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What Essential Oil Purity Actually Means

What 'essential oil purity' actually means, and why it should matter to you.

You've heard the terms applied to essential oils so many times: pure, authentic, organic, unadulterated ...

... but what do these phrases really mean, and how can we be sure about the quality of the oils that we use?


Brimming with vitality


You only have to take the lid off a few bottles to find that some essential oils are brimming with vitality: There's something about the clarity, the vibration, the subtlety, and the depth and breadth of fragrance that just seems to jump out at you; while others seem lifeless by comparison.


Factors that go to make up the quality of an essential oil


It all starts with the plant. Think of the difference in the taste of a tomato that has been flown in from Chile in the middle of February with one in August that you've just picked from your own garden. They are both tomatoes but there's no comparison in taste. And in the same way, fairly obviously, there is a huge variation in the quality of an essential oil depending on the plant from which it is produced. Wild growing plants give the best oils, and organically cultivated too.


Sourced from farmers


But there's another factor which is subtle but important, and this is the attitude of the farmer or distiller. This is why our Oshadhi oils are sourced from farmers (in some cases farmers' cooperatives) who are known and who respect nature and the plants that give them their living. The distillation process The majority of essential oils are produced through steam distillation. The end result depends very much on the attitude and understanding of the distiller. For example you can distil under high pressure and high temperature which gives a better yield (i.e. more oil per distillation) or low temperature and low pressure where the yield is less but the quality is higher.


Duration of the distillation


But there is another factor too, and that is the duration of the distillation. The heavier molecules travel more slowly and will be the last to come through in the distillation. They may also be 'trace compounds' making up a very small proportion of the final essential oil. However there presence will add greatly to the character of the oil and perhaps also to its subtle therapeutic value.


Temptations for lower quality


However economic factors mean that there may be a temptation for the distiller to fit, say, four 'quick' distillations in a day giving an incomplete oil, rather than three 'long' distillations which generate the complete oil. Again it is necessary to know the source of the oil and the mentality of the producer. The problem of adulteration It is not uncommon for dealers and middlemen to 'bulk out' the volume of an essential oil by adding to it a chemical which may be naturally present in the oil with a synthetic additive. This will usually show up in the GC (gas chromatography) readout, and there are other ways to test too.


Direct from the distiller


But the safest approach is to make sure that the oils come direct from the distiller. Testing for purity It is important to carry out careful state-of-the-art laboratory testing for purity and quality control. This includes: Optical rotation Density Refraction Gas chromatography If necessary, mass spectrography The bottling process Essential oils have been described as 'living molecules' and they are certainly sensitive to biophysical energies. Bottling machines have strong electromagnetic fields and this can negatively impact the gentle energies of the oil.


Trust your nose!


The power of intention. Plants respond to the gentle intention we put their way, and essential oils are no different. We want to optimise the quality of the intention that creates the finished product at every step of the way from the farmer to the final retailer. Trust your nose and your intuition. You probably don't have a GC machine in your garage, but you do have something which in its own way may be superior: your nose. Always trust your nose and your intuition about which oil you should use. They seldom let you down.




These pictures show a small scale artisan distiller of organic essential oils. The last picture shows the product of the process, in this case Helichrysum.


small scale artisan distiller of organic essential oils


small scale artisan distiller of organic essential oils


small scale artisan distiller of organic essential oils


Source: adapted from an email article: "What 'essential oil purity' actually means, and why it should matter to you."


Buy Oshadhi pure essential oils


DISCLAIMER: The information in this document is presented for the sole purpose of imparting education on Maharishi AyurVeda and neither the information nor the products are intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, or are pregnant or lactating, please consult a health professional and it is recommended that you speak with your physician before making significant changes to your diet or routine.

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