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.

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.

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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102 Comments

  1. So how do you read a gcms report? How do you know what a good result is for any given EO? How am I supposed to know what should or shouldn’t be present? What are acceptable ranges? Is there a comprehensive list of what an ideal report is? I’m not having any luck finding this information anywhere. Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi there.

      Thanks for reading. It’s complicated to do that so you really need to know what to look for. But it’s important to see it. There are some resources out there but they would be very technical and acceptable ranges will vary by the component. I don’t know if there is a comprehensive list like that.

    1. No, they do not have their own farms but they do have their own testing facilities. Didn’t understand the last part of your question–what did you want to ask?

  2. Hi,
    Have you done any research on Camp Wander oils? I’m new to the eo world. I’m thinking of going with a couple different company’s. RMO would be one of them.

    1. Hi there! Thanks! I have not looked at them evaluating them by the points in this article. Have you contacted them about these issues? Thanks for reading.

  3. I have been using Bulk Apothecary for a long time and find them to meet all the listed criteria. I’d love to see them reviewed in your last post or a new post if you do it again.

    1. Hello Alexa. Thanks for reading and for commenting. I am intrigued by your comment and would like to start with this question–Do you see that Bulk Apothecary does GC/MS testing and that you can get copies of this with a chemist’s signature?

      Sorry I didn’t respond sooner–we lost the comments here for awhile and got them back only recently so I’m trying to catch up :).

  4. I’ve been buying from Eden’s Garden in San Clemente, California. I still don’t know much about using them though. Not sure if they are good for me or not.

  5. Hi there, what are your thoughts about:
    Eden Gardens
    Plant Therapy
    Eden Botanicals
    Appalachian Valley
    In regards of quality
    Thank you so much for your time

    1. Hi there. I looked at all of these except Appalachian Valley when I started this series and didn’t go with them for a variety of reasons. Companies sometimes change what they are doing so I have to look again to see what they are doing plus try to figure out why they changed their practices. So is it b/c they were caught doing something bad / didn’t know, etc.?? Anyhow, you can see my standards here: https://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/natural-remedies/announcing-the-best-essential-oils-company-and-a-great-sale/

  6. I took a course on EO’s and it was taught by a Doterra rep. She said that any oil you buy must have supplemental facts on the bottle, not ingredients and that it should never say not for internal use. Is that true?

  7. Thank you for all this education! I went to an EO course today and the instructor happened to be a DoTerra rep. As I was looking through the product list and prices I noticed their 15 ml bottle of frankincense wholesale price is $69.75 but RMO’s price is about $87.00. But almost every other EO was less expensive with RMO. Just was wondering why.

    1. You are so welcome. So note that doTERRA’s Frankincense is a blend of 4 different Frankincense’s, some of which are cheaper than the others. RMO offers several different Frankincenses. So it’s not comparing apples to apples. Hope that helps!

  8. hi,(one other thing!) I’ve been doing way a lot of research into rosemary to maybe help my mom who has Alzheimer’s and I’ve found several studies that state that rosemary 1,8 cineole was found to be the most effective.
    I saw on Eden’s garden blog that the rosemary camphor is best for memory, focus, etc and that rosemary cineole was best for physical ailments. so thinking Its quite possible that I overlooked a study or something like that that would have that info, I emailed them asking if they would point me in the direction of that info
    the response I got back skirted the question entirely and said that they cant diagnose or recommend treatments and provided a link to a database of holistic/natural doctors
    should I be concerned that they wont tell me the basis for their claims? should a company provide such info upon request?
    or do you know of any research that states the rosemary camphor is best for memory/ cognition?
    thanks, sorry for the life story, I’m just perplexed by the companies response
    thanks so much, suz

    1. Hi there. Thanks for reading. Most companies are staying away from medical terms right now b/c of the federal agencies.

      I can’t address Alzheimer’s. You could do an internet search about rosemary and memory / focus or you could ask just about memory and focus but not about Alzheimer’s.

  9. hi, thanks for all your hard work, I am curious,should I ask to see a chemists signature on the gc/ms report or should a company have that available without my having to request that info?

  10. I may have missed it in your posts; what about “ therapeutic grade?” Is that just marketing mumbo jumbo?
    Thx

  11. 100%P.E.O. do you know anything about this company? I have purchased from them quite a lot with not complaints or problems with the oils… any feedback from your end?

  12. I am interested in buy product from a company, however their GC/MS report of the product i wish to buy is over 2 years old. Do you think this batch is still worthy to buy? Couldn’t it potentially loose it’s potency? How current should the posted reports be? I would greatly appreciate your advise!

  13. Thank you so much for your helpful information. Sadly, I now do not believe any of my essential oils are genuine! I’m so disappointed! But I will not deny that they still helped my hair to grow and thrive.

    Now i’m off to read the part of your report where you tell me where you buy yours from! Probably because I live in London, England, i’l end up paying a small fortune to have the oils mailed to me! Lol

    1. Have you tried NHR Oils in the UK? I ordered few years ago and have been pretty happy with them. But, I am still trying out different companies.

  14. I have loved reading all of your research. Thank you so much for all of the information. I use either Mountain Rose Herbs or NOW essential oils, have you gotten to do much research on these 2 companies? Thanks so much for any information that you might have on them. Keep up the great work!!

    1. Thank you! Yes, I did look into both of them. I didn’t go w/ them for several reasons. MRH told me later in emails that they started testing their oils and found synthetics so I am very careful to go with companies that have third party testing. I see that MRH is changing what they are doing but I need to connect w/ them again about this b/c I am not clear on what it is. Thanks for reading!

    1. Hi there. I would use the standards outlined on this post. I am concerned about some things – Rubin promoted these oils as being the BEST on the market and then shortly thereafter went and did the same for Epigenetics, which is now Organixx. So that kind of stuff makes me go hmmmmm…..I don’t like it when people say that theirs is the best…..there are a lot of messy companies out there but there are a good handful of decent oils.
      And Axe also said that his were the only organic oils on the market. That’s just not true as several other companies have certified organic oils.