All Essential Oils are Not Created Equally
Not Necessarily New Information, but Bears Repeating
The American Botanical Council (ABC) has recently posted an article and some resources on the adulteration of essential oils.1 This is not entirely new information, however, it is worth being reminded that many of the products physicians and holistic practitioners use are vastly different in quality than those that patients purchase at the grocery store. It is also a good reminder for practitioners to be aware of the common adulteration practices existing within the industry. ABC supports a “Botanical Adulterants Program,” which does have its own website2, that helps to keep consumers and practitioners informed of common practices, third party testing methods, and safety concerns of the botanical supplement industry.
(EOs) are Volatile Compounds
This recent article reminds us that essential oils (EOs) are volatile compounds produced by medicinal and aromatic plants. These compounds are what give each plant a special flavor and fragrance. A large amount of plant matter is usually required to obtain a small amount of EO, making the cost of EOs generally fairly expensive. These high prices have led many companies to adulterate the oils in order to increase profits. As defined by ABC, “Adulteration occurs when a labeled ingredient is substituted or diluted with a different, undeclared, lower-cost material, creating an ingredient or product that does not have the features and/or does not provide the benefits claimed by the seller and expected by the buyer.”
FDA Regulations Leave Lots of Leeway for Labeling Products as “Pure” or “100% EO”
The FDA regulations on EO leaves an incredible amount of leeway for companies to label products as pure, or 100% essential oil, when in fact they are not, leaving it to the consumer to do their homework on a specific company in order to know what is actually in a product. Analytical methods have improved to detect inferiorities in EOs, however these testing methods demand more time and economic resources by the manufacturer, which in turn tends to drive the price of quality EOs up.
ABC has listed an entire chapter by Erich Schmidt and Jurgen Wanner, who are leading European EO experts, on their website3.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.