Chemistry has brought us an incredible number of benefits, but also an alarming number of dangers. We live in a world filled with synthetic chemicals, and not all of them are healthy to be around.
This is one reason natural cures like essential oils and CBD are more popular among the health-conscious. Humans have been around those scents and compounds for thousands of years. Through adaptation and centuries of use, we know how to use these safely.
Unfortunately, since humans are so good at chemistry now, there are a lot of things on the market that look like essential oils and CBD, yet are really synthetic blends. Therefore it’s important to check if your EOs and CBD are tested for purity before using them for health.
Where Do Synthetic Scents Come From?
Many synthetic scents come from petrochemicals. The essential oils from plants do come from organic sources, in the sense used in chemistry. They’re just made by Mother Nature rather than in a lab. The raw materials for organic chemistry processes are often found in petroleum products and then rearranged in the beaker.
The most dangerous synthetic scents are the ones that didn’t exist in nature before. These are the ones that humans haven’t adapted to yet and the ones most likely to cause health issues. Many women start their health journey towards EOs because some product with a “fragrance” ingredient makes them sick.
As a general rule, try to avoid products that have “fragrance” as an ingredient. Many of them contain phthalates that cause many health issues. The jury is still out on how much exposure you need to phthalates before there’s a health risk, so better to avoid them as much as you can until there’s more data.
What Are Fake Essential Oils?
A pure essential oil is an oil that contains only the distilled oils of the original plant. Wellness-product makers (like us), perfumers, and consumers buy these for their own uses. But not all essential oil manufacturers are selling the real deal.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of goalposts for purity, depending on what you consider pure. Let’s take a simple example. Rose oil is usually blended with a carrier oil like jojoba before sale because the 100% rose oil is so expensive and so powerful on its own. Is this still a pure oil or is it now fake because of the jojoba oil?
In our opinion, the true fake essential oils are when a shady manufacturing company mixes synthetic oil with pure EO in their products without notifying the consumer. Perfumers mix natural and synthetic ingredients all the time, but we imagine you’re not using your perfume for health!
There are many DIY tests people in the natural health community use to check their EOs for purity, like paper tests. In that test, you take a white piece of paper and put a drop of oil on it and see if it dries completely clear.
Unfortunately, none of the DIY methods are completely accurate. Some EOs will still leave a stain on the paper, and if you’re buying a pre-made product like ours then any of our other natural non-EO ingredients could cause staining. Nor is checking for glass bottles or even reading labels.
The current gold standard for purity of an essential oil is a GC/MS test. This is Gas Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry. Without getting too technical, this test breaks down the pure oil into all of its component chemicals and identifies them. Legitimate sellers of pure essential oils will include this testing on their websites, and companies like ours that use EOs seek this data before selecting a supplier.
If you look up these tests, the main thing you want to see is that there are no synthetic chemicals or other adulterants. After that, things get dicey. Since we take pure EOs from natural plants, each plant batch will have subtle differences in their oils. Yes, if you’ve bought pure EOs and wondered why one bottle smells slightly different from another from the same brand, that’s a good sign it’s not adulterated!
Unfortunately, it may feel you need a degree in chemistry to understand these tests. Yet it’s a place to start and the current gold standard for seeing exactly what’s in an essential oil. If your EO product company cannot supply those tests, or get them from their suppliers, that’s a sign to stay away.
CBD, on the other hand, has far more regulations than the essential oil industry and it’s much easier to get test results. The government watches CBD companies carefully to make sure none of the “pure CBD” products they sell has a THC content of 0.3% or more. If they do, then they’re breaking the law!
All reputable companies with CBD products will have a lab reports section on their site with the latest lab reports. These are examples of the GC/MS tests we talked about earlier. If you look at one, there’s quite a lot in there! Let’s look at the one for 1/29/2021 and see some of the complexities of testing and how useful it can be.
On the first page, we can see that inside the CBD oil, 88% is actually CBD and another 1.38% are terpenes. These are scent chemicals that, according to some studies, work with CBD to increase its effectiveness.
We can also see there are no solvents, pesticides, metals, or other biological invaders (like bacteria, mold, and fungi spores) in our product. On the other pages, you can see a complete chemical breakdown of our test sample. Anything marked <LOQ is either absent or has such a small amount that the machine cannot test it.
The LOQ column tells you the minimum amount that must be in the sample for detection. So for Delta-9 THC, the cannabinoid that gets you high, there has to be at least 0.0971% in the sample to get detected. This assures us and the DEA that our product is legal for sale. We can also see our CBD oil sample contains small amounts of CBDV and CBL.
Get The Reports
If you want to be absolutely sure that your EO products are using pure ingredients, contact the company to get the GC/MS test reports. Even if you don’t know the exact chemical names, there should be breakdowns like in the CBD report where you can check that other stuff isn’t hidden in the product.
Above all, listen to your body. Even a natural fragrance can bring on an adverse reaction in some people. If you use any product with EOs and you feel like it’s making your health worse, don’t stick with it because it’s natural. Find another remedy. Nature never solves a problem in just one way!