Essential Oils Are Not Collectibles
Do You Collect Essential Oils?
Many of us have collections. Antiques. Baseball cards. Stamps. Dolls. DVDs. Figurines...
The types of objects and items we can collect are endless. Our collections can bring us great joy. Finding that illusive item for our collection can feel rewarding become an entertaining challenge. And finding pieces to add to our collection at amazing prices can make the process more thrilling.
It's understandable that we instinctively lean towards using this same type of collection terminology when referring to essential oils. An essential oil, however, isn't really a collectible. There are underlying drawbacks that can occur when thinking of essential oils as something to "collect."
I'm not trying to discourage you from purchasing and learning about many essential oils, but there is an important distinction and mindset that can greatly help you in genuinely benefitting from the essential oils that you work with and help you feel a greater sense of joy and gratitude for each oil.
Essential Oils Do Have a Shelf Life and Their Aroma Does Change Over Time
Most collectibles will last indefinitely if properly cared for. Even when stored under optimal conditions, essential oils deteriorate in aroma and therapeutic benefit as they age. In other words, they have a shelf life. The aroma for some essential oils like Patchouli and Sandalwood can improve over time, but their overall therapeutic value still can diminish. So buying essential oils for your "collection" just to try them a couple times and then save them in case you need them for a rainy day can lead to a lot of wastefulness.
This type of "collection" language can induce a competitive spirit and unintentionally cause others to buy essential oils without more mindfully understanding the considerations that should go into each of our essential oil purchasing decisions...
Essential Oil Collecting Causes Competition
Several times a week on average, I hear individuals refer to their "essential oil collections" or refer to the act of "adding more essential oils to their collection." Some essential oil enthusiasts compete with their oily friends for the title of who has the largest essential oil collection.
There is no real prize to be won here, and the person with the most essential oils on hand is not necessarily the person or family that will benefit the most... Knowing how to use several essential oils thoroughly and then gradually building on your knowledge and number of oils available in your personal apothecary can be far more beneficial than having 100 aging essential oils on hand, and not really understanding them or how to effectively and safely use them.
It is wasteful and expensive to purchase essential oils that won't be used during their therapeutic shelf life. Essential oils also have low yields, meaning that it takes an enormous amount of plant material to produce essential oil. Sustainability is an important and growing consideration as well.
Essential Oil Study and Education
There is nothing wrong with purchasing essential oils to learn about, study and use them judiciously. In no way do I want to discourage you from purchasing essential oils from reputable vendors. What I want to do is encourage you to take a closer look at why you are buying particular essential oils and encourage you to genuinely learn about and study the essential oils that you acquire. Be mindful of the shelf life for the oils that are in your personal apothecary, and be mindful of how you store them.
If you are learning about essential oils on your own, it's much better to buy one or two essential oils at a time, buying only the bottle size that you think you might use during the therapeutic lifespan of the oil, and explore and study each of those essential oils thoroughly than it is to buy many at one time just to become overwhelmed and not learn about each one in depth. Going slowly can go against our impatient nature and desire to "collect" things, but the rewards can be much more significant!
I want to be careful in how I write this article because I do not want to discourage highly motivated students from learning about the essential oils they need to study or make anyone feel guilty about sourcing essential oils. And of course, if you are enrolled in a reputable aromatherapy course, you will likely be studying 20 or more essential oils throughout your course. The aromatherapy certification course that I took through ACHS in 1999-2000, for example, included 2ml sizes of 40 essential oils for formal study and assessment during the 390 hour program. 2 ml is a perfect size for initially trying new essential oils for the first time, and enrolling in a reputable aromatherapy school is a wonderful way to stay focused and continually build upon your knowledge of essential oils and their properties and safety considerations.
It's All About Balance
The intent of this article is to encourage a necessary balance. Most of us don't need to have every single essential oil on hand in order to have a beautiful, therapeutic selection of essential oils that can help us with numerous physical and emotional complaints.
Instead of using "essential oil collection" type language, I recommend referring to them as the essential oils that you "presently have on hand." Alternatively, you can visualize and refer to them as the essential oils you have in your home apothecary. Even if you're storing them in your refrigerator (which can greatly help maximize their shelf life), your essential oils are still a part of your personal apothecary.
Sidenote: There are a few essential oil companies that I respect immensely (as well as several essential oil companies that I respect far less) that refer to their selection of essential oils as their collection of essential oils. Within the personal care industry, it is standard practice for companies to refer to a product line as a collection. In this context, collection is a standard marketing term used to denote a product line and is different than referring to one's own personal essential oils as a collection.