They are powerful, a substance you can benefit from in just 1 drop! But only if they are crafted properly.
Essential oils are volatile liquids distilled from trees, plants, shrubs, flowers and roots. Like wine, each oil requires careful preparation, nurturing and processing in order for the final product to be pure and potent.
The quality of essential oils varies like wine. It pays to understand what you are spending your money on if you want to get the most for your dollar.
Fine wines The best wines are cultivated with care in the proper soil and growing conditions. The grapes are harvested at the optimal time. Any quality wine producer will test the sugars in the grapes frequently until it is the perfect time to harvest the crop. The attention to detail continues as the wine is formed even to the point of selecting the type of wood for the barrels that will store the wine. The slightest variation in any of these steps could greatly reduce or affect the quality of the finished wine.
Therapeutic grade essential oils are also like fine wines, with care taken each step of the process.
Harvesting plant material harvested too soon will result in a weaker, lest robust oil. Harvest them too late and mold may begin to grow on the plants, infusing spores into the ending oil.
Organic plant material is essential or pesticides will become concentrated in the end product. Therapeutic grade oils will also be tested for purity to ensure they have optimal constituents (nutrients) and no additives or chemical residues before being bottled. Inferior oils will often be put into the wholesale marketplace and sold as ingredients in products where the quality is not as important.
Budget Wines These are excellent wines produced at a reasonable price. Wine Spectator is known for listing the best budget wines each year, quality vintages at a great value. One year it could include Bogle or Orin Swift, another year a DeLoach or Frog’s Leap. makes the list. The point is budget wines are generally inconsistent and unpredictable. The producers might be small or large vintners and the variety hit or miss. There are most likely some great producers of essential oils in the world, unfortunately the oil industry does not have an organization that tests and ranks the quality and value of essential oils. The end product is most likely unpredictable especially if a producer does not monitor the full process of creating oils, from seed to bottled product. In fact, many oils are distilled in other countries, then purchased by a company who bottles them with their own label. They may produce a nice smelling oil but the end consumer has little way of knowing what value it really offers if any. By luck you may end up with an oil that smells like lavender but there is no guarantee that it will speed the healing of a burn.
Boxed Wines There is not much to say about boxed wines except that they are, uh, wine. My 8 year old commented about a glass of Kombucha I was drinking the other day, “it smells like wine”, she said, her nose wrinkled as she detected the fermentation. That pretty much sums it up for boxed wine, fermented grapes, not much else. It does offer alcohol content, but not much for the palate or the nose. It is cheap and convenient. At least my Kombucha supports healthy intestinal flora. Boxed wines won’t give you much more than a buzz and elevated blood sugar. I guess it does serve a purpose, maybe at a tailgating party or a rock concert guaranteed to give you hangover the next day. Essential oils that are mass-produced or synthetically produced are like boxed wine. Consumers have no idea where the oil came from or what species it was grown from. In fact it might be a blend of plant material, you never really know for sure. It probably does smell a little like it should ,unless you have a quality oil to compare it to, the undiscerning nose most likely can’t tell. Oils like this are often found in grocery stores, mass-market discount stores, bath shop stores, even health food stores. Price should be a clear indicator of unknown oil content, something priced too good to be true is most likely boxed wine quality.
Wine Coolers Strawberry Kiwi, Mango-Lime, fun flavors either artificial or “natural”, it really doesn’t matter because the labels are fun. Wine coolers are totally diluted wine, most often with juice or sugar-flavored-colored water. The quality of the wine doesn’t matter either, because you don’t really taste it over the imitation fruity flavors. All the flavors mingle for a taste sensation that blasts your senses, and your brain cells. They’re great if you are looking for entertainment in your beverage. Essential oils that are bottled in fancy boutique packages and sold as “blends” may be no better than wine coolers. Because of packaging laws, manufacturers don’t have to tell you what is in personal care product if it has the ingredient “fragrance”. Oil blends may also be a gamble, when several oils are mixed together it makes it more difficult to detect an inferior oil or additive. This is even more apparent if a stronger oil like eucalyptus or camphor is added that overpowers the blend. It looks great on the pretty label though when you read it: “chamomile extract, rose hip seed oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus, fragrance”. Putting ”fragrance” (unknown chemicals) into anything with natural extracts is like putting a drop of furniture polish onto your organic salad, why would you ruin a good thing? Any company that does this most likely says “it’s such a small amount it doesn’t matter much”. Probably not if you don’t mind drinking wine coolers.
Ultimately, your nose knows. Unless you have access to scientific equipment to test the purity of an oil. Even though some testing like gas chromatography might indicate an essential oil is frankincense, the length of the chamber may not be long enough to detect fillers in the oil. As with fine wines, a nose can be trained to detect a quality oil. If you’ve been using synthetic fragrance, your sense of smell has most likely been dulled. Over time, and with practice, your nose will be able to discriminate a quality oil from something with fillers. Like fine wines, the highest quality essential oils have notes, undertones and subtleties that will change over time. Cheap oils have a distinct smell that hits your olfactory senses, they might have been produced by a method called “washing”. This manufacturing process removes the subtle tones and notes in an oil that bring it balance. The result is a strong fragrance that has no variety or undertones, the aroma just starts and stops (think of a popular vapor rub). It gives a quick “wow” effect then leaves you flat.
My nose surprised me the other day when I passed by someone who had just sprayed a boutique essential oil blend onto a sore muscle. Just from passing by I could detect camphor in the aroma, a cheap filler that gives a short term cooling effect to the skin – the quick “wow” effect. Expensive oils are no guarantee of quality, especially in the market of personal care and toiletries where you often pay for image.
Skip the fillers if you’re looking for health. Lavandin is another filler often substituted for real lavender oil. The plant requires less care than spike lavender and produces more flowers, but it contains high levels of camphor in the buds, something that would negate it from Therapeutic Grade value according to ISO standards in Europe. The bottom line is if you are looking to essential oils to support a healthy body, go for the fine wines, Therapeutic Grade oils that are cared for and nurtured from seed to finished bottle. Buy them undiluted so you know what you are getting, a pure oil, not something with additives or unknown fillers. Store them in a cool, dark place away from sunlight. Expensive oils can also be stored in the refrigerator. Your oils will last months, even years and you can use them a drop at a time. You can dilute them with your own almond or jojoba oil for a fresh, pure product every use. You’ll know what you are putting on your body and can experience the fine wines of personal care, therapeutic grade essential oils. Otherwise, if you’re looking at your personal care products as entertainment or social status, then it’s fine to stick with the wine coolers or the overpriced boutique brands with cool labels. You really get what you pay for, sometimes.