Essential Oil Adulteration 101

August 01 2018 15 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.

Comments and responses

  • 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.

    Thanks!

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

  • Cara:

    18 Feb 2019 05:21:00

    Are there any other brands that post your results in their sites? What other companies have you tested other than doterra?

    APRC Response: Hi Cara! Currently, doTERRA is the only company that posts our results. Due to client confidentiality, we are unable to disclose our other clients.

  • Jocelyn Sharpe:

    03 Mar 2019 19:47:00

    Hi APRC: Thank you for your work. I’m with doTERRA and appreciate being able to verify through Source to YOU. With the occurence of glycphosate (that has gone all around the world), as well as chemicals such as Gen-X, PFAS, PFOS (that have also gone all over the world), are each of these tested.

    APRC Response: Hi Jocelyn! Our research on glyphosate is a personal project we've been working on, unrelated to any client. As for specific testing of any chemical, you would have to contact doTERRA directly.

  • Cheryl:

    09 Mar 2019 14:11:00

    Are you owned by Doterra or one of its subsidiaries?

    Hi Cheryl! We are independently owned and operated by our CEO and CSO. doTERRA is only one of our clients and we are their third-party tester. We are not owned by doTERRA.

  • Emily:

    11 Mar 2019 01:40:00

    I would like to see the APRC make the results of their studies that show “80% of the essential oils on the market today are adulterated” available to the public. It’s not that I don’t believe these results, but I do feel that showing the results is necessary to create transparency. Thank you.

    APRC Response: Hi Emily! This number is an estimate based on experience and testing of our scientists, as well as others in the industry. It was not one specific study done to find these results. As a general rule, we are unable to release the results of our testing due to client confidentiality.

  • Sarah:

    16 Mar 2019 15:43:00

    Can you please let us know all 3 companies that passed as completely pure. I’m sure these companies would all love us to know!!! I can’t find this info anywhere!! ? Not fair to give facts with no backing them up… just DoTERRA . I’m sure the 2 other companies want you to name them as well!! Otherwise I’m not sure what to believe.

    APRC Response: Hello Sarah. This was actually a project that doTERRA contracted us to do. As they contracted us to do this research, the results are the property of doTERRA, and due to client confidentiality, we are unable to disclose those results.

  • Heidi:

    19 Mar 2019 14:15:00

    Any product available on the public market can be tested and the results can be made public. There is no “client confidentiality” when it comes to products readily available to the public. In the case of research and development of a product before it reaches the public market there are tests performed by companies hired by the developer to test the product before its available for mainstream consumption. Which leaves the question, why haven’t you published the results of products already available on the public market? Are you affiliated with DoTerra? Is this a company created to provide “scientific” information for profit. In business, there are sister companies created all the time to provide a mutually beneficial relationship. I would assume that is the case here with DoTerra. Transparency would be appreciated.

    APRC Response: It's true, any product available on the public market can be tested and the results can be made public, however, as a third-party tester, we do have client confidentiality agreements with our clients. When a company sends us a product to test, we are the company hired by the developer to test the product before it is available for mainstream consumption, as you put it. We do not share these results, or any research, we are contracted to do. APRC is working on market surveys to make available to the public, however, this will be separate from the testing we are hired to do. DoTERRA is one of our clients, however, we are not a "sister company." APRC is independently owned and operated.

  • Becky smith:

    18 Apr 2019 02:32:00

    Do you test for revive eo?

    APRC Response: Hello Becky, we are unable to comment on who is or is not our client. If you would like samples tested yourself, you can reach out to us at info@aromaticplant.org.

  • Laurel Kashinn:

    10 May 2019 20:49:00

    Interesting discussion. I totally understand that a company who contracts with a vendor would expect that vendor to adhere to confidentiality agreements. Normal business practices. It is possible a publication like Consumer Reports could contract with APRC to conduct testing of oils, and they could then publish the results. That would provide even more validation of results.

    I am glad to know that doTERRA contracted to have this study done. It was my hope that the 50 companies had each independently sent their oils to you for testing, which would indicate a new level of responsibility across the industry, that they cared about the purity of their products. Do you have any idea if the test results were passed along to those companies? Not that I would expect such information would be well received, coming from a competitor. What is quite admirable in my mind is that doTERRA did NOT name the other companies, who were not pure. I understand from former staff of one of the larger companies, that they took a very defensive position about their adulteration practices, did not stand by their label’s claim of purity. Which was the inspiration for doTERRA in the first place.

    Does the APRC test other kinds of oils, such as carrier oils, or food-grade oils? It’s been in the news of a large percentage of olive oils coming in to the US have been found to be adulterated. Could be a great market for APRC, if you were to offer certifications of purity. :)

    APRC Response: Hi Laurel! As far as we are aware, doTERRA did not share the results with their competitors. But yes, an organization like Consumer Reports could release results like that to share.

    APRC has tested carrier oils in the past, however, we do not test oils for the food industry. Our specialty is aromatic plants and their oils and extracts, so food oils do not usually fall into that category.

  • Lynn Marie:

    04 Jun 2019 00:30:00

    While the work of APRC is admirable within the EO community where clear truths are murky and can leave the consumer vulnerable to false claims, yet just as murky are this company’s hails of client confidentiality, yet stating clearly doTerra as client, AND while this company is not owned by doTerra, the scientists on board have had past or present dealings with doTerra and/or APRC, therefore lessening the credibility of APRC which reeks of something equally adulterated.

    APRC Response: Thank you for sharing the compliments of our work, as well as voicing your concerns. When we say “client confidentiality,” we are referring to specific agreements with our clients. While our clients utilize our services, they do not always authorize us to release their name. We work closely with all of our clients and use our years of expertise and education to help them in any way we can. If our greatest fault is our commitment to our relationships with our clients, that is a fault we are comfortable living with.

  • Risa Bernard:

    20 Oct 2019 12:19:00

    I’ve been to the sourcetoyou.com website as I explore essential oils as well as a few other brands that seem to do third party testing of oils. I am specifically concerned about glycophosphate contamination in oils. Not being a chemist, I am confused about how to determine if oils were tested for this contaminate. Which aspect of testing tests for glychophophate? Thank you

    APRC Response: Hi Risa, great question! Glyphosate can be tested on a GC-MS or an LC-MS, however at APRC we currently use the GC-MS.

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