The essential oil world can be a very tricky place to navigate. Especially if you don't know what you are looking for. In aromatherapy school I learned a lot about registered or trademarked phrases essential companies promote. Two phrases seem to keep coming up time and time again. Let’s take a look at them.
CERTIFIED PURE THERAPEUTIC GRADE
A well know term used in essential oil promotion today is therapeutic grade. Therapeutic grade is a term developed by a very clever marketing company in the early 1990’s. They wanted you to believe that their oils were somehow better than any other essential oil on the market. Essential oils have been around for a very long time, but somehow “therapeutic grade” was now supposed to mean something.
A certain company has even gone as far as to trademark the term “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” to make it even better than just the conventional “therapeutic grade”. The truth is, there is no such thing as a therapeutic grade, certified pure therapeutic grade, grade A, B,C,D, medicinal grade or any other grade of essential oil. Only PURE exists. Period. Either the oil is pure, or it isn't.
No quality standards for authentication of essential oils specifically exist in aromatherapy. According to Elston (2009) (1) “this registered word mark had not been provided to them by the FDA as they claim and is meaningless in proving that an outside certifying body has declared or designated that doTERRA’s essential oils are certified pure therapeutic grade. doTERRA, LLC. owns the right to exclusive use of the mark (however not the exclusive right to the actual words “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” which is revealing). This seal or word mark is nothing more than a commercial trademark that they have registered and paid a fee for. Either an essential oil is genuine and authentic, pure, unaltered (no additives, no extenders, no price reducing ingredients) and only what is left after distillation or expression or it isn’t." A company doesn’t need to hide behind made up and trademarked phrases that mean nothing. If you have the time, check out this excellent article titled, One More Time: There Are No FDA Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, Part I from the Winged Seed.
SEED TO SEAL
Another well know term used today is Seed to Seal. What seed to seal implies, is that the company has control over the whole process. They choose the best seeds, cultivate those seeds, distill/press the flowers, root, resin, etc., test the essential oils and seal them for consumers to purchase. I really want to believe this, even though it is basically impossible. They have partner farms. They do not grow everything, which Seed to Seal implies. Young Living has farms that grow plants, such as lavender. Most pictures you see of them are in lavender fields. While talking about production of oil they show lavender, while they talk about how they grow all their plants, they show lavender as well. Why?
The fact is, they don't grow all or even most of their plants. "Many of the oils they offer grow in random corners of the world, where they own no land or distilleries. As one example, they harvest balsam fir from northern Idaho.... they did not plant the trees, or carefully select the soil they were planted in. These trees were there long before Young Living was even a company, much less started harvesting them. So this "seed to seal" guarantee is a false, hollow promise that is impossible for them to fulfill. Only the plants they grow themselves could possibly hold up to this standard. But not only are most of the oils they offer not grown by them, they are not distilled by them either. They are distilled by the handful of distillers that distill all the other companies oils as well." (2)
This is why their distilling process is so secretive. They hide behind it so they do not have to share gc/ms reports with you. These reports not only tell you what compounds are in each oil, but it will also tell you if the oils contain additives that should not be there. As an example, Sandalwood is grown in a few places in the world. Everyone who sells sandalwood essential oil obtains it from those same few distillers.
Certified pure therapeutic grade, and seed to seal terms are not governed by the FDA or any other organization for that matter. They both are clever marketing gimmicks to get consumers to believe the essential oil being purchased is more than what it is.
EDITED TO ADD: On Monday, September 18, 2017, The United States Justice Department published an article titled, Essential Oils Company Sentenced for Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act Violations to Pay $760,000 in Fines, Forfeiture, and Community Service, and to Implement a Comprehensive Compliance Plan "The Justice Department announced today that YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS, L.C., (the Company), headquartered in Lehi, Utah, pleaded guilty in federal court to federal misdemeanor charges regarding its illegal trafficking of rosewood oil and spikenard oil in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act.: According to the plea agreement, from June 2010 to October 2014, several company employees and contractors harvested, transported, and distilled rosewood (Aniba roseaodora or Brazilian rosewood) in Peru and imported some of the resulting oil into the United States, through Ecuador. Peruvian law prohibits the unauthorized harvest and transport of timber, including rosewood. Neither the Company nor its suppliers, employees, or agents had any valid authorization from the Peruvian government. "
Young Living illegally imported Rosewood and Spikenard oils. Not only did they not grow them, but the importation of these oils is in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. How much more blatant can a company get?!
While I understand they turned themselves in to the Justice department, they were importing for 4 years! Through another country even. They made a lot of money off their "mistake". "The Government calculates the fair market retail value of the plant products involved in the violations and relevant conduct, including but not limited to product equaling approximately 1,899.75 liters of rosewood oil, to be more than $3.5 million but not more than $9 million." Wow.
If you are still unsure of which brands to purchase, check out Barefut. Dr. Pappas who used to GC/MS test Doterra's oils before they started doing it in-house, now tests Barefut for purity. Yes, I am an affiliate, but I believe in these oils. There are many other great brands out there too. DeRu Extracts, Be Kind Botanicals, and more. Should you have any questions, please send me an email at email@example.com. Have a wonderful day!
Love and light,
The material on this page is not meant to take the place of diagnosis and treatment by a qualified medical practitioner. Since the actual use of this product by others is beyond our control, no expressed or implied guarantee as to the effects of their use can be given nor liability taken. Use at your own discretion. Any application of the recommendations is at the user’s risk. Sweet Willow Spirit, LLC disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of this information and assumes no responsibility for any actions taken. This should not be used in place of traditional therapies but solely as a complementary means for bringing well-being. The FDA has not evaluated the statements on this website. No claims are made as to any medicinal value of any oil or healing modality.
1 - Elton, M. (2009) http://wingseed.com/blog/2009/11/19/one-more-time-there-are-no-fda-certified-pure-therapeutic-grade-essential-oils-part-i/
2 - Hairbrained Thoughts (2014) http://harebrainthoughts.blogspot.com/2013/07/friday-