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Why should you look for EC AFNOR Standard?

AFNOR is an acronym for a French testing laboratory that sets standards for essential oils in Europe under the organizational name of International Standards Organization (ISO). Dr. Herve Casabianca heads the ISO Essential Oil Standards Committee and is also Director of the AFNOR Laboratory. Translated loosely, AFNOR stands for Association of French Normalization Organization Regulation.

Whenever you seen an oil with the designation EC AFNOR on its label, samples of that oil have been sent to France for testing to see if it measures up to the European standards for therapeutic grade oil. In order to satisfy such a grade, the oil has to meet a certain chemical profile as determined by a gas chromatograph.

For example, most lavender oils are fragrance grade and may be a high quality, grade A oil for that purpose, but not necessarily therapeutic. To be therapeutic, there must be no traces of pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals. It must be extracted by steam distillation and not by solvents. It must contain 25-38% linalool and 25-24% linalyl acetate and less than .05% camphor. There are levels for a dozen other components as well. If oil does not fit the profile, then it is not therapeutic. The ISO committee in Europe has set therapeutic profiles for each oil. True therapeutic grade oils must contain no synthetic ingredients nor can it be diluted. It must be exactly as it was harvested and distilled without any further tampering with the chemistry.

The AFNOR-ISO standard is the only standard in the world that specifically sets a measure for an essential oil to be "therapeutic." There are other standards. For example, USP Grade A is basically a food or fragrance grade. USP means United States Pharmacopoeia, which is a set of profiles that oils must meet and which can be met by artificially manipulating the oil by adding synthetic components or refining the oil to remove certain components. Hence, a USP grade oil is, by definition, not therapeutic inasmuch as it has been manipulated to meet a consistent standard for fragrance or flavor. This is okay for oils used in foods, cosmetics, shampoos, deodorants, etc., but not okay for therapeutic usage.

Sometimes you will see a term, "aromatherapy grade" on oil. According to Shirley and Len Price in their book, Aromatherapy for Professionals, the term applies to a massage oil that usually contains no more than 2% essential oil in a carrier oil base. Hence, aromatherapy grade oils are, by definition, diluted, and are not therapeutic.

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