5 Things To Look For When Buying Essential Oils
You’ve heard of the old saying “you get what you pay for.” Well, that certainly holds true for essential oils. Simply shopping for the cheapest essential oils won’t necessarily get you the results you’re looking for. In fact, if you’re not careful, it could harm you.
Whether you’re using oils for aromatherapy or smell training, here are 5 things to look for to ensure you’re buying high quality essential oils that can really support you:
- Choose your brand(s) wisely
- Get the right information
- Be mindful of the marketing
- Look for authenticity
- Buy at the correct price
1. CHOOSE YOUR BRAND(S) WISELY
Although there’s never a guarantee, here are some simple things you should consider when deciding where to buy your essential oils:
Choose smaller companies vs. large corporations - small companies may not offer as great a variety of essential oils, but that’s actually a good thing. It means they’re more focused on quality and authenticity. It also, most likely, means they’re buying directly from the distiller.
Choose companies that have a direct relationship with their distillers - the fewer the number of people involved from plant to bottle, the better. The essential oil industry is a lucrative business and that means there are many middlemen interested in making money along the way.
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.
Overall, get a feel for the brand’s website. Are they talking about the farmers, about conservation, or sustainability? Use your instinct. Even if you look on Amazon and find cheap essential oils, take the time to do the extra research and visit the company’s website directly. How does the company feel to you? Do they seem genuine and interested in the essential oils, or are they just selling essential oils on the side, along with, say, spa packages or skin care products?
2. GET THE RIGHT INFORMATION
Now that you’ve narrowed down a few companies to buy from, here's what critical pieces of information you should be looking for next. On the brand’s website, you should be able to see the following information for any essential oil you want to buy:
The common name of the essential oil - for example “lavender” or “sweet orange.”
The latin name - this is the botanical name of the plant which lets you know what single source plant the oil is derived from. For example, lavender comes in many varieties of plants and depending on which essential oil you choose, the oil can be stimulating or relaxing. The latin name is key in getting the right support. True lavender, the one that’s calming, comes from the plant Lavandula angustifolia, for example.
The country of origin - depending on which plant, in what part of the world, the essential oil was extracted from, determines the chemical composition (and also the aroma) of the essential oil. You’ll want to know this information for blending for the right intention.
How the plant was grown - look for information on whether the plant is from wild-crafted, organic, or traditionally grown plants. If wild-crafted, ensure the growers do this responsibly. If traditionally grown, consider the essential oil might have traces of pesticide in the composition, which can be irritating.
The type of extraction method used - whether the essential oil was steam distilled, CO2 extracted, or cold pressed tells you a lot about the chemical composition of the oil. This information will then tell you how to use the oil safely, taking into consideration dosage and phototoxicity. Note that often this information is only on the company website, not on the bottle itself.
The date of distillation - this is information that sets apart the best essential oil suppliers from average ones. Companies that openly share this data (usually in the GC/MS report or Certificate of Analysis available to view and download directly from the website) are dedicated to transparency and quality. The information allows you to calculate the shelf life of the oil and that, in turn, ensures you’re using the most vibrant oils to support you.
Share safety information - knowing what dosage, chemical component and/or drug interaction specificities the essential oil has allows you to blend accordingly. Sharing this information on the website also shows that the company understands essential oils and their safe usage, as opposed to just selling essential oils as a commodity to profit from.
3. BE MINDFUL OF THE MARKETING
There are many ways essential oils are promoted in the marketplace, with terms like “pure”, “therapeutic grade”, “certified pure therapeutic grade”, “medical grade”, “clinical grade”, and “pharmaceutical grade” all being thrown around.
The truth is that essential oils aren’t regulated. Which means that companies can pretty much say what they want. Most, if not all, brands claim to be “pure” even when some may mix plants together or add synthetic materials. Refer back to #2 above to ensure you’re getting the highest quality oil possible.
4. LOOK FOR AUTHENTICITY
Authenticity is defined as being of undisputed origin; genuine. 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 you want true lavender essential oil (the one that’s calming), you look for the plant species, Lavandula 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 because you never really know what’s inside. Plus, it's fun to make your own!
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 won’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.
5. BUY AT THE CORRECT PRICE
It goes without saying that if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. If you buy a 1oz/30ml bottle of rose absolute oil for $20, it’s guaranteed to be adulterated. That’s because it takes 30-50 roses just to make a drop of rose absolute oil. A 1oz/30ml bottle should cost you well over $250.
There are many reputable essential oil brands in a 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.
If you want a more in-depth understanding of essential oils, sign up for my free Introduction to Essential Oils mini course.