Is there a difference between “therapeutic-grade” essential oils and those marked “natural” and “pure”?
They often look the same and smell the same. So aren’t they the same?
Don’t be fooled. There is a vast difference between essential oils that are labeled “pure” and “natural” and those that are labeled “therapeutic-grade.” Therapeutic-grade essential oils, when given that designation by AFNOR, are the highest level of quality.
The labels, “natural” or “pure” are virtually meaningless. Even a certified organic oil is not necessarily a therapeutic-grade oil because therapeutic-grade requires another level of growing, producing and testing.
In the U.S., while there are standards for organic growing, there are no real standards essential oil manufacturers must adhere to when making claims of purity or naturalness. This means anyone can label an essential oil whatever they like, without having to back it up.
AFNOR and ISO Standards
A set of standards has been established in Europe that outlines the chemical profile and principal constituents a quality essential oil should have to distinguish true Therapeutic Grade essential oils from inferior oils used for fragrance. These guidelines are known as AFNOR (Association French Normalization Organization Regulation) and ISO (International Standards Organization) standards.
Even though most essential oils sold in the United States are marked “natural” and “pure,” only 2 percent of them are truly Therapeutic Grade. In aromatherapy, the quality of your oils makes a huge difference. A full 98% of essential oils produced in the world today are not intended for serious aromatherapy or therapeutic purposes. They are produced for the perfume, cosmetic or food industries and are of a far lesser quality than therapeutic.
Why Most Essential Oils Do Not Meet AFNOR and ISO Standards
Producing therapeutic grade oils requires preserving as many of the plant’s delicate compounds as possible. This can only be done with the proper steam distillation method. The oils must be distilled in stainless steel distillers at the lowest pressure and lowest temperature for the longest amount of time to produce the oil. The plants must be harvested as close to the distillation time as possible to avoid evaporation of the plant’s volatile oils.
Extremely high temperatures and high pressure must be avoided at all cost, as well as contact with chemically reactive metals such as copper or aluminum, which can destroy delicate compounds instantly. In addition, therapeutic grade oils are always derived from the first distillation, not the second or third.
The perfume industry is only interested in the oil’s aromatic qualities, not it’s therapeutic qualities. In the perfume industry, certain practices are common and acceptable, such as using high pressure with high temperatures in high-volume “pressure cookers” and adding chemical solvents in the distillation process to produce greater quantities of oil at a faster rate.
To the untrained nose, it’s hard to tell the difference in the fragrance of an essential oil produced this way. But these oils lack therapeutic properties. Many of the important chemical constituents necessary to produce therapeutic results were either flashed off with the high heat or did not have enough time to be released from the plant material. Artificial fragrances are added to boost what was lost in the harsh distillation process… or didn’t have time to develop in the first place.
These oils can irritate the skin, upset the body’s frequencies, exacerbate problems and should NEVER be taken internally.
Why Young Living Essential Oils Are Such High Quality
Young Living Therapeutic Grade™ (YLTG) essential oils are the highest quality and most therapeutic. Achieving this high standard requires years of experience from experts like Gary Young (founder of Young Living Essential Oils), and results in part by farming and distilling many of their own essential oils.
Demand for therapeutic oils is rising every year. Even Young Living’s four farms aren’t big enough to produce all the oils demanded by their customers. In addition, some oil-producing plants only grow in unique, remote climate regions (i.e. frankincense only grows within specific areas of the Middle East).
To maintain YLTG standards — no matter where an essential oil is grown or distilled — the experts at Young Living apply the lessons learned on Young Living farms to make personal, on-site visits across the globe, ensuring that partner growers and distillers meet their world-class standards.
Once the oils are sent to Young Living’s research center in Spanish Fork, Utah, the oils are tested to see if they qualify for the YLTG requirements through a multi-step process that consistently delivers superior products. Part of this process involves scientific purity tests. The research center experts run every batch of essential oils through seven technical tests that determine if an oil qualifies to be a YLTG product.
Gas Chromatography Testing
The first test is called Gas Chromatography (often referred to as GC). The GC test measures the individual chemical components of an essential oil by sending samples through a metal tube. As the oil spirals around the tube, it begins to “flash off” or evaporate. The evaporation points of each chemical are measured and compared to the YLTG specification standard for that oil. If components of that oil don’t measure up, the entire batch is rejected.
That’s good news for Young Living essential oil consumers, but bad news for unsuspecting buyers elsewhere. That’s because partner distillers who don’t meet the YLTG qualifications take their rejected oil and sell it to other essential oil companies with lower standards (many of which label them “pure” and “natural”).
Here’s a 2 minute video shows the process of making therapeutic-grade lavender essential oil — from planting the seed to sealing the bottle:
This video shows how plants destined to become Young Living Essential Oils are grown, harvested, distilled and bottled from “Seed to Seal.”