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Essential Oil Safety: Chemist Reports Adulterated EOs Sold as Pure at Walmart

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Lee Tea is an investigative journalist with a focus on essential oil consumer advocacy.

Gurunanda's Pure EO and Diffuser Kit

The company promotes its kit on social media as exclusively available at WalMart.  The essential oils in the kit, labeled "100% pure", have been found to contain synthetic ingredients.

The company promotes its kit on social media as exclusively available at WalMart. The essential oils in the kit, labeled "100% pure", have been found to contain synthetic ingredients.

On November 6, 2015, WalMart recently began offering the "Gurunanda 100% Pure Essential Oils with Diffuser" package at stores nationwide.

Social media promotions by Gurunanda, distributor of natural products for a healthy lifestyle, explain that this product is only available at WalMart stores through the holidays.

The combination kit comes with an electric diffuser plus two 1/2 oz bottles labeled "100% pure essential oils;" one lavender, one peppermint. The kit retails for $19.99.

The kit advertised by Gurunanda's social media matches the kit tested by Dr. Pappas, which bears the Gurunanda logo and name. The first oil tested is referred to as "Lavender Walmart" in the analysis.

The kit advertised by Gurunanda's social media matches the kit tested by Dr. Pappas, which bears the Gurunanda logo and name. The first oil tested is referred to as "Lavender Walmart" in the analysis.

How Low Can You Go?

That price raised eyebrows for professionals in the essential oil industry, who began to take a closer look at what the kit contained. This week, chemist Dr. Robert Pappas of Essential Oil University says he decided to test the kit's lavender oil using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS), a method of chemical analysis that identifies different substances in a test sample including the constituents of essential oils. His published findings are noted in the following chromatogram photo:

Pure samples of essential oils can be expected to have constituent levels that fall within a certain range.  Dr. Pappas explains how unusual levels he documents in this sample prove it is not 100% pure as advertised.

Pure samples of essential oils can be expected to have constituent levels that fall within a certain range. Dr. Pappas explains how unusual levels he documents in this sample prove it is not 100% pure as advertised.

Explanation Included in Chromatogram Comments

Dr. Pappas comments:

The chemical profile is not consistent with that of true lavender essential oil. The presence of large amounts of 1, 8-cineole, camphor and borneol are indicative of a lavandin base oil being used. Several indicators for adulteration with synthetic aroma chemicals were found including dihydro-linalyl acetate which does not occur in nature and is an indisputable marker for synthetic linalyl acetate addition.

Adulterated and diluted essential oils sold as "100% pure" are a growing concern for consumers who seek out pure quality oils for an array of health benefits not offered by synthetic mimics, fragrance oils, and air fresheners used to simply scent a room. The cost of pure essential oils and extraction ratios from some plants at pounds per ounce often contribute to hidden adulterations and dilutions throughout the industry's chain of distribution.

Dr. Pappas has stated he will test the other oil in the kit, peppermint, within the week.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Lee Tea (author) from Erie, PA on April 29, 2016:

Well then Joy you're gonna love my other EO articles...

"Why are All the Articles that Suggest Ingesting Essential Oils is Safe Written by YL Sales Reps" was my first one, I wrote it because I felt it was an issue that needed addressed head on. It has spawned about 8 more EO articles since, 2 FB communities, 2 websites with a 3rd in the works, a campaign to clean up risky use info online with the FDA, and it recently rolled over to 100k views in March on the 2nd anniversary of its publication. What a ride.

But for you... I'd start with 'Bentonite Clay'. I'm Communication Arts and Rhetoric philosopher (so I could match your credentials with 'I'm a communications philosopher and folk herbalist'... and I'd be we'd get along just fine...) Anyways, the second half of that articles is probably the best display of how mentally manipulative marketing - even and especially direct sales - actually is. It literally rips apart the 5 step impulse sales pitch as its happening and reveals not only why the reps say what they say, but why they believe it to be true (and answers that, yes, the sales reps do believe their information to be true. Some pieces of this puzzle you really do need handed to you to move on...could get stuck on ones like that forever.)

I'd never ask you to trust me on anything, I prefer directing seekers to credible resource methodology, but I was "livin the dream" myself in an aggressive mlm (not an EO one) probably one marketing generation prior to what we see now, I already HAD my Comm Arts degree, and I STILL fell for it. Back then they taught you everything up front, so you could teach it one quick to the new recruits, rapid fire. I see they've changed they're style and don't teach the reps all the tricks on day one... smart(er not harder... man it's been over 10 years and some of them are STILL there! Old habits die hard I guess. Especially the subliminally implanted ones...). You do that you might find one who'll use em against you...

So Bentonite Clay shows the brainwash. I have another article that simply teaches the 5 step sales pitch if you're interested in the mechanics... "How to Write a Sales Script..."

It's nice to meet you Joy, I appreciate your interest and enthusiasm, even if its facepalm frustration. This has been a long and tired fight for me. After Bentonite Clay YL pretty much left me alone, but shortly thereafter I must've pissed off the other one because I caught some bad opposition and cruel and unfounded criticism. Since then my computer has suffered from a total system takeover - you wouldn't believe what this machine does now, and it doesn't matter what I do it always comes back stronger than ever. I have wiped the data, killed the disks, destroyed the inner framework and it always comes back - some kind of boot kit that no anti-virus/spyware/malware can find. So I've been working on that instead of research, because my searches are all redirects and garbage and I CAN'T research on my machine anymore. When I apply security it begins to lock me out of my files. I think I almost figure it out every day and then - nope. 3 months of that - it's prevented me from tending to my online endeavors and has basically killed my livelihood - this month I couldn't even swing the bills. So really long story short, you caught me at a great time, because today I took a break to finally check messages and enjoy some online time for a change, wrote an article I'll be publishing to the website this evening, and made my rounds here at HP for the first time in over a month.

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Find us on fb, and keep in touch. It's always wonderful to find another who's knows what you know too. When it happens for me I get a mental image of the bee girl from the blind melon video dancing with all other weirdo bees at the end... and I hadn't thought about that in years until just now. Thanks Joy.

"We want you to be happy, cuz this is your song too..."

Joy on April 24, 2016:

I absolutely love your response to the YL representative that indeed was trying to use this platform to promote YL oils. I also do not support this company. Not because the oils are not quality products, but because of the sales tactics and the way they attempt to invalidate any other oil company.

I am happy to have read this and now know I am not alone with my thoughts regarding YL. I am a social psychology and chemistry major. I am annoyed with the tactics they use as well as the reality that the representatives are often unfortunately biased, undereducated in the area, and misinformed.

Lee Tea (author) from Erie, PA on November 25, 2015:

Hi Jennifer,

I had really hoped to be able to supply an answer to this question by now, as it's one a lot of our online audience has been asking.

I have been in contact with the company via email and have requested answers to the following questions 3 times, the latest and final request being sent on November 20th:

- Regardless of the oil analysis, consumers are still interested in purchasing your kit for the diffuser. What can you say about the material, and specifically the plastic, your diffusers are made from?

- Can your diffuser be used with other brands of essential oils?

- Are there any essential oils your diffuser cannot be used with? Why?

- Do you have any comment to explain the impurities found in the GC/MS analysis that was performed by Essential Oil University and recently shared on social media?

*follow up: Is this an issue of deception by your supplier? Would you like to mention your supplier so that others may be aware of this issue?

- Since the analysis shows your oils are not 100% pure essential oils as advertised on your packaging, will you be correcting your product or packaging to accurately reflect the product available for purchase?

Though the company has responded timely to each of my emails except the final one, they have not supplied me with an answer to any of the above questions. I have left the door open for now. If they happen to answer any or all of our questions. supply information relevant to the content of this article, or if I am able to verify relevant and credible additional information, I will post an update.

Thanks for writing.

Jennifer on November 25, 2015:

Regardless of the question of the oil's purity, is the company's diffuser a good choice for a cheap price?

Lee Tea (author) from Erie, PA on November 25, 2015:

Hello Christina, nice to meet you.

In an effort to prevent a swarm of sales reps posting comments similar to the one above, I've decided to let yours slip through and address it.

As a sales and marketing specialist for 15 years, I understand the information reported in my article creates a unique opportunity to promote the essential oils you sell as superior quality.

As an independent investigative journalist with a public service focus on essential oil consumer advocacy, you'll be happy to hear I have yet to find any evidence that your company's oils are not the quality you claim them to be. I recommend those who have YL oils use them up!

But, along with that recommendation comes the advice to use them wisely. With a product plug such as yours here I'm prompted to make my audience aware yet again that while your oils may be quality, your sales strategy is not. I have previously reported on your unsafe and over use recommendations and often address the rhetoric used to convince consumers otherwise. I also discuss how the same communication elements employed to convince people that undiluted oil use, essential oil ingestion, and application to children, babies, and pets is perfectly safe without the risk of side effects are also used to convince sales reps that this job of selling them in an mlm format is worth your time, money, and reputation. That is all information you can find addressed in my six other articles on the topic of essential oil safety which are linked at the bottom of this article for easy access.

To your personal credit, I never blame the reps themselves for falling prey to the manipulative tactics of a marketing company. Marketing is, after all, the game of irresistible packaging. In the weird combination of life experience that has brought me to where I am today, I have experience training sales reps in the business of direct sales, multi-level, event promotion, and impulse marketing. So I know that neither you nor most of those above you understand the theories of subliminal communication rhetoric or how to identify them in everyday conversation, though I will say nothing makes me facepalm behind this keyboard more than token catch phrases like "get excited", "livin' the dream", and "do your research."

I started to "do my research" on herbal products and their capabilities almost immediately after acquiring my journalism bachelor's in communications and media studies in 2003. I wanted to learn the scientific reasons behind the healing powers of plants, and had just graduated with the skills to not only reference a single book or publisher, but to actually do academic level research - cross referencing information over multiple independent sources - to learn herbalism and all its byproducts (including infusions, decoctions, poultices, tinctures, oils and vinegars, extracts, aromatics, cultivation, wildharvesting, cooking and essential oils) that can be used to support personal well-being beginning at its (um...) roots. Pair that with a successful career that now spans a decade and half in direct sales and you'll find I was sitting in my place pretty lonely until one day an essential oil sales representative crossed my path and told me to "do my research". I haven't stopped since.

Two years ago I published my first article on essential oil safety and soon after formed an online community to discuss the safer and effective uses of essential oils. That group has grown to nearly 2500 responsible users of EOs from an uncensored conglomeration of professionals, disciplines, and all walks of life concerned with the risky use information companies like yours choose to use manipulative sales tactics to promote. We offer information for the individual consumer who, unlike myself, may have not had 12 years to look into the issue, and we are well known for standing up for people over profits, everytime.

I am pleased to see that your massive community has finally found a use for the information I provide. I do hope though that this lengthy post persuades other reps to think twice before using my stage as a platform to promote a company I do not support... and maybe to take a week off from work, look around at your bank account, your strained relations with family and friends, and your ridiculous collection of essential oils to reevaluate if lining the pockets of millionaires is really worth the actual cost of a peaceful livelihood and true well being.

They're always welcome to try, though. Thanks for writing.

Christina Petker on November 25, 2015:

Just go with Young Living. Do your research and you'll see that they are the purest you can get. Check out their seed to seal promise at YL is the only company that owns their own farms and distilleries to create the highest quality and maintain the integrity of the medicinal benefits to each oil.

Jessica Zimmerman on November 13, 2015:

I am looking for an upgrade to my air freshener to keep my apartment clean and relaxed. Since you are suggesting Lavandin is also an essential oil, I would probably go buy one. Affordable and great. Thanks for the information; I guess you get what you pay for and at least I know what I am getting into.

Maria Cruz on November 12, 2015:

May you suggest a method to determine the purity of the oil as I can't go and test every brand and bottle since being busy with the little ones. Is there another company that has lavender oil available that you have tested that's in the same price range as I currently don't make enough to shop at Neiman Marcus.

Lee Tea (author) from Erie, PA on November 11, 2015:

I provide the information you need as a consumer to make the most well-informed decisions regarding your own health and wellness. This article reports that if you were seeking the benefits of 100% pure essential oils from this kit you may not be using what you thought you had purchased.

Further research shows the adulterants noted in the chemist's comments, lavandin and synthetic linalyl acetate, are both used in fragrance and perfumery. Lavandin is an essential oil itself and is often used to support the fleeting scent of pure lavender oil, leading to its use by some suppliers as an adulterant in lavender essential oil otherwise marketing and sold as 100% pure.

But if you just want to pleasantly scent your room, you could compare the analysis report with a store-bought room freshener or scented candle to see if it's a good fit for you and your family.

Maria Cruz on November 11, 2015:

Thank you for warning me with this article. I bought this diffuser last week and have been using this everyday. I've had a big improvement on my sleep since using the diffuser. I was satisfied with this product. I am now concerned since I have 2 little ones at home. Are you recommending that I should stop using it?

Lee Tea (author) from Erie, PA on November 09, 2015:

I have contacted Gurunanda to see if they will answer follow up questions to address some of your concerns here. I will add them to the report if they respond. I look forward to investigating this issue further for you and all consumers of essential oils.

My main concern is a matter of truth in advertising. Now that the company is aware their essential oils are not 100% pure as they advertise on their packaging, will they be changing their packaging claims to accurately reflect the product? This keeps the consumer informed enough to choose whether or not they would like to buy the product.

Updates will be posted as they come in. Thanks for writing.

Christina Gallagh on November 09, 2015:

I bought this diffuser which is why this article is confusing. Although I am not a chemist, but I have been using essential oils for the last 10years and I can tell if they were synethic, my nose tells me they are the real deal. My diffuser is sturdy and as good if not better to my $70 one. I was excited to find this great deal. Just because Walmart is selling it wouldn't stop me to go buy a few more for every room.

Nancy Harmon on November 09, 2015:


Thank you for the article since I really trust your opinion. I have a question though. I bought one of these last week and kept running it with my DT oils which it has been running better than my other diffuser. In any case, I was going to use the oils that came with it for cleaning purposes because I love my DT oils. My questions, Are these diffusers made of cheap plastic that cannot sustain the purity of DT oils? Is Walmart using slave labor to make them so cheap ? Amazon is selling similar one for 35 dollars; why is Walmart selling them so cheap? I do not want to be buying something bad or unethical but simultaneously I do not want to miss out on buying more of them! As Christmas is around the corner and from what I read from your article its available just at Walmart for the holidays.

Anna on November 06, 2015:

I really appreciate this article. Thank you for putting aside time to warn consumers.

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