What are therapeutic-grade essential oils?

Essential oils have been used since ancient times to help people achieve good health.  In fact, of all the natural remedies, essential oils may be the most practical, efficient and effective.  When properly stored in a cool, dry place, most oils have an indefinite shelf life.  Essential oils are also very versatile.  One oil has many benefits and can be used for multiple health issues, and can work synergistically with other oils.

One of my favorite reference books for using essential oils is Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails by Dr. Scott A. Johnson.  In this book, Dr. Johnson writes,

“Pure, authentic oils – not the perfume-grade kind you find at your health food store – are very concentrated compounds, distilled or pressed from plants. They are powerful, yet gentle remedies that can be used by adults, children, infants and pets to correct mood disturbances, physical ailments, cognitive difficulties and even influence spiritual awareness – essential oils are mentioned as integral parts of spiritual and ritual ceremonies in the Bible.” (p.8)

It is important to note the difference between therapeutic-grade essential oils and many essential oils that are used primarily for scenting substances like candles, soaps, lotions and household cleaning products.  Many of these oils are diluted or adulterated with synthetic chemicals so that the company can make more profit.  Take the example Dr. Johnson mentions in his book about the example of wintergreen oil:

“Wintergreen plants are naturally high in methyl salicylate – a compound similar to aspirin.  In fact, wintergreen plants often contain more than 95 percent methyl salicylate. However, many wintergreen oils that are tested via gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC-MS) are found to contain 100 percent methyl salicylate, which is not possible in nature.  What does this tell us? It tells us that the oil has been manipulated and adulterated with synthetic methyl salicylate.


Truthfully, using these synthetic and adulterated essential oils can cause significant harm.  We know that toxins- like synthetically created compounds – are harmful to the body.  Those who are concerned about their health make a concerted effort to avoid toxins, chemicals and synthetic compounds in personal care products, soaps, and more.  Yet, by using an impure oil,  such as those mentioned above, you are inviting these chemicals and toxins to make your body their home.  This is counter-intuitive, that a “health product” would contain harmful ingredients, and can be devastating to your health.” (p.9-10)

Now, to make sure that you are buying a therapeutic-grade pure oil, Dr. Johnson compiled a list on page 10 of his book detailing needful criteria for a company purporting to sell therapeutic-grade essential oils.  Look for:

~ a company that has expertise in the distillation process and innovative distillation equipment

~ a company that has published essential oils research in scientific journals – particularly surrounding distillation procedures

~ a company that is involved in the farming and cultivation process

~ a company with in-house laboratories to test oils for purity

~ a company that verifies purity with their own laboratories and third-party testing facilities

~a company that has scientists and PhDs on staff that understand testing methods and who have experience reading analyses.

~ oils that smell like the natural plant

When it comes to choosing a company from which to buy pure essential oils, here is a link to a checklist that was compiled by Dr. David Stewart.  He gives some good points to consider:




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