Fun Fact Friday
Lavender is likely the most adulterated essential oil. More lavender essential oil is sold indigenous to France in the US than is imported. It has been this way for many years.
Natural or synthetic components are used to help stretch the oil or you may have a complete fragrance oil. Purchasing synthetic linalool (one of lavenders main constituents) is easy. I located it with a simple google search for 18¢ per mL/g. Naturally derived (isolated from other plant material) I found ranging from $1.50 to $8.18 per mL/g. If someone is intentionally cutting without worry about testing it seems logical they would use a synthetic. Synthetic linalool may not be particularly dangerous or ineffective therapeutically speaking, but would be more likely to cause sensitization. The synthetic would show on a GCMS, the natural isolate would be more difficult to ascertain.
Another common adulterate some may call mislabeled when it comes to essential oils. It might be labeled as lavender when in fact it is lavandin. Lavandin smells similar but has a camphorous note to it that is easily detected via olfactory to those who know what camphor smells like.
About 250 lbs of raw material make 1lb of essential oil which is considered a moderate yield. Why then, is it so commonly adulterated?
The most obvious answer is supply and demand. We see lavender scented EVERYTHING these days from laundry soap to lemonade and many commercial body care products. It is also one of the most used essential oils due to it being liked by many, gentle (for the most part) and versatile therapeutically.
Another reason is price. Some people aren’t about helping people as much as they are about padding their pockets. Granted all businesses are in business for profit, some are ethically sound while others are not. In this industry it can be difficult to ascertain what the motive is behind the company. There are some who were found to have adulterated oils and fixed the issue. Others who have chosen to continue selling what they know are adulterated oils.
And lastly, the cause for adulteration may be pleasant scents. If you have an oil from plant material that was harvested at the wrong time or the weather conditions weren’t perfect, a retailer may choose this time to add a synthetic to enhance the smell. Some companies standardize, or mix several types of lavender and possibly constituents to create their “lavender” oil. A perfect example is lavender 40/42 which could be only 3% of actual essential oil. With Lavender 1% of synthetic linalool or linalyl acetate added to the oil can be detected. If someone is using natural isolates, it may not be detected by even the most qualified chemist running the most pertinent testing.
In my Atlantic Institute course manual, it states that nearly 50% of lavender on the market is adulterated. Most times when an oil on the market is adulterated it is cut with 5-8% of foreign material. They keep it minimal because those cutting corners are attempting to refrain from the adulteration being detected.
https://www.phytochemia.com/en/2016/03/17/natural-vs-synthetic-clarifying-the-terms/ – just to help define the difference between synthetic and natural isolates
Aromatica I by Peter Holmes
Aromatherapy Practitioner Correspondence Course – Atlantic Institute