It’s not easy to tell if your essential oil is the real deal, but you can look out for these six things.
Essential oils have been used as natural remedies for thousands of years thanks to their medicinal properties. They’ve been gaining popularity recently as well, with more consumers turning to essential oils to combat common ailments like headaches, skin problems, and stress. But while it’s easy to pop into a store and pick up a bottle of these potent plant extracts, it’s difficult to tell if you’re getting a bottle of pure essential oils or a synthetic ripoff (i.e. fake).
According to Veronica Yap, clinical aromatherapist and the director and founder of Masso Institute (a specialist clinic focusing on treating lymphoedema – a condition where the body’s lymphatic system doesn’t function normally), the study of essential oils is a complex science where there are often no firm answers. “Even professional users find it hard to tell if an essential oil is pure or fake, and we only go to our sources that have proven their oil qualities through lab reports,” she says. Furthermore, the sale of essential oils in Singapore is not formally controlled since they do not fall within the Health Sciences Authority’s regulations. How then, as a consumer, can you ensure that you’re not being scammed the next time you purchase essential oils? There may not be clear-cut answers, but here’s a handy guide on the six things to look out for when buying essential oils.
One of the first things to note is how the essential oil is packaged. If the bottle is made of plastic or clear glass, put it back and walk away. Due to the potent nature of essential oils, the chemical compounds in the blend can actually degrade plastic over time. Essential oils are also light-sensitive and can lose their therapeutic or aromatic properties when exposed to UV rays. Hence, pure essential oils should only be sold in dark-coloured glass bottles. Another tip: if you’re buying the oils from a physical store, do a quick check that the stock is stored in a cool area away from direct sunlight or heat.
Essential oils are potent concentrates of plant extracts and it takes a huge amount of raw materials to fill a tiny bottle. According to therapeutic-grade essential oil manufacturer doTERRA, roughly 242,000 rose petals are needed just to distil approximately 5ml of rose oil. As such, pure essential oils almost inevitably come with a high price tag. If you’re unsure how much you should be paying, do a price comparison across a number of reputable sellers to get a ballpark figure of different essential oil blends.
The oil’s name
Another warning sign that an essential oil may be fake: if the bottle or item description only lists its common name (e.g. rose essential oil) and not its Latin name (e.g. rosa damascena). Manufacturers or sellers of pure essential oils typically will list both the common and Latin names of a blend on the bottle label or website description. If it doesn’t, that blend of rose oil you bought might be only rose-perfumed and lacking in the therapeutic properties of real essential oil.
“100 per cent” label
As far as possible, look for essential oils that are labelled as “100 per cent pure”. For example, if a product is just listed as “lavender essential oil”, it may have been mixed with other filler oils. If that’s the case, your blend won’t be as effective.
The drop test
This is hard to ascertain if you’re buying your oils online, but an easy test that you can do to determine the purity of an essential oil blend is to drip a single drop of it onto a sheet of white paper and let it dry. If there’s an oil ring left behind after, chances are that the essential oil isn’t pure and was mixed in with something else. But do note that this doesn’t apply to all essential oils. Certain oils like patchouli, sandalwood, and German chamomile are naturally heavier in consistency and have a deeper colour that can also leave a mark in this drop test.
Pure essential oils typically are either steam distilled or cold pressed in order to preserve their therapeutic and medicinal properties. Do some homework and read up on how the oils are being harvested and processed before making a purchase. It’s also a good idea to look out for essential oils that have been extracted from organic plants to avoid pesticide contamination.