It seems that everyone and their mamas these days are selling essential oils. You can’t even walk into Walmart or Best Buy without being bombarded with essential oils. I get it. Essential oils are gaining popularity and, rightly so. The market trends have shown a big increase in Google searches since 2013 and is expected to reach $11.67 billion by 2022. In this ultimate guide I’ll give you my suggestions for buying the best essential oils that your health food store (and many other essential oil companies) probably doesn’t want you to know.
Why Should You Care?
It’s undeniable that essential oils have proven their efficacy and have become a normal item found in millions of households around the world, however with this comes a concern and a criteria that you should follow when buying oils.
Most essential oils sold on the market are not 100% pure (here’s just one example). Some are mixed with fillers like alcohol, heavy metals, synthetic aroma chemicals and fragrances, pesticides, and plasticizers. So many essential oil companies, have broken the hearts of millions with their adulterated and synthetic-filled essential oils.
If you want to see how many companies are selling fraudulent oil, then just follow this dude on Facebook. He loves bringing them all down! Don’t forget your popcorn.
How to Find the Best Essential Oils
1. Check for Purity
I know, I know…you’re thinking, “Ok, how do I check for purity? I’m not a chemist here! Plus I don’t have time for all this.” So, in a nutshell, let me tell you the criteria I recommend looking at. Let’s dig into some things you should look for with purity.
Realize that the label “therapeutic grade” means nothing.
There is no universally accepted independent body that certifies a company as therapeutic grade and allows them to slap a “100% therapeutic” label on their oil bottles. The FDA has their criteria for aromatherapy but since essential oils are not drugs, the only thing, truly, regulated is the advertising claims by the FTC.
However, there are MANY company-developed therapeutic grade standards. This is good and bad, if you ask me. Bad because this means, anyone, can label their essential oils as therapeutic grade. Good because there should be some sort of standard, and it should be through 3rd party testing. 3rd party testing is the main factor in transparency and integrity of the company.
Some companies test their own oils, which brings to question the honesty of the company. Why not let someone else test your oils? Here’s what happens when you test your own oils.
So, if you are buying essential oils that have this therapeutic label, you need to explore their purity standards a little bit more before trusting their oils as therapeutic grade.
The Companies Purity Standards
Every company will have some kind of standard, even if it’s absolutely oil-wash (aka hogwash). It’s important to note that mislabeling can happen to ANY company. I’m more concerned with how they handle it. Do they make excuses or do they fix it ASAP? So here’s what you should look for when you are looking at a company’s internal purity standards.
- Do they openly disclose their their MS/GC testing results, like this company does here?
- Do they do more than just Gas chromatophy testing? Essential oil companies have gotten really sophisticated with developing synthetic essential oils that could pass this testing method so more than just GC testing is necessary.
- Organoleptic testing – involves using the human senses (sight, smell, touch and taste)
- Microbial testing – are they making sure that the essential oils are not becoming contaminated during the distillation process?
- Mass spectrometry – this is used to discover the composition of the essential oil
- Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) – infrared light of different frequencies is shined through a sample of essential oil
- Chirality testing
- Isotopic analysis
- Heavy metal testing
Many of doTERRA’s essential oils are certified organic, others are ECOCERT, and some do not have any certification. The reason for this is because we source from so many developing countries. The certification requirements and availability differs from country to country. Some countries don’t even have a certification offering. For example, it costs $2,500 for a grower to receive organic certification in Madagascar. This certification lasts 2 years. Most of the time, an inspector never even visits the farm to verify that they are, in fact, growing organically. The fee is what matters here. However, most of the growers in this impoverished country cannot afford the certification, although they are growing by the same standards. Pesticides and herbicides are not used. The reason doTERRA has chosen to not print certified organic or even ECOCERT on our labels is because each lot has different certifications. Some of our Ylang Ylang may come in with organic certification and another lot may not have the certification. These two lots meet the very same quality standards. They go through the same battery of tests and are both certified not to contain pesticides, herbicides, fillers, synthetics, or added natural compounds. There is no difference in the quality or purity. Once producer simply paid a fee to be certified organic and another did not. When we say that our oils are better than organic, it is because we have the ability to see even the smallest component in each lot of oil. If there is anything contained in the essential oil that was not naturally produced by nature in the plant with nothing added, it is rejected. That’s what I love about our Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade process. We work with the best analytical scientists in the world — nothing gets past them! – Emily Wright
2. Do they have Sustainable and Responsible Harvesting methods?
All my hippies in the house say “ayyyy“.
And if you don’t understand this one, then I’m gonna give it to you really simple. Remember at the beginning I said that the essential oil industry is expected to reach $11.67 billion by 2022? Mmmm…think about that.
I love seeing that essential oils are mainstream! It brightens my little, hippy heart to watch a mother roll some diluted lavender on their child in the middle of a screaming fit in Target.
But with great popularity comes great responsibility. Mass harvesting not only endangers the precious herbs, fruits, trees, and flowers that are being used, but it, also, harms the animals that thrive off those plants.
An Associated Press article in 2016 warned of the over harvesting of wild Frankincense trees. It’s a legitimate concern so let’s talk about a couple important guidelines that an essential oil companies should follow to prevent mass harvesting.
- Harvesters assess at-risk trees, prevent overtapping and ensure harvesting seasons never exceed a specific time period. In Frankincense case, eight months.
- The essential oil company does not violate the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. Recently a well-known company was fined $760,000 for illegally trafficking rosewood and spikenard oil.
- Harvesters are provided fair wages by the essential oil companies, and ideally, the essential oil company works directly with the harvesters. This bypasses working with money-hungry brokers. This helps the harvesters have a sustainable income without feeling the hustle of over-harvesting.
- The essential oil company sources it’s essential oils from all over the world, thereby preventing over-harvesting in one area. On to next point…
3. Where the Oil Comes from DOES Matter
You plant a seed, harvest the materials, and distill the oils, right? Think again. Location is key in plant potency.
Meeting the increasing demand for oils with the highest quality that are most beneficial requires a more global initiative. Essential oil companies might be tempted to buy out large plots of land to create farms dedicated to these plants, but the simple fact remains that you cannot replace the knowledge of local growers and distillers in different countries—many of whom have worked their different crops for generations.
So, when you are looking for the best essential oils, check to see that the company harvest their oils from all over the world. What I love about my essential oil company is that they work with farmers and distillers in over 40 countries! This should be important to you: location, climate, altitude, and the time of harvest (harvesting in early morning prevents flash-off) all determine the quality of the essential oil.
And if a specific essential oil company boasts about their “Seed to Seal” guarantee, use your head to access the truth of this because the numbers do not add up at all. Young Living hides the fact that they outsource to many farmers and growers, which makes us all wonder….who are these growers and what are their practices? Full transparency is so important, in my humble opinion.
4. The Price of the Oil Matters
When it comes to our health, we all should know by now, that cheaper isn’t EVER better. Quantity should never trump quality in the essential oil industry, but so often it does. But with some understanding, you will see that cheaper oils lead to cheaper results in your health. And if you are using essential oils to support your health needs, like millions of people, then you will want the highest quality, the best essential oils.
FUN FACT: It takes approximately 252,000 individual petals (or 8,000 rose flowers) to produce one 5ml bottle of rose oil. If you haven’t had your coffee yet, that means that one drop of Rose essential oil takes 60 roses! More plant matter is required which means more man power, which means it will cost more.
Let’s use common sense here. Do you think that buying a $20 bottle of Rose essential oil from your health food store makes ANY sense at all? Mmmmkay.
5. Reputation of the Company
Just because I put this point last, does not mean it’s the least important. It’s just last because some of you won’t find this as important as I do…and that’s ok! I find this very important when researching an essential oil company and looking for the best essential oils. I, personally, don’t like supporting brands that are ran by faulty business practices. Lying about your quality, your sourcing methods, and putting quantity over quality is a recipe for disaster.
You might, also, want to do some research on the founders of the companies you are looking into. You might discover things that will blow your mind 🙂
So, my smart reader friends, research the company you are looking into. Take into account the purity, the harvesting methods, the location of the farms that the oils come from, the price, and the reputation of the company. And just in case you’re curious, after doing my research (please do your own), this is the company that I have decided to use.
This is such important information – thank you. I find that I’m fascinated by essential oils but it’s a confusing field. Many of the terms on labels mean next to nothing and there is such a variety of types of oil and price points.
Jackie Ritz says
You are very welcome Vince! I hope it helps many people when they are looking for a good brand to purchase!