Reputations Count!

If you have been buying essential oils since the 1980’s or so, you probably used many tools to help choose which brands to purchase. Personally? I bought a lot of books, and looked in the back of the books for Resource Guides. Most books about aromatherapy had lists of companies the author would recommended. I also spoke to teachers of aromatherapy, and asked what companies they recommended. I honestly don’t know of a single consumer, aromatherapist or essential oil educator from the *early days* who relied on getting a GC/MS test result BEFORE they decided to buy an oil! That kind of testing was certainly used people in the wholesale supply chain – both to determine purity and quality. But not on the retail consumer level!

Things changed a bit thanks to self-proclaimed “experts” coordinating crowd-funded “3rd Party Testing” of a series of essential oils starting in 2013. The result? All hell broke loose! Yes, a few companies were found to be selling (knowingly or unknowingly) adulterated products. But some legitimate companies were defamed and damaged. How? One popular brand was selling a boutique oil from a small distiller. It was analyzed and compared to the library sample of a “pure oil” which was from a completely different country of origin! This so called “expert” declared the oil to be “adulterated” when in fact, it was 100% pure.

In another incident, a well known MLM brand of peppermint oil tested as adulturated with ethyl vanillin. Well known expert and affiliate of the same MLM (he was *their* contract chemist) disagreed with the analysis of the test results.

[ref. https://www.facebook.com/notes/10152519141798083/]

I use this as an example of how experts can test the same sample, or even evaluate the same test results, and reach different conclusions. These tests are scientific, but they are still quite dependent on the individual doing the analysis, not just the skill or expertise of the lab running the actual test.

So why have we become so dependent on these tests, as consumers? In my opinion, the reason is fear.

Fear and folks preying upon that fear to make consumers increasingly reliant on “lab tests” to make decisions on which products to purchase. They set up crowd funding schemes or “non profit” companies (more about that later**) and convince their fans and followers to send them money to pay for testing, and convince them there is no other way to determine if the oil is pure or good quality (rarely if ever with a criteria *for* good quality I must add).

I recently read that there is even a school which teaches “if a brand does not include a GC/MS test result with your bottle, don’t trust them.” I’m sure this school has loads of new students who think they can’t buy a bottle of lavender oil unless they complete a course on understanding these test results! FOLLOW THE MONEY!

Lets say you regularly stock Lemon EO from ten different batches, and sell retail sized bottles all across North America and Eastern Europe. You have test results from each batch on file, of course.  But to also produce flyers to insert in boxes, and match up those flyers to each specific batch number as the product goes through the assembly line, is both unrealistic and would dramatically increase the price of these retail bottles.  And for what?  A consumer pacifier, because while the retail customer may have no idea what the report says, some blogger or teacher claims they should not trust the brand unless this information is available to them?  It’s both unrealistic and actually increases the incentive to provide fraudulent reports.

Example – you buy a bottle of lavender and get this report with it {used for editorial purposes only}. If you are not trained to evaluate the report – for all you know – it’s not even lavender! [It is].

It is also naive to believe that just because one bottle of EO tested pure, or with specific constituents in certain percentages, that the next batch will be the same. If a company wants to cheat, they are going to cheat!

Dr. Pappas of Essential Oil University writes in his article “The Proper Protocol for Utilizing EO Analysis Reports“:

“Lastly, its very important for anyone selling essential oils to know that if you have an analysis done on a pre-ship sample for the purposes of making buying decisions, then you CANNOT use that report on the pre-ship sample to represent the actual bulk lot that is purchased and received in, even if your supplier says it’s the same lot. If you want to forgo having your actual received lot analyzed because you trust your supplier to send the same thing they sampled you then that is fine, but you CANNOT use that pre-ship sample report to represent the oil that you sell to your customers because you did not have the actual bulk lot analyzed once it came in your door. This is very important because it frequently happens that a supplier sends one lot as a pre-ship sample but the actual oil that is shipped in bulk to fill the order does not match the pre-ship sample. I know it sounds crazy but this happens all the time.”

So what percentage of EOs that come with reports, are unsuspecting essential oil consumers purchasing based on the “school of thought” that as long as the bottle comes with a GC/MS or they can download it from the suppliers website, it’s some guarantee of purity or quality. These customers may be fooling themselves!

So how do you choose a good, reliable, high quality brand?  Go back to basics!

  • History – has the brand been around for many years?  That’s a positive.
  • Affiliations – does the company & staff belong to professional associations*
  • Education – who are the owners of the company, and where did they study aromatherapy?
  • Marketing & Labeling – truthful, legal, industry standards:
    • Common name for the Plant
    • Latin name
    • Plant part
    • The extraction process
    • “Keep out of reach of children”
    • “External Use Only”or “Not for Internal Use” or “Not for Ingestion”
    • An expiration date or date of manufacture or Batch Number
  • Reputation – A good reputation among professionals in the aromatherapy field is critical.
    • A bad reputation is rarely without cause in this industry.
      • Look for honesty and transparency if there was an issue with a product in the past
      • Watch out for prices which seem too good to be true – that is a big red flag!
      • Watch out for salespeople who claim their product is organic, without Certification
      • BEWARE of companies that claim their essential oils are “Therapeutic Grade” or “Clinical Grade” or “Pharma Grade” or “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” – there are no such grades! THESE CLAIMS ARE LIES.

*American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), The Aromatherapy Trade Council (ATC) and owners or employees who belong to the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA), Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA), or National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA).


In conclusion, during every step of the supply chain, proper testing using standard methods for essential oil analysis should be mandatory. If someone is a formulator making perfume, or cosmetics, or soap, or OTC Drugs, naturally they need to know the exact chemistry in the essential oils they are using to formulate their products and obtaining a GC/MS that is batch specific can be critical. But those people are not buying small retail sized (and priced) bottles of EOs. They buy wholesale. Professionally trained aromatherapists or massage therapists who use essential oils on a regular basis, probably also usually buy in larger sized bottles and retail off-the-shelf sizes, and they also might need to have access to test results.  But the average retail customer, using the recommendations above, can almost always avoid brands which are likely to be adulterated.


**Following the money includes businesses that claim they are charities but which are not!  We are a country of laws and the IRS does not allow a business to accept money and claim they are “donations” and pretend they are a charity unless the IRS has reviewed the application for non-profit status as a 501[c][3] tax-exempt organization and approved the application.

In this case, being affiliated with well-respected members of the aromatherapy community does not give this organization credibility, by contrast, it seriously damages anyone affiliated with them!

Cosmetic Labeling

Well…I went to my first Farmers Market of the summer on Sunday. I tried not to be confrontational…just “helpful”.

When I was told a certain product contained “no toxins” I politely asked “what toxins are those“? She actually meant allergins not toxins.

Then I asked if the raw materials were certified organic – and was told “No, organic certification is too expensive – but these ingredients are actually BETTER than organic.” BIG SIGH… really? I was so hot I could not even argue, but I did tell them they should recommend to their supplier that they check out BayState Organic – they have great prices, and also check into the rebate program because up to 75% of the costs of organic certification can be refunded!

So that said, I want to highly recommend this book by my online friend and author, Kayla Fioravanti, which not only covers how to make cosmetics but how to properly label them for sale!

The rules don’t change just because you are small… consumers deserve to know what is in the products they buy, and they have a right to know how to contact you if they have an adverse reaction to their product – so the laws for labeling cosmetics must be followed even if you are selling from a farm stand, a boutique, at a market or online!

Making Cosmetics

There is so much to know when you make cosmetics like soap, lotions, salves, balms, scrubs…from proper chemistry and safe preservation to the FDA regulations for labeling the finished products. It does not matter if you sell one or two products to friends, at the local Farmers Market or on EBAY, everyone has to follow proper cosmetic formulation rules in order to produce a safe and healthy product and the FDA regulations apply to everyone!

Here is my MUST READ list. I am fortunate that my past career working for the Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild and later running the Natural Ingredient Resource Center, and selling advertising space for The Herb Quarterly magazine, introduced me to these authors personally. I highly recommend any and all of them!