Which brand of essential oils to buy is by far one of the most asked questions in the Scentsable Health Facebook Group! It would be so easy for me to give my opinion and tell people which brands to buy, but in the end that brand may not only be the wrong one for them but may also stunt their personal need to research and own their choice of brands! So this is an updated post to a three part blog series I wrote in 2015 on how to pick the right brand for you and your family composed in a series of thoughtful questions to prompt you to think about important things then rate them with each brand you cross paths with.
Buying all of your oils from one company really restricts your essential oil experience. Finding a few companies who meet your qualifications and experiencing oils (maybe even the same oil) from different distillers could broaden your essential oil journey as well as give you multiple resources you trust! Download our FREE PDF Brand Worksheet to help you in this process and feel free to ask any questions you might come up with.
Let’s talk about some qualities you should consider in terms of the company from which you are purchasing.
Does the company sell synthetic oils, as well as essential oils?
We are well aware that terms like “therapeutic grade” or “certified therapeutic grade” are only trademarked marketing terms, not indications of superior quality, so that’s not what I’m referring to here by “only essential oils”. A company that also sells synthetic oils has higher likelihood of delivering cut or mis-marked oils.
How many aromatherapists, if any, does the company have on staff?
An essential oil distribution company should employ at least 1 certified/registered/trained/vintage aromatherapist. I personally love working with distribution companies that are owned by an aromatherapist. The amount of experience, the “nose”, and the knowledge of distilling essential oils goes far beyond the business of bottling. It is an art. Many have caught onto the “trend” of essential oils and have jumped at the opportunity to make a quick, easy dollar.
What is the company’s reputation within the professionals of aromatherapy, the general public, and how long have they been in business?
Aromatherapists have seen (and heard) some stuff. Check in with professionals in the aromatherapy industry about the companies you’re looking at. We’ve seen some get caught doing things that aren’t above board and seen the continued integrity and track record of others. A good aromatherapist will be honest about the pros and cons of the company you’re considering. When you ask an AT their favorite brand, ASK WHY and get the opinion of a few different aromatherapists!
Does the company make legal product claims backed by science?
This is important because it shows they have done their homework and are staying within FDA guidelines, which do not allow medical claims to be made of essential oils. To do so is to practice medicine without a license, since essential oils, of ANY brand, are not regulated by the FDA. It might sound something like this: “Copiaba essential oil will relieve the pain of an infected tooth.” This is not a legal statement for someone selling that essential oil to make, nor is it currently backed by science. The tooth is in pain because of infection and dental attention is needed.
Does the company market their oils as “superior” in any way?
The company should not be marketing their oils with terms like therapeutic grade, certified therapeutic grade, pure, etc. These are purely marketing terms and do not have a real meaning in the realm of essential oils. Using terms like these have caused mass confusion among consumers and created an illusion of a product that has superior contents – which they then usually use as support for unsafe use practices like recreational (unmonitored) ingestion and unnecessary neat application.
What sort of information does the company offer about each oil?
I love when distributors offer descriptions of the aroma of single oils. If it is an oil I’m purchasing for the first time, it helps me know aromatically what to expect from their product. I want to be able to imagine what that essential oil will smell like before I buy! It’s also important to me to know the “DNA” of the oil like the region it was grown in, maybe a sentence on the distiller or farmer, a GC/MS report to check levels in the oils as well as to see if the composition will fill the needs I have when blending according to compound.
Does the company align with your understanding of how to safely use essential oils or do they promote unsafe practices via their website, staff or other company associates?
If the website supplies recipes, they should also supply detailed safety information so you know if the recipes are safe for you to use. There should be tools (free or products) that help you use safely like dilution charts, essential oil restriction charts, etc. If they are promoting any practices or preparations that are not recommended by NAHA, AIA or a trained aromatherapist like recreational ingestion, unnecessary neat use or inappropriate use of oils with age or medical restrictions, I always avoid these companies.
Next, let’s talk about products! You are clearly passionate about using essential oils so the purity of the product is going to be important to you. No one likes buying a product that is marketed for less than what it really is. Here are some practical questions on gauging products.
How does the company ensure the purity?
If they publicize “third party testing” do you actually have access to the results? Something like a GC/MS report is a helpful start.
Do they have trackable information or are you asked to take their word for it?
Does the company not talk about the purity of their products at all?
Does the company pour from small or large batches?
Companies that pour in small batches generally do so to ensure consistency and not mixing of different types of the same oil. Pouring from large batches, where oils from different distillers may be poured all together then bottled, leave you with many different compound levels and variables to consider.
If organic, wildcrafted and unsprayed are important parts of your day to day life are they important to you for your essential oil purchases?
How does the company verify their oils are organic?
What do customers and aromatherapists say about their products?
Gathering outside reviews can be extremely helpful but I would encourage you to not base your decision solely on someone else’s experience. For example, there are a few companies on the market that sell good oils, but they do not share the same values I do so I do not purchase from them or recommend them. This is why going through this post and identifying how your value system impacts your purchase is important!
PACKAGING & PRICE
Now onto labels, packaging, and….price! Let’s cover information that should appear or be considered surrounding labeling and pricing. It is important to note that the following discussion is specifically set around single essential oils, not blends or synergies. I will include and call out a few thoughts on the points I find important for companies that I buy a blend/synergy from. Essential oils should be stored in glass bottles (amber or colored are preferred) and in a temperature monitored atmosphere to prevent oxidization. Shipping can also be included in this section as temperature and how the products are shipped can determine how you receive the products!
Single Essential Oil Label – Musts
Name of Oil – Native/common name
Lavender for example if it is a single bottle of lavender. For the companies I purchase blends from a name of the blend, not a blank mystery bottle with a cute washi tape decoration.
Lavendula Augustafolia would be one of the scientific names of Lavender. However, there are many types of Lavender! Having the scientific name will help you know exactly which Lavender you are buying, whether it has been blended with other Lavendars, and be able to look up safety and use information on your own. . An example of where this would be important is Tansy. Knowing if that was, in fact, Tanacetum annum(common name Blue Tansy) or the potentially toxic Tanacetum vulgare is going to be pretty important! Another example would be Citrus sinesis. It goes by the common name Blood Orange, Sweet Orange, or Wild Orange depending on the company. However, aromas may still vary and knowing the Latin name to reference safety recommendations will be helpful. For blends, since the label is space restricting, I do not require the latin name on the label, but I do find it helpful on their other resources like info card or website. When I have questions, like if the lime used in the blend was cold pressed or steam distilled, I just ask!
Chemotypes. The geek in me loves this big-ish science word. But really, a chemotype is simply a different kind of the same plant. Rosemary, for example, has a specific range of compounds it needs to have in it to be Rosemary. However Rosemary ct. verbenone (Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone) has a NATURALLY higher presence of verbenone, a compound that is great for clearing thick mucus. These chemotypes should always be listed as some may have safety warnings that the “originating” oil does not.
Origin of plant
The bottle should give where the original plant was grown. Also, consider if you are comfortable are you with plants NOT grown in their natural environments. This may be an important consideration because natively grown plants, in their natural habitats, with the varying degrees of heat, soil types and rain, will adapt their growth and composition to thrive in the environment. Lavender grown in Bulgaria will have a different compound balance than lavender grown in Canada. If a plant is grown outside it’s native environment, the composition and aromatics of the plant and consequently the essential oil change.
Size of bottle
This is helpful when comparing prices too! Obviously an important label component for companies I purchase blends from as well.
Contents & Ingredients
It may not seem right or fair, but distributors are not required to put contents of the bottles on the label. A company that DOES do this gets my support over a company that doesn’t. It is also a warning to purchase your oils and blends from trust worthy sources. This point is helpful not only for safe use of this product, but for price comparison! If you’re considering a brand that sells 5mL bottles of Rose Otto for $20 and comparing it to a company selling a 5mL bottle of Rose Otto for $200, that is a really great indication to look into the cheaper company and if dilution of that oil is involved prior to packaging. You are likely getting a 5% (or less) dilution of Rose essential oil for $20 and will not be able to use it in your diffuser for instance. If a company lists carriers or that the oil was diluted, it is important to me to know what it was diluted with in case of something like nut allergies.
How the essential oil was extracted from the plant material like solvent, steam distillation, CO2, or pressed, is important for safety and use information. HERE IS AN ARTICLE ON SOME OF THOSE DIFFERENT EXTRACTIONS. For some oils, this is crucial in determining if they are phototoxic or not. The part of the plant used in the extraction of the essential oil is also very important for safety precautions. Cinnamon Leaf and Cinnamon Bark, for example, come from the same plant. Different parts of the cinnamon tree and safety considerations.
Warnings or safety info
Warnings on labels (sometimes also found on the product’s website since label space is limited) are important. Oils should be kept away from children at all times. Starting our kiddos out with a healthy respect for essential oils can go a long way! I store mine in the fridge, away from the kids and at a perfect temperature to get the longest shelf life out of them. Any warnings like “photo toxic” or “high skin irritant” should also appear on the website or product label, for obvious reasons.
Does the pricing look suspiciously low, high or is it all the same?
If all the 15mL bottles of essential oils are $7.00 even if it is Frankincense, chances are you’re not getting the real deal. Distributors, the ones worth purchasing from, should have a large range of prices all dependent on the oil for sale. Neroli is never going to be the same price as Tea Tree and if it is, run away! If the prices are suspiciously low the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true it probably is,” may fit here. I’m ALWAYS as suspicious of low prices as I am of high prices. What is getting cut out of this delicate process to drive the prices down like testing, fair wages, compromised storage or shipping method? Don’t get me wrong, we all like to get the best bang for our buck but consider what are you willing to give up for that extra-low price? On the flip side, if the company you’re looking at has to justify their high costs to you with marketing phrases like “therapeutic grade” or FDA approved (which is a myth, no essential oils are FDA approved) then you can rest assured they are trying to get more than fair cost.
What is my budget?
The last point for price that is important to me is budget. Is the brand you’re looking at going to take you decades to accumulate the oils you want or could you wisely budget your selections now? I’ve heard many people use a more questionable, cheaper brand for cleaning (cutting costs there) and saving the more on point brand oils for their family care. Purchasing oils in appropriate sizes for your use is important, too. You can get oils in “bulk,” but are you and your family really going to use 4oz of lemon in 8-12 months (if stored in the fridge) before it oxidizes?
I realize this process can be super overwhelming! Here are a few of my personal favorites and the brands I purchase all my single essential oils, hydrosols and CO2s from to create the beautiful Scentsable Health Product Line. They are tried and true companies that align with what is important to me and the principals that Scentsable Health wishes to encourage (ex: sustainable growth and harvesting, organic, safe use accuracy, helpful staff, aromatherapist owned). Here they are:
Aromatics – www.aromatics.com
StillPoint Aromatics – www.stillpointaromatics.com
Nature’s Gift – www.naturesgift.com