Girlfriends' Guide to Essential Oil Authenticity
In hot pursuit of this trend that shows no signs of slowing down, are dozens of companies including Whole Foods, Amazon.com, and well, us that sell these “100% pure,” “all- natural” and “therapeutic-grade” essential oils, all touting their very real ability to enhance your overall wellbeing.
THE REAL DEAL OR NOT? THAT IS THE QUESTION.
Whether you are a novice to this world of aromatherapy, or have been using essential oils for years, it is important to deepen your awareness and familiarity with essential oils by understanding whether or not the essential oils you are purchasing are the real deal.
In a perfect world, essential oil companies would bottle their oils straight from liquid distilled flowers, roots, leaves and rinds of aromatic plants; refrain from using pesticides to harvest their crops and conduct monthly tests of randomized batches to ensure quality and authenticity. However, many companies are guilty of adulterating their essential oils by adding synthetic components, fragrance, chemicals, alcohol and cheap fillers in an effort to cut costs and meet demands.
TEST IT FOR YOURSELF
While the everyday user of essential oils may not have a lab or have access to a comprehensive testing facility, there are more basic “home tests” you can conduct to understand an oil’s purity and authenticity. It is important to note, however, that understanding whether an essential oil is pure requires not only the full use of our senses (i.e. touch, smell, sight and even taste), but also requires us to learn and familiarize ourselves with the chemistry and molecular features of these essential oils we are purchasing. That being said, home tests are not meant to be the sole defining factor of whether or not an essential oil is authentic or fraud.
1. The Paper Test
Place one drop of essential oil on white computer paper or white watercolor paper and let the drop dry for 24 to 48 hours. If the oil is pure and has not been mixed with any extender or filler, it should evaporate without leaving a mark within that 24-48 hour time frame.
Some essentials may have naturally occurring pigments like Blue Chamomile, or Pink Grapefruit, and while those colors will stain the paper and leave a color shadow, they will not leave a greasy or oil-like residue. However, if after 24-48 hours the paper is slightly transparent, oily to the touch, or has not fully evaporated, then it is safe to assume the oil has been tampered with.
Keep in mind that many essential oils have a naturally gooey and thick consistency. Examples of these types of oils include: Vetiver, Patchouli, Sandalwood, and some Cedarwoods, and Petitgrain. These oils are not suitable for the paper test, as they would not evaporate properly due to their unique molecular structures.
2. The Water Test
Place one drop of essential oil in a glass of clear water. If the drop makes the water a cloudy white color or does not stay intact, than the essential oil has probably been blended with a synthetic substance that has chemically altered it to breakdown and solubilize in water. If the oil is pure, it should not mix with the water, but rather float on top of the water until it is fully absorbed and evaporated.
3. The Touch Test
Place one drop of essential oil in the palm of your hand and feel the texture between your thumb and forefinger. Note the quality of its texture. The essential oil should feel light and dry. Next, place one drop of a carrier oil in the other palm and feel its texture between your thumb and forefinger. Note the quality of its texture. It should feel heavy, oily, and slow drying. If the essential oil drop feels identical to the carrier oil drop, then most likely the essential oil has been blended down with a vegetable based oil to extend it.
4. The Smell Test
We advise to practice smelling as many oils as often as possible! Our noses are often the best way to detect the quality of an oil, however we often don’t practice enough. We suggest getting in the habit of smelling all brands and ranges of qualities so you can begin to experience a smell comparison. Eventually, you will learn to distinguish between a good quality and a poor quality using your sense of smell.