Where to Buy the Best Essential Oils – Part Two
In Part One of our two-part series, we briefly discussed the basic, “essential” elements of an essential oil. A pure, additive-and-pesticide-free oil is a true essential oil. But when all six of the oils companies in our orange oil comparison claim they offer the purest, highest-quality oils available, how do we avoid just blindly picking one?
At this point, let us take a look at the hard data. What can the cost of each oil and each company’s ability to prove organic certification and gas chromatography testing tell us about their oils?
It is important to note that not all essential oils or oil companies are created equal. Just because one oil is more expensive than another does not mean it is the better of the two. However, cost can provide some information as to the quality of the oil, most notably if it is a consequence of an oil being harvested from an indigenous plant versus one grown locally on US soil. In other words, you do need to expect to pay more for a higher-quality oil.
Grading terms like “food-grade” or therapeutic-grade” are very fluid, and since there is no government or third-party classification system or grading scale, suppliers set their own standards. This is an important point to consider in selecting an essential oil. Several oils companies use specific terms in labeling their oils, which are merely marketing tools. In actuality, they are no help to us as consumers. You can read more about this, here.
In fact, the only nationally-recognized certification for oil quality is an organic certification. So while companies may claim they are harvesting organically, they must be able to prove this with an organic certificate.
Gas chromatography (GC) testing is performed by heating a sample of the oil and passing the oil’s vapor through a detector in order to read its chemical composition. It is important to note here that this process does not always detect the pesticide content, which explains why the company must provide assurance of organic certification. If an oil is considered pure but is not certified organic, then there is a really good chance that it does contain pesticides.
You can read more about GC/MS testing here.
Both doTerra and Young Living refuse to provide certification and test reports on their oils for proprietary reasons. Heritage is also unable to provide organic certification, and Mountain Rose’s oils, which are surprisingly cheap, are not all tested due to some of their suppliers’ inability to afford these tests. However, Native American Nutritionals and J&M Botanicals clearly meet the criteria for cost, certification, and chromatography.
So, does providing a certificate or test result give us the assurance we need to make an educated decision?
The difficulty with an essential oils comparison is the risk of skewed test results or not enough scientific knowledge or training to interpret the data.
Another risk is that, despite certification and testing, adulteration of oils can occur by simply compounding one high-quality essential oil from one source with an inferior oil from another.
And finally, there is always the possibility that a company is simply unable to afford the expensive process to acquire all the right certifications and tests, despite obtaining the best and purest oils available.
With these factors at play, a certification or test result does not necessarily measure the veracity of a company’s claim. For this reason, a non-expert in the world of essential oils (that’s me!) is forced to make a decision not just based on the set of criteria above, but also based on trust through adequate research and inquiry. Below is a quick table summary, followed by a brief outline, detailing my experience with each company’s customer service.
This multi-level marketing company based in Utah was started in 2008. The company’s oils are stamped with the trademark “CPTG” or “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” according to their own standard.
When I emailed doTerra with my initial questions about their oils, I received an auto-generated reply email announcing that someone would follow up with me shortly. The next day I received a reply back with answers to my questions. When I emailed again with a second set of questions, I immediately received the same auto-generated reply, and answers to my questions followed the next day.
This small, family-owned business, which started as a service to friends and family, launched in 2004 and has since expanded.
Even before I had introduced myself, the owner Linda contacted me about the order I had placed, asking if I wanted it shipped through a different carrier in order to save me a few extra dollars. When I emailed Heritage with my initial questions about their oils, I received a reply from Linda with answers to my questions two days later. She even took time to provide me additional background info on her company’s beginnings and and gave me a first-hand account of how the oils have improved her and her family’s health over the years. When I emailed her again with a second set of questions, she again replied with answers to my questions two days later.
UPDATE 8/2013: J&M Botanicals is no longer selling essential oils. Owner Jessie is now the Tennessee Director for the NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy), which provides evidence-based research in the field.
This small company was started by Jessie Hawkins who also manages Vintage Remedies. While all of their oils are certified organic, the company does not carry a wide selection of oils. I was told that one reason for this is they are committed to sustainability and so do not carry oils from endangered plants such as frankincense or sandalwood. They also explained that they only carry oils that are commonly used rather than oils that sit longer on their shelves, thus ensuring that they make only the freshest oils available to their customers. Plus, they do not carry some of the most expensive oils but instead give their customers more affordable options with oils that have similar benefits to their higher-priced counterpart. I was informed that they are looking at offering a few of the more costly oils at their customers’ requests.
When I emailed J&M for this information along with a few other questions and did not hear back from them after seven days, I forwarded my email over to Vintage Remedies and received a response from J&M with answers to my questions the next day.
This fast-growing herb and oils company was started in 1987. Located in Oregon, Mountain Rose has won numerous awards for their environmental and sustainability initiatives. In fact, they won our vote hands down for best dried herbs a couple weeks ago. Although they have a limited number of oils with GC test results, I was informed that they are in the process of looking into some local labs to perform this testing for them.
When I emailed the lab at Mountain Rose with my initial set of questions and did not hear back from them after five days, I emailed my questions to customer service and received a reply from the product manager with answers to my questions three days later. The lab then sent answers to my questions the following day.
This small company was started in 1998 by Paul Dean who had worked in the oils industry. Paul also manages Rocky Mountain Oils, which recently merged with Native American Nutritionals.
When I emailed the company with my initial questions about their oils, I received a reply the next day with answers to a few of my questions and a phone number to reach Paul. He then emailed me that same day before I even had a chance to call him. His email included answers to my questions, along with a couple chapters from the book he is getting ready to publish concerning the dark side of the oils industry (stay tuned for more information on his book!). When I emailed him again with a second set of questions, he replied with answers to my questions the same day.
This multi-level marketing company founded by Gary Young in 1993 has headquarters in Utah and farms located in Utah, Idaho, France, Ecuador, and Oman. The company coined the term “therapeutic grade” and markets their oils with the trademark “YLTG” or “Young Living Therapeutic Grade” based on their own standard.
My correspondence with them was similar to doTerra’s. When I emailed Young Living with my initial questions about their oils, I received an auto-generated reply email announcing that someone would follow up with me shortly. I received a reply back with answers to my questions the next day. When I emailed again with a second set of questions, I immediately received the same auto-generated reply, and answers to my questions followed the next day.
While cost, certification, and chromatography play a big role in identifying the best oils company, my own personal experience with each company, including their response time and how informative and helpful their response proved to be, ultimately affected my decision as well.
In the end, of the six oils companies covered here, the vote for best essential oils goes hands down to Native American Nutritionals (aka Rocky Mountain Oils) for the apparent quality of their oils and the coinciding certifications, their oil affordability and superior customer service.
My strong runner-up is Heritage Essential Oils, who likewise offers exceptional oils (although their lack of organic certification inhibited them from being tied with Native American Nutritionals) and excellent customer service.
At the end of the day…
… maybe proof of certification and testing does not make one fluid ounce of difference to you. Or maybe it does. Perhaps my personal experience with each of these companies helps shed some light. Or maybe it doesn’t. Nothing beats making your own inquiries and doing the research yourself.For an excellent and more comprehensive overview of essential oils, be sure to check out this great piece — The Quality of Essential Oils — which includes valuable tips on qualities to look for when choosing the best essential oils company.You can also check out the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and AromaWeb and be sure to read through these articles: “Verifying Essential Oil Quality and Purity” and “How to Buy Essential Oils.”
Also, for another oils company comparison, read about WholeNewMom’s adventure in oil comparison. Hers was certainly a wild ride!
I hope this post is helpful in your search for where to get the best bang for your buck in the world of essential oils. And if you have a favorite company you’d like to see represented here in the future, please let us know!