Aromatherapeutic Grade Oils
Essential oils used for therapeutic purposes need to be grown and harvested under certain conditions to assure the potency of their natural chemical constituents. In general, much more care goes into the production of the plants, the distillation process, and the after-care of the oil, and they are made in smaller batches than commercial grade essential oils.
Aromatherapeutic grade oils are harder to source, more expensive than commercial grade oils, and are substantially different in chemical makeup. A crucial factor in the distillation of aromatherapeutic grade essential oils is the use of lower temperatures and pressures, resulting in essential oils that are more representative of the constituents naturally occurring in the plant. Commercial grade oils are produced using higher temperatures and pressures in large stills, with large batches of plant material. This saves time and energy, yet produces lower quality oils, with fewer therapeutic benefits.
Aromatherapeutic grade oils are preferred for use in many cosmetic (skin care) applications and product formulations, and can be used in natural perfumery. Commercial grade oils, on the other hand, are considered more appropriate for cleaning products, mass-produced food and beverage flavorings, soap manufacture, and lower-end fragrancing.
Eden Botanicals is proud to offer you aromatherapeutic grade essential oils at fair and affordable prices. We take pride in sourcing oils from around the globe that can be used for therapeutic purposes, as well as for creating beautiful aromas. Here are the specific qualifications for we look for in the production of aromatherapeutic oils:
Aromatherapeutic grade oils are grown from crops using seeds or root stocks that are true to species, subspecies, cultivar or variety, and chemotype. The plants may be cultivated on small, independently owned farms or from larger farms and plantations. Whether or not they have been grown using organic methods, it is vitally important that they are grown in healthy soil and tended with care. Another source for aromatherapeutic grade oils are those that are wildcrafted (plants grown in their natural, wild habitat), where selective harvesting is performed to ensure the plants continue to propagate on their own and thrive.
Correct timing for harvesting cultivated or wild harvested plants – even to the time of day (especially for delicate flowers such as Jasmine and Rose) – ensures the quality of fresh plant material, optimal yield of oil, and the desired proportions of constituents within the oil. During the harvest, whether by hand or by machine, it is important that only the desired plant material is collected to the exclusion of other plants or weeds that may be growing alongside the desired plants. Optimally, distillation takes place on the premises, or the plant material may be transported to another location with care. Some plants or plant parts need to be distilled quickly after harvesting, while other material can sit (or actually needs to dry, etc.) before it is ready to distill. Other plants need to be sorted, cleaned, etc. before being distilled. In any case, the process needs to be monitored by someone who is knowledgeable and performed correctly for that specific plant type.
It is necessary that the distiller is knowledgeable and experienced with essential oil production to assure that the distillation process is correctly and carefully controlled. Typically, small batches of plant material in relatively small distillation units are used to create high-quality, true aromatherapy essential oils. In contrast, commercial grade oils are produced in larger units, and more quickly using higher heat, which compromises many of the beneficial constituents naturally found in the plant and present in aromatherapeutic oils.
The distillation process is a demanding job that requires a high level of experience and practical skill.
A good analogy is a wine maker who uses their knowledge of science, technique and equipment to create premium vintage wine.
Care must be taken in handling the end product of the distillation. Some oils require more after care than others, such as aeration to bring out the best possible aroma. There can also be a "pot", "off", or "still" note following even a well-executed distillation for some oils. To remove the offending note and to bring out the true aroma of the oil, a period of airing out is required. Some oils, such as Patchouli and Sandalwood, require aging to improve the aroma. These post-distillation processes can take days, weeks or even months for some oils, which will increase the cost of the final product. It is also important that no water remains in the essential oil and that the storage containers are new, clean, and made of the right material for that particular oil.
An end product may be the result of one oil distillation, or a number of oil distillations may be combined, as long as the distillations are from the properly verified plant materials (true to species, subspecies, cultivar or variety and chemotype) and no improperly distilled batches are included in the combined oil. Commercial-quality essential oils, however, are handled quite differently. They are usually made in large batches from many different distillations and are combined with minimal concern and discernment in the blending process. This means that different varieties (even different but related species or subspecies) may be combined together, or that oils from a wide geographic range may also be combined together. Once this happens, the true and authentic oil is lost.
Finally, the oil is properly labeled, dated, stored, and analyzed prior to marketing and transporting. Adulteration is a potential (and serious) factor in post-production, but we will leave that rather problematic side of the business for a separate article. It is important to stress, however, that therapeutic grade essential oils produced for the aromatherapy market should never be adulterated in any way.