Distillation of Young Living Essential Oils
The key to producing a therapeutic-grade essential oil is to preserve the delicate compounds of the aromatic plant through expert distillation. The proper process of steam distillation—passing steam through the plant material and condensing the steam to separate the oil from the plant—is strictly adhered to with all Young Living Therapeutic Grade™ (YLTG) essential oils. Proper temperature must be maintained throughout the distillation process, and pressure, length of time, equipment, and batch size are strictly monitored. This ensures that the naturally-occurring compounds contained in each essential oil product are of the highest and most consistent bioactive levels.
Young Living® recognizes and supports the standards set by AFNOR and ISO for essential oil commerce, and we pride ourselves on meeting all AFNOR and ISO standards. In addition to these external regulations, Young Living® also sets and exceeds a higher internal standard, built upon Young Living's own rigorous requirements.
While there are oils produced by competing companies that meet AFNOR and ISO standards, they don't match Young Living's® stringent "Therapeutic-Grade" requirements - they should never be considered a similar class. Young Living sets the bar for quality standards around the world, and stands alone in the production of "Therapeutic Grade" essential oils.
Additionally, Young Living’s essential oils are "subjected to isotopic ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) analysis. IRMS testing determines whether a particular essential oil is naturally sourced or synthetic (created in a lab). Young Living’s personalized sourcing approach, combined with state-of-the-art testing, ensures that each and every essential oil—from balsam fir to wintergreen—is of the highest, most potent therapeutic quality, just as nature intended.”
As far as adulteration is concerned, it should be pointed out that many aromatherapy oil customers frequently demand essential oils oils (and products containing essential oils) below market price while still wanting to be told that the oils are authentic.
Given this, the ethical oil company may find it virtually impossible to survive on the margins. For instance, in the late 20th Century, lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia) was being sold almost as a loss leader by many French producers as the market was unwilling to pay a realistic price. Today, the aroma industry is dominated by a handful of large and powerful international houses whose corporate buyers often attempt to drive raw material prices to impossibly low levels, not allowing workable profits to be made. This sets the scene for unethical practices in the industry as you will soon read.
This is the primary reason why France exports to the USA 100 times more lavender oil than they distill. That means the chances of you finding truly pure lavender oil is next to nil.
Essential oils should be produced by purely physical means, and be 100% pure and wholly derived from the named botanical source - but how are these standards to be guaranteed? No quality standards for the authentication of essential oils exist in aromatherapy, in spite of the revelations of gross adulteration of aromatherapy oils for retail sale (Health Which 2000). Professional aromatherapy organisations have failed to issue standards, in spite of individual schemes being put forward (Jones 1998).
This is why Young Living has taken steps for nearly the past two decades and established a very high standard: Young Living Therapeutic-grade (YLTG). Gary Young believed that it was important for humankind to preserve the heritage wisdom of ancient peoples and the myriad of ways truly pure aromatic oils are used for well-being. To set and maintain a standard of purity so that we can continue to use the wisdom and healing oils from the plants that we evolved with over several thousands of years.
The term, "therapeutic-grade" is not technically a grade, but rather a term coined by Gary Young in an attempt to separate low quality essential oils from the highest quality. Something had to be established because the terms - 100% pure, natural, organic and wildcrafted have been used and abused so much that the original meanings are as diluted and adulterated as the oils themselves.
Perfume and lower quality essential oils are not distilled to the exacting criteria that 100 percent pure therapeutic-grade oils are - the difference between them is like night and day. Lower quality essential oils are primarily used in novelty items and products, such as: perfume, scented candles, food, personal care products, some household cleaners, and air fresheners - none of these products ever contain a high quality essential oil.
“These essential oils [Young Living] truly represent the new frontier of medicine.” ~ Terry Friedmann, M.D., Cofounder of American Holistic Medical Association.
A Closer Look at the Differences
Lavender is one oil that is frequently adulterated so companies can maintain a price point that the consumer likes. With the focus being on price points, much is lost in the process - every inch of the way.
Lavender angustifolia has 187 known beneficial and healing constituents. Whereas synthetic lavender has only 4, and contains no benefits at all.
Adulterated and mislabeled essential oils present very real dangers to the consumer, not in that they do not contain benefits but that they can and do cause harm to the unsuspecting consumer who uses these low quality oils the same way we use a therapeutic-grade essential oil.
For instance, it is quite well known that a lavender aromatherapy oil purchased off a store shelf - even if the label states, 100% pure, is more than likely not true lavender at all. And, rather than it healing a burn when used, it will almost always make the burn far worse.
Essential oils that are subjected to high heat and high pressure during distillation have a distinctly simpler and inferior profile of natural chemical constituents. Extensive heat and pressure literally fracture the very fragile molecules of the essential oil rendering it quite useless in the realm of providing any type of healthful or healing benefits.
Another example of proper distillation is when we look at Cypress. It requires about 2,000 pounds of cypress to yield 'one' pound of cypress essential oil. When it is distilled at '0' pressure, at 220 degrees the finished product contains 280 aromatic compounds (those compounds provide far more benefit than simply smelling nice, they provide healing).
When cypress is distilled for 20 hours you will get the 280 compounds. But, when it is distilled for 26 hours, you end up with "0" compounds.
Most distillers, will distill cypress for only 3.5 hours and will use extremely high heat, high pressure, and solvents to squeeze every drop of essential oil out of the plant material that they can possibly get. Although this practice may be profitable, it certainly will NOT contain any benefits whatsoever.
Tea Tree (Melaleuca)
In some cases longer distillation times may be disadvantageous. For instance, tea tree oil (Melaleuca) - as distillation time increases, the proportion of sesquiterpenes rises and these are considered by some researchers as being responsible for the adverse skin reactions many see when a tea tree oil is applied topically.
Green or Not Green?
There is the unnecessary energy ‘wastage’ associated with excessively long distillation times may not be seen as a very "Green” strategy!
The real questions are... 'why' are consumers demanding a less expensive product when it does not provide any benefit at all?
This is the primary reason why Young Living essential oils are a Network Marketing company - education. Young Living distributors educate those who are interested in not only why quality is important but we share or stories of the ways we have used the oils - the same ways our ancestors did thousands of years ago.
Holistic aromatherapists, therapists, and others, demand that “pure” and “complete” essential oils are used - rather than essential oils only distilled for economic reasons.
Types of Adulteration Common in the Industry
Here are several distinct categories of adulteration:
Addition of single raw materials. This simple form of adulteration can be conveniently divided into two groups:
“Invisibles” – i.e. those materials undetectable by a gas chromatograph (GC) analysis operating under routine conditions to analyse essential oils, and... “Visibles – those materials normally detectable by GC.
“Invisibles”: an example of this type is the deliberate addition of vegetable or mineral oil to essential oils (Nour-el-Din et al. 1977) - rapeseed oil in the EU is a particularly cheap vegetable oil which has been used for this purpose.
“Visible” diluents in this context include a number of solvents and perfumery materials.
For example, the following list of 'additional' ingredients to essential oils have been found in commercial essential oils, and in a few instances resulting in a warning or prosecution by regulatory authorities:
- Abitol (a primary hydroabietyl alcohol) – often used for extending resinoids.
- Benzyl alcohol (now classified as a sensitiser by SCCNFP opinion)
- Benzyl benzoate (now classified as a sensitiser by SCCNFP opinion; formerly used to extend resinoids)
- Carbitol (diethylene glycol monoethyl ether or DEGME)
- Diacetone alcohol
- Dipropylene glycol (DPG)
- Dipropylene glycol methyl ether (DPGME) and tripropylene glycol methyl ether (TPGME) - both of these substances are in air freshener
- Herculyn DÔ (hydrogenated methyl ester of rosin)
- Isoparä (odourless kerosene fractions often used as a candle perfume diluent)
- Isopropyl myristate (IPM)
- Phthalate esters such as di-n-butylphthalate (DNP), diethyl phthalate (DEP) and di-iso-octyl phthalate (DIOP)
- Polyethylene glycols
- Triacetin (the anti-fungal compound glycerol triacetate - a popular food flavourings vehicle).
Use of materials like isotridecyl acetate (ITDA, Fixateur 404Ô), Herculyn D and Abitol, can be moderately difficult to spot in GC and MS testing, because the materials may show a myriad of late-eluting small peaks on a GC trace representing their different constituent isomers, which could be overlooked by an inexperienced analyst especially at low levels.
Addition of cheaper essential oils and adjuncts.
The blending in of cheaper oils to meet a customers’ desire for cheaper prices, or for the company to make additional profit - both are commonplace in the industry. Some examples are:
- Bergamot oil (Citrus bergamia): addition of lemon oil, rectified ho oil (Cinnamomum spp.) and acetylated ho oil.
- Bitter orange oil (Citrus aurantium subsp. aurantium): addition of sweet orange oil (Citrus sinensis) & orange terpenes, plus trace amounts of character compounds.
- Cassia oil (Cinnamomum aromaticum): the addition of synthetic cinnamic aldehyde, methyl cinnamic aldehyde & coumarin.
- Cedarwood oil Virginia (Juniperus virginiana): addition of cedarwood oil Chinese (Cupressus funebris).
- Cinnamon bark oil (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): addition of cinnamon leaf oil. The addition of syntheticenzaldehde, eugenol and cinnamic aldehyde.
- Cinnamon leaf oil (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): addition of clove fractions, eugenol, cinnamic aldehyde etc.
- Clove Bud oil (Syzygium romaticum): addition of clove stem oil & isolates (eugenol) & eugenyl acetate.
- Fir Needle oils (Abies spp.): addition of turpentine fractions, camphene, (-)- bornyl acetate etc.
- Geranium oil Chinese (Pelargonium hybrids): addition of adulterated Indian geranium oil (which itself has been known to contain diphenyl oxide!)
- Grapefruit oil (Citrus paradisi): addition of orange terpenes or sweet orange oil distilled + minor amounts of (+)-nootkatone & others.
- Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia): addition of cheaper lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) oil varieties; the addition of spike lavender oil
- (Lavandula latifolia); the addition of ho oil rectified (Cinnamomum spp) and acetylated ho or acetylated lavandin oils etc.
- Lavender oil, spike (Lavandula latifolia): addition of eucalyptus & white camphor oil fractions, spanish sage oil etc.
- Lemongrass oil (Cympogon spp.): addition of citral.
- Lemon oil (Citrus limon): addition of orange terpenes, lemon terpenes & by-products (e.g. steam-stripped lemon oil). For lemon oil BP, expressed lime or grapefruit oil is added to poor grades to raise the UV absorbance level sufficiently to pass the BP specifications.
- Nutmeg oil (Myristica fragrans): the addition of nutmeg terpenes, a- pinene, limonene, turpentine fractions etc.
- Oregano oil (Origanum spp.): addition of para-cymene and carvacrol.
- Patchouli oil (Pogostemon cablin): addition of gurjun balsam (Dipterocarpus spp.); vegetable oils, Hercolyn D; patchouli and vetiver distillation residues. The superior Indonesian patchouli oil is often blended with the cheaper Chinese oil.
- Petitgrain oils (Citrus spp): addition of other citrus leaf oils & fractions, fatty aldehydes, linalyl acetate, orange terpenes etc.
- Peppermint oil (Mentha X piperita): addition of cornmint oil (Mentha arvensis).
- Pine needle oils (Pinus spp.): addition of (-)-bornyl acetate, isobornyl acetate, (-)-limonene, a-pinene, camphene etc.
- Sandalwood oil EI (Santalum album): addition of sandalwood terpenes, sandalwood fragrance chemicals etc.
- Spearmint oil (Mentha spicata): addition of (-)-carvone.
- Thyme oil (Thymus spp.): addition of para-cymene & thymol. “Red thyme oil” is often wholly synthetic.
- Rosemary oil (Rosmarinus officinalis) addition of eucalyptus oil Eucalyptus globulus) & camphor oil white (Cinnamomum camphora).
- Verbena oil (Lippia citriodora): L. citriodora herb distilled over lemon oil.
- Vetiver oil acetylated (Vetivera spp): the addition of cedrenyl acetate.
- Violet Leaf absolute (Viola odorata): addition of spinach absolute (Spinacia oleracea).
- Wintergreen oil (Gaultheria procumbens): the adding of, or passing off methyl salicylate, as the oil (which explains 'why' you hear of ill effects after using too much Ben-Gay or Wintergreen oil).
- Ylang Ylang oil qualities (Cananga odorata subsp. genuina): addition of cananga oil (Cananga odorata), ylang ylang oil tails etc., ylang ylang oil reconstitutions. And also addition of these synthetics to “convert” one oil to another, as in the case of these:
- Basil oil exotic: add linalol to convert to Basil oil Sweet (Arctander 1960).
- Eucalyptus globulus: add a-terpineol & others to convert to Eucalyptus radiata.
- Geranium oil Chinese to Geranium oil Bourbon: addition of balancing materials (monoterpene alcohols and esters, especially formates), copper chlorophyll (for colour) and frequently a trace of dimethyl and/or dibutyl sulphides.
- Tangerine oil (Citrus reticula var. tangerine): addition of g-terpinene, dimethyl anthranilate, a-sinesal & perilla aldehyde to convert to Mandarin oil (Citrus reticulata var. mandarin).
This partial list gives you an idea of just how adulterated commercial essential oils are and why you might want to choose to avoid buying commercial products that claim to contain essential oils - you can very safely assume that they are all adulterated or synthetics, there is NO therapeutic-grade essential oil in them whatsoever.
Young Living oils are NOT adulterated in any way. They are the purest that you will find anywhere, which is why they are known as the best in the world.
Isolates or natural components added to the essential oils.
For example, the addition of pure natural eucalyptol ex, E. globulus oil (Eucalyptus globulus) to rosemary oil (Rosemarimus officinalis) or rectified ho oil (very high in (-)-linalol) to lavender and bergamot.
Bases or reconstituted added to essential oils to genuine oils and absolutes.
It is extremely economically attractive to extend expensive floral absolutes such as rose (Rosa spp.), jasmine (Jasminum grandiflora other spp.), and the more valuable oils such as neroli oil and rose otto - this practice occurs extensively within the industry.
Individual unnatural components added to essential oils and aromatic raw materials.
Absolutes are traditionally produced for the perfumery industry, they are being increasingly employed in aromatherapy (in spite of using un-natural solvents in their manufacture). Revelations that materials such as Linden Blossom absolute (Tilia spp.) contain hydroxycitronellal, or that Gardenia absolute (Gardenia spp.) has added styrallyl acetate, or that added Schiff’s bases have been found in floral absolutes, should not be surprising.
Young Living Farms are sustainable, and organic. Planting the lavender fields by hand.
Know your source before you buy...
Knowing this, it is easy to understand why a 'purest' essential oil user will say, "I would rather have one single drop of a truly pure essential oil, than a whole gallon of junk oil." This is precisely why we have turned to Young Living, they are the world leader in quality essential oils, anyone who knows quality will tell you that.
For all the studying, exacting measures and methods, devoted attention, equipment and manual labor, that go into the production of an essential oil - it makes the Young Living essential oils quite a bargain, don't you agree?
Please, do NOT use other essential oils the same way we use the Young Living oils.
- The above lists are from the NAHA website
- Arctander S. (1960) Perfume and Flavour Materials of Natural Origin publ. Elizabeth NJ.
- Boelens M. (1997) "Differences in chemical and sensory properties of orange flower and rose oils from hydrodistillation and from supercritical CO2 extraction" Perf & Flav. 22, May/June 1997 p31.
- arnero J. et al. (1978) Riv. It. Epos. 60, 99.
- Health Which February 2001 pp 18-20.
- Jones, L. (1998) “Establishing standards for essential oils and analytical standards” Proceedings of NAHA The World of Aromatherapy II International Conference and Trade Show St. Louis, Missouri, Sept 25-28, 1998, p146-163.
- Nour-el-Din H., Osman A. E., Higazy S. et al. 1977. Egyptian Journal of Food Science 5(1/2): 67-77.
- Singhal RS, Kulkarni PR, Rege DV 2001. “Quality indices for spice essential oils”. In Handbook of Herbs and Spices. ed. KV Peter, CRC Press, Woodhead Publishing 2001.