What is Essential Oil Adulteration?

Thursday, August 09, 2018

What is Essential Oil Adulteration

Essential oil production is a booming industry in the past few years. With the increasing demand for essential oils for both personal and commercial uses, it is no wonder that some suppliers are finding ways to produce essential oils at a faster and cheaper rates. It is a known fact that “pure” essential oils are costly to make and this condition leads to suppliers practicing adulteration of essential oils.

Adulterated essential oils refer to essential oils that have been modified in order to
  • Lower the production cost
  • Lower the price of the essential oils
  • Increase the company’s profit
  • Meet the increasing demand of the consumers
Here are the different ways in which essential oils can be adulterated.

Dilution with Non-Essential Oil Components

There are suppliers who claim that they’re selling 100% pure essential oils only to find out that their oils have been diluted with either vegetable oils, synthetic oils or alcohols.

Thin and odorless oils like fractionated coconut oil (natural) and isopropyl myristate (synthetic) are often used as “extenders” to essential oils because they won’t change the aroma of the essential oils. One way to know if essential oils have been mixed with vegetable or synthetic oils is by doing the paper test. Add a few drops of essential oils on plain white paper and leave overnight. Pure essential oils will evaporate completely leaving the paper dry. If there is still an oily residue, then it’s a sign that the essential oil has been adulterated with vegetable or synthetic oils.

Meanwhile, 95% deodorized ethyl alcohol is another cheap additive used since essential oils can be dissolved in alcohol. If the essential oil dispersed in the water instead of floating on top, then it’s most probably mixed with alcohol.

Addition to Essential Oil

More expensive essential oils are often extended with cheaper oils that possess similar chemical composition or fragrance. The most perfect example of this kind of adulteration is rose essential oil. Rose essential oil is very expensive to produce. In order to cut down the cost, rose essential oil is often adulterated with geranium and palmarosa essential oils because of their similarities in aroma.

Essential oils can also be modified by adding chemical components that are extracted from another essential oils. This type of adulteration is known as isolate addition. For instance, peppermint essential oil can be extended with menthol that is extracted from a cheaper corn mint oil.

It is also possible to extend an essential oil with oils extracted from the different part of the same plant. For example, clove bud oil is sometimes mixed with clove leaf oil because it is cheaper and easier to extract oils from the leaves than the buds.

Extraction from Essential Oil

There are cases where certain chemical constituents are removed from an essential oil in order to remove its impurities (e.g. unwanted components), to make it safer to use or to modify its aromatic profile. This type of adulteration is known as rectification. One example of this is the removal of bergaptene from bergamot essential oil in order to make it non-phototoxic.

Reconstitution of Essential Oil

Reconstituted essential oils are oils that are recreated synthetically by combining the chemical constituents of multiple essential oils. This type of adulteration is often practiced on essential oils that are costly to produce. For example, melissa essential oil (also known as lemon balm) is often reconstituted from the chemical components of lemon, lemongrass and lemon verbena because they have similar scent to melissa oil.

Adulteration of essential oils often resulted to lower quality oils that have been stripped of their important therapeutic properties, therefore they are not recommended to be used in aromatherapy. Unfortunately, there is no 100% foolproof way to detect all kinds of essential oil adulterations. However, the best you can do is to find reliable suppliers that can provide you with Gas Chromatography - Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis reports for each of the essential oils they are offering. This particular report will give you a summary of each chemical components of the essential oil being tested to see if there are any adulterants in the oil.


Adulteration of Essential Oils. Retrieved from https://meluhanaturals.com/adulteration-essential-oils/

Purity, Adulteration & Testing. Retrieved from https://www.oshadhi.co.uk/purity-adulteration-testing/

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