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Essential Oil Costs and Pricing
An Introductory Guide to the Basics of How and Why Essential Oils Vary in Price
Within this article, I loosely refer to all the volatile aromatherapy oils including essential oils, absolutes and CO2s collectively as "essential oils."
When purchasing essential oils, it's not uncommon to find huge pricing differences between companies. For the individual who is new to shopping for essential oils, the cost difference between essential oil suppliers can be intimidating.
In many cases, the new essential oil user may simply shop by picking a company they find who is cheapest. Or, he/she may put blind trust in the company his/her friends "claims" is the only company that sells truly pure essential oils.
Beware of going in either of those two directions...
The cheapest oils do not always offer the same therapeutic value as those purchased from sellers that invest more care and cost into the distillation, storage and shipment of their oils.
On the other side of the spectrum, be leery of any company or any company's distributors/reps that claims his/her oils are the only pure oils available (or that their oils are the only oils pure enough to ingest). That is absurd. That is like saying only one orchard in the world grows, harvests and sells truly organic apples. (Not a perfect example, but I hope you understand where I'm going with that). Indeed, there are adulterated or fake essential oils on the market that we have to be careful of, but the claim that only one company sells truly pure oils is absurd.
So why does "Lavender Oil" cost more than "Orange Oil?" Why does one company's "Cinnamon Oil" cost so much more than another's? Why shouldn't I just buy the cheapest essential oil I should find? Or on the other hand, why shouldn't I just buy the most expensive oil or the brand that my sister/daughter/friend claims is the purest in the world?
This article is intended to help provide an overview and answer those questions.
Specific Botanical Species:
Numerous botanical species can go by the same common name. Cinnamon, Lavender, Eucalyptus and Chamomile come to mind, but there are others. For example, "Chamomile Oil" can refer to oils extracted from Chamaemelum nobile, Matricaria recutita or Anthemis nobilis. Not only can the oil price vary between species, but so can the therapeutic benefits and safety precautions. Always be sure to know the botanical (Latin) name of a given oil and use that when researching therapeutic properties, safety precautions and when comparing the pricing of oils between companies.
Specific Plant Part(s) Included in the Extraction:
An oil extracted from the leaves of a tree can differ in aroma, therapeutic properties and safety precautions than an oil extracted from the bark of the same tree. Cinnamon Bark Oil and Cinnamon Leaf Oil both extracted are good examples. Even if both oils are extracted from the same exact Cinnamomum zeylanicum trees, the bark oil is generally going to be more costly. Although the bark oil poses greater risks of skin sensitization, the bark oil is generally preferred.
Conventional vs. Certified Organic:
Oils that are distilled from certified organic crops and meet the requirements for organic certification generally cost more than those of the same species that are grown via conventional (non-organic) means.
Cost to Grow and Harvest the Botanical:
Some botanicals are more costly to grow and harvest than others. For example, Jasmine blossoms must be hand picked. The quality of the crop also can influence the cost of an essential oil. Some growers are much more meticulous about the care they give to their crops, and that time, care and added cost can increase the pricing of the oil.
Method of Extraction:
While most essential oils are steam distilled, most citrus oils are cold pressed (but steam distilled citrus oils are becoming more commonly available as an alternative to cold pressed citrus oils that are phototoxic). Additionally, some botanicals are commonly available as both a steam distilled essential oil or as a solvent extract absolute. Rose Oil (Rosa damascena) comes to mind. It is available both as an essential oil, known as Rose Otto and as Rose Absolute. Rose Otto is generally more costly than Rose Absolute because it is more costly to produce.
Essential Oil Yields:
Some botanicals require much more plant material than others in order to produce essential oil. For more information, read AromaWeb's Essential Oil Yields article.
Staff payroll, utilities, rent/mortgage, marketing, Web site development and maintenance, trade group fees, product research and testing, and ongoing education are examples of some of the overhead expenses that businesses face. Generally speaking, the higher a company's overhead costs, the more they need to charge for their products.
Labels and Packaging:
Bottles and labels, including the attention to detail in printing/design and information provided can influence an oil's cost. This could be listed under overhead, but it's worth giving it special mention.
Some companies own their own GC/MS testing equipment and have trained staff on board that is capable of performing and interpreting the results. Some companies send samples of the oils they purchase to qualified labs for testing and analysis. On the other side of the spectrum, some companies don't perform any testing and don't require their supplier to provide testing. This could be listed under overhead, but it's worth giving it special mention. For more information and to learn what GC/MS testing is, see Verifying Essential Oil Quality and Purity.
Companies With Distributors/Reps: Oils purchased from companies that maintain reps/consultants/distributors that have a "downline" have a tendency to be more costly.
Pure vs. Blended in Carrier Oil:
When comparing oils between companies, do be sure that you are comparing the price of undiluted essential oils from both companies as some companies sell essential oils pre-diluted in carrier oils. Some essential oils are legitimately very precious and costly. In order to make the oil more affordable to customers, some companies offer the precious essential oil pre-diluted in a carrier oil. Reputable companies make it very clear to their customers that the oil is pre-diluted and provide the dilution ratio and the specific carrier oil that the precious oil has been diluted into. There is absolutely nothing wrong with intentionally buying pre-diluted essential oils. However, there are also some unscrupulous companies that are vague with their labeling/descriptions, and it can be hard for some people to spot that it's a diluted oil. Before you jump to buy that precious oil that seems to priced so much lower than everyone else, double check that it's not a pre-diluted oil.
The larger the amount purchased, the lower the per ounce price of the oil tends to be.
Essential Oil Supply and Demand:
Essential oil prices fluctuate depending on availability and market demand.
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