Why We Don't Batch Test Our Essential Oils

Mar 29, 01:55 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Batch testing has been a hot topic lately on various listserves and social media groups. Proponents say it's proof that an essential oil company offers legitimate products. I say that in most instances, it's a waste of money.

First of all, batch testing is expensive. That expense has to be passed along to you, the essential oil consumer. While the costs can be reasonably hidden in, say, the purchase of a 25 or 50 kilo drum of essential oil, they cannot be effectively hidden in smaller quantities. In many cases, batch testing doubles the cost of an essential oil. Some companies get around that by purchasing cheap, lower quality oils from India or China, factoring in the cost of a batch GCMS, and selling the oils for a lot more than they're worth. We don't.

Of course, if you're buying oils from India and China, you'd damn well better batch test all of them. If you're working with boutique distilleries who specialize in essential oils for the aromatherapy market, their product is very consistent from year to year, showing only minor variations in a series of analyses. Many of my farmer/distillers are respected guest speakers at aromatic medicine conferences throughout Europe and have mentored distillers in emerging markets. Most of them have worked very closely with respected universities on researching essential oil-bearing plants native to their regions. One of the family distilleries with whom I have a long standing relationship is a pioneer in the industry, having been in business since the late 1960s. Many of the essential oils from this particular distillery were used to develop the formulas published in L'Aromathérapie Exactement.

Producers of this quality have their reputations to uphold. They husband their crops carefully, they don't adulterate their oils, and they don't do high speed, high pressure distillations. They don't produce anything less than a pure oil... they can't afford to do otherwise.

If I'm working with a new producer, or have reason to suspect an oil is not as claimed, I'll send it to a qualified analytical chemist for testing. Which brings up another point... who's doing the testing? I know of one essential oil company that has a used GCMS set up quite literally in the garage, along with an ancient database. They may be able to say they do batch testing, but what do those outmoded pieces of paper really mean? Even if the chemist is using a current database, a GCMS is simply an indicator of relative purity, not of quality.

I prefer to have Aromaceuticals use our money, time and energy for other purposes: keeping our oils in cold storage under nitrogen, packaging in better quality glass than the competition, hand pouring our products, developing educational materials and providing a high level of personal service to our customers. All those things are more valuable than repetitively testing the same oils from the same producers year after year after year.


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