Essential Oils are EVERYWHERE right now, and rightfully so! People are falling in love with them and are sharing with friends. The possibilities are really very exciting!
But with so many companies to choose from, how can you tell them apart? And are they really any different from one another? (Except, of course, in price?)
Quality is probably the highest consideration for those who are looking to use essential oils for more than just candle making but trying to find objective quality information can be a challenge.
The more people I speak with, the more confusion I see about quality and how to know whether an oil is worth buying. In fact, as I’ve been asked about different companies and read their marketing materials, I’ve found that many brands marketing their oils as certified.
The concept of certification is HUGE right now in the essential oil world and it makes perfect sense that a consumer would want a certified product. The only trouble is, there is no such thing as outside essential oil certification in the United States.
No outside agency certifies essential oil purity, quality, or effectiveness.
That means that the US Government does not hand out any certification to essential oil companies, and no governing agency regulates the claims of purity, therapeutic value, or quality made on an essential oil bottle.
Only the term “Certified Organic” is regulated but is nothing more than a minimum standard with respect to growing conditions, it does not indicate that the oil was distilled in a way to keep the best levels of botanical components, and does not indicate that the oil is high in quality.
To explain, the same Organic Certification handed out by the FDA can be awarded to a pristine apple grown on a biodynamic farm using only hydroelectricity and no fossil fuel burning equipment, and on a box of highly processed chocolate chip cookies. I think we could agree that the value of each of those “Certified Organic” products would not be the same.
So how do companies selling “certified” essential oils obtain the advertised certification?
They give it to themselves.
Because there are no governmental standards for essential oil labeling in the United States, a company can advertise certified status, or purity of any level, but do not have to prove anything.
Because of this, if I chose to, I could go out, seek out any essential oil broker, and create my own essential oil company and advertise my essential oils as “100% pure, wildcrafted, therapeutic grade, bio-dynamically sourced” essential oils. There is NOTHING functionally to prevent me from doing it. NOTHING.
How could a company go about “certifying” their essential oils?
- They purchase their pre-distilled essential oils from a third party, sometimes a local farm, sometimes a middleman. Sometimes the third party source provides some level of testing documents to the purchaser, sometimes not.
- The company creates a quality standard of their own choosing that they then hold their purchased product to, either verifying the compliance of purchased oils through outside testing or relying solely on the test results provided to them by the person they purchased the oils from for resale.
- If the oil meets the internally determined standard, the company then sells the oil with their certified label on it. Oftentimes the company discloses that the certification is not from an outside agency, but frequently it is disclosed in a small footnote, and many consumers never read it.
Unfortunately, a certified label, no matter which company is using it, is simply a marketing tool. It simply says that “We, X company, have a standard, and this product meets our standard.”
Can a consumer know whether the standard is a high one? A low one? One based on years of essential oil experience? One based on no experience at all? How can a consumer know?
“Clinical Grade” Essential Oils
There’s a new marketing strategy that recently hit the essential oil scene and it claims that the oils are “clinical grade”. Again, this is an internal certification and not given by any medical community, or outside certifying agency. What seems to set this one apart from other marketing strategies is that the company also offers a website tool where you can enter a source code found on each bottle to receive the chemical constituent levels of that particular batch of oil, as well as its source location.
That seems really cutting edge and quite transparent and official. I do want to point out, however, that any researcher or clinician using essential oils in a clinical research or clinical treatment capacity would be able to request this same type of information in much greater detail in writing from any company of their choice. It is a bit of a stretch to imagine that a serious scientist or clinical therapist would rely on a website generated report to determine their therapeutic choices with a patient or research group.
It is an understandable feature, though, because by its very existence it implies transparency, quality, and superior scientific acceptance without having to prove anything objective. However, does the average essential oil consumer understand what those levels mean, or know comparatively what the levels of other companies are? Do they need that level of detail on each batch of each oil that they purchase? I am not implying that this information is irrelevant, but only that the average consumer would have no clue what to do with this information, and a clinician wouldn’t need that tool.
So, how did I decide so firmly on Young Living, who doesn’t claim “certified” status? I decided to look into the WAY the oils were produced, from start to finish, and the quality control measures at each step. The more that I could know about the way the oils came to be, and how controlled the process was, the better. Ultimately, for me, knowing the facts about my oils from the beginning to the end was what convinced me.
How about you? How do you feel about essential oil labeling? What helps you make your decision?
So, what sets Young Living apart from all of the “certified” brands?
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