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Facts About Essential Oil Quality. Is there a difference?

Have you every stood in a store wondering why one brand cost significantly more than the other? Usually, we learn from trial and error or a recommendation from a friend. Sometimes the internet may help us and at other times it doesn't. In the past, I purchased whatever is on sale or brand that I recognize. Sometimes, I assumed the most expensive product was of the highest quality. Is this the best method in choosing products intended for a health benefit? Probably not. I learned that in the world of essential oils, you can not only look at the species of plant an essential oil is from or the region, there are many other factors that effect it's natural chemical composition. One factor is to look at  plant chemotypes, which are chemically distinct entity in a plant or microorganism, with differences in the composition of the secondary metabolites (such as essential oils). They can be the same species with different characteristics. What makes essential oils complex is that they are not made up of one or two compounds but contain hundreds of distinct compounds but in the examples below we will look at just the major ones. Is there a difference? 

Cineole Content in Rosemary

Yes! Fact #1.  Sourcing affects essential oils. Listed below are percentages of some of the major compounds of rosemary. It is important to note that, not only the levels of major compounds vary from region to region, but all compounds. In fact, some compounds that are present in some rosemary may not be present in others, even though they are the same species of plant. 1,8 Cineole also known as eucalyptol is known for it's respiratory properties. Pinenes have great benefits that affect eh body in different ways . One chemotype is not generally better than the other. However, if you are utilizing it for a specific use such as breathing, the the Rosemary found in Morroco may produce better results than the rosemary found in France. 


Cavracol Content in Oregano

Fact #2. When you harvest the plant and how you grow it affects the essential oil yield and composition. We demonstrated how different regions, with different climates, soil and air conditions affect essential oils, but did you know that plants grown in the same region can produce different essential oils?  Traditionally, particular care is taken into the details on  exactly how and when to harvest plants. Evidence now shows that it makes major difference to secondary metabolites such as essential oils. Shown above are the same species of Oregano grown in the same region of Turkey with the same climate. Both thymol and carvracrol have therapeutic benefits. Again, they work on the body differently. One company may want to focus on a high thymol content oregano while another may focus on a high cavracol content oregano. Unfortunately, some companies don't focus on the chemical content of essential oils. How it is harvested makes a difference. Some people prefer wild crafted because it plants are grown in naturally. As you see in this particular situation, wild crafted oregano produced high levels of thymol, while cultivated When it's harvested makes a big difference. Right after it flowers is a great time, but while it is blooming it doesn't produce as much thymol or cavracol. Again,  all the other compounds are affected too. It is in these fine details that make a difference. If consumers don't know the difference, why would companies go through all the extra hassle? WeCoriander & Cilantro must educate people that there is a difference, even though essential oils are marketed natural and pure. To what standards, do we hold them? 


Fact #3. Essential oils vary within the same plant depending on the part of plant. It is a known fact that essential oils from one part of the plant such as the stem may produce different levels of essential oils than another part of a plant such as leaves. Sometimes they produce such a different oil that they are marketed as such. Both coriander and cilantro essential oil come from the same plant. One comes from the seed and the other comes from the leaves. They smell similar to the untrained nose, but if you look what it is composed of you will see significant difference.  Also important to note is that distillation has factors such as temperature, pressure, and timing which affect quality of essential oils. 

Conclusion 

1.  Minor changes in environment greatly affect levels of essential oil constituents produced in plants. Essential oils are secondary metabolites of plants. Secondary are organic compounds that are not directly involved in the normal growth, development, or reproduction of an organism. Secondary metabolites play a major role in the adaptation of plants to the environment and in overcoming stress conditions. Environmental factors viz. temperature, humidity, light intensity, the supply of water, minerals, and CO2 influence the growth of a plant and secondary metabolite production. 

2.  If it smells different, there is a difference. Qualitative descriptors are a good start for telling there is a difference but it can be very subjective. It is a good indicator that there is a difference in the compounds found in the essential oil. Science has shown the chemistry of essential oils and now quality can be measured and compared. 

3. Education supports usage. There is a lot of ways to learn. The internet is a great resource. It has a lot of information (and misinformation). Always look at the source. Also, know that mankind is always making new discoveries. What we know today, may be obsolete tomorrow. I learned through trial and error. I was educated by people who used the same brand of essential oils, so I didn't have to worry if they were using linalool thyme or thymol chemotype thyme. I knew that I would most likely have similar results. I hope this help clear things up. There are websites implying that all essential oils are the same. It is important to know that there IS a difference between different essential oil companies. The question that you have to find the answer yourself is which brand works best for you. :) Have a great week! -Holan


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