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How to Buy Essential Oils
How to Buy Essential Oils
Within this article, I loosely
refer to all the volatile aromatherapy oils including essential
oils, absolutes and CO2s collectively as "essential oils."
Poor quality oils (oils that have been distilled
from poor crops, have been handled improperly, are old, etc.) or
adulterated oils (oils that have chemicals or other oils added to
them) are not considered as therapeutic. Additionally
essential oils that have been adulterated can cause harmful side
effects, or at best provide only minimal therapeutic benefit.
Below are tips that can help you select vendors
of pure, high quality essential oils:
- Watch out for words such as fragrance oil, nature
identical oil, or perfume oil. These words indicate
that what you see is not a pure, single essential oil. Many vendors
label fragrance oils (that can be combinations of essential oils
and chemicals or just plain chemicals) and perfume oils as aromatherapy.
Countless vendors of strictly fragrance oils have written me to
ask for advertising of their aromatherapy oils. Beginners
need to watch out for these vendors who inaccurately use the alternative
medicine term aromatherapy for their own sales gain.
- Be precautious of suppliers that promote their essential oils
as being "therapeutic grade" or "aromatherapy grade."
There is no governmental regulating body that grades or certifies
essential oils as "therapeutic grade" or "aromatherapy
grade." (For more information, read the "Therapeutic
Grade" and "Aromatherapy Grade" Essential Oils article.) Not all companies use these terms
with any form of deception in mind, but some do. Therefore, iit's important to understand the background behind this terminology.
- The term pure essential oil is also a term overused
in the aromatherapy industry. Pure essential oils can be distilled
from poor quality crops, be sitting in someones inventory
or on a stores shelves for years, be stored in a way that
damages the oils, or be mishandled by vendors so that oils are
accidentally mixed during bottling. So, don't get overly impressed
by a vendor that labels their oils as "pure."
- Most vendors selling quality oils at sizes of 4 oz. or smaller
sell their oils in dark colored glass. Be leery of vendors that
sell oils at these sizes in plastic or clear glass containers.
- When purchasing oils online, it is not uncommon for larger sizes
of essential oils to be shipped in plastic containers to avoid
breakage and reduce shipping fees. Essential oils, however, can
dissolve plastic bottles and the quality of the oil can deteriorate
more rapidly. When receiving oils shipped in plastic or clear
glass, be sure to immediately transfer the essential oils to dark
colored glass bottles, unless you plan to use the essential oil
up within a few days. You can find bottle suppliers listed within
AromaWeb's Global Business Plaza.
It's a savvy idea to keep empty bottles on hand. If you purchase
from a supplier that ships in plastic, ask them how long the oil
has been stored in the plastic bottles prior to shipment. Ideallly,
you want to work with suppliers that transfer to plastic just
prior to shipment.
- Some vendors also sell larger quantities of oil in aluminum
bottles. Aluminum is said to be acceptable if the inside of the
bottle is lined.
- Avoid purchasing essential oils that are packaged in bottles that include rubber eyedropper bulbs
in the top. Over time, essential oils are strong enough to dissolve the rubber dropper and
contaminate the oil. Instead, small retail sizes of essential oils should be sold/stored in bottles that include an orifice reducer that is made out of a material that won't contaminate the oils. If essential oils are packaged or stored in bottles that do not include an orifice reducer, a pipette can be used to dispense essential oils by the drop. Larger sizes of essential oils tend to be packaged without orifice reducers. For more information, see AromaWeb's Essential Oil Storage article.
- Seek out vendors that provide detailed information about their oils and that give
you confidence in their knowledge and background. Pay attention to the educational background that they provide and their length in business.
- If you are comparing online vendors, send e-mail to them asking
questions that you have. If you don't have any, think of something
to ask so that you have a reason to write them. Find out how helpful
and knowledgeable they seem.
- Watch out for vendors that sell each of their essential oils for the same
price. This doesnt mean the oils are not pure or of good
quality, but it often does. Generally speaking, Neroli, Jasmine and Rose, for instance,
should cost a lot more than Geranium and Ylang Ylang. A good quality Patchouli usually costs more than Eucalyptus. The basic, common citrus
oils including Sweet Orange oils are some of the least expensive
- When buying essential oils locally, watch for oils that have
dust on the top of the bottles or boxes. This is an indication
that the oils have been sitting around. As time passes, most oils
oxidize, llose their therapeutic properties, and their aroma diminishes.
The bottles should be sealed so that the oil couldn't be contaminated
by other cutomers. Be sure they have tester bottles of the EOs
so that you can sample the oils.
- Try to avoid buying oils from catalogs or Web sites that dont
list the essential oils botanical (Latin name), country
of origin or method of extraction. Ive bought good quality
oils from companies that dont bother listing this information (though I contact them to confirm this information prior to purchase),
but I often wonder why any truly knowledgeable vendor would not
realize the importance of including this information. For instance,
there are multiple varieties of Bay, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Eucalyptus,
and so on. Each has different therapeutic properties. The country
of origin for oils is also important because the climate and soil
conditions can affect the resulting properties of the oil. Is
that rose oil steam distilled or is it an absolute? Any good aromatherapy
vendor should realize the necessity for providing this information,
so I can only assume vendors that dont bother to include
it are lazy, unknowledgeable about the importance of supplying
this information or buy their oils from different distributors
and dont want to have to update their catalogs/web sites
anytime they find a different source.
- Several corporations sell essential oils via MLM and distributor arrangements. It is understandable that you may want to blindly trust every statement and suggestion that your beloved best friend, relative or even that "honest" friend from church may tell you about the essential oils that he/she is so excitedly trying to sell you as a distributor. It is safest to do your own independent homework using multiple sources, and confirm usage and safety information first.
- Educate yourself about the FDA guidelines for essential oils and aromatherapy products. For more information, read FDA Regulation of Aromatherapy Products.
- Organic oils are typically superior to non-organic oils.
Read the Organic Essential Oils
article for more information.
- Be careful when buying essential oils from companies that primarily
sell to the food & beverage or perfumery industries. Some
vendors that primarily sell to these industries may have different
goals in the purchase and sale of their essential oils than the
goals of vendors that sell oils specifically
for aromatherapy use. The restaurant and perfumery industries
desire essential oils that have a standardized (consistent) aroma
or flavor. The oils sold by these sources may be redistilled to
remove or add specific constituents (natural chemicals found in
the oils). These re-distillations or adulterations may harm the
therapeutic use of the oils. If desiring to buy from such a vendor,
inquire first to ask about their methods.
- Most of us need to watch how much we spend. Its very tempting
to buy essential oils from the companies that sell them for the
lowest price. Price alone isnt an indication of quality,
but it can be. Knowledgeable vendors that spend countless hours
locating quality oils, pay the expensive fees to test their oils
and provide free samples upon request should rightfully be charging
more for their oils than retailers that stock oils that theyve
sourced from the cheapest sources.
- When choosing to try a particular vendor, place a small first
order and ask for additional samples (don't ask for a sample of
everything, honestly ask for 2-4 samples of oils that you are
sincerely interested in purchasing). The goal is to find out if
this is a vendor that you are pleased with without wasting your
money on large orders that you might not be happy with.
- It is costly and time consuming for vendors to provide samples. Some vendors and suppliers receive an overwhelming number of requests for
free samples. It can be hard for vendors to determine legitimate and honest sample requests from those of people just looking for freebies and that have no intend of ever placing a future order no matter how great the oil quality is. Therefore, some vendors do need to charge a small fee for providing
samples. Some wholesalers do charge for smaller sizes. These policies should not reflect poorly on the vendor.
- Be cautious about purchasing oils from traveling vendors that set up shop at street fairs,
farmer's markets, craft shows, festivals or other limited-time events. Some traveling
vendors at these events may know their customers have no recourse
against them after the event is over. I want to be very careful here as there indeed are highly reputable, experienced sellers at such events, and some vendors do have a well respected, strong, local and permanent presence in the area of the show/festival. This
is a caution for beginners who are not able to reliably judge
quality at first, and I trust that experienced, honest vendors understand this precaution. When considering a purchase, ask the vendor for details about their experience. Ethical and experienced vendors are generally happy to answer detailed questions about their products/oils and tend to fully respect the importance of qualifying questions. They should be be more than happy to share their background with you.
- As you begin shopping for essential oils, make it your priority
to support the companies that support AromaWeb. AromaWeb's
advertisers support AromaWeb's mission to be an invaluable online
informational resource that provides in-depth aromatherapy information.
Visit the Web sites of AromaWeb's banner advertisers (you can view them all within the Advertiser Spotlight area) and the advertisers
located within AromaWebs Global Business
Plaza and Regional Business
For more information, read the following articles:
Verifying Essential Oil Quality:
• Part 1: Introduction
• Part 2: Why
Is the Quality/Purity of an Essential Oil Important?
• Part 3: Aren't
Most Essential Oils Pure?
• Part 4: Constituents
- What do Essential Oils Consist Of?
• Part 5: Quality
vs. Purity - Aren't They the Same Thing?
• Part 6: Quantifiable
Testing of Essential Oils
• Part 7: GC-MS
Test Results - How Can They Be Used?
• Part 8: Other
Quantifiable Tests for Testing the Quality and Purity of Essential
• Part 9: Essential
Oil Quality and Purity Conclusion: Final Questions/Answers
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