Are Your Essential Oils Safe?
We use them in our homes. Spas use them as an integral part of the services they provide, and naturopathic doctors and chiropractors use them in their practices. Essential oils, the life-blood of a plant, are staples to many when it comes to caring for ourselves naturally. So, how do you know if the little vial you are rubbing on your body is safe? Are these potent forms of plant medicine really ok to diffuse, use topically and ingest? Are the companies you see on the shelves in big box stores GRAS (generally regarded as safe) certified by the FDA? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say no. This is why you need to do your research when it comes to brands with essential oils, just like you would research what medicine to take for an ailment. Plants are powerful; and utilizing their energy can be very beneficial, IF, and only if, you know what you're getting in that tiny bottle when you buy it.
We started using essential oils more in our home in 2015. I had been utilizing oils lightly prior to this, but late that year I jumped all in as I was broadening my education on plant medicine. Now, six years later, we use oils daily. Through diffusion in every room of our house to topical application throughout the day to occasional cooking; this form of plant goodness is essential in our abode.
96 % - 98% of oils on the market today are "imposter" oils. This means they aren't real. They are tainted with chemicals, diluted, wrongly labeled or synthesized which means they smell like the plant they're labeled as but their contents are not actually from the plant source. These potent, magical plant liquids are nothing to fear. A true essential oil containing naturally occurring plant compounds can accomplish what you need in just a couple drops. If you're new to using oils, you will want to start low and slow meaning 1-2 drops until you build up your tolerance.
There are a few different grades of essential oils, and some of the terminology is honestly more of a marketing ploy than anything else; but, nonetheless, the categories of essential oil grades helps us to understand what is trash and what will actually produce some medicinal value.
Grades Of Essential Oils:
Therapeutic: These are pure oils extracted from sustainable plants containing natural levels of plant compounds.
Organic: These pass growing standards but may or may not contain plant compounds.
Extended: These are fragrance oils used only for aroma and offer minimal, if any, plant compounds.
Synthetic: These are chemically made in a lab and offer zero plant compounds or medicinal effect.
There are many companies out there that say they are therapeutic grade, but they aren't, so it's important to do your research. Essential oils are not controlled by the FDA so when choosing your brand you need to know the source and the process your company of choice utilizes for growing their plants, extraction/ distillation methods, bottling, testing and beyond. Any company out there can use the term therapeutic grade -- it's up to you to actually know if their offering something that will benefit you or if it's an imposter.
So -- how do we know? How do we know what's real and what isn't?
One way, is to look at the bottle. If it has the latin or species name on it, then you know its contents are the actual plant. Let's use Lavender, one of the most commonly known essential oils out there for example. There are over 30 species of Lavender! THIRTY ! Each species has a different medicinal use and a different chemical profile. For example, English Lavender, also known as Lavendula Agustofolia, is the most common species of Lavender used for medicinal purposes. It's wonderful to support skin, sleep, anxiety, allergies and beyond. This form of Lavender is seen in quality essential oils, but when traveling to any big box store and grabbing an oil from the shelf, you're probably going to see that the bottle of Lavender contains Lavindin aka Lavindin Intermedia. This may smell the same as Lavender, but the medicinal effect is not the same.
Here's an example:
Many people hear that Lavender is great for burns, so they will go to the nearest store, grab a bottle of Lavender EO and end up with Lavindin vs. Lavendula Agustofolia. Now, queue the, " I grabbed the pan in the oven without a mitt mom moment"and you reach for your bottle of healing Lavender. You plop a couple drops onto that burn and BOOM -- it's worse. Why?? Because Lavindin is actually 7-12% camphor and will increase burning verse soothing the pain like Lavendula Agustofolia would. This is why it is crucial to check out your ingredients and the quality of what you're purchasing over the counter.
Many companies use Lavindin because it's affordable to make. Lavendula Agustofolia has a longer manufacturing time and therefore, big box companies don't want to take the time to produce a bottle of this soothing essential oil.
When it comes to essential oils, experimenting is key. You get to be a scientist for a day and play with the different smells and properties. If you're currently using oils from big box stores in your area, I encourage you to look at the ingredients on the bottle and also ask yourself, "is this oil providing me with the medicinal benefit I'm looking for?" If the answer is no, it may be time to switch it up and invest in quality oils that will provide you with some cellular support. If you can't find where the oil is produced or how its grown, harvested and bottled -- there's a reason for that.
Always remember -- an oil that works for me, may not work for you. We are all bio-individual, meaning we are all different. This means that due to our own personal makeup, it may take time to experiment with oils to find the perfect blend that will support your body however you need. Take your time, do your research, start low and slow and enjoy! These little drops of plant synergy have the power to support your body like none other.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not meant to cure, diagnose or treat any disease.