When we travel to conferences, we are often closely questioned by long-time users of essential oils. The questions usually center around why our essential oils are so inexpensive. Here are some of the most common questions, along with our responses.
Are your essential oils “therapeutic”, “aromatherapy”, or “medicinal grade”?
Let me start this answer with a little scenario. If I ask somebody if a product is “organic”, what I mean is “certified organic”. There is a standard set by a committee of farmers and industry leaders. They meet and vote on changes to the standards every year. Then several certifying agencies exist that review practices and procedures, do testing, and certify a farm and its produce as “organic”. Then when you go to the supermarket and buy a box of crackers made from those organic ingredients, you can trust that the label that says Certified Organic means something. Or, you might have something that hasn’t been through the certification process, but a farmer can show you that it was grown “organically” or according to organic specifications.
There is no such system for essential oils. There is no standards committee. There are no independent certifying agencies. You will see some companies have actually trademarked their terms, “therapeutic grade” or “medicinal grade”. This is marketing on their part, a way of differentiating themselves from the competition and making people feel like the oils they are getting are of the highest quality while others meet inferior standards. But the truth is that there are no set industry standards.
There are differences in essential oil quality, to be sure, as some are diluted, adulterated, contaminated, or poorly handled, but there is no grading system for essential oils. While there are a couple of things you can do at home to spot really low quality or highly diluted oils, there really is no way to find out the quality of most oils short of sending samples for testing. It is not like beef where you have grade A, certified by the USDA, with an inspector there to certify each batch, and a label placed on products that meet the grade.
So to finally answer the question, while our oils are used by us and many others for therapies, for medicines, and for aromatherapy, we do not call them “therapeutic grade”, or “medicinal grade”, or “aromatherapy grade” because there is no such thing, except in marketing. We are committed to a straightforward, honest approach to selling our products, and stay away from such gimmicks.
Is it safe to take your essential oils internally?
This is another question to which there is not just a simple yes or no answer. The FDA and the litigious nature of our society hamper what we can say about our products. For instance, if I were to simply answer yes to this question, and some individual went out and drank a 4oz bottle of Eucalyptus Oil, they would most likely get REALLY, REALLY sick. In addition, something that is safe for one person may not be safe for another due to things like allergies,sensitivities, or contraindicated health issues. We are not doctors, and therefore we cannot prescribe. We cannot tell you what is safe for you. All we can do is be very clear about the high quality, purity, and stringent testing of our products. And if reliable research show that it is safe to use a particular 100% pure, unadulterated, undiluted essential oil for a particular use, including internal, it should be safe to use ours. We do.
What’s the quality like and how do you know?
The oils are 100% pure, unadulterated, uncontaminated, and undiluted. Every batch is sample tested to make sure that it is so. In addition, tests are done to make sure that the oils meet a certain standard of active components, as it is possible to have a totally pure and undiluted oil that is functionally dead. We don’t want that. The oils are all tested for purity by gas chromatography and/or infrared spectroscopy, and the tests performed will be listed on the bottle. In addition, most batches are personally reviewed by multiple certified aromatherapists to make sure that texture, aroma, clarity and all the rest is up to our standards.
How are your oils derived?
A few of them, especially the citrus oils, are extracted from their plant parts by expeller press, a cold process. However, most are steam distilled.
Are the oils “low heat steam distilled”?
When I tell people that most of our oils are steam distilled, some will follow up with the above question. Or they will ask, “You mean 212 degrees?” Yes, that is right. 212 degrees is the lowest temp at which water turns to steam. Then these folks will tell me how 212 will kill the nutrients in the oils. They promote “low heat steam distillation”, which is the term one company has come up with for their distillation process.
I believe these people have either misunderstood, or been deceived. They think that steam distillation is possible at less than 212 degrees. Steam can be much hotter than 212 degrees, but steam will turn back into water before its temperature gets lower than 212 degrees. We don’t use gimmick phrases, but our oils are distilled at the lowest heat possible to extract the desired component parts.
If your oils are such a good quality, good enough to be used internally, why do all of the bottles say, “For Aromatherapy Use Only”?
Simple answer is cost and bother. Namely, the cost and bother of insurance. In order for us to advertise our products for internal use, we need to generate a lot of training materials on the proper use of the essential oils internally, generate all sorts of warnings that take into account various conditions (such as pregnancy), and we need to pay for millions of dollars of insurance coverage.
Doing this would be a lot of work for our small staff, and greatly increase our risk in the marketplace. We choose instead to focus on getting quality products out into the hands of people who know how to use them, and doing our small part to educate more people in the use of great products. And so, we’re able to keep the prices lower than many other companies.
How can your oils be so cheap if they are of such excellent quality?
There are a number of reasons. One is that we don’t pay for costly insurance in order to make claims about our products which increase our risk of getting sued. Another is business model. A lot of companies in niche industries like to use a network marketing-based business model. This means that there are many people along the chain that have to get paid. These layers of costs can’t help but make the products that are getting into your hands much more expensive.
We work with a few family-owned manufacturers and distributors who don’t gouge us on price, so we get a great deal. We could charge a lot more for our products, as there is certainly enough wiggle room in the industry to do so. We have a margin of profit that we are comfortable with, that lets us pay the bills, do research, and put out training materials, and that is how we choose to price all of our products, including our essential oils.
And lastly, we usually try to get a species of plant that is not the most rare, and therefore most expensive. If you compare the Latin words on our bottle of lavender with one from a different manufacturer, they will almost assuredly be different. There are in the neighborhood of 200 species of lavender. (Note: sometimes species or type is very important, e.g. German vs. Roman chamomile, and sometimes it is much less important.) So two pure lavender essential oils could smell different, and it is not because of a difference in “grade” or “quality”.
We believe the key is to be happy with the essential oils that you get. Some that have experienced our oils prefer to use all of our oils over a more costly brand. Some people prefer the costlier brand over all of our oils. Most people are in the middle, having favorites among the costly oils, or favorite uses for the costly oils, and favorites among our oils as well. The most important thing is to learn to use products that will help make your family healthy, and get products that work.