Go into any new age or health food store or any candle or homewares shop and chances are you will see little bottles of fragrant oil.

Anyone who has had any experience of aromatherapy knows how powerful these volatile oils can be and the wonderful effects they can have.

But all oils are not the same. How do you know what you are buying? There are an enormous number of synthetic oils on the market, but true aromatherapy uses only the best pure plant extracts. These are true “essential oils” and are, in my opinion, the only ones to purchase.

To help you make sure you are getting “the real thing”, here are my top 6 tips for buying essential oils –

1. This may be obvious, or maybe not, but look for the words “pure essential oil” on the label. If the bottle says “fragrance oil”, “fragrant oil”, “perfume oil”, or even “aromatherapy oil” the chances are this is a synthetic product. Remember there is no legal definition of “aromatherapy” so anyone can use the term.

2. Look for “100% essential oil”. Many more precious oils are diluted at 3-5% in a base oil such as jojoba, to make the price more attractive. But such oils are useless in a vaporiser as they are simply not strong enough. These dilutions do have their uses, but the fact they are diluted should be clearly stated. Some producers list these with other pure essential oils, so you can only know the difference if you look very closely at the label. If you are unsure then an easy way to test for yourself is to place a drop of the oil on absorbent paper. A pure essential oil will evaporate leaving little or no mark on the paper. A diluted oil will leave a greasy oil mark and will not evaporate.

3. The essential oil bottle should be dark, preferably amber, glass. Oils will react with plastic, so any fragrance sold in plastic will not be a pure essential oil. Clear glass will cause the oil to deteriorate due to exposure to light. For the same reason, essential oils should be kept in a cool dark place to preserve them.

4. Purchase essential oils in bottles with a dripolator plug in the top. These are vastly superior to bottles with eyedroppers. A dripolator will regulate the flow of essential oil and prevent spillage of the whole bottle even if the cap is off. However once an eyedropper cap is removed the top of the bottle is open and can easily spill. It is also more dangerous around children, should they ever get their hands on them. Another consideration that I discovered myself, is that some essential oils will react with the rubber on the eyedropper, causing it to deteriorate and contaminate your oil.

5. Look for a botanical name on the bottle. This is the latin name given to each species. For example, true lavender is lavandula angustifolia, mandarin is citrus reticulata and grapefruit is citrus paradisi. While common names can sometimes be unclear, the botanical name will always be more precise. Several species may be given the same common name, eg eucalyptus, cedarwood or chamomile and there can be safety issues with some oils which are only clear when the correct botanical name is used. There are numerous examples of oils where the common name used does not at all relate to the oil’s actual botanical classification.

6. Be aware of price. Be suspicious if someone is selling all their oils for the same price. Sandalwood essential oil should be more expensive than lavender; citrus oils are usually some of the cheapest essential oils. A high price is not a guarantee of quality, but you can usually guarantee that those extremely cheap oils will not be good quality and may not even be genuine essential oils.

7. Know your supplier. Try to buy from reputable companies and from sources that give the above information or are prepared to answer your questions. Most essential oils on the market are produced for the food & beverage, cosmetics or pharmaceutical industries, not specifically for aromatherapy. So your supplier is very important.

8. And lastly, if in doubt, consult a qualified aromatherapist for advice.

Author's Bio: 

Wendy Mackay is a qualified Aromatherapist and member of the International Aromatherapy and Aromatic Medicine Association (IAAMA). Wendy and her husband David run Essence of Wellbeing a successful Aromatherapy & Massage Supply and Pure Natural Skin Care business, based in Mornington, Victoria, Australia. Mornington is located on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula about one hour SE of Melbourne.

Other Articles and Essence of Wellbeing products can be viewed at http://www.essenceofwellbeing.com.au