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Super Simple: Basics of Choosing Essential Oils

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

Look at all this lavender!

I wanted to smell the difference between various companies, species, source locations, and distillation processes of lavender. They have slightly different properties and uses. If you are just getting started those differences might not be all that important.

I put together the list below to help you safely choose oils from reputable companies…no matter what situation you are using essential oils for. Once you do that, just have fun experimenting with the nuances, as I’m doing now with my collection of lavender.

Above all, make sure the oil is safe for you. Check precautions for children and the elderly, also pregnancy, illness, prescription medications, and allergies/sensitivities need to be checked. Make sure to dilute oils before applying them to the skin, and a patch test should be done before using.

Ok, the most important step is out of the way so now:

1. Decide the effect you are seeking from the oil. Is it relaxation? protection from bacteria and viruses? higher consciousness? A quick google search will be your first step, e.g., “Which essential oils are good for colds and flu.”

2. Consider the source. Across the board, from so-called “mom blogs” to aromatherapy scientists, there will be many answers to your questions. Make sure to read about the author, their experience and training.

It won’t take you long to find a common denominator of a few oils that crop up frequently in your searches. Just pick one or two that resonate with you.

Avoid information overload! Using aromatherapy is an ongoing, intuitive process as much as it is a proven science. You will be continuously sampling new oils and deciding which ones work for you. You are not going to find the one perfect solution via this initial google search.

3. Now that you know that you want, e.g., tea tree or cinnamon vs. lemon or pine, the big problem becomes: which brand? This is also an ongoing process of experimentation and choice. But here are some basics to consider:

I wouldn’t buy from a general online source like Amazon (unless it’s from a specific company you’ve chosen that happens to be selling on Amazon.)  If you want something quick and local, Whole Foods or a reputable health food store might be a more solid choice than a department or drug store.

The reason not to buy from the above sources is because it is hard to know the truth about the contents of the bottle. You want to know that you are purchasing ONLY the essential oil, without contaminants and without carrier oils like jojoba or coconut that dilute the original oil. Think of the safety precautions. You need to know exactly what you’re inhaling or applying to your skin.

Usually you have to resort to the internet to get a clear picture of a company, how it sources its oils, its story, dedication, expertise, and commitment to quality. You should be able to find the Latin name of the oil, its source, whether it is organic, farmed or wild-harvested, and its GS/MC results. (If you’re buying locally in a store, try to at least get something with the full Latin name and the exact contents listed on the bottle. (I once bought Frankincense on a whim at Marshall’s. The bottle came with a diffuser and simply said “Frankincense.” I don’t know what was in the bottle, but it wasn’t Frankincense and it smelled like used engine oil.)

  1. Gas Spectometry/Mass Chromatography (gs/mc) testing is the common method by which essential oils are determined to be free of contamination and to determine which chemical compounds are present and in what amount. A reputable essential oil company will have these tests available. These tests are commonly considered more valuable if they have been conducted by an outside agency.

  2. Example of an exception: I love the Floracopeia brand. Their website states that they test “some” batches of their essential oils. They clearly understand GS/MC and have reasons for their decision. Plus, in reading through the bios of the owners and their values, I “feel” their passion and ethic. My novice “nose” can smell the purple European field, or the Mediterranean crag of rock the plants were clinging to…you know, the essence. It feels pure. It transports you. I’m “pretty sure” their oils are high quality. In this case, that’s good enough for me. See? It’s art AND a science.

  3. Lastly, consider the business. Once you’ve determined their oils are good, you might simply like one company more than another. Is it a multi-level marketing organization or a small mom and pop? Do they offer free shipping? A rewards program? Are their blends fun and whimsy or pretty and ethereal. Experiment with different brands. Make sure it’s safe and good quality…then just start smelling!

Most of all have fun and be amazed when you stumble across a new-found treasure. Questions? Email me and I’ll do my best to help.


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