Folded Essential Oils Undergo Additional Processing: Photo Credit, Fotolia
Folded Essential Oils Undergo Additional Processing: Photo Credit, Fotolia

The term “folded” is applied to some types of essential oils, and you may not actually know what this term means. However, it is important to understand which types of essential oils can be “folded,” why the price point differs from unfolded essential oils, and what you are actually buying when you purchase a folded essential oil. Here is a quick look at folded essential oils.

Folded Essential Oils: What Are They?

A folded essential oil is actually a fractionated essential oil. A fractionated essential oil “has been re-distilled at a low pressure to isolate a number of chemical components” (Falsetto, 2014, Certification in Professional Aromatherapy). Terpenes are usually removed in folded essential oils because the processor does not consider terpenes to have value; however, for therapeutic aromatherapy practice, removing, or altering, any chemicals in the natural make-up of the essential oil devalues and unbalances the oil, and makes it useless.

Folded essential oils are usually produced for commercial purposes where therapeutic properties are of no concern.

Folded Citrus Essential Oils

Although most essential oils contain terpenes – the basic building block of essential oils – citrus essential oils in particular, are high in monoterpenes, making them susceptible to folding by some processors. A folded citrus essential oil has no place in therapeutic aromatherapy practice. An authentic citrus essential oil will have usually been cold expressed or, in some cases, steam distilled, directly from the plant, with no further processing. Citrus essential oils for aromatherapy purposes should be:

  • lemon (Citrus limon) – expressed

  • lime (Citrus aurantifolia) expressed or steam distilled

  • sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) – expressed or steam distilled

  • grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) – expressed

  • mandarin (Citrus reticulata) – expressed

  • bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – expressed

  • bitter orange (Citrus aurantium var. amara) – expressed

  • tangerine (Citrus reticulata var. blanco) – expressed.

Always check how a citrus essential oil has been extracted to work out if it could be a folded essential oil.

Folded Vanilla Oil

Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) is another plant that can be used to produce a folded essential oil. In fact, there is no such thing as a vanilla “essential” oil; vanilla absolute or vanilla CO2 extracted oil is usually available for aromatherapy (scent) purposes.

You may also see five-fold and/or ten-fold vanilla “essential” oil for sale. Although used commercially, folded vanilla oil is of little-to-no-value in therapeutic aromatherapy practice. In addition, anything beyond a single fold vanilla oil, would require excessive heat to produce, damaging the value (and the flavor for food purposes) of the oil/extract (Nielson Massey website).

How to Check For a Folded Essential Oil

The following are some key points to refer to when figuring out if you are actually purchasing a folded essential oil:

  • price – if its lower than expected for the oil you are purchasing, it could be a folded essential oil.

  • Availability – if an “essential” oil is available for a plant species that does not produce a true essential oil, it may be a folded essential oil (or adulterated).

  • Use – is it suitable for commercial use or therapeutic aromatherapy practice?

Ask the supplier if you are unsure about the quality of an essential oil. Determine if key chemical components may have been removed by requesting a GC-MS analysis for the essential oil (if possible, third party testing).

Learn More About Essential Oils with Sedona Aromatherapie

If you would like to learn more about essential oils for aromatherapy practice, consider one of the Sedona Aromatherapie home study aromatherapy courses. To learn more, visit the courses home page.


  • Falsetto, Sharon, 2014, Certification in Professional Aromatherapy: Module One, Sedona, AZ

  • Research by Author: Author is a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal

  • Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons

  • Neilson Massey website, FAQ, accessed July 6, 2015

  • Price, Shirley, Price, Len, 2012, Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, UK: Churchill Livingstone

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