Aromatherapy is now commonly used in spas all over the world. Essential oils have become a go-to item for everyday healing and therapy use. And many products contain essential oils as well. In order to get the most benefit from an essential oil it should be of high-quality. But what does high quality mean?
You may have seen a term such as “therapeutic grade” essential oils, but the truth is this term doesn’t really mean what you think it means.
Below is an excerpt from an article by Jade Shutes (a holistic aromatherapist and certified herbalist). She has written an excellent resource regarding the quality of essential oils. It’s located on the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy’s (NAHA) website:
Let’s start with the marketing term: Therapeutic grade
For those of you who believe you already know what this term means, I would ask that you keep an open and willing mind. I understand completely how contentious the issue of quality is. Firstly, to my knowledge the term ‘therapeutic grade’ arose during the 90’s and did not exist prior to that time. It was invented by some very clever marketers who wanted people to believe that there were somehow therapeutic grade essential oils and then all others. The main company marketing this concept also wanted individuals to believe that they and they alone somehow had the only therapeutic grade essential oils on the market (as if the market had somehow not existed until they existed).
After the concept of ‘therapeutic grade’ entered the market other companies quickly joined in, saying that they too offered ‘therapeutic grade’. Today, just about every company selling essential oils states that their essential oils are of ‘therapeutic grade’. With the concept of ‘therapeutic grade’, also known as Grade A, came other grades such as grade B, C, and so on. The point here is that some clever marketers were absolutely successful in their aspirations to get the word ‘therapeutic grade’ into the vernacular of the aromatherapy industry.
Aromatherapy buyers have perhaps become overawed with the idea that there must be a ‘therapeutic grade’ and that is what they are looking for. (Sometimes it must feel like they are looking for the holy-grail.) They call aromatherapy companies and ask “do you sell therapeutic grade essential oils?” What I would like to know is if there is actually a company out there that states it sells ‘non-therapeutic grade’ or ‘grade b, c, or d’ essential oils. Actually, just did a search and NOPE, not a company out there claiming to sell grade b, c or d essential oils and not a one selling non-therapeutic grade. Very suspicious!!
The truth is that there is no such thing as ‘therapeutic grade’ (or grade b, c, or d) in the sense that some organization or higher power has bestowed on an essential oil line. A grading system, quite simply, does not exist for essential oils. It is a product of marketing and marketing alone. And if one actually spends time thinking about this it makes perfect sense. From a marketing perspective there had to be another way to market a line of essential oils other than saying ‘we sell the best essential oils on the market’ which is rather boring in comparison to ‘therapeutic grade’.
According to Burfield and Kirkham (2006-07), “many aromatherapists have unfortunately become unwitting victims of a marketing ploy by essential oil traders that advertise “approved” essential oils of ‘therapeutic grade’. Let us be quite clear on this – there is no such thing as a ‘therapeutic grade’ essential oil, and no quality standards for the authentication of essential oils specifically exist in aromatherapy.”
So where does that leave us? Shortly we will explore what ‘therapeutic grade’ means to individuals who utilize essential oils therapeutically. For now, let us explore other marketing terms which may arise in your search.
Weeding through the market place:
While searching for essential oils on the internet you may come across some companies claiming to be approved by the ISO or to meet and/or exceed guidelines established by AFNOR or to be GRAS approved and even one company claiming to have Certified Pure therapeutic grade/FDA approved. What exactly do their terms mean?
CERTIFIED PURE THERAPEUTIC GRADE:
This is a relatively new trademark by a multi-level marketing company. It gives the appearance of being approved by some kind of higher authority and it has been said that the company states it is a FDA approved to use this label. According to Elston (2009), “This registered word mark has 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”.
She goes further into what therapeutic grade means to her and how to interpret that when you see it used.
The information she shares is extremely helpful. Unfortunately, many companies (including the ones that have good intentions) use the term therapeutic grade. This article is not meant to deter anyone from buying from these companies, but to make you realize that the term is used very loosely (much like the term ‘natural’). To make the final decision on buying any product from any company I advise you do as much investigating into the rest of the company as possible. That way you’re buying based on company products, ethics, and background and not because of the terminology.
Read the FDA’s warning letter to doTerra