June 23, 2011
Understanding 'Therapeutic Grade' Essential Oils
At The Ananda Apothecary, since it's establishment, our Founder and aromatherapist set the precedent to source the very finest essential oils from around the world. ensuring you only receive the highest quality oils for your health. These oils are truly Therapeutic Grade, or rather, can be used in a medicinal application.
First off, know that 98% of essential oils produced on the planet are made for the food and perfume industry. These oil productions are known as 'food-grade' and 'perfume-grade' oils and are produced without concern for their health benefits. Production of 'therapeutic grade' essential oils, however, takes an entirely different and special dedication in every step of their making.
The explanation of 'therapeutic grade' is a little lengthy, so bear with us! It's important knowledge for all our customers, and truly everyone that uses essential oils for health purposes to understand this aspect completely.
We'll start with an important caveat: there is actually no such thing, officially, as a 'therapeutic grade' essential oil. There's no governing body, group or 'third party' testing
service which approves of, labels or certifies any essential oil as 'therapeutic grade'. Rather, 'therapeutic grade' is a label given to the essential oils of any company by that company itself. This is why you may see the words 'therapeutic grade' in their taglines, with an actual 'TM' symbol after them...because it's simply a trademarked term, not an official grading.
It is sometimes mentioned that there are two loosely-related quasi-governmental bodies which set standards for essential oils: AFNOR and ISO. However, these institutions in no way set a standard for 'therapeutic grade' essential oils. AFNOR acts as a standards-setting body for a variety of products and services. They are an agency which sets minimum standards by which quality, safety, reliability, and performance requirements described in French, European, and International Standards can be validated.
This is not the same as certification of a product or service. The act of certification would be that a recognized body, independent of the interested parties, gives written assurance that a product, process or
service conforms to to this grade. However, AFNOR itself does does no such thing. AFNOR standards for essential oils are used only as reference documents by commercial buyers and sellers of oils to gauge their conformance to a very minimum set of standards. These standards are primarily used by food and perfumery manufacturers.
Hmmm...wow. So what does that mean for you, the consumer? The person who wants the best nature has to offer for their health? For their family's health? It means you need to be as educated as you can be in understanding what makes one essential oil more therapeutically-valuable over another, and find a source you trust to consistently deliver you that most therapeutically-valuable oil of every variety you use.
So here's the lowdown on what does make one essential oil better than another...what makes one with greatest potential health benefits. ALL these facets of essential oil production are taken into consideration in the selection of each and every oil in The Ananda Apothecary's collection...oils we consider of the highest quality available for anyone's health, and call 'therapeutic grade'.
True 'therapeutic grade' essential oils are made through great care taken in every step of production: from planting and harvest of the source material, to the time, temperature and type of distillation process, and finally the handling and storage of the oil from the distiller, all the way to you, the 'end user'.
One single essential oil is made up of many, sometimes over one hundred, different 'aromatic' molecules. ('Aromatic' doesn't mean 'having aroma', it actually defines a molecular structure that is 'easily evaporated'...but that's a whole other post). This is the natural oil of the plant, and one of the hallmarks of a therapeutic grade oil is that it contains all these natural molecules in a particular balance.
Plants grown in particular regions, in particular soils, planted and harvested at particular times will produce not only the greatest amount of essential oil, but essential oils with certain chemical and aromatic attributes. Lavender, for example, grown at high altitudes in rocky soils found in certain areas of France (such as our Highland and Wild French lavenders) produce the greatest amount of Linalool (the primary 'sweet' and relaxing constituent). German Chamomile harvested early in the day will yield more anti-inflammatory chamulzine. Roses from the Kanzalak Valley of Bulgaria are considered the world's most richly-fragrant, and so on.
It goes without saying that it's crucial the essential oil be pure...there are ways to synthetically alter or adulterate oils so that it smells relatively close to the 'real' thing - or however some perfumer or chemist wants it to smell. Yet such adulteration is readily detectable with testing processes performed such as GC/MS, optical rotation, specific gravity and more. These checks are made by any reputable company (including The Ananda Apothecary), who's interest in your health and well-being is one of the foundations of their business.
Now back to oils being naturally made up of many individual molecules. Here's the two items that are crucial to an oil's therapeutic quality: the BALANCE of all these individual molecules, which is immediately detectable in the aroma, and the freshness OR age of the oil. (Some oils are better 'fresh', such as all the citrus oils, and some are better aged, like the woods: cedarwood, sandalwood and the like). BTW, we at Ananda have a proprietary way of 'special aging' some of these exquisite oils (try our special aged sandalwood, patchouli, cedar and more)!
The balance can be 'seen' in GC/MS reports for some molecules, though this is only part of the equation. The nose is actually a very, very highly developed sense organ, and can easily detect the difference between a 'pretty good' oil, and a really good one. A GC/MS will tell you if an oil is pure, and 'in the ballpark' of quality, though your nose will tell you the difference between a good oil and a great one.
And while these 'in the ballpark' oils are likely to be 'therapeutic', at Ananda, we believe 'therapeutic grade' to not only mean being the very best essential oil available on the planet of that variety - be it Rose, Sandalwood, Lavender, or any of the other 120+ oils we carry. But to embody the most superior aromatic! We select the most exquisite smelling oils through a process of Organoleptic analysis. It's not just that they'll do what the textbooks say they'll do, it's that you'll love using them so much - because they smell and feel so rich - that you'll keep using them, and enjoy doing so...time after time. It's what we call choosing an aromatic profile.
We take ever possible step to ensure our oils will offer the greatest in therapeutic benefits to you, your family, and your clients. Plus, we offer a huge rage of CO2 distilled oils which are not commonly available through other companies, which offer unique and wide-ranging benefits above and beyond 'classic' steam distilled oils. Offering you these therapeutic grade essential oils consistently is what we really care most about, and want you to receive the absolute best results with use of our oils, whatever your application! Learn how CO2 extractions differ from steam distillations here.