In the summer of 2014, my family bought our very own homestead after dreaming of one for years. We knew the kind of things that went into the production of everyday foods and decided to grow/raise as much as we can to avoid toxins going into our foods.
As we began raising our own animals for meat and dairy as well as our garden for fruits and vegetables, I quickly realized the extent of how toxins could sneak into this process.
So I set out to go all organic.
When I started seeds, I had to work extra hard to find potting soil that didn’t contain chemical fertilizers. Even the “organic” potting soil contained manure from non-organic chickens.
When I started raising goats for milk, I had to spend many late nights researching effective ways to raise them without chemical dewormers (which are allowed in “organic” production and do cause birth defects). (Click here to read my article on raising goats naturally.)
And what about the water used for the animals, to water the garden, and to wash off the eggs/produce? Even organic certification allows for the use of chlorinated water.
Organic certification on our meat birds would have meant that my chickens would not be allowed to forage for bugs and other things they’re designed to eat. So they’d have to be cooped up. But I know that meat raised on grass and in sunshine has much higher levels of Vitamins A & D and other important nutrients. Organic certification doesn’t consider any of that.
Once we have been in this process, we are faced with the stark realization that organic is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Not that it isn’t a better option for the meat and produce we buy from the stores as compared to conventional options.
But organic does not mean chemical-free and it doesn’t mean all-natural.
Until 2004, streptomycin (an antibiotic linked to serious adverse effects) was allowed on fruit (apples and citrus) that were certified organic.
Organic certification also has its geographical limits. The USDA only certifies plants grown in the U.S. When a company has hundreds of products from all over the world, organic certification would be unreasonable.
That brings me to Young Living, the world leader in essential oils. Many ask, “Are the oils organic?”
Simply, no. They are not certified as organic. Neither are the products I produce on my homestead. And yet they are healthier for my family and higher quality than anything I can get anywhere else. Let me explain.
Young Living practices organic farming methods and requests the same from all partner and cooperative farms. 100 percent of the essential oils Young Living offers come from one of three places: Corporate-owned farms, Partner farms, or Seed-to-Seal certified farms.
This is how they can go far beyond organic in ways that no other company does.
Young Living seeks to have land farms farm that are rural and far from any industrial and city pollution.
I visited Young Living’s St. Marie’s farm in Idaho. It was so far away from anything that there was no cellular service and people were getting lost on their way there. (Funny but not funny!) Just look at this place:
While organic certification still allows for use of select chemicals for pesticides, Gary Young has developed a natural herbicide made with essential oils, Neem oil, and Castile oil. Their efficacy is remarkable and they dramatically improve the organic environment of the plants. Naturally it's much more expensive but the results are worth it.
The fields are more often weeded by hand as the employees on all three farms I’ve visited have told me. I have heard of organic farms being required to apply herbicides when they get too many weeds, so I’m thankful that Young Living is not required to do that!
Fertilizer used on plants is made from compost, manure, fish, and liquid worm castings. At the St. Marie’s farm, the manager said that because this farm is on tribal land, they adhere to native growing practices to respect the land and the native neighbors. These natives showed how trees where fish carcasses were composted grew taller than other trees, which led to the use of fish for fertilizer on this farm.
What about the water used on the fields? I wondered this myself so I asked the manager at the St. Marie’s farm. He showed us the reservoir they use to keep water from the winter snow and use that all year long for the fields. No tap water on these farms! Only pure snow/mountain water!
Seeds are ensured to be non-GMO and cover crops are used to rotate in the fields and replace nutrients in the soil. This is one reason why Young Living is able to offer Einkhorn ancient grain products. Einkhorn makes a great rotating crop.
Most people don't realize that it is standard practice to use harsh chemicals in the distillation process.
In distillers around the world, fire tube boilers have chemical tanks on the water system because the minerals in water create electrolysis inside the boiler tubes. Without the chemicals, these minerals will pit holes in the tubes and create leaks. It's around $5,000 per tube to replace them plus the cost of having someone open up the tank!
When Gary Young bought his first fire tube boiler, he was told that he had to put chemicals in it or lose the boiler.
"No, I won't do it." Gary Young was adamant about not having any chemical contamination.
With his innovative and unwavering commitment to the best possible essential oils, Gary Young put huge filtration systems to the fire tube boilers to remove some of the minerals. He also implemented standard procedure to clean the tubes out after every season. It costs $2,500/service to do that, but it allows Young Living to be virtually the only company who avoids any chemical contamination in the distillation process.
(When I was on the Highland Flats farm in September 2018, they had just received a new piece of equipment to replace the boiler on that farm. Aside from the added cost, these boilers carry a high liability risk due to the combustion so they are phasing out fire tube boilers.)
Young Living ensures that the essential oils only touch glass or stainless steel in the entire distillation process. Any farms they purchase or partner with that have parts that are not glass or stainless steel are changed out immediately.
When it comes to the final product, it is crucial to note that organic certification also does not verify that the final product has any remaining therapeutic value. Lavender is most commonly distilled for only 15-20 minutes at 155 pounds of pressure with a steam temperature approaching 350*F. Although this high-temperature, high-pressure oil costs less to produce, is easily marketed, and can be certified organic, it is of poor quality and retains few, if any, of the therapeutic properties.
Young Living distills lavender for a minimum of one hour and fifteen minutes at zero pounds of pressure in order to retain the maximum amount of therapeutic properties contained in the plant.
Time of harvest and length of curing are very interesting and critical factors of distillation.
Gary Young discovered early on that there is a difference in the volume produced and compounds found in the oil of each batch of plant material depending on how soon it was distilled after being harvested. He has precisely customized the necessary curing time of various plants to maximize the beneficial constituents in the oils.
Gary also discovered that geographical location made a significant difference in the distillation. For instance, elevation affects the maturing time of the crops which may require a modification of the distillation process in order to obtain the highest quality oil with the best constituent profile.
In order to have higher levels of menthol and lower levels of menthone in peppermint, for example, the time of distillation has to be adjusted depending on the elevation.
A large number of factors must be considered before distillation in order to obtain the highest quality oil. Only someone who grows, harvests, distills, conducts analytical tests, and keeps records would know these details.
This goes into the other topic: GC-MS testing. Companies post their test results to “prove” their oils are pure. This sole testing method alone can absolutely not prove the purity of an essential oil. Click here to read more on this topic and how publishing those results usually verifies a company is not producing pure oils.
Organic doesn’t require testing for heavy metals, and guess what? There has been heavy metals tested in random batches of oils. Young Living is the only company to test every single essential oil for heavy metals and they reject anything that contains trace amounts of any heavy metals.
In fact, every oil is tested three times through eighteen different tests before it’s approved for sale!
These are just some of the many ways Young Living goes far beyond organic practices to provide the world's best essential oils. There are so many other things I’ve discovered in my research that it would get too long if I went into all of it.
Organic does not mean therapeutic and when it comes to essential oils, I much prefer to have only the most therapeutic ones possible.
Blessings of good health,
~Sara Jo Poff
Natural Health Practitioner