Many people ask what the best essential oil brand is so I thought it would be helpful to give a review of essential oil brands. When researching this question there are a few main points to consider:
- Plant growing methods
- Oil processing method
- Purity of the oil
- Product Availability
PLANT GROWING METHODS
Obviously when purchasing an essential oil you want it to be labeled “Organic” . There are now hundreds of companies marketing essential oils, which is great for getting more people into using them, but many of the companies don’t care about the quality of their oil. They just figure they’ll make a quick buck on a growing trend. Companies that truly care about their customers and the quality they provide to them make certain to source their plants from certified organic growers. Oils processed from plants grown with the use of chemical pesticides and/or fertilizers carry those poisons in them and are potentially harmful to the user. (remember! words with -cide on the end mean death! fungicide, herbicide, pesticide, homicide, suicide…you get the point) Generally speaking these are things you want to stay away from anyway, and in their concentrated form essential oils are definitely something you don’t want them in. So always look for the word Organic on the bottle. A few companies that are great about this are Young Living, doTerra, Beachwood Essentials. The vast majority, if not all, of their oils come from organically grown plants. Other companies that have a lot of organically produced oils are Aura Cacia and NOW Foods. These companies label their oils differently if they are not organic so you able to make the differentiation.
OIL PROCESSING METHODS
Throughout history there have been a number of different methods for extracting the essential oils from plants. Some of them have endured time and are the primary methods used today. Others have proven too costly to continue for the mass production necessary today. Some of the methods used today are:
- CO2 Extraction
- Solvent Extraction
Distillation– just like alcohols distillation of essential oils involves heating the plant with steam. The steam is then forced through cooling tubes where the water and oil condense and then separate. The advantage of distillation is that the oils can be separated at lower than boiling point temperatures, so the relevant oils are not damaged in the process thereby retaining their integrity and beneficial properties.
Expression-this method is used primarily for the citrus oils, (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc) and is currently done using machines that have spikes that essentially poke the rinds of the fruit, turn them, poke some more then squeeze. This method is also referred to as cold pressing, and again does not damage the oils.
CO2 Extraction– this is the newest method of essential oil extraction, and is probably the most expensive. The CO2 is pressurized and extracts the oils while under pressure, but then disappears when the pressure is released, leaving no trace in the oil. Because it is a cold process the oil’s integrity is not compromised and retains all of it’s beneficial properties. Oils processed in this manner tend to cost more than oils processed by the other methods.
Solvent Extraction-as the name implies, this method employs various solvents (alcohol, ethanol, ether, petroleum to name a few) to extract the oils. Basically the plant matter is washed over an over again in the solvent to coax the oils out. Although the process may not use heat, it is the least desirable. Trace amounts of any given solvent used remain in the oil. This results in oil which is not pure and does not have the integrity of oils processed by other methods. This method is generally used for very delicate plants that cannot tolerate the heat of distillation such as jasmine.
When looking at particular brands it is important to realize that various methods are employed by each depending on the specific plants being used. Some plants are processed only using expression, while others are done mainly with solvents due to the nature of the plant itself. Generally speaking, finding oils that are processed without the use of solvents is most desirable. The brands previously mentioned are reputable, strive for quality and stick primarily to distillation and expression. You can find oils specifically labeled CO2 like Tumeric by Plant Therapy, but they are not as widely available as those processed by distillation and expression.
It goes without saying that the more pure the oil is the better. You don’t want to have a bunch of other chemicals mixed in with the oil as they could adversely effect the user or impede the oils abilities. Reputable companies label their oils 100% pure. The integrity also refers to the fact that the oil is being processed from a single species of plant. This gives it the most reliable therapeutic results. The labels on the EO bottles will generally list what species of plant the oil is extracted from. Beware of those listing more than one plant. As I mentioned before, there are hundreds of oil manufacturer’s out there these days that are really just trying to cash in on the essential oil boom and are not concerned with the quality they are producing. As with most things these days, being aware of what to look for and doing a little research before buying goes a long way to the success you will experience using essential oils.
Another factor in the purity of the oil is whether it is mixed with other chemicals or is what referred to as adulterated (to spoil by adding impurities). By mixing the essential oil with other solvents, vegetable oils or alcohol some companies are selling very small amounts of actual EO but charging as if the entire bottle was full of it. This makes them more money, but significantly reduces the potency of the oil.
A NOTE ABOUT “THERAPEUTIC GRADE”
A number of reputable companies have started using the term “Therapeutic Grade” to make their oils sound better than other brands. There is no such thing! There is no entity overseeing the quality or effectiveness of essential oils. Neither is there anyone assigning grades to them. It’s a completely made up “grade” used solely for marketing purposes. It has no basis in fact, nor does it denote a better quality than others. Companies are enjoying using this term and raising their prices on those oils labeled as such. This is no different than cereal companies using the term “wholesome”, it’s just a marketing term and really doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of the product. So although I wouldn’t necessarily hold it against the companies using the term, I certainly wouldn’t pay any more for an oil labeled therapeutic vs one that doesn’t carry that label, all other things being equal.
PRODUCT AVAILABILITY and COST CONSIDERATIONS
Many oils are now available at your local grocery store or super store. Even more are available online and several are primarily available through independent consultants. Personally, I tend to shy away from those that are part of multi level marketing organizations, as I just don’t care for that type of business. (That’s just my preference! I’d rather just order something and get it in a few days or go to a store and pick it up rather than have to wait for an individual to place an order then have it sent to them, then have to meet up to get it. It’s been my experience that sometimes it takes several weeks to get my product! To me that’s just a pain!) As with most products, you get what you pay for, to a certain extent. If you are only paying $10 for a 1 oz. bottle of Frankincense, you are probably not getting a very high quality oil. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are paying $40 for a 10 ml bottle of Frankincense, you are probably paying for the brand name of the oil. There are plenty of quality oils that are priced reasonably. You don’t have to pay top dollar for a quality oil.
Ultimately, it’s not the brand of oil but the plant growing and processing methods, and purity of the oil, that should be your deciding factors. If after researching a couple of brands that you find provide the quality oil you are looking for, then go with whichever happens to have the best price at the time. The essential oil market is getting increasingly more competitive and there are many options for quality oils from which to choose. Perhaps you can even buy them locally from a naturopath who carries them in bulk!
Please comment below if you have a favorite brand and tell us why!