Are essential oils of therapeutic grade? Are they the only ones that can be used because the others are full of synthetic molecules?

Essential oils have a therapeutic grade

By Marco Valussi

No. Among the many terms used to describe essential oils, the term "therapeutic grade" has recently begun to appear, followed by similar others such as "certified therapeutic grade", "therapeutic degree" , "Clinical grade", "pharmaceutical grade", all terms that seem to suggest the existence of a certification that ensures the achievement of a therapeutic standard, that is, a standard for "effectiveness in treating diseases". We should pay attention to the use of terms. One thing is to argue that essential oils are pharmacologically active (from this point of view probably most of them are to a certain extent), or even effective in treating disorders or treating diseases (and certainly some are) It is another  matter to state that your product has specific and certified features that make it therapeutic, unlike other products from other companies.

On this we need to be clear: it is pure rhetoric of marketing, rhetoric that approaches fraud and misleading statements to the consumer. There are no independent and authoritative institutions that have the authority and tools to decide on standards defining the "therapeutic degree" of an essential oil. And what could be a therapeutic standard? If this standard existed, it should be a set of indications on the chemical composition of essential oil, which ensures efficacy on a specific pathology measured on the basis of clinical data.

Let's see this with an example: how can we state that our lavender oil is of therapeutic grade? We should firstly define the meaning of the "therapeutic" concept better, we should reduce the range of possibilities and choose only one indication, for example the ability of lavender oil to reduce anxiety, because the standard to describe efficacy as anxiolytic is not the same useful to describe the efficacy as an antiseptic. We  should thn analyze scientific literature to see whether lavender is able to treat anxiety, and if there are indications on which molecules in lavender oil are responsible for this activity, and if there are indications of the percentage to which these molecules show activity in the context of essential oil. At this point, but only at this point, I can say that a lavender oil with the features just described, that is, that corresponds to th one used in clinical trials, is an oil that can perform a therapeutic activity. It is therefore not an agency, an institute, that decides which is the therapeutic standard, but the scientific community, through the typical communication channels, that is, the scientific articles published by recognized journals.

Certainly we can imagine an agency that collects all scientific data, summarizes them, and establishes standards (albeit temporary, given the perpetual progress of research) clear indicating the minimum conditions to be able to talk about effectiveness. But at this moment such an agency does not exist, and anyway, even if it existed, it would have little to say. Indeed, research on essential oils, although greatly increased in recent years, is still far from being able to indicate with certainty which molecules are responsible for biological activity. That is why those who boast that their essential oils (and only theirs) are of therapeutic grade, deceive consumers twice, because they use a non-existent standard and because they do not say that for most essential oils we do not yet know which are the important molecules. Not to mention that potentially there may be multiple therapeutic standards for each essential oil, one for each activity (as I said above, in principle it is not said that the important molecules for anxiolytic activity are important for other activities).

Sometimes some firms, in the absence of a certifying body for therapeutic quality, just invent them. It is easy to find on the web, or on some textbooks, the indication of the role of AFNOR, which would give therapeutic quality "Grades". In particular, it has often been written that AFNOR (and ISO) publish standards to distinguish essential of "higher" grades (Grade A) from oils of lower, non-therapeutic grades, divided into Grades B and C. Tis is entirely false, as declared by AFNOR itself. AFNOR is a private entity (Association Française de Normalisation), is a member of the ISO (International Standard Organization). The task of the association, with regard to essential oils, is to produce industrial standards for the commerce of the same. Standards that must be used to avoid the adulteration or replacement of an oil with another. AFNOR does not certify any type of Grade, whether therapeutic or A, B or C. As far as the argument that non-certified therapeutic oils are full of synthesis molecules, it is again a marketing strategy to deceive consumers and sell more.

All these false arguments are based on the idea that trademarks and registrations would be the best method to ensure the quality of a product. But even if these certifications existed, it is the concept that is misguided. End-of-line standards, such as gas-chromatographic analysis, are certainly important, but do not replace the production-chain control. The more a company has the control of the production-chain, the more it is able to control the quality critical points, and can show it openly to the consumer, as can be the case, for example, in the case of direct production companies.


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