should provide GC/MS testing and reports. These reports have gained a lot of attention in the aromatherapy world. So, what exactly is GC/MS testing? I will briefly explain, but won’t get too nerdy on you, I promise. The acronym stands for Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry. This is a method that combines the features of gas-liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify different substances within a test sample. Unless you’re deeply enthusiastic about chemistry, these terms may not make any sense. However, they are crucial to the use of essential oils. In the Aromatherapy world, GC/MS is used to test oils and determine exactly what each oil is made of. A GC/MS report is the fingerprint of any particular batch of essential oil. The report is like a blood test for a human. It shows us the unique identity and properties of the oil.
WHO ARE MY TRUSTED VENDORS?
A company that provides a GC/MS report has nothing to hide from its consumers. That’s a great start! Some big companies do not offer this report. The owner of one popular company who does not provide these reports stated, “Even if he did (provide a report), people wouldn’t know how to read them,” Why not teach us, right? I recently emailed another prominent company to inquire as to why they offer just a handful of these reports to consumers on their website; Their response was, “We plan to, it is just a very long process with a lot of man-hours”. Why buy from them if they do not provide these reports? Well, these two massive companies do provide where their oils are sourced from, and their sources are reliable. However, I highly encourage you to do your research, please, for safety purposes. Oils can have anywhere from ten to two hundred components. These GC/MS reports show consumers exactly what those components are. Why do I want to know these components? Because they provide us with the knowledge we need regarding safety concerns. They show blending technique abilities, how they will help enhance other oils when combined, therapeutic benefits, and tell you if there were any adulterations. If there are adulterations made to an essential oil, it will lose its therapeutic properties, cause headaches, allergies, and can be damaging to your overall terrain. Many other venders do not have GS/MS reports available on their websites or where their product was sourced. I encourage you to be informed and know your sources. These are very powerful ingredients, so protect yourself and your family.
There are several reputable companies who offer transparency of their products from whom you can purchase essential oils. Some require an annual membership and they often provide some great incentives to these memberships. My personal favorite is aromatics.com; they deserve all the praise! They provide consumers with GC/MS reports, batch numbers dating back years, recipes, purity levels, blending techniques, safety, detail the extraction method, shelf-life recommendations, and much more. I will list a few other great companies to look into who provide their GC/MS report and level of purity: Essential Elements, Pompeii Organics, and Florihana (France). These companies, more often than not, are cheaper than some of the larger more popular companies. Can I get a HELLO?! When purchasing essential oils, look for the best price with the utmost purity and availability of information indicating clearly where and how the oil was sourced. Trust me, your body will thank you later.
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN
The average life span of essential oils tends to be based on the chemical family the oil is from. Monoterpene rich oils, which are all citruses, have a shelf-life of one year. After one year, citrus oil should only be used in cleaning products due to possibilities of oxidation. Essential oils need to be kept in a very cool, dark place at a recommended temperature of 65 degrees. A perfect place to store them in is the fridge. The cool temperature helps to prolong the oxidation process.
Other factors that contribute to the oxidation process are: 1) The quantity of product in your bottle. The lower the volume of oil in the bottle, the more air that has entered. Specifically, for citruses, the lower the volume gets, the quicker it should be used or transferred directly to be used in cleaning products. 2) How the air enters or moves around in the bottles makes a huge difference. For example, some like to use skirt droppers verses the plastic orifice reducer. The skirt dropper brings more air into the bottle with each use. 3) Movement of the oil in the bottle can also speed up the process. Store your oils in an upright position and try to only move the oil when you’re using it. 4) A helpful tip for those who may not use their oils frequently is to start a log of when you purchased the oil to help assist you in avoiding an oxidized oil. A monoterpenol rich oil, like lavender, has a shelf-life life of approximately six years if stored properly. The shelf-life of an oil is directly connected to the chemical family that specific oil is rich in. This is yet another instance when a GC/MS report is beneficial to have. Again, a great source that makes this information available for consumers eyes is Aromatics.com. Aromatic does all the work for you. The oils are pure. The data is simple to access. The usage is enjoyable. For most oils outside of the monoterpenes family, there is a shelf-life that exceeds one year and may not need such an elaborate log made. For any safety concerns, please inquire with the company you purchased from as each company’s distiller could advise differently.
OILS TO AVOID WITH DIRECT SUNLIGHT
Phototoxicity, in practical terms, is our body’s reaction to sunlight, which can cause burning, blisters, or discoloration of our skin. Please pay close attention to essential oils which are labeled to be “phototoxic” as they require caution when using them. The molecules in these particular oils are more prone to absorbing UV rays, storing them on our body and, as a result, our skin can become damaged. Once skin cells are damaged, we have no ability to replenish them to their original state. A few ways to avoid skin damage with phototoxic oils are: dilution, the time between application and sun exposure, and the dosage used. There is a recommended time frame of eighteen hours between phototoxic oil application and sun exposure. Something to also consider is that if you have multiple phototoxic oils in your blend they can enhance each other’s potency.
Let’s use lemon oil as an example. Lemon oil is phototoxic, as well as lemongrass, and bergamot. When you include bergamot and lemon oils in a blend, since they are each phototoxic, now together they are phototoxic times two with double the safety concerns. Any oil from the same chemical family and corresponding properties, when blended, take those therapeutic properties to the next level. On the other hand, if you add lemon and lavender together, lavender will help calm the phototoxic properties of lemon because each oil is from a different chemical family and has different chemical properties.
There truly is full science behind essential oils and their abilities to react and play off of each other. So, please, always be aware when you use them and research with caution. Seek answers for your questions from a professional.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning all about essential oils. Again, I highly encourage you to find a reputable company you can trust and feel safe and confident with when purchasing your oils. Should you have any questions, concerns, or need some tips, please do not hesitate to message me on my Instagram page @Mamaswellnesshaven. I am always happy to help!
Alyssa Cockerell, BS, CA, WHC