Mistake #1: Irradiation

Did you know that depending on where the raw plant materials are imported from to the United States distillers, they require irradiation? I found this article at Mercola's site to be a good summary of why this process is so bad for destroying much of the herbal intelligence of the plant.

At the Online Raw Food COOP I run I always make sure that nothing is irradiated and this can sometimes be complicated. Most people don't know that 98% of the Raw Almonds they purchase in and around the country has been irradiated!

Just like Microwaving destroys nutrients it also alters them and the body simply can't recognize the signaling molecules and other constituents and so while somebody thinks they are getting a high grade therapeutic oil, it really has little effect on cellular communication. 

Mistake #2: Oils Exposed to Hot or Cold during Shipping

Two popular times of the year for the Essential Oil market are during the Summer time and also Winter months. Of course we all know that many parts of the country and other countries beyond the U.S. can experience extremes of temperature. The most important guideline is to have the essential oils be as fresh a batch as possible AND make it into a person's hands as fast as possible. 

I noticed that the highest quality imported oils (running up to $99 per bottle) would always ship to me within two days from Europe. I also ordered from companies overseas that were on the lower end of price and quality and it would take the typical amount of time a week to two weeks or longer. 

Oils are a refined product and so are not protected by the cellular structure of the plant..and are now exposed to the elements. This is the reason they are in cobalt or amber colored bottles, but unfortunately what is often ignored is that many oils are temperature sensitive. 

Sitting around in storage facilities that are not climate controlled
Some distillers produce large volume which is then sold to various oil companies and because it is impossible to keep a tight supply demand flow many oils end up stocking up in their warehouses. In my investigation of many facilities over the years it was the norm for these buildings to have no AC and no heating. In the holding areas (the areas the oils would be moved to just before being shipped out that day) there was of course climate control because workers were there all day long. 

So this really is a problem except for the few facilities that are in relatively mild climates like southern California for example. They don't have to worry about freezing and in the Summertime they have huge fans that keep air moving and things are pretty stabilized then. Of course California has a lot of Irradiation laws...but that's another story. 

So where do the oils go after sitting around at the manufacturing plants? They ship off to the companies that will be re-branding them and ultimately sending them to their distributors. So here we have lots and lots more opportunities to destabilize some of these oils. Look some of these oils are in fact very stable and can even be used as a preserving agent for other organic products, but some are not that stable and its not just that these products sit around in the cold or heat the whole time they go through several temperature changes up and down and up and down. 

1. On the shipping trucks 
2. At the oil company's storage facility
3. On the shipping trucks again to the Distributors
4. At the order fulfillment centers 
5. On the shipping trucks/mailing trucks

Even some of the best companies who are sticklers about keeping their oils pristine along the journey can't always monitor and control the whole supply chain. Ultimately there are stages when it is literally out of their hands and they have to rely on a third party service or they have no legal rights after the product is sold. I suppose it is theoretical to control everything but then the customer would be paying 5-10 times as much for a bottle of oil and no one would purchase it. 

Retail price is always about what the market will bare and consumers just want their oils to be competitively priced with the other brands they are reviewing. This is unfortunate because its the customers that could actually demand better quality control throughout every stage. 

So what can the customer do to try to reduce potential oil quality decline of what they purchased?

The most important thing is to specifically request the latest batch from the company and have them ship it over night or within 2-3 days. 1-2 days in hot summer months and make sure that someone knows when that oil is arrive and picks it up immediately as its dropped off. I don't want my oils sitting around in my mail box or on the front step baking all day long after it's been baking on the truck, at the post office, and on and on.

Get to know which companies use climate controlled storage or warehouses

This adds a lot of business overhead expense so in general only highly profitable Essential Oil companies can do this. The exception is very high grade oil companies that are much smaller but because they are charging a premium for their oils and they believe theirs are the best then they spend the money on keeping and maintain that quality standard in any way they can. 

If importing or purchasing oils from overseas make this special shipping request

I know that most oil companies overseas just put their product in the standard Air Mail and believe that whatever happens next is out of their control and in a way this is partially true. I have found that if a package labeled as containing food, medicine, vitamins, herbs, spices, etc. it will always be irradiated upon arrival. I have been able to make special mailing requests to some companies asking them to put the package in a box that is not labeled that way thereby avoiding irradiation. 

There are also third party PO box rerouting services in Europe where I can have the Oil company mail my product to this service then I can have that service put the package in another package without the standard labels again avoiding irradiation upon importation. 

I was able to use this for example to get some very high grade oils from Turkey which I had shipped to a PO Box reroute service in England and then over to me. My service I just told them it was a surprise gift and so wanted the label that described the packages contents to say shot glasses, magnets, and other merchandise. 

Mistake #3: The Case of the Frozen Oil!

This is definitely NOT kool mon. Ok bad joke. But seriously, freezing certain organic products can cause a type of chemical change to occur, especially whenever the product is high in water content...like oils. 

I remember when I was a kid and on some occasions I couldn't finish my ice cream and wanted to save it for later so I put it in the freezer. I was sad to find the next day that the texture was totally off and as it warmed up it definitely tasted differently than the day before. 

The other example was making frozen chocolate bananas. Or when I thought that hey I'm a genius I just discovered how to extend the life of bananas! Put them in the freezer and never see brown spots again. Once again I was wrong. It was all mushy and tasted gross. 

Freezing can damage enzymes and also cause certain compounds to fall out of suspension. Constituents held in a liquid or oil are held in suspension partially because of ionic charge. This can be disturbed by freezing and so when the compound warms back up it never returns to it's original state. I remember as a weee laddie in grade school science class learning about chemical changes and matter that changes state. Gas to liquid to freezing solid etc. While I'm on the subject I learned this the hard way with my colloidal silver I was making in large quantities to be sold. I thought I could freeze it and that would preserve the potency but in fact it was causing all the metal particulate to fall out of suspension rendering it non-therapeutic. 
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