In brief, authentic essential oils are acquired from various parts of specific plants. These fragrant volatile oils have been used for thousands of years to support health, mood and well-being.
They are very concentrated. Each bottle of oil represents between tens to hundreds of pounds of plant material! The amount of oil contained in a particular plant governs how much plant material is required to produce a specific quantity of oil. The less oil content a species of plant contains, the more expensive that oil is.
Unfortunately, in America, there is no regulation that requires oils to be from the actual plant the oil represents!!
It is currently ‘legal’, though we don’t consider it ethical or accurate for an essential oil to be made from extracts of other plants or synthetic chemicals. Some common examples of frequently ‘adulterated’ oils are: lemon, lavender and birch oils. Chemicals rectified from lemongrass or litsea cubeba are often used to make “100% natural” lemon oil. The bulk of birch oil sold today consists of a synthetic chemical named methyl- salyicicate! Lavender is often stretched and ‘enhanced’ with either plant or synthetic chemicals to produce what can unfortunately be labeled “lavender essential oil”. Such a situation has required us to be certain to know the actual distillers, and often farmers who produce essential plant oils. Those of us who are interested in the more subtle and authentic benefits of aromatherapy require oils that are made from 100% of the listed plant’s botanical origin. A synthetic addition can often destroy the true therapeutic qualities we seek when using essential oils.
The food and fragrance houses that use synthetic and adulterated oils do so because they have a much more certainty of keeping the availability and specific fragrance of those oils. Natural oils vary from year-to-year in both the quantity produced from the plants and the aroma characteristics and chemicals. This is due to the variance of tempature, rainfall and sunlight the plants were exposed to in that year. While availability and consistency are acceptable to more industrial and commercial enterprises, we are more interested in the varying complexity and subtle benefits that come from using an oil that is produced in a living plant. Synthetic chemical reconstructions of essential oils lack many of the important natural chemical ingredients found in a ‘real’ oil. Many of these trace chemicals supply very important benefits to the user. Both those that are known benefits and those as yet unknown. One of the most apparent and remarkable benefits is that the oils are safer to use and less allergenic or sensitizing on the skin.
Obtaining true essential oils is a very involved process. It consists firstly of the actual plant materials being grown in a large enough quantity to have enough to process for essential oil. Then the material must be properly harvested, often a very labor-intensive endeavor. After harvest and processing, which may involve proper drying the plant material must be skillfully distilled and extracted with the proper costly equipment. Then the oil is ready for storage and eventually shipped around the world.
In my years of experience, I’ve found that cheaper, commonly-available bargain-grade oils to be largely inferior in providing the deeper benefits one might seek from a more expensive, well-made and truly authentic plant oil.
It’s also been my experience that most people without a knowledgable experience of essential oils have even smelled a ‘real’ essential oil.
Information Obtained from William Chambers, Beautiful Hart