Don’t Waste Oils On That “Purity” Test

The aromatherapy evaporation test is a waste of essential oils and your money.

A number of aromatherapy reps are mistakenly telling their customers that they can test their essential oils for purity by dropping a bit of essential oil on a piece of white paper or a bit of white cloth and waiting for it to evaporate. If the essential oil leaves no stain, these aromatherapists claim, the oil is pure. If it leaves a stain, that proves the product is adulterated.

But this “purity test” ignores some very important facts about essential oils. Here’s more:

It’s true that distilled essential oils typically evaporate cleanly but there are a few that won’t, no matter how “pure” they are. Blue chamomile, as anyone who works with essential oils can tell you, stains pretty much everything it touches with its gorgeous blue tint.

The “clean evaporation” claim also ignores the fact that many volatile we call essential oils aren’t distilled. Resinous volatiles, for example, won’t completely disappear after evaporation. Neither will balsams or absolutes.

And while this test should reveal the presence of carrier oils like jojoba, those should already be clearly noted on the product’s label.

But perhaps the most troubling thing about the purity test is that it ignores one of the dirtiest secrets in aromatherapy–that most essential oils are “cut” not with synthetics but with cheaper versions of their more expensive botanical cousins. As much as we might like to picture an unscrupulous aromatherapist skulking through a lab at night with a bottle of chemicals in his hand, the truth is, most adulteration is done with natural essential oils. Lavender, which is widely believed to be among the most adulterated of all the essential oils, is most often stretched with other, cheaper lavenders or even hybrids. Lavender adulterated in this way will, of course, evaporate cleanly.

So save your money (and those expensive volatiles) and buy from a reputable dealer you know you can trust.

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