How To Buy High Quality Essential Oils

You’ve heard of the old saying “you get what you pay for.” Well, that certainly holds true for essential oils - they’re available everywhere these days. I’ve seen them sold at Wal*Mart, at Target, at my local grocery store - even online there are hundreds of different companies to buy from. Everywhere you turn, it seems someone is trying to sell that “magical” liquid in a bottle.

Essential Oils Are in High Demand

No doubt an ever-growing number of people are interested in living healthier, more natural lifestyles; from the food they eat, to the products they put on their body and use in their homes - essential oils are becoming a part of our lives. In fact, the latest statistics tell the story: according to Grand View Research, the global essential oils market demand is estimated to reach $403 kilotons by 2025 - and growing +9% every year. That’s crazy!


So Think About It For A Minute

The liquid in each bottle comes from a plant, a tree, a fruit or a flower - from nature. Nature needs time to grow and, unlike chemicals made in a lab, she has her own life cycle, her own rhythms. You can’t hurry nature.

Plus that liquid is highly concentrated. It takes 30-50 roses to produce a single drop of rose essential oil - a single drop - that’s a mini rose garden that drips out of the bottle each time you use it. How can we possibly produce that much essential oil from a seemingly endless supply of natural resources at an increase of almost 10% each year? We can’t. It’s that simple.


Not All Essential Oils Are Created Equal

It goes without saying that not every essential oil you buy is truly an essential oil. Some essential oils are mixed with synthetic materials that have a similar odor profile (i.e. lavender), some are mixed with other essential oils that smell similar, but may cost less (i.e. rose and geranium), and some are simply diluted with carrier oils like vegetable oil to lower the price. Doing this is called adulterating an essential oil, defined as the action of making something poorer in quality by the addition of another substance. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence in the essential oil industry because there’s so much demand. And where there’s demand, there’s money to be made.

In fact, recently there was a study done by the consumer advocacy group which had an independent lab test the purity of 33 oil samples from well-known names in the essential oil industry to see what was really inside each bottle. The results from 11 different brands showed that several of the essential oils were adulterated with synthetic materials or natural derivatives.


It’s important to know that the essential oil industry is not regulated.

Determining Authenticity

Authenticity is defined as being of undisputed origin; genuine in the Oxford English Dictionary. What this means for us as consumers buying an essential oil is that we should look for an essential oil that’s from a specified plant only - more precisely from a specified plant species. For example if we want true lavender essential oil, we look for the plant species Lavendula angustifolia on the label. If you stick to one plant species per essential oil bottle, you’re more likely to get the real thing. But there’s never a guarantee. This is why I’m not a big fan of buying essential oil blends, but I’ll save that topic for another post.


Why Is Authenticity Important

If an essential oil is, in fact, adulterated, and thereby not authentic, it can have several consequences in use: 1.) it can lower the therapeutic value of the application - you don’t get any (or less) benefit from using the essential oil, 2.) it can increase the potential for irritation and other adverse reactions to the body and 3.) in the worst case, it can put toxins into your body.   


What To Look For In A Supplier

Although there is never a guarantee, here are some simple things you should consider when choosing who you buy from:

  • Choose smaller companies vs. large corporations - small companies may not have as many essential oils to choose from, but the oils they do have, they are probably more focused on, and are checking the quality consistently.

  • Choose companies that have a direct relationship with their distillers - the fewer the number of middlemen the better.

  • Choose companies that readily provide a batch-specific GC/MS report - this report looks like a recipe and shows you the components in the essential oil. Just knowing that a company is willing to openly provide this information (many share directly on their website before you even buy) tells you that they are more transparent and get their products tested for authenticity by a neutral third-party.

  • Consider companies that are actually owned by aromatherapists or essential oil specialists - they are more dedicated to the field and are generally very focused on quality aromatherapy products.


What A Quality Essential Oil Label Should Include

Any essential oil worth buying should include the following information:

  • Common Name (i.e. Lavender)

  • Latin Name (i.e. Lavendula angustifolia)

  • Country of Origin (i.e. France)

  • How it was Grown (i.e. wild-crafted, organic, traditional)

  • Type of Extraction (this may be on the company website, not on the bottle)

  • Date of Distillation (this may be on the company website, not on the bottle)

  • Safety Considerations (usually found on the company website)


Other Ways To Evaluate Quality In An Essential Oil

  1. Know what the real plant smells like - train your sense of smell by engaging with nature and making yourself familiar with the aromas of plants that make up an essential oil. If you know what a true rose smells like, chances are you are more likely to recognize when a rose essential oil is the real thing and not diluted with geranium, which is a similar, but not the exact same, odor.

  2. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is - if you buy a 1oz bottle of rose absolute essential oil for $20, it’s guaranteed to be adulterated. As I mentioned, it takes 30-50 roses just to make a drop of rose absolute essential oil. A 1oz bottle should cost you well over $250.

  3. “Listen” to the essential oil - I love this advice from the great aromatherapist and author Jade Schutes, who says that when you take the time to close your eyes and “hear” the oil while you smell it, you’ll notice that a quality essential oil will “sound” like an orchestra, increasing and decreasing its aroma as you smell it. If you compare it to a low quality oil, that oil can smell like an assault on your senses. It comes at you hard and strong and then dies off.

There are many reputable essential oil companies in the sea of suppliers. These tips will hopefully guide you in the right direction so you can get the wonderful benefits that essential oils have to offer.

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