Therapeutic grade: for some you need to keep an open and willing mind. I understand completely how contentious the issue of quality is. The term therapeutic grade didn't even arise until the 90's and did not exist prior to that time. It was invented by some very clever marketers who wanted people to believe that there were somehow therapeutic grade essential oils and then all others. The main companies marketing this concept also wanted individuals to believe that they and they alone somehow had the only therapeutic grade e.o.'s on the market...(as if the market had somehow not existed until they existed).
After the concept of 'therapeutic grade' entered the market other companies quickly joined in, saying that they too offered "therapeutic grade'. Today, just about every company selling essential oils states that their e.o.'s are of 'therapeutic grade'. With the concept of 'therapeutic grade', also known as grade A, came other grades such as grade B, C and so on. The point here is that some clever marketers were absolutely successful in their aspirations to get the word 'therapeutic grade' into the mainstream of the aromatherapy industry. In doing a search and NOPE, not one company out there claiming to sell grade B, C or D essential oils and not a one selling non-therapeutic grade. Very suspicious wouldn't you say?
The truth is, there is no such thing as 'therapeutic grade' or grade B, C or D in a sense that some organization or higher power has bestowed on an essential oil line. A grading system simply does not exist for e.o.'s. It is a product of marketing and marketing alone. Unfortunately many aromatherapists have become unwitting victims of a marketing ploy by essential oil traders that advertise 'approved' essential oils of 'therapeutic grade'. Let us be quite clear on this -- there is no such thing as a 'therapeutic grade' essential oil and no quality standards for the authentication of e.o.'s specifically exist in aromatherapy.
I think most of us, professionals & home users alike are just seeking genuine and authentic, plant derived, preferably organic or wild crafted, unadulterated essential oils. Finding them and knowing what to look for is a challenge, particularly given the power of marketing. So what do these terms mean: according to the Oxford English Dictionary....Genuine: 1. truly what it is said to be; authentic. 2. sincere; honest. Authentic: of undisputed origin; genuine. So a genuine e.o. means it is completely unaltered and an authentic e.o. means it is from a specified plant only. Which brings us to plant derived: essential oils used in aromatherapy should all be extracted from a specified plant species.
So this naturally leads into unadulterated: no additives, no extenders, no price reducing ingredients, no nothing except what was there after distillation or expression. The main concerns with adulterated essential oils include the potential interference with components of the natural oil and this may affect synergy and the expected physiological and psychophysiological activities of the oils and 2. toxicity implications of the adulterants. Hence adulterated e.o.'s can reduce the therapeutic benefits of treatment, increase the likelihood of adverse reactions and potentially introduce toxic compounds into the body. So now that we basically know what we are looking for, let's list the qualities to look for in a supplier:
I want a supplier:
* who is dedicated to supplying essential oils to the aromatherapy practitioner market and educated public
* that is on the small size and not a large corporation
* owned by an aromatherapy practitioner or essential oil specialist
* who has relations with his/her distillers, if possible
* who can readily supply a batch-specific MS/GC spec report on each e.o. it sells
* readily able to provide a MSDS as needed
* who has a strong unquestioned noncontroversial reputation in the field
* who has preferably been in the field for a number of years and is well known to other aromatherapy practitioners and/or educators
If you have found a supplier that fulfills the above criteria or at least the vast majority, then one can at least begin with the idea that the e.o. you have purchased is of higher quality than those sold at grocery stores or in the mass market or by a large corporation.
You also want included on each essential oil you purchase: common name, latin name (exact genus & species), country of origin, part of plant processed, type of extraction (distillation or expression), how it was grown (organic, wild-crafted, traditional).
FYI this article has been edited for purposes of educating the public. It was originally written for NAHA.ORG. by Jade Shutes. She is the author of "Aromatherapy For Bodyworkers". She is the owner & director of education for the East-West School for Herbal & Aromatic Studies, among other titles & works she has accomplished