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Essential Oil vs Fragrance Oil. What's the Difference?

My daughter is heading off to college soon so we've been getting things for her dorm room. When we walked into a local store touting items to get "campus ready" the first thing that greeted us was a display of essential oils and diffusers. Essential oils have become very popular here in California. But what I've discovered that some of my clients and friends are a bit confused about essential oils versus fragrance oils. And with lots of companies trying to grab their share of the market it's easy to purchase something that is not truly essential oil but a cheaper imitation.

Some think essential oils are simply for making things smell nice and don't realize the potent therapeutic benefits of the aromatic compounds in essential oils., while others attribute benefits to fragrance oils that don't apply. Additionally since essential oils are not regulated by the FDA some claims of 100% pure essential oil being in a bottle simply aren't true ( for example:

But take heart oil users there are reputable companies out there and oils that have therapeutic benefit -- just be a careful consumer. I'll talk more about finding reputable essential oil companies in another post.

Now the difference between essential oil and fragrance oil. Take lavender essential oil vs lavender fragrance oil for example. When you smell the oils they are very different. I personally prefer the scent of real lavender essential oil. It smells to me what lavender should smell like. My daughter actually likes the fragrance better. Essential oils come from plant parts -- seeds, roots, leaves, flowers, bark, resins, peels, and so forth.Lavender essential oil is distilled from lavender flowers. Lots of them. Lavender essential oil if intended for therapeutic purposes, should indicate that it is 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oil and include the scientific name on the bottle. In this case Lavendula angustafolia.

Fragrance oil on the other hand may indicate that it is 100% pure or even 100% natural but if it's tabled fragrance oil it is not the same as essential oil. It contains synthetic or natural fragrance compounds such as esters that may smell nice and can be used in perfumes or to scent candles, soaps, lotions, bath products, and such without offering the benefits of the aromatic compounds in essential oils. For example lavender contains linalool and linalyl acetate. These aromatic compounds are responsible for the calming and soothing characteristics of lavender as well as it's anti-microbial properties. These molecules are not present in fragrance oil. Fragrance oils are usually significantly cheaper that essential oils as well. Lavender fragrance oil may impart a stronger scent and be enjoyable and even evoke thoughts of tranquility and relaxation but the molecules that actually act on body and mind are not present.

So in short if you are looking for therapeutic benefits and aroma be sure that your bottle indicates 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oil and list the plants scientific name (that said be sure to purchase your oils from a reputable supplier such as Aromatics International or doTERRA, Stillpoint Aromatics for example, whose goal is to produce pure and potent quality assured oils. If you are looking for a less expensive way to add scent to a DIY product without therapeutic benefits you can use a fragrance oil.

Have questions about aromatherapy or essential oils? Contact Tricia. :)

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