Essential Oils For Beginners - A Comprehensive Guide
Due to a plethora of competing companies promoting their brands, choosing which essential oil to buy could be a challenge to anyone that is not an expert on the matter.
So today, I will discuss the things to look for when buying essential oils for beginners. I will also share with you my own experience with essential oils, how to use essential oils and where to buy the purest essential oils.
I guarantee that after reading this, you will be able to buy the best essential oils without getting ripped off.
Let’s get started!
Essential oils have been taking over the health industry recently as the majority of the population starts to distance themselves from synthetics and artificial products.
But before we go into the “how and where” section of essential oils, let's take a short tour at the “what and why" department first.
Having a clear understanding of what essential oil is and why people use them is the first step to making a better purchase decision in the end.
What is an Essential Oil
In layman’s term, an essential oil is simply a highly concentrated plant extract. If you prefer a fancy definition, then...
“An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile chemical compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, aetherolea, or simply as the oil of the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove. Essential oil is "essential" in the sense that it contains the "essence of" the plant's fragrance - the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived.” (source)
Fun fact: Essential oils are not oils at all. They just inherited the name because just like oil, they do not mix with water.
Why Do People Use Essential Oils
People using essential oils is not a new thing. Ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Chinese and Greeks were big fans of essential oils eons ago.
They were primarily using essential oils for medicinal purposes, first aid treatments, and relaxation.
But modern society’s fascination with essential oils was revived in recent decades with the popularity of the “aromatherapy.”
Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine, a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts (essential oils) to promote health and well-being. It is more popularly known to be useful in inducing relaxation, meditation, and stimulating the immune system.
The popularity of aromatherapy and the general trend of health awareness has caused most people to lean back into natural cleaning and health products, like essential oils.
How Does Essential Oils Work
It is said that good-quality essential oils are known to help with:
However, there is no sufficient evidence supporting that essential oils can effectively treat any illness and conditions.
Medical applications of essential oils which are usually proposed by companies and individuals who sell them (ranging from treating skin issues to curing cancer) are often based solely on historical and personal experiences.
The FDA did not approved any medicinal claims regarding the use of essential oils.
Are Essential Oils Suppose To Be Expensive
For essential oil beginners, essential oils are derived and extracted from various sections of plants. Some are extracted from the flowers, seeds, leaves, bark, and other parts.
But producing even the tiniest amount of essential oil will require a lot of plant material. For example:
- It requires approximately 3 pounds of lavender flowers to produce just 15mL of lavender essential oil.
- About 250 pounds of rose blossoms are needed to create a 30mL rose essential oil.
The equipment and the process used during the extraction of essential oil will also contribute to its price tag. This is why high-quality essential oils will never be cheap.
But make no mistake!
Contrary to what most of us believe, it does not necessarily mean that more expensive essential oils are always better than less expensive ones. Especially today.
I could throw a stick, and it will land on an overpriced essential oil that is way too expensive for its quality. But more on the price of essential oils in a moment.
How To Make Essential Oils
The most common processes for extracting the essential oils from the raw plant material are:
Distillation - This is how most essential oils come to be. This extraction process involves simmering the plant material to produce steam.
The steam then travels through a tube and runs through cold water. The oils are then separated from the liquid that forms from condensation.
Expression aka Cold Pressing - An extraction method where heavy pressure squeezes the oils from the plant materials. This process is common in citrus/orange essential oils.
Maceration - Plant material is softened in warm water to release the oils
How Long Does An Essential Oil Last
Essential oils are highly concentrated. So a little bottle will go a long way depending on how frequent you use it.
When it comes to shelf life, in general, an essential oil's chemical composition will determine how long you can keep it in your cabinet.
- Lemon and
- Tea Tree have the shortest shelf life.
You can only store these essential oils for about 1-2 years before they expire.
Basil, Rosemary, Oregano and Melissa essential oils that contain a lot of phenols may last up to 3 years.
- Cinnamon Bark,
- German Chamomile,
- Clary Sage,
- Lavender, and
- Peppermint essential oils have a shelf life of 4-5 years.
Preserving Your Essential Oils
You can make your essential oils last longer by keeping them tightly closed when not in use, away from getting exposed to light, and storing them in a cool place.
One of the best places to store your essential oils is in the refrigerator, so you might want to remove them from your cabinets.
Keeping your essential oils refrigerated will extend its lifespan for about twice as long.
How To Tell If Your Essential Oil Has Already Expired/Oxidized
Using an essential oil that has gone past its shelf life will do you harm instead of good.
While there are are companies that provide a distillation date for their essential oil products so you can tell if it is still safe to use or not...
Some of them don’t.
So for essential oil beginners...
There are certain ways to tell if your product is still okay to use during your storage.
Aroma: Once you notice that your essential oil smells “off” and the aroma is different than what it used to be, then it might be not safe to use anymore.
Appearance: You may notice that your EO is not as bright and as fresh as it used to be. Citrus essential oils, for example, sometimes look cloudy once they are past their shelf life.
Essential oils that are in storage for a very long time may also become more viscous as it nears solidification.
Adverse Reactions: An essential oil that is oxidized is likely to cause allergic reactions such as skin redness, irritation, itching, etc.
Furthermore, you can also keep track of your essential oil’s usability by keeping a note of the date when you purchased it or first opened the bottle.
In the event that you have an oxidized essential oil, you can still use them to clean your household or as insecticides. Just make sure to wear gloves.
How To Buy Essential Oils For Beginners
Now that you are already familiar with essential oils, let’s move into the things to look for when buying one.
#1 Essential Oil Price
As I mentioned earlier, high-quality and authentic essential oils are not cheap.
So do not be tricked by independent sellers, wholesale stores, and vendors that sell their essential oils at very low prices.
Although there will be some essential oils that are not as expensive as the others. This could be because they are easier to produce or the materials are easy to acquire.
For example, a lavender essential oil is cheaper than a frankincense essential oil.
But keep in mind that it still requires a lot of plant material to produce a specific essential oil. So if the price is too good to be true, then you aren't probably getting a good quality product.
Another tell-tale sign that an essential oil retailer is not trustworthy is when they charge the same price for all of their essential oils. Essential oil prices will vary because the cost of raw materials is also different.
Should You Always Buy The Expensive Brands
Okay here's the deal. While high-quality essential oils are not cheap, it also doesn't mean that a more expensive essential oil is always superior in quality than the less expensive ones.
As you can see in the image above...
The prices of the essential oils from the two MLM companies are 2-3 times higher than non-MLM brands.
Base on my experience, the reason for this price difference has nothing to do with the quality of the essential oils. It is entirely because of something else.
#2 Essential Oil Purity and Quality
Regarding the purity of essential oils, no agency regulates this, so there isn’t really a standard at the moment. So these definitions adds almost nothing to the actual value of an essential oil product.
Besides, many factors can affect the quality of essential oil other than purity.
For example, a product may be made up of 100% pure plant extract, but if the equipment used and the extraction process is flawed, it may not provide more than a mild, pleasant fragrance.
On the other hand, a company may claim that its essential oils are pure but is actually adulterated and contains impurities. Such cheap essential oils cannot offer the same therapeutic benefits of authentic essential oils.
Perhaps the best thing to do to guarantee that you can get a high-quality essential oil is to buy from a brand that specializes in essential oils.
These companies are likely to sell pure and high-quality essential oils as it is their primary source of business. This means that they will try their best to maintain a good reputation.
Continue reading to learn what to look for when buying essential oils for beginners.
#3 Dark Colored Bottles Only
Always buy essential oils that are stored in dark colored bottles.
You may not think this is not important, but when it comes to essential oils, this is a must.
Essential oils should only be stored in glass bottles because it will react with plastic.
Moreover, essential oils are highly sensitive to light. Therefore, high-quality essential oils are usually kept in cool places inside a dark brown, amber, or dark blue bottles.
#4 Check the Latin Names
Look for essential oils that has the Latin names of the plant it is extracted from. There are different plant species from where essential oils are extracted. And some plants of the same family offer various benefits than others.
Take "Chamomile" for example.
- If you want the essential oil which promotes relaxation, you probably want the German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla).
- Not the Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) which has anti-bacterial properties.
Plants in the chamomile group have different chemical compositions, and you should know which chamomile essence you want.
Another example is Lavender and Lavandin.
- Lavandin (Lavandula Intermedia) is said to have a stimulating effect while
- Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) is known to be calming and relaxing.
This is one reason some people complains that the essential oil they bought from one company does not work. As it turns out; they purchased the wrong one.
#5 Look for Essential Oil Tests
While essential oil standards for purity and quality are not regulated, there are specific tests that are recognized throughout the world.
The GC/MS (Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry) testing is one of the main things to look for when buying essential oil as a beginner.
This test reveals crucial details about the quality and composition of an essential oil.
Most of the trusted essential oil retailers will run GC/MS tests on every batch of oil they receive directly from their suppliers/distillers.
They will provide a batch-specific GC/MS reports for each essential oil product on their websites. Others per your request.
#6 Get Familiarize with Jargon
Essential oils may come as organic, natural, un-sprayed, and wild-crafted.
- Which is better?
- Which is bad?
- What should you get?
First off, “organic” and “natural” do not mean the same thing. When buying essential oil...
Look for organic on the label.
The “organic" label on an essential oil cannot be faked.
It means that the product that bears an organic seal is created following a strict set of farming and production practices defined and regulated by the USDA.
This is extremely important because any pollutants on plants will be more concentrated in the essential oil.
The organic seal guarantees that no toxic synthetic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical NPK fertilizers are used in its production.
The "natural" label; however...
Simply means that the plants used in your essential oil are grown and harvested from the soil. It does not mean that the product is free from pollutants and pesticides that can be hazardous to a person's health.
Essential oils that are labeled "un-sprayed" means the raw materials used for production are not certified organic. But are not sprayed with chemicals and pesticides.
Wild-crafted essential oils on the other hand means that the plants used are derived from the wild.
#7 Other Terms
Other fancy terms for essential oils such as “therapeutic grade,” “certified pure therapeutic grade or “clinical grade” have been used lately.
For example, essential oil MLM companies like doTERRA and Young Living have their own standards of quality.
However, since essential oil standards are not established, nor any criteria have been set, these terms could mean anything that the company wants them to mean.
They are no more than marketing tools to convince you into buying their products. A tool to claim superiority of their products over competitors.
Where to Buy High-Quality Essential Oils
The first time I decided to try an essential oil is for my kid.
There was an outbreak of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in his school, and I want to keep him safe as much as possible.
I decided to buy Thieves essential oil because it is said to be one of the best natural remedies for HFMD. The Thieves essential oil I bought was from an MLM company. Yes, it is much more expensive when compared to the other brands.
However, my son did not catch the disease and I choose to believe that the product work. I wrote a product review of the particular essential oil in here.
But I have to be honest with you.
If you want to buy an essential oil...
I suggest that you take a look at independent suppliers first before buying from an MLM company.
Chances are, you will be able to find the exact essential oil that you are looking for, of the same quality and size, but at a much lower price.
Below are some of the trusted essential oil brands (alphabetical order) that most people turn to. I am not affiliated to any of these companies.
- Aromatics International
- Aura Cacia
- Edens Garden
- Miracle Essential Oils
- Mountain Rose Herbs
- NOW Oils
- Plant Therapy
- Pompeii Organics
- Rocky Mountain
- Stillpoint Aromatics
Thank you for taking the time to read this article on essential oils for beginners. I hope that this has been useful to you and has given you new insights on what to look for when buying an essential oil.
Until here and I wish you all the best.