How to REALLY Know if Your Essential Oils Are Pure

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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?
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Where to Buy Pure Essential Oils

If you’re interested in learning more about 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 essential oils and get fake stuff and filers, and I’m sure you don’t either.

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


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.

Free Essential Oils Report & VIP Newsletter Access

If you go and grab my Free Report on 10 Things to Know About Essential Oils Before You Buy, you will not only get more myth-busting essential oils information, but you’ll get access to my VIP newsletter as well–complete with updates, great healthy living offers, of course new posts on essential oils, and more.

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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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  1. So you said you are a “rep” for the “Rocky Mountain” oils company? Is that similar to direct sales? I am interested in joining a MLM business because I want to learn more about running a business & have some business ideas of my own. I’m a EO believer & thought that would be a good business to join, but now after reading your posts I’m not so sure. Thanks for your input on your position with the Rocky Mountain company and what you’d recommend regarding someone joining a MLM company, especially an oils MLM company. Thanks again!

    1. Hi April,

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. No, this isn’t a direct sales company. I have concerns about the big EO companies but there are others that I think are really good. I will send you an email and we can go from there.

      I have a lot of thoughts about MLMs but for one, you really want to make sure, as much as possible, that the company is ethical, that the product is special in some way, and that you don’t need to have products in stock. Those are some things that I look for. I have left some companies b/c of problems and have done well with others that I am very pleased with. Look forward to connecting.

  2. Is doterra a good and pure product? It seems reasonably priced but don’t want to buy it, if it’s not a good quality essential oil?

  3. Would you recommend plant therapy ? I was looking at their organic line but the prices are really cheap which concerns me.

    What was the company again you found that meets all criteria? I’d hate to place An order from a company and waste $… thank you so much for your help!

    1. Hi there. Sorry for the delay – This post shows the company that I went with.

      If you are so inclined you can sign up for my newsletter here where I will add any essential oils updates, among other posts, deals (including those on essential oils) and more:

  4. Have you researched Neals Yard Remedies Organics or NYR Organics and if so what did you discover?

    1. Yes, I did. I didn’t go w/ them at the beginning b/c their offerings were too limited. Later I went w/ them for personal care since I left Ava Anderson due to ethical issues. I use Beautycounter as well. NYR has expanded their oils offerings some.

      You might wish to join my newsletter as I will have more info on oils in the future: Thanks for reading!

  5. Wow..alot of interesting information. .thank you… I became interested in essential oils when I started caring for my mom with dementia. .recently passed away. .. I too started with a starter kit (young living )..until one night I compared pricing.. wow… I went the cheaper route.. still use some y.l. only if not found elsewhere. I want to thank you for info you gave I will be reviewing oils more closely ..thank you Vet

  6. I was wondering if you have heard of or used Jade Bloom oils ! They are decently priced for the most part Ian curious about the quality?

  7. Hi Adrienne! I’m experimenting with Floracopeia’s Helichrysum oil from Corsica which is very pricey but working well on my complexion when so many things have not. I feel hesitant with YL after buying the starter kit and see many red flags you mentioned esp recurring purchasing. A week ago I found a site with a table breaking down the best essential oils companies including type of distillation, nitrogen, wild & organics etc–YL did not even make the list. #1 was Stillpoint in Sedona, Floracopeia was #2 and I believe RMO was #3. I’m signed up for a weekend training at Stillpoints home office in Sedona and wonder if you have insight about my future purchases comparing these 3 companies?

    1. Hi there. Sorry for the delay. I really can’t compare companies easily b/c of how many there are and how often things change w/ each of them. I would recommend looking at this post and deciding, based on the information that you have which is best. Thanks and hope you are enjoying your oils! Let me know if your complexion is still having issues and maybe you need something else that I could help with. I work with some fabulous skincare companies.

  8. Hello!! This is all new to me and I recently attended a Young Living party and bought the starter kit. I’m hoping I did the right thing, as I’m now reading some concerns about the purity of the product. I also went into a local herb shop and she highly recommended the Nature’s Sunshine essential oils and had a few on the shelf that were testers and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the “cleaness” of the oils I had sampled. Do you know anything about this company’s oils?Thank you! Meanwhile I will continue to read as much as I can!

    1. Hi there. Welcome! I personally left Young Living years ago. I have concerns about some of the Direct Sales oils companies and their recommendations / lack of consistent responses to questions. I would read this post: and I do find many of Nature’s Sunshines oils to be quite pricey depending on what you are looking at. Thanks for reading. If you are so inclined you can sign up here for my VIP Newsletter so you don’t miss a post. I will be writing more:

  9. You wrote in a reply “One of them literally took hours and hours. I thought that I would be recommending them, but then later they admitted in an email that they had started testing their oils and they came back w/ some of them having synthetics in them — including some USDA certified organic oils.” So….can you tell me what that company is so I know not to buy from them? Have you ever tried Plant life? I’ve tried a couple of them but have nothing to compare them to.

    1. Hello there. It was Mountain Rose Herbs. I would assume that they are taking care of the situation but it just underscores how a company needs to be testing each and every batch of oils and not just relying on trust. Sadly that’s what things have come to. I haven’t heard of Plant Life. If you are so inclined you can sign up here so you don’t miss a post. I plan to deal with essential oils again in the future: Thanks!

  10. Hi Adrienne,
    Thank you for your blog.
    I’m going to my first essential oil workshop tomorrow (Saturday) which happens to be with Young Living Oils. In the 2 weeks since accepting the invitation to the workshop 2 people mentioned doTERRA Oils. I found your blog after googling these EO companies. WOW!!! You did a lot of research! Thank you for saving me. I looked into Rocky Mountain, but being in Australia, the conversion (AUD to USD) cost makes it to high for my purse.

    I have found a company in Moorabbin, Victoria which is a lot closer to home for me in Western Australia @

    I have tried to apply all your methods to decide if this is a reputable company. I’m still very confused as to whether they are or aren’t. (I have just had a small dose of what you must have gone through).

    Is there a less confusing way to decide if the company is any good or not?

    Thank you again for your insight and opinion. Deb

    1. Hi there and sorry for the delay. I don’t know of another way to figure it out. It’s complicated and companies are finding ways to fool people more and more. Thanks for reading!!

  11. Thank you Adrienne for all of your hard work. I am a “newbie” with essential oils and want to expand my knowledge. Thank you for your honesty! I’ll keep reading. 🙂

  12. From your comments I am gathering that you no longer recommend RMO. I began using NAN after reading your blog and now they no longer exist. I am in a quandrum about which oils to use. I have been satisfied with RMO, but their website no longer gives any information about the origin of their oils or the process they go through. That was one thing I really liked about NAN.
    Anyway, I appreciate all your hard work and understand your priorities.
    thank you much!

    1. Hi Jenifer. Thanks for reading. Can you tell me why you think that I no longer recommend RMO? That’s not the case. Please do share.

      NAN was supplying all of the oils for RMO so they were the same oils.

      RMO does have country of origin information on their site. The growing process is something that has changed regarding the notation but I am hearing that they are talking about changing that.

      Please do let me know why you think I don’t recommend them any longer as that is not the case. Thanks!

    1. Hi Brenda. Sorry I didn’t respond to your other comment yet. I’m working on this. How urgent is the need?

    1. Did you check to see if they met the criteria? I chose not to be an affiliate for several reasons. Thanks for reading!

      1. What is it that you don’t like about NUMA? They pass the test that you speak of being pure quality. I have been doing my own research and they seem licit to me. I would appreciate your intake on them. Thanks

        1. I can’t comment on all of the companies out there but I did think it odd that Jordan Rubin said it was the best company out there and weeks later ? said the same thing about another company. So which one is it?

  13. Hi Adrienne, can you recommend a good company that sells turmeric oil? RMO and NYR does not carry it.


  14. Greetings! I am fascinated reading all your comments about oils. The things that the majority of MLM companies atribute theirs as better. I am buying NOW pure oils. It is very difficult to know, to believe, to trust which company outhere is honest. Organic, pure, cold press, unrefined? Don’t know! Make them home? Very expensive! I am a believer, and I think next step pray and follow the Holly Ghost that never fail, because reading your testimonies are not right answers. Thank you and good lock!

  15. I’ve been using Plant Therapy and liking it, but they recently introduced a “New! Exciting!” 2.5 ml size at close to the price the 5ml used to be. So I’m looking into Healthy Traditions. So far it looks AMAZING!

    I’ll put up with an MLM company for something like Norwex, but for oils it bugs me. Maybe because of the almost religious fanaticism some reps have had, and some of the truly absurd claims (yeah, I rub my pans clockwise when I use them to “activate” the cast iron, too — HAHAHAHAHAA!). They’re oils, people, not talismans.

    1. Hi Rebecca. I saw their announcement. What oils are you seeing that are really close in price for the 2.5 and 5 ml bottles?

      I agree with the “over the top” claims of many Direct Sales companies. It can just be too much. Cast iron activation? I’m a little lost on that one – explain please. Is there someone making that kind of claim? It wouldn’t surprise me….

      1. No, no, Adrienne, I was referring to the claim that oils can be “activated” if rubbed in a clockwise direction (or counter? I forget. Maybe it was a “Z” like Zoro). I was using an analogy to point out the ludicrousness of it. Sorry folks, your oils don’t know which direction you’re rubbing them.

        The Blue Tansy I think was one I’d been looking at, and the 2.5 ml wasn’t 1/2 the price of the 5ml (which it *should* be if you’re getting 1/2 the amount!).

        1. I have never heard that. How nuts. I have more to come on this issue.

          As for the Blue Tansy – it’s 20.95 for the 2.5 and 39.95 for the 5 ml. Seems to be appropriate to me?

  16. I buy most of my oils from RMO but I think it would be Great if you would print the 5 or 10 best Companys to
    Buy from that you think have the best oils. I think you would do you readers a Great service. Because a lot of
    us have to buy cheaper oils to survive.

    1. Hi Joe – I really appreciate that and that’s a great suggestion. Unfortunately it’s a hard one to answer. My list today would be very different than it would have been years ago. In fact, I don’t use as many oils now as I did years ago so I think one of the best things to do is to be very judicious in your use of oils by making sure to dilute them well. That way you still get sufficient effectiveness but you spend less money. Does that help?

      1. A lot of people have come to rely on you and I think you would be doing them a good favor. Because I think
        A lot of people would like to know if they are spending their money in the right place. Unles their is some
        reason you can’t.

        1. I really appreciate that. One issue has been time. I spent a lot of time this past year investigating more companies. One of them literally took hours and hours. I thought that I would be recommending them, but then later they admitted in an email that they had started testing their oils and they came back w/ some of them having synthetics in them — including some USDA certified organic oils. So something was really wrong. I homeschool and have 2 kids w/ special needs and have my own health to look after so I can’t spend that kind of time researching companies only to have that happen. So I thought having this kind of resource might be better. I may change that in the future but right now I can’t afford the time. I hope that makes sense.

          1. I just want to say thank YOU Adrienne for all the time and effort you’ve put into researching, critiquing, analyzing, summarizing, writing and then updating these posts. We homeschool too and my kids and I have health challenges. Where do you find the time to do all this? I found your posts at the beginning of my essential oil experiments and have been blessed to benefit from RMO oils.

            Please fellow readers, ask less of her and say thank you more often. Like I tell my kids, don’t ask for something you can do yourself, and pay it forward.

            1. Thank you. Wow. This means so much. I’m a very very fast typist so that’s part of how I got it done but the series over a long period of time. We have a hard time managing everything but we’re trying and I don’t put out nearly the amount of posts that others do without the challenges that we have. Doing what I can….. you are just too kind. This really made my day. So many days I tell my husband how much more I want to do but it’s all very very time consuming including researching new things to share and trying out new recipes.

              Whew – I didn’t intend to write that much. Thanks again!

              1. Adrienne, I just found your site a couple of days ago and have been reading and reading : ) I am impressed with how you answer so many comments personally, and In the rare case when people get a bit snarky or contentious, you try to show respect and make the interaction about the blog post, rather than turn it into “ad hominem” attacks. Thank you for your integrity and graciousness! RE the request for a top 10 list , Joe, I get the feeling Adrienne is teaching us to fish, rather than fishing for us. Cheers!

                1. Awwwww—thank you! I have been so bogged down again with personal and professional things I really really appreciate the encouragement and you are spurring me on to keep working. Thank you! Yes, I have thought about going through and doing this again and focusing on different companies but I will tell you that it’s very very hard to analyze. It’s a long story but believe me, any company can say anything on the phone or in writing and when you push for more information….well, sometimes you find out different information than what they have been saying. I should write more about this…’s so hard to know what to believe as in so many arenas of our lives! Thanks again for the kind words. I appreciate it more than I can say!

  17. Thank you Adrienne, this is very good information, and I had no idea how to determine if the company’s essential oils are a good product. This is useful!

  18. I have d?TERRA and have the ability to sell it, but I don’t care for MLM companies. I have found that I really like Plant Therapy. Fabulous Frannies is alright. I have some NOW, but haven’t had much occasion to use it at this point; it’s the brand my cousin swears by.

    1. I think Direct Sales are good if you have a good products and an ethical company. But I know for many of them that is not the case. Thanks for reading!

    2. I also use Plant Therapy Essential Oils. I have always liked that each batch has its test results posted right on the oil’s page. I do not like MLM company essential oils. Even IF they are a good quality, by the time the consumer buys the oil 3, maybe 4 people have taken a slice of the profit pie which is most likely why MLM company essential oils are ridiculously expensive.

      1. Hey there.

        I just wanted to point out that while it is true that with Direct Sales that others take a slice of the pie, in retail that happens as well. Think about sales people who get paid, store managers, the store front (if they have one), website (if they have one), advertising (of course many direct sales companies do advertising too, so it depends on how much)…Google ads…..Facebook ads. It all adds up. I think that Direct Sales can be a valid kind of business and that it can even be sustainable. But it all depends on the company, the product and the representatives. In fact, I have found some retail products to cost more than their Direct Sales counterparts :).

        1. Adrienne, I completely agree that “retail products to cost more than their Direct Sales counterparts.”

          I also agree that “it is true that with Direct Sales that others take a slice of the pie, in retail that happens as well. Think about sales people who get paid, store managers, the store front (if they have one), website (if they have one), advertising (of course many direct sales companies do advertising too, so it depends on how much)…Google ads…..Facebook ads.”

          But In addition to all these expenses, MLM EO companies also have the profits that get eaten up at each level, every person that is part of the MLM scheme.

          If you are new to essential oils, a MLM EO company does have one benefit that many others do not.
          Their MLM partners, or independent sales people if you will, that sell their oils to the consumer seem to be well trained and very willing to help the end user that buys the oils, their customer, in any way that they can and many even offer free essential oil “clinics’ to those that live in their area which is a HUGE benefit to those that are new to and do not understand or know how to PROPERLY use essential oils.

          Plant Therapy sells their essential oils direct to the consumer, which is, I believe, why their quality remains high and their price is very competitive.

          I have spent hundreds of hours researching and learning about essential oils and their use. My library includes three EO encyclopedias/books as well as the ANIMAL DESK REFERENCE, ESSENTIAL OILS FOR ANIMALS that was written by Melissa Shelton, DVM. With that said, I still learn new facts and uses about and for essential oils every day.

          Essential oiils have helped me in many ways, but where they have shined, at least for me, is where conventional allopathic medicine has failed me by treating only the symptoms and no fixing the cause.
          Every winter I would end up living with bronchitis for most of the winter and treating it with a Steriod based inhaler, prescribed by an allopathic doctor, which had a number of side effects for me. When I learned of and began inhaling steam with a couple drops of a few essential oils as well as a drop or two of Lugols Iodine the infection cleared up completely in a matter of days and did not return.

          I am also a chronic pain patient due to two auto accidents. I have spent many, many hours reading and researching essential oils for pain and inflammation, which is a big factor and contributing cause of chronic pain. I have developed an essential oil blend to help with my chronic pain and inflammation. Using this blend, and working with my pain doctor, I have been able to, along with other changes to my lifestyle, reduce the dose of my chronic pain medication to 10% of what it was. This was nothing short of amazing for me, but the best part is that for me the EO blend in conjunction with my pain medication, and for the very first time in twenty years, has allowed me to be completely pain free on some days!!!

          Thank you for your website and all of the excellent information that it imparts to us!!

          1. Sorry for the delay in responding. I’ve been buried under all kinds of things and now finally going back to respond to old comments. 🙂 . I’m going to address your comment here in parts:

            I think that each company is different. I did speak with the owner of an MLM company that also has a retail business. She said that the markup on both is almost identical due to the cost of having things in a store front / online. I don’t know all of the details but that is what she said.

            As for experienced reps, I think that really depends on the person.

            I’m so glad that this EOs and iodine have helped you – thanks for the kind words!!!