Caveat Emptor

Look, more Latin! Caveat Emptor is a Latin phrase meaning “let the buyer beware.” This is an important thing to keep in mind when dealing with essential oils.

Here’s the thing about essential oils, at least in the USA: they’re unregulated. There’s no governing body with minimum standards, there’s no organization or government entity checking essential oils purity, content, additives, or anything else. There’s no group that certifies essential oils or tests them, either. A company can claim pretty much anything about their essential oils – that they’re graded, pure, rarefied, certified, etc.

This presents a problem for the consumer – since there’s no one certifying or grading oils, the buyer has to be aware that they’re at risk for being swindled. Unless the consumer is very secure in the company they get their oils from, or makes the oils themselves, the “essential oil” that they buy at a store or online could actually be an essential oil…or it could be a fragrance blend oil, a synthetic fragrance oil without one whiff of plant material, some mix of all of these, or something entirely different. To be blunt, if you don’t know your vendor, you don’t know what you’re getting.

There are no regulations on the essential oil industry, and no standardizations. There are no requirements that an oil must meet to call itself an essential oil. It is up to the buyer/user to be aware of this.

So why do companies tell you that their oils are “therapeutic grade” and “aromatherapy grade” and “top grade?” Marketing. Companies can charge more money if they can convince the consumer that what they’re selling is somehow better, or more pure, than the other people selling the same thing.

Most buyers don’t know that there’s no regulation or licensing or quality standards for essential oils, that essential oil sellers can toss terms about grading oils and purity standards around with impunity because they don’t actually MEAN anything. One especially misleading multi-level marketing company claims that their oils are certified as pure by a regulatory entity in France….an entity that does not test or certify essential oils. Likewise, companies claiming that their oils are pure and they can prove it with gas chromatography or a mass spectrometer (a few companies do this) are misleading the consumer – neither gas chromatography or a mass spectrometer can tell you if an oil is a true essential plant oil, or a lab-created facsimile.

So how do you know what companies to buy from? The same way you learn about quality vendors of other items – you ask around. You order teeny-tiny samples and see how they work. You do your own research and your own tests and you educate yourself.

(As to why it’s important to use actual essential oils in magick and not, say a synthetic fragrance oil that you got for $5 on eBay, you can read my entry on Why Oil Ingredients Matter.)

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