With so much mystery, hype, and misinformation in the essential oil realm I figured I'd go straight to the best essential oils experts I know and ask them to help clear up this ever murky pond of essential oils business. How essential oils are processed is THE factor that indicates purity and is the factor we should always look for when purchasing essential oils...from any company. The experts at Uma Oils explain to us below how oils can be processed and which ways ensure the highest purity.
While, I don't promote one brand of oils over another I always encourage you all to buy certified organic oils, if within your budget. As well as being aware of the extreme hype among certain brands that in reality aren't much different from other lesser known brands.
So without further ado, here's the team over a Uma Oils, the creators behind my favorite essential oil rich Ayurvedic skincare products. It's safe to say they are experts in the essential oil industry: growing, processing, bottling, and handling every aspect of the organic essential oils found in their skincare (read about three of my favorite Uma products here).
Author: Uma Oil's Team
It’s time to acknowledge the truth: not all essential oils are created equal.
It’s one thing to put “pure and organic” on a label and another thing entirely to stand behind it. Think about it this way. You wouldn’t pay the same price for a bottle of Dom Pérignon if you found out it was diluted, right? At UMA we’ve been striving for centuries to create only the highest quality blends – and we want you to know exactly how we ensure that. We’re about to get a little technical, but bear with us. We think it’s important, that you, the customer, know exactly where your essential oils are coming from. Here’s the rundown on our pure organic essential oils production – and why we do it our way, which is rarely the easy way.
What’s the story behind essential oils?
These potent ingredients have an equally rich history – and you don’t have to be an oil snob like us to recognize it. Ancient Egyptians were among the first to use essential oils in medical practices, religious ceremonies, spiritual enhancement and, of course, embalming. When tombs are uncovered today, traces of Cedarwood and Myrrh are common discoveries. There are over 150 references to essential oils in the Bible– including the well known story from the New Testament about the baby Jesus receiving Frankincense and Myrrh at his birth from free wise men.
The obsession didn’t stop in ancient times! The reintroduction of essential oils into modern medicine first began during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since that time, essential oils have been used to kill harmful germs, and to balance mood, lift spirits, and dispel negative emotions. And of course, for skincare and hair care! At the Uma Estate, we use centuries of ancient wisdom about essential oils in order to create highly effective, pure blends that are perfectly suited for the modern day.
What plants do we derive our oils from?
If you’ve ever checked out our ingredients page, you’ll see we create oils from saffron (yes, it comes from that uber-expensive spice you love!) to rose. Berries, seeds, bark, rhizome, leaves, flowers and fruit peels are all potential sources for essential oils. The storied frankincense and myrrh? They are extracted from resin. Producing such a variety of essential oils means managing many types of unique crops – and some are pretty high maintenance. One of our founder’s favorite oils – the extremely precious sandalwood – is derived from the wood of a tree that takes over 15 years to mature! This is why you won’t find many companies like ours – our growing, harvesting and production of all these crops is completely vertically integrated.
How do we extract the essential oils?
Very few companies have our standards of purity when it comes to essential oils production – and consumers are often none the wiser. There are several highly complex methods for extracting essential oils – and more sophisticated methods come with a higher price tag. At UMA we’ve never been willing to compromise on results and purity (as well as sustainability – we recycle all our waste and leftover water from production). Does it make a difference? We certainly think so, just read what we do every step of the way.
Distillation: We use this method at the UMA estate because it gently, yet effectively, creates quality oils. Here’s how it works: water is heated to produce steam and the steam softens/ruptures plant cells, and carries volatile compounds. The steam flows through a condenser, cools and changes back to liquid. Finally, the material collected at the surface is the essential oil. If this process sounds complex, it is! The process is ultra-sensitive, where time, temperature and pressure must be constantly monitored. But thankfully we love giving our oils a little extra TLC to ensure our customers have the best possible product!
Expression/Cold Pressed: This is the method used produce most citrus oils, like orange or lemon, which is why it uses no heat (this protects the natural structure of the citrus fruit). Basically, a lot of pressure is applied to the peel to break open oil glands under surface. Citrus peels contain lots of oil which means they are more easily extracted, making them less expensive than other essential oils. While we love the benefits of oils like orange, you’ll notice our products are bursting with other, more precious, ingredients like rose to give our customers the best possible results.
This method has been modernized somewhat and evolved to processes like “ecuelle a piquer.” Pretty name, right? During this process, the rind of the fruit is placed in a spiked, rotating container which gently pokes the rind, releasing the essential oil into a small container. Modern expression techniques like this are a little less labor intensive and are often accomplished using a centrifuge machine.
Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE): This method is similar to a type of solvent extraction, but it is completely nontoxic and odorless. The product produced is solvent free, the solvent is recyclable and SFEs can penetrate and extract from micro-porous substrates because of their gas-like diffusion properties. Talk about sustainable production!
Other Methods (That We Avoid!)
Solvent Extraction: This relatively inexpensive method is typically used for oils like jasmine or tuberose, because their chemical composition makes it difficult to use other means. An organic solvent like hexane or methanol is used to wash the plant material, eventually separating out the oil from the other, solid stuff. While the alcohol solvent usually evaporates, traces of it can often be found in the products. We like to avoid this method – purity is our middle name!
Enfleurage: This old school process was much beloved by the Ancient Egyptians – but you’ll be hard pressed (we promise that wasn’t a pun on the expression method extracting oils) to find this method used today. The process goes like this: glass trays are covered in an animal or plant fat and the flowers are placed on the trays and left for days or weeks. The fat absorbs the essential oil from the flowers, then the flowers are removed and the fat is solubilized with alcohol. After the alcohol evaporates, voila! you have essential oil. This has fallen out of favor because fats do not extract the oils as well as an alcohol solvent – leaving you this weaker results. Although we incorporate many traditions in the creation of our essential oils – this is not one of them, we want our customers to get only the purest essential oils.
Hopefully, by reading this, you’ve learned that we put a lot of hard work, patience and research intoevery ingredient that goes into every bottle. Purity, quality and organic aren’t just words to us – they’re the way we do business. We know that by setting these standards – and living up to them – our customers are getting the best possible product with no strings attached.
Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary or other types of compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. However, I always give my honest opinion and findings of the products and would not recommend anything that I do not use for myself or family. All of the products recommended will adhere to the Standards of Clean, listed here.