10 August 2009

Are your Essential Oils pure?

Adulteration: the willful and purposeful addition of cheaper oils, oil fractions, by-products, isolates, natural and/or unnatural synthetics, to reduce the cost of the oil. Essential oils are becoming more and more popular with the general consumer. As holistic and natural health trends increase, people are becoming more interested in aromatherapy and essential oils and their benefits. I can remember 15 years ago trying to find chamomile essential oil and having to finally mail order for it. Now, the consumer has a reasonable expectation to find most common essential oils in their local heath food store, aromatherapy shop or even local mall. With rising popularity often confusion follows. Aren't all essential oils the same? Well they should be, but sadly, the adage caveat emptor is best followed. Because essential oils are, depending on the oil, comparatively expensive in small amounts, there exists the temptation to dilute them to make them go further. This is called adulteration.

Adulteration occurs in a number of ways. (i) Addition: invisible, where a vegetable or mineral oil is added to dilute the essential oil (EO) or visible, the addition of a constituent like alcohol, (ii) Mixture: with cheaper essential oils such as Rosemary EO being diluted with eucalyptus and/or white camphor oils, and (iii) Synthetic "nature identical" addition, such as when bergamot EO is adulterated with linalol and/or linalyl acetate. The only way to confirm if adulteration has occurred is through gas chromatography (GC) and manufacturers using essential oils should request an HPLC (liquid chromatography) test of the essential oils they are buying from their supplier to ensure strict compliance.

The reason for this is that the essential oils must be pure to provide the benefits that they promise and are expected. Adulteration can reduce and/or remove these properties and even introduce undesirable ones.
  • EO's contain many powerful antioxidants
  • Many EO's facilitate the release of endorphins
  • EO's are often immune system stimulants
  • Some EO's are natural chelators
  • EO's are often antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral
  • EO's can act as nutrient transport agents to cells
  • Most EO's contain terpenes that are beneficial to cellular function
As a consumer, ask your supplier of essential oils or your favourite natural personal care products store if they are sure that not only are their oils natural, but free from adulteration. If you make your own natural bath and body products, check with your supplier. For further information and as a starting point, I have found AromaWeb interesting and useful.

No comments: