Frequently Asked Questions: Essential Oils

You might find more of your questions about essential oil Safety answered here.

I work with over 350 different essential oils and their prices range from $20-$4,500 per ounce. I only use high quality essential oils. If a plant is found in abundance–like orange or mint for example–and it produces a high yield of essential oil when distilled, it tends to be less expensive. For plants that are rare and/or produce a low yield of essential oil when distilled, they are much more expensive. Also, some essential oils are aged for several years and that adds to their cost.

Yes! Some essential oil companies adulterate their products–even ones that claim their products are “pure”. I work with companies who believe in plants over profits, so I trust quality of their essential oils. Even so, I still smell every oil’s complex profile upon arrival to determine if they are up to my standards. I smell the oils again every time I use them to make sure they are maintaining their integrity. If they don’t pass my test, they are not used.
Some essential oils do become rancid while others become more complex and lovely with age. For example, citrus essential oils have a shorter shelf life, while wood essential oils just become more magical as time goes by. Keeping your essential oils in a tightly sealed dark glass bottle without much room for air to oxidize them is a good idea. Also, keeping them in a cool dark place will extend their shelf life, while leaving them in a hot car or in direct light will damage them.
Yes. The same species of plant can have a different chemical composition depending on where and how it was grown. Altitude, soil content, rainfall, wild or cultivated, along with other factors, makes a difference. Also, sometimes there are several different species for a given plant or tree and each variety of it has a unique chemical composition and therefore produces a unique scent portfolio when distilled.
How can I tell if it is a low quality or adulterated essential oil?

A number of details can help you determine if you are buying a high-quality essential oil.

First, look at the label. It should tell you several things:

1) The Latin name–found in 2 words and italicized—so you know exactly which plant species was distilled to create that essential oil.

2) Where was the plant harvested? Certain countries are renowned for the distillation of certain plants and there is a lot of pride in the quality of their distillation. In my experience, other countries are not well known for their integrity in selling oils as they do not have the pride of cultural tradition to ensure a pure product.

3) How was the plant harvested? Was it cultivated on a farm? Was it found in the wild? Were these plants sprayed with pesticides or was it an organic harvest? Sometimes it costs too much money for some distilleries to be Certified Organic, yet they do not use harmful fertilizers or pesticides and are for all intents and purposes organic, just not certified. Or, was this plant harvested in the wild- where you don’t need to worry about pesticides or fertilizers? As essential oils are the concentrated essence of a plant, I do not use any oils that are sprayed with chemicals.

4) Smell the oil profile. Start far from your nose and slowly bring it closer, without touching your nostrils. It should also tell you several things: 1) How do you feel in your body and mind when you inhale? Is it pleasant? Or does it make your nasal passages and sinuses burn?  2) If it is orange essential oil, for example, does it smell like your memories of visiting Florida and opening up a fresh orange to eat as a kid or does it smell like candy? (Hint- essential oils shouldn’t smell like candy, so if it does, it has most likely been adulterated to appeal to consumers).

5) Where is this oil being sold? In a health food store? Online? A Distributor? In a shop for only essential oils? How much is the oil? How large is the container? High quality citrus essential oils tend to be moderately priced, while flower essential oils and rare oils can get quite expensive. So, if you see an oil that should cost a lot being sold for a real bargain, something might be wrong with that picture. The oil is probably of low quality and/or adulterated.  Is someone pushing you to buy certain ones or a large quantity? Or do you feel like it is a relaxed fun adventure? How are the oils being treated? Are they in direct light- sun or under fluorescent lights? If so, that is a no- go. If they are not being properly stored, I do not have much faith in the product that is being sold.

I believe in moderation. Personally, I would warn against having your environment be constantly smelling of essential oils or any other strong scent. Sometimes too much of a particular scent or any strong scent in general can overwhelm a system over time and have the opposite intended effect. My advice would be to listen carefully to your body and act accordingly. Also, people have different levels of sensitivity. Three drops of oil may be perfect for you, but it might give someone else a headache.
First, talk to your pet’s veterinarian before exposing your animal to any essential oils, even ones in a diffuser meant for the humans of the household.

Please don’t pour or spray essential oils on your dear pet. Their sense of smell is exponentially greater than ours and their nervous systems are extremely sensitive. Essential oils can have negative effects if not used properly. Unlike a child, your pet might not be able to tell you if something stings or gives them a headache. Not all oils are the same, some plant compounds should not be used with pets (or children) because they are too toxic for their sensitive nervous systems or organs. Plus, you don’t want them to ever ingest the oils, which they might do if they lick them off their skin, fur or feathers.

Please do your research on the particular oil and exercise common sense. But first, talk to your vet before doing anything! You can try putting a drop of essential oil, okayed by the vet, on a cotton ball and putting it on the floor away from your pet to see if your pet chooses to come up and sniff it. Never force them, please. Respect your pet. Do not leave your pet unattended with the cotton ball infused with essential oil in case they try to lick or eat it. Like with children, essential oils can be beneficial to animals, as long as caution, common sense and above all respect for the animal is exercised.

Yes, and they can be beneficial if used correctly, but I would be exceptionally cautious with this. Children, like animals, are much more sensitive to the effects of these oils. Do your research and use with care. Talk to your pediatrician first. Dilution is critical.  An infant, a toddler and a 10 year-old child, for example, are in very different places in their physical development and level of sensitivity, therefore they should not be treated alike.