Aromatherapy is a growing sector of the all-natural health and beauty industry, and it's easy to see why. Incorporating essential oils and aromatic plant medicine into your routine and products can support many facets of health. One of the most common misconceptions is that high-quality essential oils always break the bank; however, that's not the case. Aromatherapy can be affordable without forgoing quality! Here is everything you need to know that makes aromatherapy fit into any budget:
1. It takes a lot of plant to distill essential oil.
To get essential oils, flowering plant parts or peels must go through a distillation process. Naturally, some plants yield lots of oil easily, and others have more labor-intensive processes, yielding lower amounts of essential oil. For example, damascene rose is one of the most notorious labor-intensive essential oils to distill, which is reflected in its high price tag. It takes approximately 2,500 pounds of rose flowers to produce 1 pound of essential oil. Rose is a delicate flower and distillers have a short 30-day window to harvest the crop, which cannot be done during peak hours of the sun's heat. That being said, pure rose damascene oil often sells for more than $2,000 per pound. Rose is perhaps the most extreme example, but other essential oils, like many citruses, are distilled via cold-pressed expression and can be found in usable quantities for $15 or less. Knowing about specific plants can help you identify fair market prices and spot red flags.
2. Educate yourself on the origin of oils.
Naturally, different plants mean different prices. Some plants are considered rarities (as you saw above with rose), and it's important to consider ecological and manufacturing factors that influence oil price. Climate? Extinction? Trade laws? Often, a high price from a reputable seller should signify a high-quality oil. A beloved essential oil of mine is rosewood; however, rosewood is cultivated from a tree native to the Amazon rain forest that's considered endangered. Knowing where your oils come from and how they're harvested makes for a more mindful consumer. In addition, many essential oils share therapeutic benefits and similar aromas making substitution easy. For instance, though rosewood is becoming more sustainably harvested, I use lavender or ho wood instead.
3. Less is more.
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts. A little goes a long way! That being said, don't be fooled. A small 5- or 10-ml bottle is very potent and will likely be enough to last you many months with frequent use. But, the shelf life of oils varies drastically. The general rule of thumb is to use essential oils within a year of purchase, but many will keep fresh for longer if refrigerated. In fact, many aromatherapists refrigerate precious oils and always keep citruses and more volatile, fleeting top-notes and carrier oils in the fridge.
Additionally, essential oil dilution is key for effective therapeutic benefit. In fact, nearly all essential oils, with the exception of lavender and tea tree, must be mixed with a carrier oil before using it on skin. Using a few drops of an oil straight from the bottle can cause skin sensitization, which may be in the form of an allergic reaction or rash. Properly diluting oils will make them last longer.
4. Start with the basics.
It's understandable for those new to aromatherapy to want every essential oil. But it takes time to build your own apothecary and connect with different scents. If you are looking to get started, I suggest buying three common, well-priced, and effective essential oils with few safety concerns: lavender, tea tree, and sweet orange. Buy a diffuser and use it. Diffusing is an incredibly economical use of oils that allows you to use them every day while not being overwhelmed with learning curves for safety with topical application and DIY product formulation. Additionally, aromatherapy has many uses—health, skin care, cleaning, etc. So, it's important to align the quality of oils with your needs. For instance, I use well-researched, high-quality oils on my face but am less rigid when choosing oils to include in DIY house-cleaning products. And if you're into aromatherapy for skin care, start with hydrosols. Hydrosols are the water-based by-product of the distillation process, but they are much gentler and cheaper than essential oils.
The industry is peppered with suppliers that prey on the fact that many buyers may not know much about aromatherapy. Unfortunately, the industry lacks regulation, so many fall for marketing gimmicks, such as believing that terms like "therapeutic grade" and "certified pure" actually mean being held to a higher standard. Sadly, that's not always the case. Below are some brands that offer quality essential oils that give you the most bang for your buck:
Plant Therapy has teamed up with industry leader and aromatherapy safety guru, Robert Tisserand. With his collaboration, they derived an entire line of kid-safe synergies that are suitable for your entire family. They have transparent third-party testing practices and some of the best customer service in the business—for example, on their website, if you need to contact them, you can choose to speak with customer service or a certified aromatherapist. With a large selection of oils, they sell in many different sizes and have economical 10-ml bottles perfect for those looking to test.
Nationally recognized thanks to its presence in retailers like Whole Foods and Amazon.com, Aura Cacia is a member of Frontier Co-op. Aura Cacia is my go-to for more expensive, pre-diluted oils, like helichrysum. They have affordable, good-quality options that you can get in a jiffy. Additionally, as a part of the co-op's sustainable sourcing model, they give back via the Positive Change Project with each purchase.
Original Swiss Aromatics
Industry expert Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt offers nothing but genuine and authentic essential oils at Original Swiss Aromatics. Their safeguard against adulteration is close relationships with each producer that often wild harvest and organically certify their products. Be sure to shop their collection if you're in search of rare oils or always want information on the oil's production and collection.
If you are looking to shop local, go for it. There are many small-business owners who run amazing apothecaries that craft unique blends or products at a fair price. Some of my favorite include Stillpoint Aromatics in Sedona, Arizona; Enfleurage and New York Institute of Aromatherapy—both in NYC; and Eden Botanicals located in Petaluma, California. If you do some research, you may find reputable aromatherapy schools or shops in your area and find that you like some suppliers more than others for certain oils.