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Home Page > Aromatherapy Articles & Guides > Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils is a Misleading Claim

Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils is a Misleading Claim

Essential Oil BottlesNo governmental agency or generally accepted organization "grades" or "certifies" essential oils as "therapeutic grade," "medicinal grade," or "aromatherapy grade" in the U.S. There is no formally approved grading standard used consistently throughout the essential oil industry.

Throughout the years, I noticed a number of companies that use these terms. Until recently, I hadn't given these terms serious thought.

I've been a member of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) for a number of years. Upon renewing my membership a couple years ago, I spotted that their membership application/renewal form prohibited membership to those companies that use these terms. It was this policy that lead me to take a fresh look at the terms therapeutic grade and aromatherapy grade and realize how meaningless and confusing these terms can be to consumers. Having said that, I have noticed that NAHA no longer includes the statements on their applications that prohibit membership to companies that use these terms.

As a sidenote...
I have been especially concerned about one newer MLM's claims. Valued AromaWeb advertiser Marcia Elston of Samara Botane wrote a detailed blog post, One More Time: There Are No FDA Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, Part I, that details the particular concerns regarding this company.

I first began studying aromatherapy in the 90s. Thankfully, I never got caught up with particular MLM companies that make marketing claims and promote practices that I find concerning and unsafe. I was avoiding these companies for other reasons and did not realize until I recently inquired with NAHA's former president, Kelly Holland Azzaro, that the term "therapeutic grade" was apparently coined by one MLM in particular.

By the time I first learned about holistic aromatherapy, a number of companies, including those that I otherwise find highly reputable, were also using the terms therapeutic grade and/or aromatherapy grade. I didn't see anything malicious with these terms and the terms seemed to act as a way to quickly convey to consumers that the seller's essential oils were carefully sourced specifically for use by those seeking oils for holistic aromatherapy use.

Most essential oils are distilled and standardized (adulterated) for use in other industries, so those carefully sourcing and selling essential oils intended for aromatherapy and therapeutic applications understandably do want a way to convey the suitability and purity of their oils for therapeutic uses. Soil conditions, seed quality, climate, altitude, growing conditions, harvesting, the care during distillation, bottling and storage can all play a part in the resulting quality of an essential oils. These are all factors that conscienscious suppliers pay close attention to. Using these two-word terms seemed to be a concise way for suppliers to designate that their oils were suitable for use by those seeking oils for use in holistic aromatherapy.

Though I'm a skeptical sort, I didn't find anything concerning about companies that used these terms. But with much more careful thought about I saw NAHA's past stance, I realized how truly meaningless and misleading these terms can be.


Recommendations for Consumers

The key point to bear in mind:
Though these terms can be misleading, not all companies use these terms with intentional deception in mind.

If you come across a company that uses the term aromatherapy grade or therapeutic grade, simply disregard their use of the term and look for other key indicators of essential oil quality.

Use the tips within AromaWeb's How to Buy Essential Oils article to guide you on what you should be looking for when considering suppliers. Companies that use the terms "therapeutic grade" and "aromatherapy grade" may simply be trying to quickly convey to you that their oils were carefully chosen and tested for use by those practicing holistic aromatherapy. Some companies still have no idea that these terms are misleading.

Having said that, you still do need to be careful...some companies do use these terms in a manner that is intentionally misleading consumers (see the first purple sidebar above).

Carefully read the below AromaWeb articles for tips that will help you evaluate companies that sell essential oils and help you better understand how to access essential oil quality.

How to Buy Essential Oils

How to Buy Aromatherapy Products

Is All the Hype True?

Guide to Diluting Essential Oils
(Pay particular attention to the last section entitled Beware: Some Companies and Therapists Promote Using Essential Oils On the Skin At Full Strength)

Verifying Essential Oil Quality:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Why Is the Quality/Purity of an Essential Oil Important?
Part 3: Aren't Most Essential Oils Pure?
Part 4: Constituents - What do Essential Oils Consist Of?
Part 5: Quality vs. Purity - Aren't They the Same Thing?
Part 6: Quantifiable Testing of Essential Oils
Part 7: GC-MS Test Results - How Can They Be Used?
Part 8: Other Quantifiable Tests for Testing the Quality and Purity of Essential Oils
Part 9: Essential Oil Quality and Purity Conclusion: Final Questions/Answers

NAHA created an E-Booklet Series and prepared a very helpful 22-page booklet entitled Quality of Essential Oils. This booklet is Volume I in the series and is available to members (I received mine with my NAHA renewal confirmation email).


Recommendations for Essential Oil Suppliers/Retailers:

For those businesses that want to replace their use of the "grade" terms with more appropriate terms, NAHA President Kelly Holland Azzaro shares the following suggestions:

  • pure essential oils for therapeutic applications
  • pure essential oils (or organic if that is the case) for aroma-therapeutic use
  • quality essential oils used in professional aromatherapy


A Note About AromaWeb's Advertisers

I strongly encourage AromaWeb advertisers to refrain from using the "grade" terminology, However, a few AromaWeb advertisers do still use these terms. It can be difficult for some companies to go back and change all the many references they may have used with the word "grade."

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