Essential Oil Adulteration 101

August 01 2018 5 Comment(s)

Did you know that there is no proven “hack” to tell if an oil is adulterated from home? Reading the ingredients actually will not let you know. Without specific lab testing, even a chemist won’t know if an oil is adulterated until they see the results. Lab tests analyze the individual components of oils to determine whether they are pure or not. There are three common ways oil is adulterated:

Aromachemical Adulteration A common way that oils are adulterated, or even created in a lab, is by adding the individual chemicals, either natural or synthetic fossil fuel based, to create the oil. Additions of chemicals like linalool or beta-pinene can create the recipe for a specific oil.

Addition of Carrier Oils Adding a carrier oil to a pure oil is another way to adulterate oils. This is usually done to “water” the oil down, thereby making a larger profit off a small yield. Common carrier oils used are cooking oils.

Similar Oils or their Isolates By adding a similar oil or its isolates, a producer can create something that smells like another oil. Lavandin, for example, smells very similar to lavender and often appears in “lavender” oil. Producers can also use fractions of oils to get the chemical constituents. In the lavandin example, a producer can extract a chemical like linalyl acetate and add it to an oil.

Knowing how producers adulterate oils is important because it shows there are many ways in which your oil may not be pure. Adulterated oils change the aroma and medicinal values. Either you can purchase oils from producers who provide the reports of their tested oils, or have them tested yourself.

  • Amy Colburn:

    06 Aug 2018 12:37:00

    Adulturate means to render something poorer in quality by adding another substance. I make aromatherapy blends by adding a carrier oil to make it safe to use as you shouldn’t use essential oils neat. I think you should clarify your statement on adding carrier oils. There are too many people on the internet claiming you can use essential oils neat.

  • Olivia Noli:

    10 Aug 2018 16:12:45

    Olivia here with APRC. Great point Amy! Adding carrier oil to create a blend so an oil is safe to use is perfectly fine. Our blog is meant to show how producers add things like carrier oils to dilute an oil but sell it as pure. The key difference here is that they do so to create a profit.

  • Bettina Moench:

    24 Sep 2018 17:49:00

    I recently saw scientists from APRC speak, and it was noted that 80% of essential oils on the market today have been contaminated and/or adulterated, resulting in oils that are neither pure nor therapeutic. Would this, then, impact results of clinical trials of essential oils on humans or animals? In other words, if a contaminated/adulterated oil is unwittingly used in a clinical trial and the conclusion reached is that the oil is not beneficial for the issue being studied, doesn’t that skew the thinking of anyone who reads it? Unfortunately, there are plenty of studies on PubMed that have conclusions that suggest no benefit was noted. Where do research scientists get their essential oils, and how can we trust the results of clinical trials?

    APRC Response: Great question Bettina! Most studies will state where they obtained the oil used. APRC does not run clinical trials, but all of our research is done with oils that we have distilled ourselves. Many clinical trials employ the same method. The best way to be sure is to read the actual study to verify where they obtained the oil. If they specify that they distilled the oil themselves or obtained it from a trusted source, then it would most likely be a reputable publication.

  • Barbie Woodburn RN, LMT, Cht:

    26 Sep 2018 00:58:00

    Thank you for your research & transparency!

  • Ashley:

    27 Nov 2018 03:39:00

    Hi there,

    I’ve taken a large interest in EO use in VetMed as of late, and am very curious to know if APRC has done any work investigating the quality of major brand EOs like Young Living or DoTerra? I have found one veterinarian in Minnesota who distills and tests all of her own oils, and she seems to be incredibly knowledgeable, but I’m just curious if there is any way for consumers to look up quality control on larger brands, without actually paying to have individual oils tested themselves.


    APRC Response: Hi Ashley! We test for many companies, including dōTERRA. dōTERRA posts all of our results on their website

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