Did you know that not all essential oils are created equal?
Some oils contain harmful chemical ingredients while others are sourced from hybrid plants that aren’t even native to the environment they’re growing in.
But, by looking at the bottle or reading a product description, you’d almost never know you were buying low quality oils instead of the real thing.
That is, until now.
With the help of today’s article, we’ll show you how to assess the quality of an essential oil before you spend a dime on one.
We’ll also go over what specifically affects the quality and give you a 7-point checklist to follow for evaluating an oil’s standards.
By the end of our guide, you’ll have everything you need to decide if an essential oil is worth your hard-earned money.
First, it’s important to understand why quality matters and what affects it.
What Affects the Quality of an Essential Oil?
The Food and Drug Administration (better known as the FDA) does not currently regulate or have any quality control standards in place with regards to essential oils.
This means consumers must be very careful when purchasing them.
Many companies slap trendy marketing jargon on their labels to both confuse customers and to appear as though their oil is trustworthy. But just because a label says “100% Pure” or “Therapeutic Grade” does not mean it really is.
Because of this, it’s important to understand what affects the quality of an essential oil to ensure you know how to properly evaluate one.
You may be surprised to learn that there are a number of different things that can change the quality of an oil at anytime during the production process.
So make sure you know the answers to questions such as:
#1: Where is the plant from?
The first area to pay attention to when choosing the best essential oils is where the plant used to create the oil is sourced.
Is it native to where it’s normally found growing or was it moved and harvested somewhere else?
High quality oils come from plants that are grown in their natural environments and are left to grow as they normally would, which is known as wild-crafted. This produces a plant that is unaltered and intact.
If you’re considering buying oils from a supplier that only grows their plants in one geographic location, you could actually be purchasing oils that are grown from hybrid plants instead of the real thing.
This will drastically affect how potent your essential oils are and if they can deliver the therapeutic effects you’re looking for.
You should also find out how the plant was grown.
#2: How was it grown?
Spend the extra few minutes researching how the plants used for your essential oils are grown.
Are they pesticide-free?
While you don’t always need an oil that’s 100% organic, you should still find one that is free of pesticides and harmful chemicals. These not only change the quality of the soil they’re grown in, but also have an effect on the plant.
Speaking of the plant, how it’s processed can also make a big difference here too.
#3: How was the plant processed?
You must evaluate the processing methods used for your oils as well.
Many plants lose their potency when they’re extracted using too much heat. Then again, others can only be extracted using steam or low pressure.
Some suppliers also use unethical tactics and harsh chemicals in their processing to amp up how potent their oils are.
So before you purchase any oil, be sure to find out how it was processed and make sure it aligns with how it should be processed.
When evaluating an essential oil, check to make sure you know the answers to questions like:
- Are these oils being sourced ethically and sustainably?
- Are the plants harvested at the right time?
- What part of the plant was used?
From here, you’ll need to do some research about how the oil was stored and handled after it was bottled.
#4: How is it stored?
The outside package may seem like a small thing to a normal essential oil user, but it actually has a significant impact on the quality of an oil.
Oils can quickly start to degrade in extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) and when they’re exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Because of this, you should never purchase an essential oil that comes in a clear glass bottle. Instead, find one with a dark amber color so you’ll know your oil is protected.
It’s also a good idea to see where the oil ships from.
If you live across the country (or worse, across continents), you’ll want to double check that your supplier properly packages the oil for transit.
Long transit times and routes through extremely hot or cold environments can ruin your oil before it even arrives.
Another way to assess the quality of an oil is to look for a few specific items on the label or packaging. We’ll go over these next.
What to Look for in a High Quality Essential Oil
If the oil you’re researching checks all of these boxes, you’ll know you’re dealing with a high quality oil that can be trusted:
#1: Is the Latin name listed?
Before you purchase any oil, be sure to look for the full Latin name of the plant on the bottle.
If you only see the common name, such as Lavender, it’s a telltale sign that you’re not working with the real thing. Instead, look for the scientific name (Lavandula, in this example).
#2: The country of origin should also be listed
You should always know the country of origin, or where the plant used for the oil was grown.
This can help you identify if the plant was naturally harvested and whether it was grown in the right region.
Due to label constraints, you may not find this information on the bottle itself, but it should be clearly listed on the box or in other supporting literature like the product description.
#3: Are there any mentions of purity?
Saying an oil is 100% pure is nice, but it’s not a guarantee.
That’s why it’s important to dig a little deeper to find out if the company you’re buying from has a strict standard in place that ensures purity.
The essential oils should also be tested by an unbiased third party lab to prove what they’re saying is true and not just marketing jargon intended to increase sales.
#4: Has it been tested by a third party company using GC/MS testing?
If a company is only using internal testing to determine if their oil is pure, buyer beware. Tactics like these can be manipulated and should not be trusted.
So find an essential oil that’s been GC/MS tested to ensure its purity.
When it comes to what you’re breathing in and using on your body, it shouldn’t be a guessing game. Nor should it cost a fortune.
#5: Is the cost comparable to most oils on the market?
The next factor to consider is how much the oil costs.
Though you may find you “get what you pay for” with a cheap oil, the most expensive ones on the market aren’t automatically the best essential oils.
Many times, companies will markup the price of an oil unnecessarily just to increase their profit margins. But this has little to do with the quality of the oil itself.
Not only that, high quality suppliers often go directly to the source (i.e., the farmers themselves) to cut out unnecessary costs and expensive middlemen.
They’re able to keep their high standards intact while still delivering affordable prices for their customers.
That’s why you shouldn’t judge an oil based on its price alone.
The next factor on our list is one that can help you instantly weed out low quality oils from the winners.
#6: If you can smell it, does it smell right?
In the case of online ordering, you won’t be able to smell your oil before purchasing it, but you’ll know right away once it arrives if it’s worth keeping.
The simple question is: Does it smell right?
If the odor is even slightly off, it could be a sign that the oil has gone rancid in transit or during bottling. Oils like these should be sent back or thrown out immediately.
Your essential oils should have a nice, light fragrance to them.
Over time, you’ll develop a keen sense of smell that will help you weed out any imposters from the high quality ones you’re used to.
But if you’re just starting out with oils, go with your gut. If it smells off, chances are it could be. You may also be smelling an ingredient that shouldn’t be in there.
#7: How many ingredients are listed on the label?
High quality oils will only have one ingredient on the label: the pure essential oil you’re purchasing.
So if you’re buying Tea Tree Oil, for example, the bottle should read: 100% Tea Tree Oil (or its Latin/scientific name).
The only exception to this rule is essential oil blends. However, these should only include the oils themselves as well. Any oils diluted with other carrier oils should be clearly labeled.
There are two major red flags you shouldn’t find on any essential oil labels: chemical additives and unnecessary fillers.
Unfortunately, these aren’t usually listed as prominently as they should be. And without proper regulation from the FDA, there’s no one controlling whether an oil has been tampered with fillers and preservatives.
To combat this, all the essential oils you purchase should check each of the boxes on our list — not just a few of them.
Find a High Quality Essential Oil
Though it may seem like an overwhelming checklist, it’s not really that difficult to find a high quality oil worth purchasing now that you know what to look for.
Start by evaluating the supplier, their packaging, and where and how their plants are harvested.
If they’re working with sustainable, ethical farmers, there’s a better chance the quality of the oil will be there at a price fit for your budget.
Next, evaluate the bottle itself to see if all of the following are listed:
- Latin/scientific name
- Only 1 ingredient
- Verified, third party testing using a GC/MS testing
- Country of origin
And if your oil doesn’t meet these standards or fails your smell test, find a better essential oil to use. With today’s tips in mind, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the right one for you.