You can use essential oils in the therapeutic practice of aromatherapy for a number of health problems. However, how do you know which type of essential oil to choose, regardless of the plant species? There are several different types of pure essential oils on the market (in addition to fragrance oils and adulterated oils) so it is useful to understand the difference between each type of oil before using it. In this article, I will look at three types of essential oils; wild crafted, organic and non-organic. Essential oils have to meet certain criteria in order to be legally classified as one type of essential oil or another.
Organic Essential Oils
Many products are labeled as “organic,” although in reality many are not what they seem on first appearance. In order to be labeled as an organic essential oil, the essential oil has to be extracted from a plant that has been grown and farmed organically, following the guidelines of the country in which it is grown and farmed.
Organic growing and farming methods restrict the use of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Plants are also not genetically modified. In addition, a farmer has to be certified as an organic farmer to be able to produce plants which will distill organic essential oils. Consequently, organic essential oils are priced higher than non-organic essential oils due to the higher production costs involved.
Wild Crafted Essential Oils
Wild crafted essential oils are essentially your “back-to-basics” essential oils. You probably won’t find many true wild crafted essential oils on the market these days, unless you extract them yourself. Basically, wild crafted essential oils are obtained from wild crafted plants; wild crafted plants are plants that are naturally wild, or cultivated – provided they meet certain criteria. Country regulations vary but, as a guideline, wild crafted essential oils have probably been extracted from plants in their most natural state and/or with minimum farming.
Non-Organic Essential Oils
Although a non-organic essential oil is still regarded as a pure essential oil, plants that are grown and farmed non-organically to produce essential oils have usually been treated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. However, it is argued that only a minuscule amount of chemicals and pesticides are transferred in the distilling process of an essential oil but this is often a matter of contention in the world of essential oils.
How Chemistry in Essential Oils Varies
There will always be a difference in the chemical make-up of an essential oil, regardless of how plants are grown for the extraction of essential oils. Although it is true to say that, for example, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil contains basically the same chemical components each time it is extracted from a lavender plant, there will always be slight deviations in the percentage of each component. Factors such as soil conditions, altitude at which the plant is grown, weather patterns and the growing season will alter the percentages of the chemical make-up of the final essential oil produced.
Essential Oils to Choose
Wild crafted, organic and non-organic essential oils all have therapeutic properties because they are all extracted from plants; the difference between each type of essential oil is to what extent the final essential oil might have been affected by the different farming and production methods involved in its extraction from the plant. All of these types of essential oils are therefore suitable for therapeutic aromatherapy practice; your final choice will often depend on your personal preference, beliefs, availability and price. If you know how each type has been farmed and produced, you will have a better understanding of what you are actually purchasing.
- Clarke, Sue, 2008, Essential Chemistry for Aromatherapy
- Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils
- Price, Shirley, 2000, Aromatherapy Workbook
- Price, Shirley, Price, Len, 2002, Aromatherapy for Health Professionals
- Author’s training and experience
Photo by Michael Whay