What is ‘Therapeutic Grade’?

February 9, 2012

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The following is a modified version of a Guest Post from Robin Phillips at Grasping the Essence

Since the term “therapeutic grade essential oils” is not regulated by any independent group, what do I mean when I use the term? And what is the difference between the therapeutic grade essential oils provided by Young Living and other over-the-counter essential oils that claim to be ‘pure’?

The distinction is of utmost importance, since 90% of the essential oils marketed in the United States would not qualify. To start with, ‘therapeutic-grade’ is not simply an indication of purity. Young Living produces oils that have an unusually high concentration of therapeutic components. You can’t get that without having your own farms and doing your own distillations – or in the case of Frankincense, have access to the finest plants (trees) in the world.

To get these high concentrations of therapeutic components, Young Living uses a process that involves strict attention to detail right from the seeds sown to the plants harvested. This ensures that the oils they provide are the purest, most potent essential oils available. This precise, detailed method is known as the ‘Seed to Seal’ process.

Click the image below to enlarge:

Young Living essential oils are:

• 100% pure
• Sourced only from known botanical species
• Sustainably grown and harvested
• Grown on chemical-free lands in carefully nourished soil (organic)
• Unmatched throughout the essential oils industry
• So pure and natural, they’re used and recommended by integrative health professionals around the world

The fact that Young Living’s oils are organic is more important than food being organic. Since essential oils are the concentrated essence of the plant, any contaminants in the soil or on the plant will become present in the oil.

When we compare Young Living ’s ‘therapeutic-grade’ essential oils with the type of “pure essential oils” available at wholefood shops, we find significant differences in quality and purity. For example, the Essential Oils Desk Reference tells us that:

“Pure frankincense is often extended with colorless, odorless, solvents such as diethylphthalate or dipropylene glycol…unfortunately, a large percentage of essential oils marketed in the United States fall in this adulterated category. When you understand the world of synthetic oils, as well as low-grade oils cut with synthetic chemicals, you realize why unsuspecting people with their untrained noses don’t know the difference…

“Anyone venturing into the world of therapy using essential oils must use the purest quality oils available. Inferior quality or adulterated oils most likely will not produce therapeutic results and could possibly be toxic.”

The Four Grades of Oils

Basically, there are 4 grades of essential oils:

1. Grade A oils are pure, therapeutic, and superior quality. They are usually made from organically grown plants, and are distilled at the proper temperatures. “Virgin” soil may also be used.

2. Grade B oils are the most common essential oil and they are sometimes labeled as “pure.” However, they may still contain pesticides, fertilizers, synthetics, extenders, or carrier oils. While Grade B oils are considered “food grade,” I would never recommend ingesting these oils.

3. Grade C are perfume grade and usually contain the same type of adulterating chemicals as Grade B oils. They also often contain solvents which are used to gain a higher yield of oil per harvest. Solvents are not healthy. Still, these oils are sometimes used in aromatherapy or for making perfume products.

4. Floral Water is a byproduct of the distillation process. It can be very high quality if superior, organic material is used and it comes from a “Grade A” distillation process. However if it is from compromised raw materials and/or a poor distillation process, it will be a very low quality. Floral Water is often used for more expensive oils, such as Rose Oil, since it takes 5000 pounds of roses to make just one 1 pound of essential oil.

FDA Says Only 5% of Ingredient = ‘pure’

In her book, Their Leaves for Healing: The Divine Gift of Plants That Heal, Elizabeth Flores writes that:

90% of what is sold in the United States as ‘pure’ essential oil is fragrance-grade and diluted. (The FDA has determined that a product need contain only 5% of the ingredient on the label in order to use the word pure.) These oils are found on the shelves of many health food stores and at online discount houses. They may be less expensive, but they will not be useful for healing.

Questions to Ask

When trying to decide which quality of oils to buy, these are some of the questions that need to be asked (taken from The Essential Oil Desk Reference):

  • Are the fragrances delicate, rich, and organic? Do they “feel” natural? Do the aromas vary from batch to batch as an indication that they are painstakingly distilled in small batches rather than industrially processed on a large scale?
  • Does your supplier subject each batch of essential oils through multiple chemical analyses to test for purity and therapeutic quality? Are these tests performed by independent labs?
  • Does your supplier grow and distill its own organically grown herbs?
  • Are the distillation facilities part of the farm where the herbs are grown (so oils are freshly distilled), or do herbs wait days to be processed and lose potency?
  • Does your supplier use low pressure and low temperature to distill essential oil so as to preserve all of their fragile chemical constituents? Are the distillation cookers fabricated from costly food-grade stainless steel alloys to reduce the likelihood of the oils chemically reacting with metal?
  • Does your supplier personally inspect the fields and distilleries where the herbs are grown and distilled? Do they verify that no synthetic or harmful solvents or chemicals are being used?
  • Do your essential oils meet AFNOR or ISO standards?
  • How many years has your supplier been doing all of this?
  • Do your essential oils have a shelf life of just a few years? [If so, this means they are probably mixed with a carrier oil (like almond oil) that will go rancid.] This means the oil is certainly not pure.
  • Do your essential oils come from an edible plant, yet have a warning on them not to take them internally? [This is a huge red flag!]

“Here is an example of the importance of precise timing during distillation. Cypress has 280 known chemical constituents, and all 280 constituents must be present for Cypress to have medicinal and healing potency. If it is distilled for 20 hours, only 20 of the 280 properties are released. If distilled for 26 hours, none of the properties are released. Most Cypress available in the US market is distilled for about 3 1/2 hours. The correct length of time for distilling Cypress is 24 hours, releasing all 280 properties.” Debra Raybern

 

Taken from the Bio/Tech News newsletter:

About 98% of essential oils produced in the world today are not intended for serious, therapeutic and/or medicinal use. Most are produced for the perfume, cosmetics, and food industries. Therefore, criteria like purity, potency, organic, etc. are not important for these uses.

Because the raw materials and the extraction process for Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils are so expensive, many oils on the market have been cut, diluted and adulterated in various ways. Sad to say, some marketers bottle these poor quality oils and sell them for therapeutic purposes to unsuspecting consumers.

A Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil is more than a “certified organic” oil. It is an oil that is complete in the makeup of its constituents, having the fragrance, frequency, and chemistry that are necessary to give it all of its unique, therapeutic qualities and effects.

As we have already mentioned above, a quality, Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil is chemically complex and all of its sometimes fragile components need to be present after distillation of the final product. This requires not only a lot of understanding of the makeup of the oil on the production side but also a great deal of time and expense to care for the proper species of plant.

To insure proper potency, plants should be grown on virgin land, uncontaminated by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides and away from pollution sources. The plant materials must be kept free of petrochemical herbicides and pesticides, since these can react with the essential oil during distillation.

The soil should be conditioned with enzymes, trace minerals, and organic bio-solids, since plants lacking in certain minerals and nutrients yield oils low in therapeutic value. Irrigation should be done with reservoir, watershed or mountain stream water.

Plants need to be harvested at the proper time of the season to insure highest potency. Sometimes even a few hours can make the difference. For example, German Chamomile needs to be harvested in the morning since it then yields an oil with far more azulene than when it is harvested later in the day.

The steam distillation method of extracting the oils from the plants requires careful and proper low temperature and pressure monitoring. Too high of temperature or too much pressure can be deleterious to the fragile aromatic molecules of the plant. In addition, batch sizes need to be kept small and the distillation chamber must be made out of food-grade stainless steel instead of copper or aluminum to avoid reactions with the oils.

Producing pure, Therapeutic Grade Essential oils is a costly venture. The methods required are time-consuming and labor-intensive, and it often requires several hundred, sometimes even thousands of pounds of raw plant material to produce a single pound of essential oil. For example, it takes 5,000 pounds of rose petals to produce one pound of rose oil, and it takes three tons of Melissa to produce one pound of oil.”

Read more HERE


12 Responses to “What is ‘Therapeutic Grade’?”

  1. Laura Smith says:

    Thank you Stacy! The more I read, the more I learn, and realized what we’ve been missing! God Bless you.

  2. The first step « A Journey To Scents says:

    [...] more and more. With my reading I kept seeing that it was essential to have oils that were of a therapeutic grade, YoungLiving is a company with an outstanding reputation of creating such oils so when I found that [...]

  3. Heather says:

    Research done by my Friend Terry Tillaart

    Young Living Profile & Difference

    Young Living owns the 4 largest distillers, partners with the next 2 largest, distills on 5 continents, farms much of their own production, is the first company to use oils Intra-muscularly, the first company to use oils intravenously, the first company to use oils as dietary supplements, is the only company that is AFNOR, EC and ISO certified Therapeutic Grade, their oils never expire, are used topically neat even on day old infants etc…

    The other important thing to understand is that any synthetic or improperly distilled component of the oil is very toxic! Because true essential oil constituents are so amazing at delivering nutrients to the cells (even pharma is using them for 100-4000X + increased absorption) that any synthetic, additive or improperly distilled oil components will get driven deep into the brain and cells by the real oil components making them very toxic.

    No other company does any testing and couldn’t produce any GC/MS analysis for any of their oils. YL spends a million dollars annually just on testing. They test every batch. They have 20+ employees on quality control. They spent 750,000 this year alone on state of the art in house testing equipment.

    Almost every oil globally today is done through purely 3rd party brokers, that means the retailer of an oil knows nothing about the seed, the harvesting, the quality etc etc…THAN on top of that the plants they bought from a 3rd party broker are then sent to another 3rd party distiller for batch processing than it is sold to other 3rd party retailers. These 3rd party harvesters usually come from paying poor people in poor countries by the kilo, if they are paid by the kilo there is very little quality distinctions taking place.

    Young Living monitors almost every oil seed to seal and overseas all other processes, distills all of their own and tests every batch and still discards large percentages of their oil because it is not therapeutic grade and that is sold to brokers and then sold to other retailers and perfume industry. How would any other company not following the YL process even know what they have???? Especially when the best in the world screw it up regularly with the strictest of monitoring.

    There is a reason why cheap oils have expiry dates.

    There is a reason why they are warning against internal consumption when YL is even FDA and Health Canada approved for internal consumption and they are added to supplements.

    There is a reason why YL uses them safely in IV treatments. There is a reason why the other oils IF applied topically (most are not) must be diluted.

    Other oils are not even safe for inhalation when you truly understand what is going on and the risks of petro-chemicals.

  4. [...] 16. Be careful not to use adulterated or synthetic oils. Some may be toxic. Read more HERE. [...]

  5. [...] 16. Be careful not to use adulterated or synthetic oils. Some may be toxic. Read more HERE. [...]

  6. [...] Note: Many people want to know why some oils are more expensive than others. Most essential oils are labeled “pure;” so, what is the difference between what you may find on the shelves of many health food stores and the oils I call “therapeutic grade?” Find out what “therapeutic grade” means to me and why it’s so important by clicking HERE: http://yoursacredcalling.com/commonscentsmom/2012/02/what-is-therapeutic-grade/ [...]

  7. [...] of God’s greatest gifts that I now offer my doula clients for their births are 100% pure therapeutic-grade essential oils. Don’t be fooled. Essential oils are not just for aromoatherapy… they are for health and [...]

  8. chrystal frost says:

    Are there any other brands/manufacturers you can recommend?

    • Stacy McDonald says:

      Unfortunately, no. Because essential oils penetrate the skin and get into the blood stream, and because I use many internally, I believe that quality is absolutely crucial. Therefore, Young Living is the only brand I would trust.

  9. Tiffany Zollicoffer says:

    Hi Stacy is Doterra comparable to YL. They are growing and have essentials oils that are used as dietary supplements also. Please tell me your thoughts/wisdom :)

    Thank you!

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