Choosing Quality Essential Oils: Truth About Labeling

What Do Terms Like "Therapeutic Grade" and "Pure" Really Mean?


It’s sometimes hard to know what company is the best, or which ones sell oils you can trust with your health and well-being. It’s been a long journey, but I’ve developed some standards to help me choose where I get my oils. To understand those methods, it’s important to understand the terms used on essential oil labels, brochures, and sales pitches. Let’s look at some of the most common sales terms and what they really mean.


When You’ve Put Them Back in the Wrong Spot Too Many Times, It’s Time to Dump and Sort!

“Therapeutic Grade” and “Certified”

There is no private board or government agency that regulates the definition of a “therapeutic grade” essential oil in the United States. A company can label an oil that contains very little essential oil as “therapeutic”. Any “badge” or label with these words is likely something copyrighted by the company. There is also no grading standard.

Some companies do publish the standards and definitions they use, so those words don’t indicate that a company is being sinister. Look for definitions and standards to back up the label.


This is another commonly-used buzzword on essential oil labels. Again, there is no legal definition for this when it comes to essential oils. An essential oil can be labeled “pure”, and still contain very little of the quality oil or components you are expecting.

I’ve reviewed oils that were contaminated with solid bits of what I assume is plant matter, that were labeled “pure”. I’ve bought essential oils that were obviously adulterated with carrier oils, labeled “therapeutic grade”. And they’re all legally sold in the US without running afoul of labeling or advertising laws.*



As you might have guessed, “natural” also has little meaning when it comes to the quality of essential oils for aromatherapy. Scent oils or food-grade oils for flavoring might need this label, to show that there are no lab-created components. But on an essential oil bottle, you have to keep in mind that a whole lot of things we would call contaminants are still very natural.


So, What Now?

Since you’re here, and you do care about essential oil quality, what should you think of those labels and words? Not much. When I was an active Amazon reviewer, it always frustrated me to see reviews that hailed a product because of the “therapeutic grade” or “pure” labels, or ripped a product to shreds because it didn’t say “natural”. Really, none of that matters. What matters is what’s actually in the bottle, and whether the company is willing to tell you.

Confused Yet?

Have I made you 100% LESS certain you know how to find great oils? Good. If you were relying on that stuff, you’ve come to the right place. There are ways to ensure you’re getting a top-quailty oil, and I hope to help you figure out what to look for. To keep learning, check out the links below!

Choosing Quality Essential Oils Pt. 2: Purity vs Quality. How and Why “Pure” Isn’t Always “Best”.

Choosing Quality Essential Oils Pt. 3: The Scent of an Oil. A strong scent pr pleasant aroma doesn’t always mean an oil is of high quality. Find out why, and some of the things you should look for when you first smell an oil.


Something Fun

After all that, how about my favorite essential oil blend for peace and tranquility? More detailed instructions below the handy Pinnable graphic!


Peace and Zen Diffuser Blend


Peace and Zen Blend

  • 15 Drops Tangerine
  • 15 Drops Orange
  • 5 Drops Ylang Ylang (I used Extra, Complete would work fine)
  • 7 Drops Patchouli
  • 3 Drops Blue Tansy

Blend in a small empty dropper bottle, and add the amount indicated by the type of diffuser method you are using. I use an ultrasonic diffuser, and add 3-4 drops of the blend per 100ml of water. Your needs will vary.

Natural remedies, like prescription drugs and almost all products, work differently for different people. This one puts me to sleep if I’m at all tired. Some folks find it great for meditation, or before a massage, but for me, this one is reserved for when I want to really sleep, and it works incredibly well.

This is my riff on a popular blend sold by one of the MLM Essential Oil companies. To come closer to their blend, double the Ylang Ylang and use only five drops patchouli and two of blue tansy. I prefer the grounding, earthy scents in this blend, but definitely experiment with your own likes and dislikes.


*<Soapbox Astonishingly Appears Under My Feet>

I happen to be cool with not having another government agency, or adding the policing of essential oils to an existing part of the machine. It’s the liberty thing. Let the crappy companies sell junky “oils” – I’ll call them on it when I write a review, and you’re here learning how to avoid them. As with food, electronics, and pretty much everything else, some folks really care about knowing what they buy, and others don’t. For example, if I consulted an expert, I’d find that the headphones I bought are junk. I might have guessed that since I picked them up for $3 from a clearance bin, or because they don’t produce amazing sound, but I don’t use them enough to care.

Some folks like essential oils because they smell nice. They aren’t concerned about medicinal components or just want to make crafts. In my perfect world, we all get to be responsible for our choices, and are free to choose what works best in our lives. I’m also super-happy when people say “Hey, this company is doing the wrong thing”, and spread that message. It’s OK to keep people looking to make a quick buck from doing so out of your wallet, or that of your friends and family!
<Soapbox Dramatically Bursts Into Flames and Disappears>


  1. Lauren

    I would like to know what brand of essential oil is your favorite – a brand you like AND trust. I want to buy some but I’m a newbie. I’m not very interested in oils with fake stuff in them.

    • Liberty Zen

      I use several brands, and because I haven’t tried them all, I hesitate to suggest that they’re the only good ones out there. So keep in mind that I don’t know the entire field of every new company that has come to market recently, just many. If you know someone who sells Young Living or doTerra, you can order from them with confidence. They are MLM companies, but you can choose to become a member without doing the whole business package. Rocky Mountain Oils has been my personal go-to, because I have no friends lol. (Actually, I’ve used both, and continue to order YL through a high school Facebook friend.) Plant Therapy is another that has been consistent lately. They went through a rough patch, but hired a well-known expert to help them get right, and they did. My massage therapist prefers Eden’s Garden. ALL of these companies have produced a bad batch on occasion, have dissapointed a customer you can find online, and have been tossed in the media. Only Young Living and RMO currently offer ALL of the information I prefer to have, but the other companies’ websites show that they are catching up and understanding that non-aromatherapists need info, too. Not giving complete information, even if a company has great oils, is one of the ways I evaluate, because there are very real dangers to the misuse of essential oils. While I believe all companies should sell what they like, and how they like, I also believe a good company is transparent and tells you what you’re putting in or on your body and how best to use it.

      Also, beware when buying from a re-seller. This is especially important if you are buying in a grocery store, on Amazon, or at a craft fair. I made the error of buying “Young Living” from an Amazon third-party seller. (That means the product was listed as being from YL, but the seller’s name was something different.) Those were two of the worst oils I ever purchased, one containing plant matter and fermented, the other heavily diluted with some carrier oil. I was replacing bottles I already owned, so I knew they were very wrong. But I’ve never had issues when buying from any of these places directly, including the times I bought RMO from Amazon – because RMO is also the seller, they just use Amazon’s platform to help increase sales.

      I hope this is helpful. No company is infallible, but how they handle errors and help their customers use their products makes a big difference to me. Of course, there are some specialty sites that offer only quality sandalwood, or just frankincense. I’m not super-familiar with those companies, because I’ve not focused on a single oil but the broader companies and products as a whole. And again, I may well have left a great company off the list because I simply don’t know them.

      I will never again order from Majestic Pure, Cliganic, Biofinest, Plant Guru, Divana, Regal Earth, Pure Body Naturals, Sky Organics, Living Pure, or First Botany. From what I saw, these were all of very low quality. Art Naturals has been fine for carrier oils and other products, but their essential oils were really lacking. Elementa and Simply Earth are on the border – they are producing decent oils, but they’re not in the game as far as information and service. Both seem to be on their way, and might be a good option for basic oils.

      I hope this is helpful. As essential oils gain popularity, new companies try to get into the game. Don’t hesitate to try them, just do your best to seek information and learn what your own body and family need. You’ll be way ahead of the game.

  2. Burch Tracey

    Love this article and the response to the above question! Have you ever tried Mountain Rose, Ameo or Radha? If so what do you think? Ameo is said to be clinical grade and all oils ingestable. If a company claims this is it safe to assume they’re totally pure?

    • Liberty Zen

      Thanks so much for the compliments! It means a lot. I have tried Mountain Rose. I like the company and have ordered herbs from them many times. The oils I’ve tried thus far have seemed to be exactly what they claim. The information on the website is a little lacking for my taste, but I chalk that up to the fact that they’re really an herb company and oils just go with the territory. I have tried a few oils from Radha, and while I had no issues with their carrier oils or aloe vera gel, I didn’t love the essential oils. They all seemed a little “lacking” to me. I have not tried Ameo.

      So, is it safe to assume they are pure? That’s a tough question. Yeah, probably, as I consider the companies and the reputations they are building, it would appear that none is a “flash in the pan” business looking to make a buck and get out. And if they say “safe to ingest” and prove it by telling you how the plants are grown, they likely mean the oils are not adulterated with toxins. However, I question any company who claims their oils are safe to ingest without proper warnings. Also, even if an oil is “pure”, it might not be of the highest possible quality and still may not contain what you need.

      These articles explain that a little more in depth:

      I hope this helps! Feel free to comment or e-mail for clarification!

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