Find out what to look for in order to get the purest and most potent therapeutic quality essential oils for your horse.
Key point: Purity is vitally important so that you and your horse can repeatedly get the maximum benefits from essential oils without adverse reactions.
We have divided the article into a summary version (Pony Points) and an in-depth version for those wanting to dig deeper (The Draft Edition).
We want to get to know our readers. Be sure to scroll to the end of the article and leave us a comment! You may also find it helpful to read our article on what essential oils are and where they come from. Click here to read it.
- Essential oils are not regulated, and therefore labeling can be misleading. There may be a lot more or a lot less in the bottle than what you are being led to believe.
- 3 easy ways to determine the purity of an essential oil:
- Ingredients are listed on the bottle in their botanical format (please know the species you are looking for);
- Certain oils should have directions on how to take them internally, and/or have supplemental facts listed on the label. The bottle should also mention safety measures for topical use.
- The label needs to list an expiry date and batch number that you can search to see third party testing results. A company’s transparency reflects the quality of their product.
- The purity and quality of the essential oil will have a direct impact on your ability to have repeat results with your product.
- Essential oils produced with chemical alterations, other impurities and incorrect labeling can cause serious side effects when used in the place of a certified pure therapeutic grade essential oil.
- Purity is more than just the end product. It’s about the business practices and the people along the way who bring that product to you.
The Draft Edition
In truth, an essential oil labeled as "pure" may not necessarily be pure at all. Read on to find out what purity means in the essential oil world, why purity is so important for your horse (and you), and 3 easy ways you can help verify the purity of your essential oil.
Essential Oils and Horses
While purity is so important when it comes to human application, it actually becomes even more important when using essential oils on horses.
We cannot assume that we will know all the biologically individual details of each horse and how each will fully experience an essential oil.
When we use essential oils around our horses, we want to give them access to the purest possible essential oils. Synthetic additives, fillers, heavy metal contaminants or chemical residues found in lower quality essential oils can negatively affect how the essential oil will benefit your horse. Worse, these impurities can potentially create severe irritations and poor results.
The most common way to use essential oils is aromatically (inhaling the aroma). Many people might think that an essential oil does not need to be pure if it is "just" used aromatically. This is far from the truth.
It may seem safe to use a cheaper, poorer quality oil if you are only using it aromatically . However, we know that certain chemicals cause cancer, destroy brain cells, cause anxiety and even kill simply by inhaling them. Therefore aromatic does not mean safe when it comes to unknown chemical ingredients.
Horses have a far more sensitive sense of smell than people do. Their internal make up is similar to ours but also unique to their species.
The mental and emotional connection to aromatic compounds, including but not limited to essential oils, is stronger for a horse than a human.
Daniela experiences this many times when she is trail riding. Suddenly her horse Roxie will raise her head and flare her nostrils. This is always followed by a physical expression of her assessment of what she has smelled. She might start to fidget (bear!?) or whinny (another horse!) or relax again (just a squirrel fart). Clearly Roxie has just picked up an aromatic messenger that Daniela’s nose did not. Roxie’s brain has responded to the chemicals by either relaxing or increasing her alertness so she can respond appropriately to the information carried in the air.
When essential oils are used topically on people, we are able to express a reaction immediately. For example, we might experience itching, burning or other symptoms that can be caused by a chemical burn of an impure oil. A horse may not be able to express a reaction quickly enough for us to remove or dilute the offending impure oil before it damages the integrity of the skin.
Some horses may have sensitivities to even the purest of oils but possible side effects are greatly increased with impure oils.
Some veterinarians use essential oils in their practice. Some of these vets claim that most adverse reactions are attributed firstly to impure oils and secondly to incorrect usage. Pure quality oils are exceptionally safe for use in horses when used as directed.
In her book "The Animal Desk Reference II - Essential Oils for Animals", Melissa Shelton, DVM states: "In my research on how and if essential oils present a toxicity concern in animals, I find a few things to be quite consistent. In almost all reports of deaths or illness, the essential oil used is almost always of a questionable quality".
Extreme caution and knowledge of the purity and quality of an essential oil is of paramount importance if you want to use an oil internally. The oil(s) may have an impact on medications your horse may already be using and administering unknown substances (impure oils) is always a danger.
So not only must you know the purity and quality of the essential oil, you must know and work with your veterinarian regarding your horse’s specific needs.
Let's find out what purity is, why it's important and how to really tell whether an essential oil is actually pure.
What is a pure essential oil?
Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts of volatile aromatic compounds sourced from various parts of certain plants.
In fact they are the most potent form of a plant product -- that is why essential oils are generally 50-70% more potent than an herbal equivalent.
Pure therapeutic essential oils come from specific species of plants ideally grown in their native environment, without herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals. They plants are grown in soil that is free of heavy metals and other contaminants. Through steam distillation, cold pressing or another delicate process used to extract the essential oil from the plant, the aromatic chemical components are extracted intact and carefully bottled. Nothing else is added and nothing is altered.
A true pure essential oil has no fillers, additives or synthetic compounds.
Why is purity so important?
When we want to use essential oils for therapeutic purposes -- to assist healing, to balance and to restore our horses to homeostasis -- we need to have access to absolutely pure and potent essential oils, sourced directly from nature and left exactly as nature intended.
All animal cells (human and horses included) will interact with an essential oil in a different way depending if its chemical structure has been altered by additives or if it is a pure oil as found in nature.
Today's scientific advances have made it possible for chemists to duplicate some chemical components of an essential oil, but not all components. Not every component that nature produces has been discovered or duplicated yet. And a lab-produced oil will not react in the same way a natural oil will.
If you are going to invest in essential oils to support your horse's health, you will want the essential oils to work as promised or intended.
Purity is one aspect that will help you ensure that you are getting the results you are looking for.
What does the label "pure" really mean?
Sadly there are a lot of subpar quality products and misleading marketing campaigns out there. This especially becomes a problem when an industry is poorly regulated, which is the case when it comes to essential oils.
Buying an essential oil labeled as "pure" can mean little more than that there is some amount of essential oil in it. It does not mean that the product has no fillers added to it. It does not mean that the essential oils has no synthetic compounds added to it. It does not mean that the essential oil contains only that particular essential oil.
Since regulations and industry standards of essential oils are currently limited, it is up to the consumer to verify the claims of the companies they buy from. When evaluating an essential oil, it helps to know what to look for on the label and what questions to ask the supplier.
3 ways to help you find out if an essential oil is pure
A company’s transparency reflects the quality/purity of their product. They should be easy to contact and you should be able to access quality/purity information about your specific product quickly and easily. To assist in finding pure essential oils, consumers can look for as much of the following as possible, on the product label or the company’s website:
- Ingredients are listed on the bottle in their botanical format (know the species you need)
- Certain oils should have directions on how to take it internally and/or supplemental facts listed on the label. Also safety measures for topical use should be mentioned
- An expiry date and batch number should be listed on the label, which you can search to see the results of comprehensive third party testing results.
The best companies will invest in testing of their products to make sure that at no point, between the growth of the plant to you holding the bottle of essential oil in your hand, any contamination has occurred.
Testing for purity
While essential oil suppliers can and should do extensive in-house testing at multiple stages during the distillation, bottling and distribution process, the ultimate gauge of purity is performed by an independent third party laboratory. Some of the tests performed to verify purity and potency are:
- Organoleptic testing
- Microbial testing
- Mass spectrometry
- Gas chromatography
- Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)
- Chirality testing
- Heavy metal testing
- Isotopic analysis
The most transparent suppliers will allow you to check your essential oil's testing results independently (i.e. through their website or a third party website).
Be wary of verbal confirmation that an oil is pure. As mentioned earlier, with the essential oil industry being poorly regulated at this point, pure can mean many things.
What you are looking for in terms of purity is a statement along the lines of "The analysis of [this particular oil] revealed no contaminants or adulteration. The sample meets the expected chemical profile for authentic, essential oils of [species name of the essential oil]".
This statement should come from a third party laboratory and be accompanied with actual test results along with the batch number and date of bottling.
Purity is a cornerstone for an effective, safe, therapeutic grade essential oil.
The more research you do as a consumer and the more questions you ask, the more confident you will be in having made the right choice.
The ultimate goal is to have the best possible essential oil to support your horse as well as your family's health and well-being.
The Pursuit of Purity
It is one of the major reasons why we partner with dōTERRA for sourcing the products we want in our barns and homes.
Ethical business practices are the future. Gone are the days of ignoring how a product makes it into your hands or only looking at the price tag as a way of choosing.
Now we know that we can make positive changes in lives of people we will never meet by using our buying power. We can partner with companies that align with our personal beliefs.
dōTERRA is one of those rare and beautiful companies that gives back in as many ways as they can. The mission statement of “Purse what’s Pure” is etched in all that they do.
Here is a short (less than 3 minutes) video showcasing their core value of purity.
We hope you have enjoyed learning more about essential oil purity and how important it is to use only certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils for our horses.
Do you have any questions of concerns about using essential oils on your horse?
Do you have a favourite essential oil that your horse loves?
Leave a comment below and let's start a great conversation!
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Amanda and Daniela
Oils for Horses
- The Animal Desk Reference II Essential Oils for Animals by Melissa Shelton, DVM (Melissa Shelton, September 2018)
- The Essential Life 5th Edition, Total Wellness Publishing (copyright 2018)