How one chooses the best quality Essential Oils might seem challenging, the internet is flooded with options, and unfortunately, not all of them are legitimate. In this article, I will take you through the qualities I look for in Essential Oils and how I determine whether or not to stock that brand in my shop.
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How long have we been using Essential Oils?
Throughout history, we have used Essential Oils in various applications, from religious ceremonies to medical treatments and making ourselves and our homes smell nice. We don't know exactly how long we have been using Essential Oils, but they were first recorded thousands of years ago by the Ancient Egyptians in the Suda. The Suda was a 10th Century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranian world.
Plutarch, the Greek Philosopher, Biographer and Author, also recorded the use of herbs as medicines. Plutarch comments explicitly about the feeling of inhaling Kyphi, which was an ancient incense recorded in the Suda. What he was experiencing, of course, was what we now know as Aromatherapy.
Although the practice of Aromatherapy was ancient, the term was only created in 1937 by Rene Maurice Gattefosse. He was a French Chemist and recorded that when he burned his arm, he healed it by applying Lavender Oil. The point is you will always find references to some form of Aromatherapy in our human history because it matters.
We find smelling nice things very satisfying.
Despite what some articles in the media might imply, many recent scientific studies support the medical effects of Essential Oils used to treat depression, pain and other chronic illnesses. Elsevier is the world's largest publisher of medical peer-reviewed studies, and they have so much information on this topic. If you want to get into the science of Essential Oils, subscribe to one of their many Aromatherapy Journals, all backed by scientific evidence.
You will soon see that comments such as “scientific evidence of aromatherapy is thin” are invalid.
What is an essential oil?
How do we use these unique natural gifts? Dr Jean Valnet states that Essential Oils are “Volatile, oily, fragrant substances” extracted from some part of a plant. There are eight methods of extracting Essential Oils from a plant. With today's technological advancements, Essential Oils are probably more potent than they were 100 years ago, so take extra care when handling them.
What are the methods of extracting Essential Oils?
There are eight methods of extracting Essential Oils; here is a quick summary:
Pressing or Cold Press Extraction means squeezing the plant with high pressure. e.g. Olive Oil
Tapping: this means tapping into a plant's outer skin (such as bark), which makes a resin or milk. e.g. Frankincense Essential Oil
Steam Distillation: is a process where heat is used to turn the liquid of a plant into a gas and then cool it to form the essential Oil. e.g. Lavender Essential Oil
Water Distillation is similar to steam distillation, except the whole plant is put in water instead of steamed. Then the Essence is collected by steam and again cooled, thus forming an Oil. The water can act as a barrier, so the plant doesn't get damaged.
Solvent Extraction: You mix the substance into another liquid and dissolve it. Essential Oil is typically mixed with food-grade solvents such as ethanol, benzene, dimethyl, or hexane to isolate the oils. It's used primarily for delicate scents because those plants cannot handle steam distillation, e.g. Rose.
CO2 Extraction/supercritical fluid extraction: this is where you use CO2 to pull out a particular chemical property of the plant. e.g. Hash Oil
Maceration or Infused Oils: You crush the plant or fruit and leave the pulp to imbue some of its properties into the carrier oil.
Enfleurage: This French term describes putting (not macerating) flowers into fat, like lard or tallow. After some time, the flowers impart their unique properties into the fat.
How do I choose the best quality essential Oil?
Picking a good quality essential oil is about checking a company's credentials. Only use essential oils that are third-party tested and approved. Other labels, such as pure, therapeutic and natural, are not regulated. Those claims may or may not be accurate.
I get most of my oils from Ancient Wisdom, and I love them so much because of their ethics. They regularly visit manufacturers to ensure that the two most crucial human interest issues are tackled.
- Human rights: Embody fundamental societal values such as fairness, dignity, equality and respect. Human Rights are an essential means of protection for us all, especially those who may face abuse, neglect and isolation.
- Farming Methods: the world loses 2,400 trees daily to logging and farming. We have to try not to be a part of the problem. This is why I only support products created with sustainable farming methods.
For example, any product with Palm Oil in it has a world-recognised certificate to support sustainable farming of the product. These two subjects are what I use as guidance for picking high-quality products.
How do you know you are going to get superior quality?
If you want pure essential Oil, always check the label. That should be comfortable if it states that it is 100% of its botanical name.
Why should that be enough? The EU has strong import regulations where the company importing the product must state the EORI number. This number allows customs to track and monitor goods and services outside the EU.
On top of this, the purest essential oils are volatile, so the European Chemicals Agency ECHA monitors them. Of course, policing every single product is complex, and to date, the only logo that certifies the product is genuine is the EU Organic Logo. But a lot of oils aren't organic.
What is a Pure Essential Oil?
When looking for an Essential Oil, if it states “Pure”, then it usually is.
Very simply, this is the extract of the plant in its purest form. It is usually very volatile in this form. Because it is so concentrated, you should NEVER apply Pure Essential Oil to the skin and take extra precautions when handling it. When used correctly, this also means its effects are more intensely felt. So when I use my diffuser, I prefer a Pure Essential Oil as I get all the health benefits delivered straight into my lungs.
What is diluted essential Oil?
- Argan Oil: Argan oil is a plant produced from the argan tree's kernels that is endemic to Morocco. In Morocco, argan oil is used to dip bread in at breakfast or to drizzle on couscous or pasta. It is also for cosmetic purposes.
- Jojoba Oil: Jojoba oil is the liquid produced in the seed of the Simmondsia Chinensis plant, a shrub native to southern Arizona, southern California, and northwestern Mexico. The Oil makes up approximately 50% of the jojoba seed by weight.
- Sweet Almond Oil: This is the kernel of the almond that is squeezed or pressed without its bitter skin.
- Apricot Oil: Apricot Oil or apricot kernel oil is pressed from the kernels of the Prunus armeniaca (apricot).
- Evening Primrose Oil: Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a plant native to the Americas. Its yellow flowers open at sunset. The Oil in its seeds contains omega-6 fatty acids.
If you're creating your potential oil skincare products or want to manage dilution yourself, you'll also need to follow the specific dilution instructions for each Oil used. It's necessary to ensure you get the dilution of the oil right because If they aren't appropriately diluted, they could harm rather than help the skin.
It's a good idea to research as much as you can about diluting essential oils before you attempt to use them in your skincare routine.
What is Fragrance Oil?
Fragrance oils, also known as aroma, aromatic, and flavour oils, are blended synthetic aroma compounds diluted with a carrier like propylene glycol, vegetable oil, or mineral oil.
Many people have allergic reactions to these products, but the same can be said for Essential Oils. What is important to note here is that although they might smell the same, Fragrance Oils typically do not deliver the Aromatherapy Benefits of Essential Oils. that is to say, if you use a Lemon Fragrance Oil, it may not have the same antibacterial effect as a Pure Lemon Essential Oil.
Many people use Fragrance Oils in soap to make them smell nice, and that's fine because the perfect soap won't have any residue left on the skin; it's all supposed to wash off along with the dirt.
Essential Oils are volatile and need to be diluted to use them safely, but here are some other points to consider when handling them:
Never skip the patch test
You'll still need a patch test after diluting your oils properly. You may react to the oils, so it's essential to test a small area before applying them correctly. Once you've used a little of the diluted Oil onto the skin, leave it for 24 hours.
Don't use the Oil again if you experience redness, itchiness or other nasty side effects. Carrying out a patch test with every new Oil you try is essential. Apart from testing them on yourself, you may want to do the same with your loved ones. My youngest has eczema and will react differently to the Oil I have put on myself.
Oils in the bath.
You can add Essential oils directly to bath water. Make sure you only use 6-8 drops; for the best result, don't add the Oil underneath the tap. This will cause the Oil to release into the air via steam – that might be good for inhaling, but if you want to treat a skin condition, it's best to add the oils after the water has been turned off. Only add diluted Essential Oils to ensure you won't cause skin irritation.
Seek medical advice before introducing oils into your routine
Although Essential Oils are considered natural, that doesn't mean they don't have side effects. That's why it's a good idea to seek medical advice before adding them to your beauty routine.
If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, it's imperative to seek medical advice before using any Essential Oil. This is because some oils can be harmful to your baby.
Follow the less is more rule.
When using essential oils, it's always good to follow the less is more rule. As they are incredibly concentrated, you only need a minimal amount to gain the benefits. So, never be tempted to use more than the recommended dosage.
Essential oils can be highly beneficial to the skin when used correctly. You may need to experiment with a few different types of oils to find the best one to match your skin's needs. Once you have found what works, you'll always want to include them in your Skincare Routine.
You now know how to choose the best Essential Oil. Please let me know if you have any further questions, and I will do my best to answer them.