What to Look for When Choosing an Essential Oil

Clear Labeling: most of this information should be listed on the bottle itself such as common name, latin name, chemotype, and distillation date.  If not listed on the label the rest of the information should be easily accessible on the company’s website.

Common name: This is the name that most people will recognize such as Lavender or Lemon.

Latin name: It is important to know the latin name because it is the only way to truly know which essential oil you are buying.  It helps to distinguish between the different species of the same genus.  Some essential oils can go by the same common name such as Chamomile or Lavender, but the constituents that make them up are different.  This is important to know so you get the right therapeutic properties to help your given situation, and also so you get the correct safety information.  For example, Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is safe to use with babies and young children where as German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is not.

Chemotype when appropriate: Chemotype is the ability of some plants to make different chemical constituents depending on the environment in which it grows.  It is important to know the different chemotypes because they have different therapeutic properties and safety considerations.  For example, Rosmarinus officinalis ct camphor is a good choice for muscle aches and pains.  Where as Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone is good for clearing mucus.

Date of distillation:  Every essential oil has a shelf life and it starts the day it was distilled.  This should be listed on the bottle.  Many essential oil companies will have a batch number listed on their essential oil bottle, and then you would have to cross reference that on the company’s website to find the distillation date.

Country of origin: This is important because climate, soil conditions, and altitude can all affect the therapeutic properties of the essential oils.

Net contents: This is where you would find the amount of essential oil in the bottle such as 15ml.

Name and address of the distributor: Some essential oil bottles are quite small which makes it hard to include the address, so many companies list their name and website.  You can then visit the site to find their address.

Safety warnings: This is where you would find basic safety considerations such as keep out of reach of children or do not use while pregnant.  The website should have more specific information concerning each essential oil that they are selling.

Method of extraction: There are four ways an essential oil can be extracted which include steam distilled, CO2 extracted, cold pressed, and solvent extracted.  Knowing how the essential oil was distilled will help with safety considerations, for example, steam distilled lime is not phototoxic where as cold pressed is. It will also help you to determine if a solvent was used during extraction which can be either toxic or non-toxic.  Some people like to avoid any chance of a toxic substance being used in their products even though most of it should evaporate during processing.

Plant part used: Essential oils can be extracted from different parts of a a plant or tree.  Depending on which plant part is being used there are different therapeutic properties as well as safety considerations.

Cultivation method: It is best to buy essential oils that are organic, wild harvested, or unsprayed.  This is the only way to know that your essential oils have not been grown using pesticides, chemicals, or herbicides,.


Testing: I prefer to buy essential oils from companies who batch test each essential oil.  The Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) report should be accessible directly on the website, or some companies will send it to you when requested.  The reports will show the chemical make-up of a particular essential oil which is helpful when blending for therapeutic reasons.  The report can also show if the essential oil as been adulterated.

Safety information: Each essential oil has its own set of safety guidelines such as drug interactions and health & age considerations.


Storage: The essential oils should be kept cool and not be stored in direct sunlight.  If there is dust on the bottle it is a sign that the essential oil has been sitting out for a long period of time which increases the chance of oxidization, losing therapeutic properties, and loss of fragrance.  The essential oils themselves should be stored in dark glass bottles.  This is because oils can dissolve plastic over time which will contaminate the oils.  The dark color helps protects the oils from damaging sunlight.

Fragrance oil or perfume oil: I would avoid buying essential oils with these labels because it is an indicator that the essential oil is not pure.

Therapeutic Grade: This label is used for marketing and does not necessarily mean that it is a high quality oil.  There is no government regulating body that grades essential oils so any company can use this label.

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