Comparing Therapeutic Grade and Certified Organic Essential Oils
Posted on 26 October 2016 by Leonie Satori
Some of the most common questions we have about our certified organic essential oils are regarding 'therapeutic grade' and suitability for ingestion. The following article aims to answer some of our most commonly asked questions regarding essential oils in Australia. Our range of certified organic essential oils has grown steadily in the last few years, and as our passion for aromatherapy becomes more and more difficult to contain, we have had a growing number of queries regarding the quality of these products.
From dispensary to shelf
Firstly, it may be helpful to explain that our range of essential oils have become a large part of our natural health product range in our store. Following a demand for high quality essential oils these products are essentially an overflow from our herbal dispensary.
Many of you have sampled our signature blends of skin care and health products, our popular Hello Gorgeous! Face Oil and Ayurvedic Foot Scrub are just a couple of examples of products where we make use of certified organic essential oils. As a practitioner, I include essential oils in these products for both their therapeutic value and fragrance, meaning that these signature blend products smell nice and provide therapeutic value to the user.
The same certified organic essential oils that we use in our herbal dispensary, are the ones that we have available to buy in our health centre. But, does this make these essential oils therapeutic grade?
What is therapeutic grade?
Just as the semantic terrain of health stores have changed with the terms organic, fair trade and sustainable, so too has aromatherapy, with terms such as therapeutic grade and certified therapeutic essential oils. Vocabulary can influence our perception of product value and when it comes to health products, we understand that quality is tantamount to therapeutic value. However, when referring to a term such as therapeutic grade, there is no real regulation of this term, one might consider this to be equivalent to the 'organic shampoo' that you buy from your local supermarket. However, it is implied by some manufacturers that a therapeutic grade essential oil is suitable for ingestion, but this is where the lines of quality control and safe application start to blur a little.
Ingesting essential oils?
Back in the day when I studied aromatherapy as part of my naturopathic training, essential oils were considered only suitable for topical use. Barring a few food based exceptions such as orange and peppermint, essential oils were not used internally and would never be considered suitable to use directly on the tongue or administered in a glass of water.
Even with use of essential oils on the skin, most are required to be combined with a carrier oil before application and only a few essential oils such as lavender are suitable for use directly on the skin. So, how can a substance that may irritate the skin be suitable for ingestion or direct application onto the mucous membranes of our delicate digestive tract?
Prescribing essential oils
My understanding of Herbal Medicine, from my theoretical study and practical experience in clinic has led me to develop a deep respect for plants and herbs. The concentrated herbal remedies that I dispense for people who visit our naturopathic clinic are formulated based on several years of dedicated study and careful observation of their affect on the human body. These concentrated plant based extracts (liquid herbs) can have profound affects in the body, and prescribed or used incorrectly can be quite detrimental.
To date, I am not aware of a formal course in Australia that teaches the use of essential oils for ingestion. I am aware that certain manufacturers do basic training for use of their essential oils for internal use, however I am yet to come across a practitioner with proper knowledge on how to use essential oils for ingestion in Australia.
What is better therapeutic grade or certified organic?
Due to the concentrated nature of essential oils, it seems understandable that any plant that is grown with chemical based pesticides or herbicides will produce an essential oil that contains a certain amount of these chemicals in their essence.
While we have surmised that the term therapeutic grade has questionable value when referring to essential oils, it is only natural that certified organic essential oils can be viewed as providing more therapeutic value to the user. Following the supply chain in the development of our certified organic essential oils, we can trace the origin of our essential oils back to the grower. Various certifying bodies identify our essential oils as produced with organic methods and our essential oils may be Australian Certified Organic (ACO) & United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) or carry other organic certification.
Prices for essential oils in Australia
Obviously, I am biased toward our own small batch certified organic essential oils, and as a small business we do not have as many overheads as an international multilevel marketing business would have. This means that many of our certified organic essential oils may be more therapeutic, purer and even more economical than competing brands. While I would emphasise that you get what you pay for when purchasing most products, with essential oils I would suggest using your nose to sniff out the best essential oil for your needs.
About the Author
Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her wellness clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.
Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.
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