How to REALLY Know if Your Essential Oils Are Pure

With so many Essential Oil Companies on the market, how can you be sure that you are really buying Pure Essential Oils and not adulterated knock offs?

Just like in other industries, there's a lot of monkey business going on in the essential oil business. In this post, I'll share ways to know if your essential oils are pure.

Essential Oil Bottles - pure essential oils

Since I wrote my series on finding the best essential oils for my family, the question that I get asked most frequently is "What do you think about XYZ essential oils company?" or "Is ABC essential oils company selling pure essential oils?"

When I first started using essential oils, I thought that essential oils were a scam.  But after my thinking changed on that, I found that essential oils work and discovered a lot of life-changing ways to use essential oils in our home.

However, things quickly got to be very confusing.  Quality claims of all kinds were all over the place and I didn't know how to sort through them.

And it's only become more and more confusing as time has gone on and the marketplace has become completely glutted.  Seriously--have you noticed that everyone and their brother (and sister) are selling essential oils these days?  It's a mess out there.  Daily, I get emails and comments from readers asking me about essential oils.  Typically they are responding to the information in my series on finding the best essential oils for my family, and they want to know what I think about ABC or XYZ company--whether they are quality oils or not.

Every company out there makes claims about their oils being great.

"Our oils are the best that there is!"
"100% Pure Essential Oils"
"Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils"
and it goes on and on.

In this post on Essential Oil Myths about Purity, I talked about many of the untruths that are circulating around regarding how to know if you have pure essential oils. And there are a lot of them.

Today, I'm going to share with you the truth.

No nonsense. No hype. Just pure scientific fact.

Essential Oils - Are your essential oils pure?

How to Find Pure Essential Oils

So if the claims that I laid out in the Essential Oils Myths about Purity post aren't how you can know if you have pure essential oils or not, then how do you know?  When you walk into a store or shop online, how can you know that you really are buying pure essential oils and not cheaper oils masquerading as the real thing?

First and foremost, you need to know that the oils have been tested.

And by testing, I don't mean putting them on a piece of paper or coffee filter, smelling them, or putting them in your freezer to see if they freeze or not. Unfortunately, you need to have the oils tested using something called GC/MS testing (short for Gas Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry). I bet you don't have the capability to do this in your home.  Well, you could buy a GC/MS machine for yourself to have in your home, but it will set you back a pretty penny or two.

And even if you did decide to buy the necessary equipment, you would have to know how to interpret the resulting information from the tests. So we have a problem.

So you have to have the testing done elsewhere, by someone whom you can trust.

Luckily, many companies are having this testing done now since the marketplace is demanding it. However, there is a lot more to it than just buying from a company that states on its website that it does GC/MS testing.

Here's what else you need to look for.

1. Batch GC/MS Testing

A company should first test a sample of the oil that they wish to purchase.  Then, upon receiving that oil in bulk, they should test the bulk batch to make sure that the oils that they sampled matches the oil that they purchased.

GC/MS testing is known as the gold standard test for essential oils.

The reason why batch testing is important is that it would be very easy for a seller to send a sample to a buyer. Then the buyer tests the sample and verifies that it is pure.  The seller then, instead of the original sample, could send an adulterated large batch of essential oils to the buyer.  If the buyer doesn't test the large batch, who's to say that the batch is exactly the same as the sample?

And if a company simply "trusts" their suppliers, how do they know that a seller won't get misled or decide to do something shady at some point?  I have heard from companies that have had this very problem.  They bought from "trusted" suppliers only to later test oils and found that some were tainted.  And I had been using some of these oils in my home :(. You might have them there too.

2. 3rd Party Testing

Ideally you want to go with a company that has a 3rd party testing their oils.  In house testing might be accurate but there is a conflict of interest when a company tests its own essential oils, so 3rd party validation is important.

Think about it.  If a company does the GC/MS testing in house, then it would be quite tempting to simply alter a test to make it state whatever you want it to say.  Better to have a 3rd party's name on the test to insure unbiased results.

3. Organoleptic  Testing

The term "organoleptic" means "acting on or involving the use of organs."  When talking about essential oils, the term means to examine the essential oil using sight, smell, taste, and touch.

An experienced aromatherapist should examine the essential oil and see if there is anything odd regarding the oil's smell, consistency, or color.

It is important to note, however, that just because an essential oils smells different than it did before, or different than another brand of essential oils, does not mean that one of them is not pure.  Essential oils can smell different from batch to batch based on growing conditions, and other factors.  Plus, trusting your nose just isn't smart.  It's not trained and it could be wrong.

4. Chemist's Signature on GC/MS Report

Every GC/MS test that you see should have a chemist's signature on it. This guarantees the authenticity of the test plus it gives a contact name that you can use should you have concerns about the test results.

Test results of all kind can be manipulated.  I have heard stories about how companies are doing this frequently and it's enough to make you crazy.  Ideally, you want a copy of the original GC/MS test with the signature on it to prevent this kind of fraud.

There are some labs that have a chemist's name on it, rather than a signature. However, most chemists, due to their being liable for the results, would prefer that their signature be on the report as an added measure of security.

5. Refractive Index Test

The Refractive Index (RI) measures the speed at which light passes through an essential oil.  The RI is a unique number that shows how the oil responds to and bends light.  Basically it shows how the speed of light is changed as it passes through an essential oil.

After measuring the RI of a batch of an essential oil, that number can be compared to the RI of a reliable sample. When an essential oil has been adulterated, the RI of that oil will differ from that of the reliable sample.

6. Nitrogen Barrier

The nitrogen barrier is a possible additional step to take to ensure stability of essential oils.

When an essential oil bottle is opened, air enters the bottle.  When oxygen mixes with essential oils, the oil begins to oxidize. So when an essential oils company gets a large batch of an essential oil and they pour some off to bottle it up into smaller bottles, the remaining oil will start oxidizing.

One way to prevent this from happening is to put nitrogen into the bottle to take up the space that the oxygen would otherwise maintain.  This is referred to as having a nitrogen barrier.

7. Pesticide Testing for Essential Oil Purity

Pesticide testing isn't common in the essential oil industry, but I'm updating this post to share this information since it's something that some companies (including the company that I chose) are doing.

Of course many of the plants from which essential oils are sources aren't grown with pesticides, but some are. Knowing that the essential oils that you are using have been tested for pesticides is another thing to give you confidence that you are using pure essential oils.

Conclusion

So there you have it.  It's a lot of information but it's real information.  Not the nonsense that you see in other places.

Again, you simply can't know that a company is selling pure essential oils by reading a label or putting your essential oils on a piece of paper, or sticking them in the freezer.  And your nose doesn't "know." You need hard and fast testing.  And you need to have access to the results of that testing.

Plain and simple.

Where to Buy Pure Essential Oils

If you are interested in finding out where I buy my essential oils from, you can go to read this series that I wrote when I went on a hunt for The Best Essential Oils.  Or you can skip the end to read my choice for where I choose to buy my essential oils.

The essential oil industry is a murky one. I have heard over and over again that the vast majority of essential oils on the market are not pure.  You have to watch out to not get taken. I do not want synthetics in my supposedly "pure" essential oils, I don't want to pay for something and get something else (like getting fillers in my essential oils). No thank you.

Again, you can go here to find out where to buy essential oils. The company has served us well. I do try to keep my eye on the market and hope to revisit this issue in the future. So on that note...you can feel free to subscribe to updates.....

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I'm still studying and learning and will be sharing more down the road so stay tuned for more essential oils post.  And if you like healthy recipes and other healthy information, I'll be sharing that too :)!


What brand of essential oils do you buy?
Do you think they are pure essential oils now that you know all of this?

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102 Comments

  1. If you are unable to verify the purity of the oil/whether additives or pesticides have been used - are they still safe to use? I never considered this when I first started because so many people have reported so many good things and now after a month of using them I am questioning whether using them any further. I use them for hair health but I don't want to put chemicals or other crap on my head.

    The website says organic, no additives, and I did the paper test with their rosemary and no noticeable trace was left behind - of course I have also read that companies know how to beat this test even if the oil has additives.

    I use Saje here in Canada and even Forbes Business ran an article about them being pure and so forth. They wouldn't post an article if it weren't true, would they? Bad for reputation to post misleading information.

    1. Hi there. Are you not able to verify this w/ the company? Of course you need to trust them but I would ask. I can't comment about the trustworthiness of Forbes and such, but I would hope so. And a company can say one thing and not do it. There is trust that you have to use at some point in the game--I know it's confusing!