Unlocking the Meaning Behind Marketing Terms Used to Sell Essential Oils

Ahh, labels. Many people don’t even read labels – but for those of us who do, certain names and phrases can leave us scratching our heads.

Therapeutic grade…Pure…Organic…Wildcrafted…For external use only…

What do they all mean? And how much weight do they carry?

Let’s find out…

Therapeutic Grade

In the world of essential oils, the term “therapeutic grade” is used to make you think an essential oil has some sort of special certification.

The fact is, it’s a generic term anyone can (and does) use. Some companies go so far as to use “therapeutic grade” in their trademark. This is a very clever marketing trick, as it makes you think they have official approval, but this is not the case.

Therapeutic is defined as, “of or pertaining to the treating or curing of disease,” or “to treat medically.” Another definition is “serving or performed to maintain health.”

All essential oils, by definition, are therapeutic grade!

When you see this term used, know it is an accurate assessment of the bottle in your hand – but it’s not very special.

Perhaps some day there will be a board of advisers who can give an official “certification” to oils meeting certain standards, but so far, there is none.


What does “pure” really mean? Because you can have “Pure Tea Tree Essential Oil” that is only 10% Tea Tree and 90% vegetable oil. Sadly, this is another marketing trick used, and they get away with it because there is no official certification.

It also may be true – the Tea Tree that is in the bottle could very well be pure.

Even if the product is 100% “pure,” the quality itself can be very poor. For example, when lavender is grown, the end product is considered “pure” even if soil conditions were bad, the temperature was not ideal, the lavender sat around for a long time before being distilled, the type of distillation, the storage conditions of the essential oil, and many more factors. You can have a “pure” end product that is very low quality.


Citrus essential oils are often extracted via cold pressing the rinds – the same rinds sprayed with pesticides as they are growing. To avoid these same pesticides from getting on your skin, and perhaps into your bloodstream, any cold-pressed essential oils are best purchased with organic certification – with the official green USDA Organic label.

Another option is to buy steam-distilled citrus essential oils, where the rinds are not involved in the extraction process. This has the added bonus of the essential oils not being phototoxic.

Diffusing into the air will provide a small amount of inhalation, so that is to be considered when deciding whether or not to purchase organic essential oils.

It’s probably not as important to purchase organic essential oils if you are using them for cleaning, as they generally won’t have contact with the skin.


Wildcrafted essential oils can be just as good quality, or better, than an organic essential oil. If a wildcrafted product is grown in its natural habitat, the therapeutic properties can be better than an organic one. Organic essential oils may be better “controlled,” technically, but therapeutic properties are likely to be more abundant in wildcrafted essential oils. You really have to know your source and check GC/MS reports to see the therapeutic properties for yourself.

Not For Internal Use

You may see “not for internal use” or “for external use only” on a bottle and think the company believes their essential oils to be inferior. This label is used by companies for liability reasons and not because the oil is not good. Companies using this label acknowledge the powerful concentration of essential oils and are just trying to protect their consumers from the negative consequences that can happen when used wrongly. Since internal use provides the highest percentage of essential oil constituents that reach the bloodstream, warning consumers not to use internally is the safest measure a company can take.

The ability to use essential oils internally is based solely on the essential oil itself, not the quality or the brand. You can have the highest quality Wintergreen in the world, and yet one tablespoon is enough to cause death when ingested.

Lea Jacobson is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist Scholar's Program graduate from Aromahead Institute. This website is home to educational advice and empowering information about using essential oils safely. The Using Essential Oils Safely facebook group founded and run by Lea and her team has over 140,000 members and hundreds of new members joining each week. Lea is the author of her bestseller Essential Oil Profiles (available as a full color print book as well as an ebook). Based off the information in the popular Top 60 Essential Oils APP, the print version has sold out in days each time it's been offered. Other books by Lea: The TRUTH About Essential Oil Safety, and the Hydrosols Quick Start Guide.

Lea is the creator of Safe Essential Oil Labels, designed to wrap around any size or brand bottle, as well as apps for essential oils and carriers, and hydrosols.

You can find FREE classes here: Free Essential Oil Classes, and sign up for the Using Essential Oils Safely BASICS course Lea teaches where you can earn your "Essential Oil Safety Advocate" title.

Lea is Professional level member of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and received her herbalist certification through The Herbal Academy of New England.

Businesses, groups, and individuals can hire Lea to consult on safety, product formulation, and more on her website Lea Jacobson CCA.



Leave a Reply