From lavender and tea tree oil to eucalyptus, the essential oils market in the U.S. is expected to reach $7.3 billion by 2024, according to consulting firm Grand View Research. But how do you really know what’s inside those bottles?
WHAS11 Focus investigative reporter Paula Vasan sent three essential oils with three different prices to Flora Research Laboratories in Oregon for testing. We focused on one of the most popular types: lavender.
The oils were: a bottle of Artizen Lavender Essential Oil for $8.99, an Amazon’s Choice; a $26 bottle of Revive Lavender Essential Oil; $63.82 worth of Young Living Lavender Essential Oil.
“We use advanced analytical instrumentation to look at the composition of these oils,” says James Neal-Kababick, Flora Research Laboratories director. Based on the lab results, we discovered, despite the label, the lowest-cost oil wasn’t true lavender. Instead, Neal-Kababick says the lab results showed it was lavandin, a different plant with a less expensive oil. As for the two other, more expensive oils we tested: “Both met the profiles for authentic lavender,” Neal-Kababick says.
So based on these lab results, how could Artizen Oils say it’s one thing, but actually be another? Our emails and calls have gone unanswered. We also explained our findings to Amazon, asking how it’s an “Amazon’s Choice.” They told us: “…This product does not violate Amazon policies.” Neal-Kababick says “essentially the agency charged with helping to ensure consumers are protected can’t protect consumers.”
The agency he’s talking about is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In general, essential oils aren’t legally held to the same standard as pharmaceutical drugs, which means there’s no federally-mandated routine testing of them.
“That’s a big issue,” Neal-Kababick says.
If essential oils claim to cure disease, as a drug would, the FDA steps in. For example in 2014, the federal agency found distributors from Young Living were marketing products as cures for “cancer,” “viral infections,” and “heart disease.”
“It isn’t held accountable the way it should be,” attorney Alex Davis says.
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