Certified Organic vs Non-Certified Oils
Organic vs non-organic. It’s a hot topic today, and it definitely deserves some special attention when it meets the essential oil discussion.
"Is there that much of a difference between oils that are certified USDA organic and those that aren't?"
"Does an oil have to be certified organic to have effective benefits?"
These are just a few of the questions floating in the discussion, so we decided to put together a little Q & A session to help explain what this debate is all about and where Verdant Oils fits in that discussion. Let’s get started!
What’s the difference between organic and non-organic essential oils?
An essential oil that is USDA Organic certified comes from a plant that is produced according to the USDA's standards and approved methods.
Here's a few basics on what that looks like...
These standards prohibit growing methods like certain synthetic fertilizers and genetic engineering and "integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity," (USDA Organic). In addition, they also have a list of biological, botanical or synthetic substances that growers ARE allowed to use.
For an essential oil distributor to get certified USDA organic, they must pay certain fees and and go through specified procedures to get their certification and keep it up to date. To give you an idea, in 2010, the average cost for the desk audit (documentation adequacy review) was $4,428 for an organization to get USDA certified. This is why organic oils usually cost more.
Are organic EOs better than non-organic EOs?
Not always - in some cases they can be the same quality and purity.
With organic certified you get that label guaranteeing the oil meets the USDA Organic standards. But some non-organic EOs are just as pure, unadulterated and safe to use as their certified counterparts. Take wildcrafted oils for instance. These oils come from plants that are grown in their natural habitat without any help or hindrance from man. He just watched it grow and picked it! Be sure to check out our wildcrafted blog to learn more about these types of oils ;)
One of the main reason we look for organic certified EOs is to avoid the possibility of nasty pesticides and chemicals getting in our oil. And while a certified organic oil has standards set in place to prohibit or limit and monitor the use of pesticides on the plants, there is still a chance for trace amounts of the pesticide to end up in the oil, particularly citrus oils.
Dr. Peschke, head of Weleda Quality Management in the Fragrance Competence Center, pointed out that finding pesticide remnants, even in certified organic oils, is even more likely if the substances are administered during cultivation of the plant material. Contamination can even occur by a gust of wind or water runoff from a neighboring field that does use these chemicals (Peschke).
Some oils that tend to have a higher risk of pesticide remnants are the citrus oils. Oils like Orange, Lemon and Bergamot are cold-pressed from the peel of the fruit instead of steam distilled from the leaves or flowers. This means that instead of the essential oil separating from the plant material naturally during the steam distillation process, cold-pressed essential oils are squeezed from the fruit peel, making it easier for other compounds on or in the peel to be extracted with the essential oil.
The European Research Institute on Natural Ingredients (ERINI) did a study on organic and conventional (non-certified organic) orange essential oils from 11 different origins. Trace amounts of pesticides were found in both types of orange EO although the organic oils had decidedly smaller amounts.
So a certified organic oil will definitely have fewer pesticides, but it also tends to be pretty pricey because of all the certifications and fees involved in the process. Non-organic certified oils, particularly wildcrafted oils, can be just as good and are often more affordable… which begs the question of which are the good ones?? The most sure-fire way to tell if you have a pure, true-to-its-roots EO is to take a peek at its chemical makeup. Which is where Q.3 comes into play…
What is a GCMS report?
To start with, it stands for Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry. Chemistry and science gurus get excited… cause this report reveals each and every chemical component in that particular essential oil. Chemical compounds natural to the oil and any that were added will show up in the report. Think of it as an oil's pedigree...
GCMS reports are used to identify oils and determine whether an oil has been adulterated - either with synthetic copies of compounds found naturally in the oil, or with similar but cheaper oils. We'll be doing a post soon about how to read and what to look for in these reports when searching for quality essential oils.
Are Verdant Oils organic?
Currently, Verdant oils is not certified organic. As we mentioned earlier, it can cost quite a bit and take a lot of time to get certified and work through the USDA's procedures and protocols. Though some of our oils are organically grown, we can’t label them as organic without being certified ourselves.
But that doesn't mean we don't value purity and high quality! Each batch of our oils has its own GCMS report to prove its quality.
So when it comes to certified organic or non-certified, we encourage you to do your research on your oils and make the decision for yourself. It ultimately boils down to finding a company and essential oil source you trust. We want to work with you and earn your trust - so please feel free to ask us any questions and get to know us! We want to share our passion and our knowledge about EOs to help you build a healthy lifestyle YOUR way with confidence!
Did we miss any questions? Ask our certified aromatherapists at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d love to answer any of your questions!