What is adulteration?
Adulteration is the action of lowering the quality of a substance by adding another substance to it.
When an essential oil is adulterated, it means that a natural or synthetic component has been added during the production process, so the original oil is no longer pure, and the oil quality is now lower.
Why does adulteration matter?
In many cases, the added substance is inferior or even harmful.
Adulterations not only have the potential to alter the chemical and physical properties of an oil, but they can decrease the efficacy of the oil and even cause adverse effects.
Let’s say that a customer purchases a bottle of Lavender essential oil that has been adulterated. When they try to use the oil for things like relaxation, improved sleep, or skin benefits, they might think, Essential oils don’t work for me, because they are using a less potent, less effective oil.
This means that a naturally-occurring chemical constituent is added to the essential oil. One example is the chemical constituent alpha-pinene, a primary constituent in Frankincense. Alpha-pinene can be taken from trees used in the paper industry and added to Frankincense essential oil.
Adding Other Oils
Common essential oils can be added to rarer or more expensive oils. Cassia, for instance, is similar to Cinnamon oil, but much less expensive. It can be added to Cinnamon essential oil and not be easily detected because the aromas and chemistry are similar. The same can be done with Lemongrass and Melissa.
In order to make a small amount of essential oil larger, it can be diluted using carrier or cooking oils such as olive, coconut, or canola. This dilution lessens the potency and effectiveness of the oil.
Many of the chemical compounds found in essential oils can be synthesized in a lab. Typically, these synthetic constituents are created out of petro-chemicals. Lavender can be produced without using a Lavender plant at all, but by synthesizing linalool and linalyl acetate from petroleum-based products.
Why are oils adulterated?
Usually, an essential oil producer will adulterate an oil in order to cut costs. When adulteration occurs, it is because an essential oil producer has consciously and purposely added a substance to the oil.
Because there is no regulatory body that oversees the quality or safety of essential oils, adulteration is very common in the essential oil industry. By adding other substances to the original, pure oil, the producer can get more money out of the oil and charge a higher price for a lower quality oil.
Although adulteration is no accident, it is still possible for an essential oil company to be unaware of adulterations in their oils. If an oil company receives their oils from a third party distiller or broker, it is possible that the third party is simply being dishonest—telling the company that the oils are pure, when they actually include adulterations. Because of this, the only way for an essential oil company to know if their oils are actually pure and unadulterated is to have involvement in the sourcing, growing, distilling, and testing phases of essential oil production.
- How can I tell the difference between adulterated oils and pure oils?
There are a number of ways in which the quality of essential oils can be compromised-from the growing conditions of the plants to their harvesting, distillation, manufacturing, distribution, or storage.
- What are the most common things added to essential oils?
Essential oils can be contaminated or adulterated in other ways but the most common ways they are extended are by adding Fatty Oils, Alcohol, or other similar oils.
- How can adulterated oils harm me?
Once an oil’s purity has been compromised, they are much more prone to produce an allergic reaction, irritation, and/or undesirable or toxic side effects.