Essential oils are made up of hundreds of natural chemical components. These components are actually molecules, and they are an important part of an essential oil’s therapeutic action. Some molecules will make the oil calming, some molecules will make it stimulating, some will make it anti-viral and so on.
How do we know what molecules are present in an essential oil?
Essential oils are tested with two instruments: a gas chromatograph and a mass spectrometer which result in a Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis/report.
- Gas Chromatography (GC) is a method of separating the chemical components of an essential oil.
- Mass Spectrometry (MS) identifies each of these chemical components and their percentages.
GC/MS is used to identify everything in the oil.
The precise breakdown of chemical components that is laid out in a GC/MS report is really important because the therapeutic action and safety issues of essential oils can be determined by these chemical components (Butje, 2009).
GC/MS can even determine if there are adulterants in the essential oil, i.e. additives or extenders. Adulterated essential oils will not offer therapeutic effects and may in fact cause allergies, headaches and chemical sensitivities (Williams, 2010).
Without a GC/MS report, a consumer would be on their own with a label that says “pure” and a nose that is not so sure (Jones, 2010).
The best way to assure the purity of an essential oil is by buying essential oils tested with Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) (Butje, 2009).
When an essential oil supplier can provide batch specific GC/MS reports, it is a sign that they supply genuine and authentic essential oils.
Keep this in mind the next time you are purchasing essential oils or products created with essential oils.
Aromatics International. (2016). Getting Started with Essential Oils – Beginner Buzzwords. Retrieved from https://www.aromatics.com/learn/beginner-buzzwords
Butje, A. (2009, August 2). Essential Oil Chemistry: Oils High in 1.8 Cineole. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.aromahead.com/blog/2009/08/02/essential-oil-chemistry-oils-high-in-18-cineole/
Jones, E.A. (2010). Awaken to Healing Fragrance: The Power of Essential Oil Therapy. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
Williams, K. Aromatics International (2010, December 2). GC report? Why they are important. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.aromatics.com/community/blog/gc-report-why-they-are-important