Raindrop Messenger Archive
Official Newsletter of C.A.R.E.
The Center for Aromatherapy Research and Education
Volume 3, Number 3
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IN THIS ISSUE:
The True Meaning of AFNOR
The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple
IMPORTANT NOTE: The information in this newsletter is not meant
to diagnose, prescribe, or substitute for professional medical
assistance. It is provided as information only for your better
understanding of holistic health. In case of medical need, please
consult an appropriate licensed professional.
The True Meaning of AFNOR
by David Stewart, Ph.D., R.A., D.N.M.
The acronym, AFNOR, is seen on bottles of Young Living Essential Oils
and on no other brand of essential oils in North America. YLEO oils
are sold as therapeutic grade. However, there seems to be some
confusion as to the meaning of therapeutic grade oils and how such
oils relate to AFNOR. In fact, I have been confused myself and have
previously held some misconceptions on the matter. I hope that the
information that follows here will clarify things for you, as it has for
me. The following article has been reviewed for accuracy by personnel
at AFNOR in France as well as Young Living Essential Oils in Utah.
What is AFNOR?
AFNOR (Association Francaise de Normalization) was founded in 1926
and is a French government-approved organization under the
administrative supervision of the French Ministry for Industry. It has
a membership of approximately 3,000 companies. Under a decree of
January 26, 1984, AFNOR controls the central standardization system
or the country of France. AFNOR consists of 31 standardization
fices, public authorities, and 20,000 experts.
AFNOR acts as a standards-setting body for a variety of products
and services. They are an agency which sets minimum standards by
which quality, safety, reliability, and performance requirements
described in French, European, and International Standards can be
This is not the same as certification of a product or service. The
act of certification designates that a recognized body, independent
of the interested parties, gives written assurance that a product,
process, or service conforms to specified requirements. Hence,
AFNOR, itself, does not certify essential oils. AFNOR standards for
essential oils are only reference documents used by professional
and commercial buyers and sellers to guage their conformance to
standards set and agreed upon by the participating parties. There
is no official AFNOR certification for oils at this time.
The person in charge of AFNOR standards for essential oils is
Bernadette Ruetsche, who reviewed and edited this article for accuracy.
She can be reached via email at <email@example.com>.
The AFNOR postal address is: Association Francaise de Normalisation
(AFNOR), 11 Avenue Francis de Pressense, 93571 Saint-Dennis La
Plaine Cedex, France. Their phone number is 33 (0) 1-41-62-88-87.
Their fax is 33 (0) 49-17-90-00. The AFNOR website is <www.afnor.fr>.
It is in both English and French.
What is ISO?
The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is a
worldwide federation of national standards bodies drawn from 130
countries. It was established in 1974. It is headquartered in Geneva,
Switzerland. It is a nongovernmental body with a mission to promote
worldwide standardization among the products and services of
international commerce. Its aim is to facilitate the global exchange
of goods and services as well as to develop scientific, technological,
and economic activity among nations. AFNOR represents France as
a member of the ISO.
The ISO website is <www.iso.org>. Their postal address is: International
Organization for Standardization (ISO), 1, rue de Varembé, Case
postale 56, CH-1211, Geneva 20, Switzerland. Their telephone is
41-22-749-01-11. Their fax is 41-22-733-34-30. They have several
email addresses depending on the department you wish to contact.
These are given on their website, which is in English.
The ISO hosts 214 technical committees to set standards for a variety
of products and practices. Technical Committee, TC #54, is the one
designated to deal with essential oil standards, which includes not only
essential oil composition, but packaging, storage, sampling methodology,
and even the laboratory procedures approved for oil analyses. The ISO
committee on essential oils was primarily set up for the food, fragrance,
and cosmetics industries in order to insure similarity of products. There
are 15 countries represented on TC #54, including the United States.
The chairman of the committee is from Spain. They meet every other
Thus, the ISO, as well as AFNOR, sets standards for many items in a
variety of areas, not just essential oils. For example, the international
symbols you see on automobile dashboards, in airports, and in other
public places all over the world were set by the ISO. The ISO standards
for essential oils are the same as those for AFNOR.
Does AFNOR or ISO Test Oils?
AFNOR and ISO have no laboratories and do not do any testing
themselves. They only set standards as agreed upon by the industries
involved. An AFNOR or ISO designation on a packaging label for an
essential oil does not mean it has been approved directly by AFNOR or
ISO. It only means that a laboratory, independent of the interested
parties, has tested the oil and found that it falls within the
compositional profile designated by the AFNOR/ISO standard for
At this time, AFNOR standards for essential oils deal only with the
ew chemical components of importance to the flavor and fragrance
industry. AFNOR/ISO standards for essential oils deals only with the
chemistry of the finished oil and not with how the oil was derived.
Furthermore, it includes only the most prevalent compounds of
the oil--those of interest to the perfume and food industry. It does
not address the hundreds of minor and trace components of a
natural oil that are necessary to its therapeutic properties. An
essential oil could be devoid of most of its healing compounds and
still pass AFNOR standards.
A typical AFNOR/ISO standard usually consists a statement of
minimum concentrations of only the five or six compounds that
provide taste and/or aroma. In some cases, there may be only one
compound of interest to define the standard for a species of oil--
like the menthol in peppermint (Mentha piperita). Thus, the hundreds
of healing compounds that comprise a therapeutic grade of oil are
not considered at all. Hence, AFNOR/ISO standards simply do not
address the therapeutic aspects of an oil. An oil that tests within
AFNOR parameters only means that the oil fits a certain minimum
chemical profile set by the industry, which is predominantly for
food and cosmetics.
What is a Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil?
According to Young Living, besides a chemical profile that includes
as many of its natural ingredients as possible, what makes an
essential oil therapeutic has even more to do with how it is derived.
It must be grown organically (or wildcrafted), distilled at minimum
pressure and temperature in vessels of non-reactive materials,
and bottled unchanged, unrefined, and unadulterated. It is these
latter aspects that make YLEO oils therapeutic.
An oil could fulfill all the AFNOR/ISO criteria and not be
therapeutic. In fact, many commercial oils do. Unfortunately, the
existence of AFNOR/ISO standards, such as they are, causes
many companies, who wish to sell their oils to the food or
fragrance industries, to compound, manipulate, refine, denature,
and adulterate oils to make them comply with the standard. Hence,
the appearance of AFNOR on a label does not prove its therapeutic
quality nor does the absence of AFNOR indicate that an oil is not
Dr. Herve Casabianca (along with 34 other experts) is a member
of the French national committee on essential oil standards.
Dr. Casabianca spoke at a Young Living Convention in Salt Lake City
several years ago. Dr. Casabianca represents the French National
Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). He agrees with the YLEO
definition of a therapeutic grade essential oil. No individual can
afford to test for the hundreds of compounds in the oils they use.
And even if an individual were to have an oil tested, Casabianca
pointed out that commercial chemists are very clever in their
schemes to fool laboratories and with a standard as minimal as
AFNOR/ISO, they can usually make a synthetic or adulterated
oil look natural when it is not.
Radioactive Analysis as a Test for Naturalness:
In his laboratory at CNRS, Casabianca said that they test for
radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that is constantly released
through the soil from the nuclear decay of minerals in the bedrocks
below. A natural oil will contain traces of radon. An oil synthesized
in a laboratory will not contain radon. Thus, they can sometimes
identify a synthetic or manipulated oil containing only the few key
ingredients to pass the AFNOR test from a natural one that would
contain all the other ingredients. However, radon is not a customary
element looked for in testing for AFNOR compliance because it is
too expensive and most laboratories do not have the necessary
Even so, according to Bernadette Ruetsche, speaking for AFNOR--
With AFNOR/ISO standards it is possible to attest to a high degree
of certainty as to the purity of oils because the AFNOR-adopted
quantities of components correspond to those found in natural
products. Hence, according to AFNOR authorities, if an essential
oil fits AFNOR/ISO standards, it is generally considered to have
come from a natural source.
What AFNOR Does Not Include:
Testing for compositional compliance with AFNOR/ISO standards
does not include testing for traces of pesticides, herbicides, or
allergens. If an organic farm is next to one that uses chemicals,
the wind can contaminate the soil and air of the organic farm. It
is possible for a certified organic crop to contain traces of
pollutants and still pass as certified organic. If an essential oil
distributing company wants to be sure it oils contain no such
contaminants, it would need to test specifically for them. An
AFNOR designation does not address these issues.
Neither does AFNOR address the issue of high-temperature,
high-pressure distillation, which destroys many of the
therapeutic ingredients while preserving those of interest
to perfumers and/or companies that employ flavors from oils.
AFNOR also does not address the issue of petrochemical
contaminants in oils extracted by strong solvents.
Dr. Casabianca concluded that in the end, no matter how much
you analyze an oil in a laboratory, based on the analysis alone,
you cannot always be sure whether it is completely natural and
therapeutic or not. To test every oil sample to a certainty would
be economically prohibitive. You can determine if it fulfills
AFNOR/ISO standards by simple laboratory techniques, available
and possible throughout France and in most countries worldwide,
but such a test will not ascertain that an oil has healing
Casabianca said the best measure is to know your grower, know
your distiller, know your bottler, and know your distributor. It is
a matter of trust, he said. He said that YLEO is the only North
American company that routinely ends samples of its oils to
France for testing against AFNOR/ISO standards and that he has
always been impressed with the high quality of oils sent by YLEO.
Summary of Key Points:
1. There is no nationally or internationally recognized agency that
sets standards for therapeutic grade essential oils. Neither AFNOR,
ISO, CODEX, or any other agency does that.
2. Therapeutic grade has not only to with the chemical
compositon of the oil, but also with its origin--how and where
grown, how distilled, as well as how packaged and distributed.
AFNOR and ISO do not consider these factors, which are crucial
in the determination and maintenance of therapeutic grade
So What's an Essential Oiler to Do?
With respect to any particular oil or brand of oils, the question
you need to ask is this: Do you obtain therapeutic results with
that brand of essential oils or not? The proof is in the healing that
results-a factor anyone can experience, observe, recognize, and
document for themselves. No laboratory test is needed for that.
This is anyone's perogative, and it is available to you at no cost.
As for YLEO oils, those of us who use them know of their authentic
healing power first hand. We have seen it and we have experienced
it repeatedly. We don't need AFNOR, ISO, or any other test for that.
So, are Young Living oils therapeutic grade? You can answer this
for yourself. I know they are, not because they are designated as
AFNOR, but because I have seen and experienced their healing power
over and over again. I need no other proof. Your personal
experience is more valid than any lab test, however scientific.
A USP/NF Postscript:
Until recently, there were no American standards for essential oils.
Young living scientists are currently working with the United States
Pharmacopeia and National Formulary ( USP/NF) which are American
standard setting organizations that have been around for more
than a century. As recently as one year ago USP/NF had virtually
remained uninvolved in establishing standards for essential oils.
That is now rapidly changing as of the Spring 2005 Pharmacopeial
Forum. Standards for essential oils are now being established by
the joint efforts of various industries (including pharmaceutical),
various government groups (including the FDA), as well as university
scientists and consultants who know what standards for therapeutic
grade oils should be--including authorities from Young Living.
USP/NF standards go beyond AFNOR/ISO in that the latter concern
themselves only with a chemical profile in the finished oil while
USP/NF also specifies the manner in which the herbs are grown,
cultivated, and harvested, as well as how the oils are distilled,
extracted, bottled, and labeled.
In other words, if things work out they way they should, an essential
oil that qualifies to be disignated as a USP/NF grade oil will not only
fit a minimum chemical profile (like AFNOR/ISO), but will also fit the
definition of a therapeutic grade oil, as defined by YLEO. Hence, at
some time in the future, we can expect to see aromatic oils that
carry the designation of USP/NF on their lables which will have valid
meaning in defining a therapeutic grade oil, whereas AFNOR does not.
We will write more on this in future newsletters as things develop.
The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple
(Gods Love Manifest in Molecules)
by David Stewart Ph.D., R.A., D.N.M.
More than 4 years in the making.
More than 70 Tables.
More than 150 Illustrations.
More than 6000 entries in the Index.
More than 100 detailed essential oil analyses.
More than 600 essential oil compounds cross-indexed.
Contains Glossary . . . Resources . . . Annotated Bibliography.
Hardcover . . . 896 pages . . . Price = $49.95 usd
SEE END OF THIS MESSAGE FOR INFO ON AVAILABAILITY
~^~Whether you have a background in chemistry or not,
you will understand and enjoy this book. It will enlighten
and entertain you while demonstrating, by the chemistry
of essential oils, that God's power and divine nature can
be seen through the things he has made. (Romans 1:20)
~^~Based on both science and scripture, this book reveals
the harmony between the two. Dr. Stewart describes the
relationship between the material world and the spiritual
world to explain how oils bring healing.
~^~This is the most comprehensive chemistry book on
essential oils ever compiled, and the easiest to use and
comprehend. Virtually every question you have ever had
about essential oils--their physical and spiritual properties,
and how they work--is answered in this book.
What Readers Say About This Book
~^~This is a much needed book. There is no other publication
like it. A good scientific work. I recommend this book to
everyone who uses therapeutic oils and wants to understand
how and why they work.
~Terry Friedmann, M.D., A.B.H.M.
~Author of Freedom Through Health and other books
~^~Your chemistry book is fabulous and will be a best-seller.
I love the humor, simplicity, depth of knowledge, and the way
you have brought science and religion together, as it should be.
It will help the lay person, as well as the scientist, to understand
the profound healing effects of essential oils and how to use
that information to both select oils and to prayerfully decide a
course of action to facilitate healing.
~National Teacher/Trainer of all aspects of applied Aromatherapy
~^~Dr. Stewart has created another masterpiece! He has brilliantly
woven his artistry to bring the Spiritually etheric oils into the
Scientific realm for our understandin. Informative, practical and
down-to-earth book. This is a magnificent must read book for anyone
using essential oils.
~Sabina M. DeVita Ed.D., D.N.M.
~Author of Saving Face and other books
~Director and Holistic Therapist
~Wellness Institute of Living and Learning, Toronto, Canada
~^~Fabulous. Brilliant. An invaluable resource to any student of
essential oils. Your knowledge and very honest views of the use of
esssential oils are excellent, tactfully described, and yet humerous
to read. I am adding this to my list of recommended books for my
students as an absolute must.
~Susan Duerden Neary, Cert. Ed.
~Salon Owner and Aromatherapy Lecturer
~Clitheroe, Lancashire, Great Britian
~^~It is often said the best way to make a contribution to society is
to discover a need and fill it. Dr. David Stewart has done just that by
offering technical, scientific, and what could have been very
challenging information in a simplified, interesting, easy-to-
understand manner. For thousands of us who use, work with, and
educate about therapeutic-grade essential oils, this is the piece we
have needed to better understand how to choose our oils wisely for
the most effective results. This book is an amazing blend of the factual
and the spiritual, woven together with David's magical touch. A brilliant
piece of work and an invaluable resource. It will take a prominent place
in my library.
~Ambassador Master Star
~Young Living Essential Oils
~^~ Dr. David Stewart has, to my knowledge, gone where no author
has ever gone before. He explains the complex organic chemistries,
as well as some practical uses, of these natural plant-distilled oils
that anyone with a high-school education can comprehend them. And he
has presented the material in a wonderfully engaging way, undergirded
by a devout Scriptural perspective as well! I believe Dr. Stewart is on
the cutting edge of a gentle revolution in American healthcare.
~Robert W. Miner, M.D.
~Grand Rapids, Michigan
* THE CHEMISTRY OF ESSSENTIAL OILS MADE SIMPLE
896 pages, hardback $49.95 plus shipping and handling
* Shipping and Handling
U.S.A Shipping: 1 copy $6........2 copies $11
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* For quantity discounts contact CARE at 800-758-8629
Available on the internet at
or by calling (800) 758-8629 or (573) 238-4273
All major credit cards acceptable
THE RAINDROP MESSENGER
Official Newsletter of C.A.R.E.
The Center for Aromatherapy Research and Education
Rt. 4, Box 646, Marble Hill, Missouri USA 63764