Frequently Asked Questions
“Are your oils therapeutic grade? (The most frequently asked question.)”
To answer that question, first you must define what is meant by “therapeutic grade” essential oils. What does it really mean?
There is no organization in the United States that oversees therapeutic quality. This is the reason why Nature’s Gift will not make the claim that our oils are “therapeutic grade” since in this country the term is meaningless and is often used as marketing hype. Any vendor can claim that their oils are “therapeutic grade” since there is no legal definition of the term.
In our opinion and experience, the correct term should be “aromatherapy grade” since aromatherapy requires only the finest of essential oils. Another term that we like to use is “clinical grade.” Since many of our oils are used in hospitals, hospices, and in clinical research projects, it seems to fit.
There are many criteria that must be met for an essential oil to truly be of aromatherapy quality.
Because the answer to this question is too long for the FAQ, please click here to read the complete answer.
“Are your products 100% pure with no additives added to the essential oils?”
We guarantee both the purity and the quality (two different aspects!) of our oils and hydrosols. The ONLY time something is added to any of our products is in the case of the clearly marked 5% or 10% dilutions of our oils and, of course, the personal and massage blends…ALL are clearly marked as diluted both on the website and on the labels.
“What is the definition of the term “essential oils?” How do they differ from olive oil or other vegetable oils?”
Essential oils are highly volatile plant essences, produced primarily by steam distillation (and sometimes by ‘cold pressing’, CO2 extraction, or solvent extraction). They contain the aromatic molecules of the plant.
Plants produce these aromatic molecules for various reasons…reproductive (to lure bees for pollinization), protection (the antifungal properties of the leaves of the melaleuca trees give us Tea Tree oil, among others), etc.
Unlike fixed oils (the vegetable or “carrier” oils), essential oils are highly concentrated and must be diluted in a carrier…they should never be used undiluted (or “neat”) on the skin.
Essential oils work on the most primitive, oldest part of the brain (the limbic system) and have intense effects on the parasympathetic nervous system, as well as powerful antibacterial effects.
“How are essential oils made?”
Essential oils are produced primarily by steam distillation, but sometimes by hydro distillation (using water rather than steam), CO2 extraction, or other methods. Read more here.
“What is a CO2 extract?”
CO2 (carbon dioxide) extracted aromatics are produced by a newer, more expensive method than traditional steam distillation. In our opinion, CO2 extracts tend to yield a richer, fuller more aromatic product than their steam distilled equivalents. Read more here.
“Why should I dilute essential oils?”
Diluting essential oils is for your own safety. Many oils can be skin irritants or sensitizers and can do serious damage if not used in appropriate dilution on the skin.
Secondarily, these oils are precious natural resources. Using them ‘neat’ (undiluted) is unnecessary. “Less is more” where essential oils are concerned; if you properly dilute them, they also last longer, extending the life of your purchase.
“What is a carrier oil?”
Pure essential oils are too concentrated for use directly applied to the skin. It is therefore necessary to use a carrier oil to assist in application. Carrier oils are vegetable, nut, or seed oils, many of which have their own therapeutic properties.
Carrier oils used in aromatherapy should be ‘cold-pressed’ (unrefined) oils if at all possible. Also, not all carrier oils should be used at 100% concentration; some are best used in dilution with another carrier oil. For example, Evening Primrose or Borage Seed oils are quite thick and are better diluted in a lighter carrier oil. You may blend different carrier oils together to achieve the desired result. For more information, please see our pages about specific carrier oils and additives.
“How do I know what’s an appropriate dilution?”
For a healthy adult, the “standard” is a 2-2.5% dilution, (e.g., 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil) or 2-3 drops per teaspoon of carrier. For a child or a frail elderly person, the dilution should be much weaker (about 1%): perhaps five drops of essential oil per ounce or one drop essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil.
If you are making a blend of several essential oils, blend your undiluted oils together. Then measure out the appropriate number of drops of the blend into your carrier oil. Read more about Methods of Application here.
“What is Lavender 40/42, and why don’t you sell it?”
You may see a lavender essential oil listed by some vendors as Lavender 40/42.
Lavender 40/42 means that certain components of the lavender will be present in exact, specified percentages.
The trouble is: Mother Nature doesn’t grow ‘em that way. She is a bit whimsical…and in a natural straight-from-the-garden, steam distilled lavender essential oil, every growing season will likely give you a slightly different lavender oil.
Now…there are manufacturers (and clients) who want their lavender to smell and act exactly the same, year after year. To some it’s more important than the actual therapeutic value of the lavender. They want uniformity. And if the lavender doesn’t grow that way…well, it’s easy enough to alter in the laboratory to make it that way.
It’s a simple process for a chemist to add some synthetic linalool or linalyl acetate to some lavender or lavandin essential oil to create their desired result.
Therefore, you will not see Lavender 40/42 offered at Nature’s Gift.
“What’s the difference between an absolute and an essential oil?”
Essential oils are steam distilled. Absolutes are extracted by solvents in a multi-step process. It is theoretically possible that the remaining product *may* have traces of solvents left in the resulting absolute.
What’s the bottom-line difference? When we offer both steam-distilled and absolute varieties as with our rose specimens, the absolute tends to have a scent more like the fresh blossom, while steam-distilled rose otto is far superior from a therapeutic standpoint.
“What qualities of essential oils, if any, survive saponification?”
Saponification is a process by which triglycerides are reacted with sodium or potassium hydroxide (lye) to produce glycerol and a fatty acid salt called “soap.”
There has been NO research done upon what components of essential oils may or may not survive during the soap-making (saponification) process. We know that essential oils will change, both from the heat and the effects of lye, but we don’t know *how* they will change.
Rather than saying that essential oils don’t survive saponification, our rule of thumb has three (sometimes contradictory) parts:
1. SOME of the effects will likely survive…the main action of any essential oil is by olfaction…by inhalation.
- when we inhale essential oils, they cross the blood-brain barrier through the lungs.
- essential oils react through the olfactory receptors in the back of the nose and cause reactions in the limbic system, the oldest part of the brain, affecting the parasympathetic nervous system (emotions, heart rate, breathing depth and speed, etc.)
- they probably act upon the skin…but we just don’t know for sure.
2. We wouldn’t suggest using expensive essential oils when making cold-process soap. For instance, our acne treatment blend has German Chamomile and Helichrysum essential oils, among others. I am not going to subject these precious, expensive oils to saponification.
3. The sensitizing and irritating EO’s…the ones that are NOT skin-safe. Again, it is possible that their irritant properties can come through the soap-making process intact. If it’s too dangerous to use in a massage blend, it’s probably too dangerous to use in soap. In this, we err on the side of caution.
Addendum: We do believe the EMOTIONAL effects of the oils will come through in soap…if you can smell them, they will act on the emotions…thus, a citrus or peppermint “wake up shower soap” WILL help wake you up…lavender or roman chamomile or other “relaxing” oils will help you sleep well.
You certainly *can* use essential oils when making cold-process soap…you will know that you are producing the purest and most natural body and spirit pampering products available, which is what many consumers today prefer.
“Are your essential oils pure and unadulterated, and do you laboratory test your oils?”
We have built our business and reputation by supplying clinicians who demand only the purest, highest quality oils. We take enormous pride in our selection of oils.
We routinely use trusted third-party laboratories to perform gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) tests when:
- buying from a new supplier
- we receive a new batch of an oil we’ve previously offered
- there is a reason to question the quality or the purity of the oil (sometimes it’s just our ‘instinct’)
- when we know the oils are being used in clinical programs or for research.
Some of our artisan oils are from small growers/distillers that we have had a relationship with for years, and we trust them implicitly.
Our goal from Day One of business has been to provide the BEST quality, not the most affordable oils. We guarantee their purity.
We do not routinely test our imported absolutes. Why? They have no use in Clinical Aromatherapy; they’re meant to be used specifically for fragrance purposes. However, we deal with known, trustworthy producers.
CO2 extracts are a difficult product to have tested. Very few labs are capable of testing the non-volatile components, so at this point, we prefer to stay with well-known producers of the utmost integrity and trust their certifications. As CO2 extraction becomes more commonplace and testing capability expands, this may change.
We offer either the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) or the GC/MS for each essential oil, absolute, or CO2 on our website product descriptions.