Selling a rock and passing it off as a diamond may be ethically wrong, but unfortunately, this practice is commonplace with essential oils. In the absence of a standardized system for essential oils, adulteration is widespread, leading to the addition of skin-irritating contaminants such as alcohol, turpentine, synthetic fragrances, or a base oil that dilutes the effectiveness of the oil.
Advanced data-driven technology, known as GC/MS, offers a way to combat this problem, though in many cases it is not implemented. It is essential that the quality and value of essential oils is properly assessed to avoid such adulteration.
Without an industry standard, essential oils can be divided into two categories - marketing terms or scientific terms. The former refers to terms such as “therapeutic grade” and “third-party verified”, while the latter includes “GC/MS” and “GC/MS Technology”. Adulteration of essential oils is a common occurrence due to their high market value.
For instance, the rose otto essential oil is worth over $200 for 5ml, making adulteration a profitable practice for many distributors. As the oils are handled by various suppliers during the supply chain, they are often mixed with ethanol, turpentine, alcohol-based contaminants, or lower-grade oils to increase volume and then synthetic compounds to imitate its scent.
Prior to GC/MS lab testing, physical quality control measurements such as specific gravity, refractive index, optical rotation and flash point measured density, direction of light, speed of light, and vapor ignition and were disclosed in the Certificate of Analysis. But these limited tests are not enough to ensure purity.
Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) is the gold standard in quantitative analytical lab testing, as it can accurately identify exact percentages of volatile compounds. This two-part technological system first separates the compounds found in essential oils, and then mass spectrometry identifies them. Through the separation process, the oil can be identified, not extracted from. Results are then presented in a graph which a botanical chemist can interpret to determine if an essential oil matches the authentic profile and if any adulterants, diluents, or contaminants are present.
It is vital to understand the potential risk of adulteration when purchasing essential oils. This is especially true in the absence of a standardized system, as adulteration is widespread and can lead to skin-irritating contaminants. To ensure the quality and value of an essential oil, it is important to look for terms such as “GC/MS” and “GC/MS Technology”. Ultimately, this can help prevent consumers from being taken advantage of and ensure superior quality.