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Organic Essential Oils - Are They Better?

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The debate over organic vs. non-organic essential oils is heating up and not everyone is sold on the idea that organic is better.

Organic farming is the agricultural practice of growing food and other crops as naturally as possible without the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides and other harmful chemical compounds. Organic farmers do not use genetically modified seeds, use crop rotation and inter-cropping to manage the health of the soil, use insect-eating creatures to control pests and generally use non-invasive, non-harmful methods to grow their crops.

Organic food is the healthier and more environmentally friendly option according to both public perception and proponents of organic farming. Proponents further argue that synthetic pesticides are damaging the earth and the health of the people who eat the food it is grown with. Crop rotation and less intensive farming allow for the regeneration of the soil and fewer problems resulting from mono-cropping, the practice of planting the same crop in the same soil year after year.

Organic is not Better

Supporters of conventional farming methods make several arguments against the perception that organic is better. Many believe that the latest pesticides have the ability to target specific pests more accurately, and can play an important role in improving crop yields. Harmful moulds allowed to reproduce without control are feared to spread disease to humans. Others argue that organic farming cannot support people in developing countries because organic farming is less intense and more costly.

Organic Certification

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is the agency that oversees organic farming certification standards in the world. While they do not certify individual farms they maintain an organic farming standard, and an organic accreditation service. Currently 108 countries, out of approximately 195 in the world, are members.

Organic vs. Non-Organic Essential Oils

The organic versus non-organic debate with essential oils is slightly different than that with food because approximately 60% of plant material used to distill essential oils is grown in countries that do not have organic standards or certification. Some plants used for essential oil production are grown and harvested wild where presumably fewer chemicals reach them but of course there are no guarantees and there are no certification standards for wild-crafted crops. Many farmers farm organically but choose not to apply for certification for a variety of reasons.

Are They Still Organic?

Ensuring organic status throughout the production process is problematic and requires further investigation. At this time, testing of the end product is not required and is rarely done. Intentional and non-intentional contamination can occur at several points in the production process. Studies on Organic v. Non-Organic Essential Oils To date there are no studies indicating that organic essential oil is superior to non-organic essential oil. Further research is needed.

Choosing an essential oil, organic or non-organic, based on its quality is the most important factor in the deciding which essential oil one should use in an aromatherapy setting. Purchasing essential oils from a reputable supplier is key.

This article was first published at Suite 101 on August 12, 2009 and is republished here as per the terms of our agreement with Suite 101. Visit Suite 101 to read all of our articles.


*This is educational information and any opinions expressed here-in do not replace professional medical advice. If you are ill, see a suitably qualified medical practitioner.*

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