August 30, 2021 64 Comments
All around, the words “certified organic” are always used—for food, cosmetics, as well as for aromatherapy. You may have assumed that organic means it was made with all-natural products. But there’s more to the label than you think. Learn what “certified organic” truly means for the essential oils that you buy.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates organic standards and the use of the label “organic.” According to the USDA, “organic” is a label that indicates that the food or an agricultural product was produced through methods approved by the USDA. This spans from crop production to handling.
To summarize the standards, the crop production should not involve prohibited substances, genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge. Instead, biological, cultural, and mechanical practices that promote the cycling of resources and ecological diversity should be used. Products labeled as “organic” with the USDA seal must have 95% certified organic content. Products with at least 70% certified organic content may be labeled as “made with 70% organic ingredients” but cannot carry the USDA seal.
Since essential oils are not agricultural products, they are not directly regulated by the USDA. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates them, but in turn, does not regulate the term “organic.” So, how come some essential oils are labeled as “certified organic”?
Essential oils are considered as both cosmetics and drugs. Cosmetic products containing or made up of agricultural products may be labeled as “organic” when the ingredients meet the USDA’s standards. In short, the label of “organic” for essential oils depends on whether the plants they were extracted from were produced following USDA standards for organic products.
The USDA’s main concern before certifying a product as “organic” is whether illegal substances, such as pesticides, were used during crop production. The use of pesticides and other “illegal substances” during the production of the plants used to produce essential oils is worth considering because trace amounts of pesticides could get into essential oils even after the distillation or cold-press.
For essential oils, the “certified organic” label not only signals that the plants used were produced using natural and sustainable methods, but it is also a signal of the essential oil’s purity. When an essential oil is labeled organic, you can guarantee that no harmful substance was used during production, and therefore, there is no risk of such substances getting into your essential oil. You know that the essential oil is pure essential oil.
There is a notion that “organic” labels mean that the product is safe. This is not 100% true because, as the USDA explains, even natural and organic products can be unsafe, especially when not used correctly. Essential oils are a primary example of this. Essential oils are natural products and can be labeled as “organic,” as discussed, but they can still irritate the skin when applied directly and are not safe to be digested. Thus, the main importance of the “certified organic” label for essential oils is that it guarantees purity. Safety practices should still be followed.
Unfortunately, organic is a label that is often abused in marketing various products. Naturally, you would want to buy the best quality of organic essential oils available. How can you, a consumer, tell if an essential oil product is truly certified organic?
The best way to tell if an essential oil is organic by USDA standards is by testing its purity through Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). GC-MS is a test that detects the presence of substances that should not be in another substance. For essential oils, a GC-MS can tell you if it contains traces of pesticides or other substances.
Although the GC-MS is a good indicator of an essential oil’s purity, you will need a good grasp of chemistry to understand the lab results. Furthermore, the results may not always be available to the public.
As was discussed, the USDA organic seal can only be used on products that met the USDA’s organic standards. When you see this seal, it is guaranteed that the essential oil is organic.
A Statement About Purity
It is possible for essential oil products to not be 100% organic. If that is the case, the brand is required to state that, so look for that in the label.
Information About Where The Plants Were Grown
Providing information about where the plants were grown does not guarantee that the essential oil is organic, however, it does tell you about a brand’s dedication to transparency and high quality.
The “certified organic” label ascertains that you get high-quality essential oils that are free of potentially harmful substances and were cultivated using sustainable practices. So, start looking for the USDA’s “certified organic” label in your essential oils now!
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