Saturday, May 18, 2013

Essential Oils: What To Look For

I've had a lot of questions recently about essential oils, prices, which oils I use, what oils I have tried, why I use what I do, and what oils I will be selling and or recommend.
I've been using and studying essential oils for over 15 Years now, and have tried many MANY different brands.  If you look in my cupboard you will see probably close to 100 different oils, different, brands, and strengths that I use, or have tried.  Some I love, and some I would NEVER reccomend to anyone!  Some I use and recommend for skin care, others I use and recommend for internal use, and sometimes those two overlap.  If you are using them for fragrance, aromatherapy etc. one grade or company might be perfect, but if you are ingesting them or using them for their medicinal qualities you might want a different strength, and/or go with organic oils.

In my previous blog, I mentioned that the US has practically NO standards for essential oils.  While companies have made up titles that sound grand, and they may brag their oils are superior because of the titles they have given themselves, these titles can sadly mean little to nothing.
As I mentioned before, looking for honesty in a company is really important to me, and a good place to start.  If a company leaves out information such as how they distill their oils, when they mix them with carrier oils, what region their oils are grown in etc. that can be a real red flag.

Many companies use solvents during the distillation process to speed the extraction time.  After the oils are distilled there are still traces of the solvent left that can be harmful when put on your skin or ingested.  It can also inhibit the good properties you were hoping to achieve by using the oils in the first place.  If a company is unwilling or unable to share with you their EXACT distillation process, or they mask their process by using words like "proprietary" or "patented" be wary.  They should be proud of the process they use and be willing to share it with customers.  Also, sometimes people smell the oils, and because they smell so wonderful they think that means the oil is good.  However, the best smelling oils come from the 3rd distillation.  First distillation oils most often have a bit of a dirty or earth smell along with the wonderful aroma.  This is from the good medicinal qualities that are more present in the first distillation.  Some oils just smell really nice, like peppermint.  But if your peppermint oil smells just like peppermint candy, it is most likely a lower quality oil.  I could go on and on about ways to determine the quality of the oils you have.  Many if not most essential oil companies are contaminating, diluting, and or cutting their oils with chemicals.  Because of the lack of regulation in the US they can get away with murder while still bragging their oils are pure.  That is why it is so important you buy from a company that can be honest about their plants, their method, their claims, etc.

So if you are just starting out with essential oils, I would recommend looking for a company that is upfront and honest.  Even if the oils they sell are on the lower price range, you can be confident you are at least getting a pure oil with no chemical additives or solvents.  What these oils may not have is the highest medicinal value possible.  To really be confident about the exact medicinal value of oils, they need to be grown in ideal conditions, they need to be certain varieties of the mother species, not just any variety, and they need to be tested for key components, every year in EVERY location.  So for the most potent, best oils, you will need to look further.  However, as long as you are getting a pure oil with no additives, you can notice many many benefits to your skin and your overall health.  I have had great success with "NOW" brand essential oils.  They are pure, honest about their distillation process, and when their oils are diluted, give you exact information on every bottle as to what the exact species of Lavender, or any other plant you are getting, and I have used their oils both internally and externally with great success.  They are also offering quite a few organic oils, so you can be assured that those standards in the us are being met.  Are they the BEST oils you can buy?  No.  Do they use the best plants in the best regions?  Probably Not.  But they do offer truly pure oils that have not been distilled with solvents, have not been cut with chemicals, at great prices, their openness and honesty is very reassuring, and they are great starter oils.

However, if you have been using essential oils for a while, or are really interested in the health benefits of essential oils and would like some more assurance of the medicinal values of the oils you are using let me make a suggestion.  Buy your oils from Europe.  I know that sounds crazy, but the lack of standards in the US is really a problem.  Even companies that brag about how superior their oils are have no one looking over their shoulder making sure their oils are actually what they say, or that the standards don't slip over time.  And lets face it, we know most large companies will claim anything to make more money if they know there is no accountability required.  I don't want to be cynical, but the truth is money talks.  If you don't want to mess with ordering oils from the UK, you can order from a company that follows the E.O.B.B.D standards.  (this is the standard used in Europe, and is quite strict) Europe is one of the countries that actually uses essential oils for medicinal purposes rather than the US which only recognizes them for perfume purposes.  So, because they actually use them widely for medicinal use, they actually have standards and testing that is regulated and enforced.   Like I said, I have had great success with other brands from here in the US, but if you are going for purity and medicinal properties I suggest you look for E.O.B.B.D standard.  The only company I am aware of in the US (there may be others this is just the only one I know about) that follows these standards is Be Young Essential Oils.  (not the same company as Young Living)  Their oils are much more expensive but the assurance and quality they offer is wonderful.  And it's not just a claim that they are "better" or "the best".  They give you information.  They tell you about the plant, where it is grown, if it is harvested wild or cultivated what it's active components are, etc.  And not just what the properties of the oil should be, but what actual testing shows.

I am not planning on carrying E.O.B.B.D oils in the store right now because I cater more towards skin care, and the benefits oils can bring to that, and in my experience the oil brands I use still do a fantastic job for skin care and the small health issues most consumers are dealing with, such as toothaches, upset stomach, back pain, digestion problems, and others.  That's not to say that if the demand is there I wouldn't consider carrying some higher end oils.  But for now, I am happy to just refer people to individual companies like Be Young and have you look there if you would like a few top quality oils to have in your medical kits.

But the wonderful world of essential oils is not limited to those with deep pockets that can afford the highest quality oils available.  I think you will find that even the reasonably priced truly pure oils can have huge impacts on your health!  I am very passionate about essential oils, and am so excited that they are growing in their use and popularity here in the US.  They are truly amazing.  I don't know how I would have survived raising a little sister, and now Hudsen without them.  Colic, Ear infections, and so many other things would have been so much more stressful without them.  Stopping a screaming infant with an ear infection would only take a few minutes when I would drop in a few drops of olive oils mixed with clove and lavender.  It numbs it so fast which has saved me from a lot of misery when dealing with ear infections myself.  Even using oils for teething, diaper rashes, boo boos etc. has been a life saver.  I frankly can't imagine life without them.

As I continue writing, I will be posting more information on individual oils, uses, recipes etc.  Using essential oils can seem a bit intimidating when you are first starting out, but you will be so pleasantly surprised how easy it can be and how many uses there are for them.  The lovely smell is the least wonderful thing about these oils, although it is a great added bonus!  If you have more questions about oils, or different brands please feel free to ask.  I don't want to take up time writing about each specific brand of oils I have tried and what was good or bad about them, but I am happy to answer specific questions if anyone has more.

Below is a link to another article that goes into more depth about the US standards for oils, you might find it very interesting.  And if you are looking into essential oils I would recommend you read it.  She goes a bit farther than I would about how awful essential oils in the US are, but keep in mind she is writing from a preparedness point of view, and talking about using these oils for your sole medical care in the event where there is no ability to receive outside medical care.  So you can understand how in that type of situation you would want the absolute best oils that contain the highest amounts of the medicinal compounds.  So while her view is a little more extreme than I think is necessary, it is good to have information as you get started on this road.  Or, if you have been using essential oils for a long time and aren't getting the effects you hoped from them, this might explain why.  Happy Reading!  And I hope you will lean to love oils like I do!

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