Essential oils can be split into organic and non-organic based on the way they are cultivated. Organic agriculture uses greater amounts of renewable resources. Some of the benefits of using organic methods of cultivation are – less pollution, animal welfare is protected, minimal damage to the environment and limited use of additives, processing methods and aids.
What are organic esssential oils?
Essential crops grown organically must use all the farming and processing regulations as set down by the laws that govern their country. For example, in the UK, organic farmers of essential oils must follow EU laws governing their cultivation although these are non-food grade products. Plants are usually subject to a barrage of pests and predators and have evolved a system to defend them that includes in-built chemicals in the roots, leaves, flowers and other parts that will attack these pests.
These chemicals – in reality organic essential oils – act as pesticides and hence these crops do not need additional insecticides or fungicides. In countries with a temperate climate, essential oil plants grow wild and hence they do not need crop inputs. This is why, in the UK, organic farmers cannot use pesticides on such crops and even if a pesticide is needed they must get the right authorization to use it.
Apart from this, cultivation of organic essential oils requires farmers to specifically select specifically those, which are botanical species. All waste matter during and after cultivation must be recycled. Both organic and non-organic oils must be kept separately.
When therapeutic oils are grown organically they posses many beneficial properties only if they are distilled at the right temperature and under a specific pressure. These oils are strong and cannot be used in their pure form but mixed with carrier oils when used as diffusers or for massages in aromatherapy. They are classified as Grade-A essential oils and must be sold with the scientific and common name of the plant source mentioned on the bottle.
Some of the official regulatory agencies that certify organic essential oils for purity are:
- The Soil Association, UK
- Nature et Progres
- ECOCERT, France
- Qualite-France SA
- Agrobio, Portugal
Benefits of organic essential oils
Organic essential oils are finer than non-organic oils since they are extracted and distilled from plants that have been grown without using pesticides. The overall therapeutic benefits, quality and aroma of these oils are also superior to non-organic oils. Vendors who sell organic oils must source them from organic farmers who have grown these, following stringent rules of organic farming. This is one reason why these oils cost more as they need to get a special certification.
Organic essential oils have several therapeutic benefits if they are pure. They treat skin conditions like acne too.
They offer more healing powers and vitality than non-organic essential oils. Their aroma is superior since they are more concentrated. Organic essential oils have a potent flavor that is ideal for cooking too. Many healthy dishes flavored with organic essential oils taste delicious. For example, organic basil oil used in cooking gives a better taste that just dried herbs. many of these organic essential oils possess anti-bacterial, antiseptic and anti-viral properties and hence are healthier than fatty oils like olive or sesame seed oil. Steam baths and massages with organic essential oils are therapeutic.
Points to consider when purchasing organic essential oils
In the UK, people are advised to follow these tips when they buy organic essential oils:
- The farmer must be recognized as a certified producer of organic essential oils.
- The methods of farming must adhere to the EU organic regulation (2092/92).
- The farmer must use organic processing methods if he extracts essential oils from the crops.
- An organic certification is needed even if a third party does the processing.
- Make sure the product has a ‘Soil Association Certification’. This provides details of the where the crop was grown, the crop’s botanical name, date of harvest and processing, processing and storage methods. A purchaser can demand this information within limits of commercial confidentiality.
- Since these are essential oils, they do not require any kind of crop inputs. So, check to see the amount, if any, of pesticides used especially if the oils you purchase are volatile.
Safety tips when using organic essential oils
Organic essential oils that are certified are eco-friendly and safer to use. There are some safety tips for the purchase and handling of these oils:
- These oils must be diluted with good carrier oil like sweet almond, jojoba, and olive oil or apricot oil. Those who are allergic to nuts must use fruit-based carrier oil. Super-light carrier oil is best when using organic oils on the skin for these will not clog pores. Sugar scrubs can use olive oil as a carrier.
- If you want to use organic essential oils to make homemade beauty products, make sure you read the safety instructions and the labels of the oils for correct usage. Perform a dab test before using these oils.
- Whether the oil is organic or not, NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy) warns us not to ingest these oils.
- Keep these oils out of reach of children
Tips for purchasing organic essential oils
- Pure organic essential oils differ in cost from blended variations. Hence, do not buy those that are cheap for they will be perfume-based and not therapeutic.
- Organic oils must be sold in dark bottles to preserve them from strong sunlight that degrades the oil.
- For a simple test to ensure you are buying pure oil, place a drop on blotter paper. Pure oils evaporate while those that are mixed will make the paper oily.
The origin of essential oils must be carefully scrutinized before purchase for some countries do have certified essential oils and others do not. The cost of organic essential oils will be more than the non-organic variety due to the method of cultivation. However, the benefits of using organic essential oils mean that the additional cost will be well worth it.