by erin stewart august 18 small-6

How to Tell If an Essential Oil Brand Is Any Good

Note: This article is an excerpt from our Herbal Aromatherapy™ Certification Program and is protected by copyright (please don’t re-publish my words elsewhere without prior written permission from me). It’s really long, so I’d recommend setting aside 15-20 minutes to really be able to read through it. I cover a lot of questions I commonly receive about essential oils and how to tell if a brand is reputable or not throughout the article. I think it’s important to note that I do not sell essential oils. I use many brands of essential oils, and I distill many of my own using fresh plants I grow in my garden. I’m also a professionally trained, NAHA-certified aromatherapist, and I feel that I am able to write this article without any brand connections or bias. If you’re new here, welcome! I hope you’ll find this helpful. <3

People want to know who they can trust when it comes to essential oil brands. So much of the information available online is contradictory that enthusiasts who are just beginning to learn more about essential oils find it difficult to know who to listen to.

Inaccurate information can easily become so oft-repeated that well-meaning people start to believe it’s true, thus the widespread acceptance of falsified claims that contradict what other information is available.

Many people, however, have the wisdom to see through this marketing messaging for what it is and eventually stumble across our magazine or blog and write in to ask me how they can tell the difference between a reputable brand and an unscrupulous one. I’ll do my best to walk you through this.

How to Navigate a Brand's Marketing / Messaging

Essential oils are unregulated products in the United States, which means that a brand or salesperson can describe their products pretty much any way they want to, with some exceptions. Because of this, many of the words and phrases that brands use to describe their products don’t actually mean anything industry-wide because there’s no national standard to qualify the meaning of those words or phrases. For instance, a brand could claim that their essential oil is pure, but that same product might also have other ingredients in it that are not the essential oil. The word pure does not mean that the product inside the bottle is 100% authentic essential oil from the species on the label.

The words and phrases that a brand chooses to use to describe their essential oils are either marketing claims or they are legitimate, verifiable claims. Here’s how you can tell what you’re looking at:

Words and Phrases You’ll See on Labels that Don’t Actually Mean Anything (Purely Marketing)

  • Pure
    Pure what? Pure essential oil? Pure essential oil in pure carrier oil? This word has no standard to qualify its meaning and I’ve even seen it used to describe “pure” 100% synthetic products. Some reputable brands do use this phrase to describe their high quality, 100% pure essential oil products; this descriptor is not a disqualifier, but it is good to be aware that it doesn’t represent a universal standard.
  • Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (often seen with the registered trademark symbol)
    This is a phrase that one brand has trademarked for use to describe their products and their process for bringing them to market. It describes their own approach to their products, but it is, again, an unregulated phrase that has no standard qualifying its meaning across the board. It’s a marketing tool, not an indication of adherence to an industry standard.
  • Therapeutic Grade
    A shortened version of the above that is not trademarked and is therefore adopted by many brands and salespersons to describe the products they are selling. It is also unregulated and has no quantifiable meaning.
  • Medicinal Grade / Clinical Grade
    Some brands use this phrase to describe their products in an effort to position their products with a higher perception of quality, but it is also an unregulated, unquantifiable phrase.
  • Pharmaceutical Grade
    See the description above (under Medicinal Grade).
    It is important to note that essential oils are not pharmaceuticals. Using this phrase to describe essential oils in our country is not only unscrupulous; it can also be dangerously deceptive. I would imagine that the FDA will be approaching companies who use this phrase to describe their essential oil products if they haven’t already.

Words and Phrases that Do Mean Something (Verifiable Claims)

  • USDA Certified Organic
    The use of this seal is regulated. You can read more about the standards required to earn this certification here, here, and here.
  • ECOCERT Certified Organic
    The use of this seal is regulated. You can read more about the standards required to earn this certification here and here.

Note: It has been popular amongst salespersons for two essential oil brands in particular this past year or so to claim that organic certification seals on essential oil bottles don’t indicate that the essential oil in the bottle is actually organic. However, if these individuals would spend some time speaking with a certified organic farmer, grower, or business owner and could see the amount of paperwork, careful recordkeeping, meticulous business practices, and biodynamic processes necessary to earn this certification, I believe they would change their opinion quite readily. I think the only reason this myth has been accepted in their communities is that it is true that you can buy a bottle of “organic” shampoo or lotion that also contains non-organic ingredients. Maybe that’s what they’re thinking of when they make these statements. When it’s a bottle of essential oil that only contains essential oil, though, these seals are absolutely the highest regulated standard available.

What to Look for on the Bottle's Label

There are several things you want to make sure are available on the label before purchasing it.

  • The common name and the botanical name of the plant from which the essential oil is derived.

    If the label only has one of these, you want it to be the botanical name. Botanical names are universal, are often in Latin, and should be italicized. Examples: Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) and Mentha x piperita (peppermint)

  • Certified organic seal or other growing information

    A USDA or ECOCERT certified organic seal indicates the highest regulated standard available for essential oil. It also indicates that the plants that were used to gather the essential oil were cultivated, not wildcrafted, which is becoming more and more important in this industry.

    One of the problems we’re increasingly seeing in the aromatherapy world is the overuse of wildcrafted plants to make essential oils. Several species around the world are now at risk or endangered because of overharvesting, overconsumption, and a lack of commitment to sustainability. Because of this, I always encourage my students to look for sources that provide certified organic essential oils (or at least cultivated using organic methods – some smaller farms choose not to earn the certification because it can be costly). You’re not only supporting organic farmers when you choose to purchase organic; you’re also supporting organic and biodynamic land cultivation practices that are focused on replenishing the soil rather than depleting it.

    Some essential oils are not currently available in a certified organic option. They may only be available from growers who practice organic growing but are not certified or they may come from wildcrafted sources. You’ll want to know how the plant was grown prior to purchasing. Many bottles now have this information on the label.

  • Country of Origin – Where was this plant material grown, harvested and distilled?

    Some companies will tell you that plants need to be grown in specific countries in order to yield the highest quality essential oil, but this isn’t always true. It’s usually just marketing.

    Some plants do need specific growing conditions to produce an essential oil consistent with what the market has come to expect, but there are also many plants that can also be grown in your own area and yield just as good a product. For example, there are a few companies that claim that the best lavender essential oil comes from high-altitude, pristine mountain regions of France. I’ve sourced a few of these oils and have found that, when compared to a high-altitude US-grown lavender that is also especially fine, the US-grown version is just as excellent, if not better. (My absolute favorite lavender essential oil comes from a family-owned farm in Oregon and I’ve tested dozens of different lavender essential oils.)

    My own focus has largely turned to more bioregionally available essential oils, produced from widespread, readily available, easy to grow plants that are grown and processed in my own country whenever possible. If you can source something beautiful that was made in your own area rather than produced halfway across the world, why not do it?

  • Chemotypes (if applicable)
    Within plant species there can be plant varieties that produce natural variations in the chemistry of their essential oils. For example, there are hundreds of varieties of thyme and each of them offers some small variance in constituents. One species might have more thymol than another while another might be higher in linalool. These chemical variances are often categorized by chemotypes. If you’re looking at a plant that is known to have many different varieties that differ slightly in chemistry, you’ll want to also know the chemotype of the essential oil before purchasing it. The chemotype will be what you need to look at to determine proper dilutions, safe use, contraindications, and other safety information about the essential oil prior to using it.

    Chemotypes are often abbreviated as CT or ct. on the label. Examples: Thyme ct. linalool or Rosemary CT verbenone. The part that comes after the CT is the chemical constituent that is more dominant in that variety’s essential oil.

  • Ingredients

    This is one of the parts of the label that can be a bit tricky. Ideally, an essential oil bottle won’t need to list its ingredients on the bottle because the only ingredient is the essential oil. However, there are a couple of things to be aware of.

    One: Essential oil manufacturers/sellers aren’t required to list all of the ingredients in the bottle on the label, so something might be labeled “100% pure lavender essential oil” with no other ingredients listed on the label but could actually contain synthetics, additives and adulterants.

    Two: Some essential oil sellers choose to standardize their products, which means that they might have started with pure, authentic lavender essential oil, but that before bottling they added isolated constituents like linalool to alter the chemical composition of the finished product. The added linalool may or may not have come from the same plant species and usually isn’t listed on the label. (Standardization is common with lavender essential oils, which is why I’ve used lavender as the example here, but other species can be standardized or altered as well.)

    Three: Some brands will dilute their essential oils with carrier oils, adulterants or synthetics to stretch them before bottling and selling. If the company is reputable and lists all of the ingredients on the label, along with the dilution rate (it should be listed as a percentage), this isn’t always a negative thing. It’s a common practice with some of the more expensive essential oils like high quality rose or orange blossom (sometimes called neroli) essential oils so that brands can make these precious essential oils more accessible to their customers. (A 5ml bottle of authentic rose essential oil could retail for over $200 dollars, but a 5ml bottle of rose essential oil that has been diluted in organic jojoba could sell for under $30.) However, since all ingredients don’t need to be listed on the label, unscrupulous companies could dilute their products without any indication on the label and this can be dangerous if you aren’t aware of it.

What to Look for on the Company's Website

  • Endangered species

    If I see products that have been made from endangered or at-risk species, that is a huge red flag for me. If the plant has been organically cultivated or at least cultivated by a grower, that is one thing, but I do not recommend ever purchasing products made from wildcrafted species that are at risk or endangered in their native environments. We have seen plant species become endangered and even reach extinction because of a lack of sustainability in this industry and where we choose to spend money on essential oil products makes a big difference in our future moving forward. I would encourage you to support companies that are committed to sustainable practices – companies that refuse to stock products that were made from wildcrafted endangered or at-risk species. This isn’t a popular opinion in our industry because people are so emotionally attached to the essential oils that they love, but it’s important. If we as consumers aren’t taking a stand for sustainability in how we practice aromatherapy ourselves, we’ll never change this devastating pattern that we’ve seen repeated in the industry’s history.

    Even more disappointing is that I can only think of one brand of essential oils that exclusively sources essential oils sourced only from organically cultivated species. Every other reputable brand I just checked carries at least one essential oil derived from a wildcrafted, endangered species. This is unacceptable and, in my opinion, is indicative of the current consumer-mindset of our industry. It needs to change.

    This is one of the reasons why I started distilling many of my own essential oils and started decreasing my use of them in general over the past few years. It’s one of the reasons why we only publish articles about plants that are not at-risk or endangered and that can be grown in our own country in the magazine. It’s also one of the reasons why I don’t often publicly recommend any one essential oil brand anymore.

  • More Information About What’s On the Label

    Usually the website will have even more details about the product. These are some of the things you might see.

    Method of Extraction: This tells you how the essential oils were gathered from the plant material. Steam distillation, cold pressing, CO2 extraction, etc. are all methods that you might see often. The method used is important because it can indicate certain things to be aware of regarding safety. For example, lemon essential oil that has been cold pressed can cause photosensitive reactions when used on the skin and exposed to sunlight, but steam distilled lemon essential oil does not have the constituents that cause the photosensitivity and can therefore be used at a different dilution rate.

    Plant Part(s) Used: Different parts of the plants can yield different essential oils with different chemical compositions and therefore, different safety considerations. Common plant parts you will see include leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, wood/bark, roots, rhizomes, etc.

    Contraindications and Safety Considerations: If the supplier doesn’t have this information on their website, it can be a potential red flag (but not always). It can also be concerning if the information they’ve provided is either not referenced (no footnotes / citations telling you where the information came from) or if the references that are cited are referring to literature produced by the company or its employees or salespeople. Some information that might be included in this section: dilution rates, interactions with medications, contraindications, information about safe use when pregnant, etc.

    Month/Date of Extraction: This is important because it tells you about the shelf life of the product. Some essential oils oxidize faster than others and using oxidized essential oils increases your risk of an adverse reaction, so it’s important to know when to expect to replace your essential oil.

    Note: Some people base the shelf life of the essential oil on the date it was distilled (or cold pressed, etc.) and others base it on the date they opened the bottle. There’s no general consensus in the industry about whether one of these methods is superior to the other.

    Shelf Life: Some sellers will provide an estimate for you. This can be affected by how you choose to store your essential oils.

  • GC / MS reports

    GC / MS or GCMS stands for Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry testing. These are two tests used to determine the chemical composition and authenticity of essential oils. Most reputable companies perform these tests on their essential oils as soon as they arrive and publish the test results on their website.

    Unfortunately, some unscrupulous companies also publish these reports on their websites, but they are not always accurate. I’ve seen doctored test results, “borrowed” (stolen) test results, and outdated test results all provided by these companies to their customers to try to instill a level of confidence in their products. So GC/MS reports are not the end-all-be-all. That a company provides these is not a sole indicator of quality or integrity in the brand, so be aware.

    However, batch specific GC/MS reports are good to have because they tell us that the company (if reputable) is committed to ensuring consistent quality in the products they’re offering and they also break down the chemical makeup of that batch of essential oil for us so we can use that information to discern how best to use it in blends. Knowing the amount of certain constituents in the oil can help us to know how it can be expected to affect the mind and body and we can blend accordingly. Chemistry can vary from batch to batch depending on the weather and growing/soil conditions each season, so this is especially important for practitioners who are offering clinical services or who are seeing clients or selling products.

    You can learn more about how to read these reports and what they mean in our Herbal Aromatherapy™ Certification Program, which will be opening for enrollment soon.

    Note: Some reputable companies do not publish these test results publicly yet, but they do make them available upon request.

    Ultimately, GC/MS reports are only as valuable as the integrity of the company.

    You may also see a Certificate of Analysis for the essential oil made available on the website. This can provide useful information, but is not the same thing as a GC / MS report.

  • Unsafe usage recommendations

    Be wary of any seller that recommends any of these methods of use on their website or in their marketing material:

    – Ingestion of essential oils in water
    – Casual, regular, or daily ingestion of essential oils
    – Undiluted use of essential oils on the skin (with only one or two exceptions, i.e. lavender essential oil on a bee sting, etc.)
    – Application of essential oils to the skin of a newborn or young child

    We’ll talk more about the language some of these salespersons use to justify these methods of use (and why they’re a red flag in this setting) in a minute, but for now, just know that if the brand’s website or their representative is making recommendations along these lines, you need to put your ‘wisdom and discernment’ cap on before taking what they’re saying as truth.

Product Placement Considerations

It’s important to educate yourself about how much an essential oil of high quality typically sells for so you can recognize red flags in product pricing. If you know that authentic rose essential oil can sell for $200+ per 5ml bottle, you’ll automatically know when you see “rose oil” at the big box store for $10 that it’s not the real thing. You’ll also know that if you see “rose oil” being sold for the same price as orange essential oil, it’s not the real thing.

Big box stores are becoming increasingly aware of the trendiness of essential oils and have started stocking “essential oils” on their shelves, but the products are usually synthetic, even though they’re labeled as 100% pure. Know how much authentic essential oils cost to produce (it varies by species – 30 roses are needed to make 1 drop of rose essential oil, but peppermint offers much higher yields, which makes it much more affordable) and you’ll be able to spot the imposters more readily. If you ever see a line of different “essential oils” that are all about the same price, that’s another red flag.

Big box stores and discount stores are generally not good places to find authentic essential oils.

What to Look for in the Essential Oil Itself

One simple way to test an essential oil to see if it has unlisted carrier oil added to it is to place a drop from the tester bottle onto a sheet of uncoated paper. If the product has a carrier oil added to it, it will leave a stain on the paper but an essential oil will usually evaporate away and not leave any trace of its presence. This isn’t a fool-proof test because essential oils can be diluted with isolated constituents, etc., but it can help you determine if an unlisted carrier oil is present.

The presence of an unnaturally strong, sweet, or synthetic scent could also be a red flag, as could be the lack of a potent aroma. Essential oils are naturally pretty strong, but I’ve found that adulterated products can either be too strong to seem natural or too weak to be authentic.

Sometimes Salespeople Don't Tell the Truth (and They Might Not Even Know It)

People who love essential oils generally mean well. They don’t intentionally spread false information and they are usually excited to share more about these beautiful products with their friends and loved ones.

Unfortunately, even with well-meaning enthusiasts dominating the industry, there has been a lot of false information and even propaganda spread throughout the community. This happens so easily because, as humans, we usually trust our friends and family. We love them; we accept them; we believe what they say because we know they’re credible people. But when it comes to essential oils, this hasn’t been such a good thing.

See, what happened is this: somewhere along the way, a company or a sales representative said something that wasn’t true about the product they were selling. That person shared it with a friend who trusted them and believed them and they in turn shared that information with their other friends. Because the network was built on trust between friends, this misinformation spread rapidly and became so widespread that it has now been generally accepted as truth. No one was trying to deceive their friends in the process – they were just trying to share something they were excited about and thought was true with people they cared about. But the damage has been done and this is why we have so much contradictory information out there now. This is also why there is such a divide between salespersons and professionally trained aromatherapists.

Here’s the issue, and I don’t mean this unkindly. Salespersons are very seldom professionally trained, qualified aromatherapists. Most of them learn how to sell essential oils from their friends or family members, whom they trust, but who are also rarely professionally trained, qualified aromatherapists. So there’s a disconnect between the information they’re being taught and what is true. They’re trained to sell essential oils, not to use them skillfully. And in the process, the training they receive is filled with misinformation that will teach them to generate excitement and sell essential oils, but not to use them in a way that is consistent with the safety standards set forth by documented research and experienced, clinical aromatherapists and aromatherapy organizations that have existed long before these companies came into existence.

It’s heartbreaking, really.

Most people don’t realize that what they’re learning, believing and sharing is inaccurate and sometimes even unsafe. They mean well. They think they’re doing the best thing for their families and helping their loved ones. That’s why this is so sad.

But ultimately, this means that you can’t always trust what you hear or read about essential oils, even from your well-meaning, beloved friends. There are so many widespread untruths. Let’s look at a few of them.

Our brand is the only brand that is pure.”

There are many brands, companies, and artisan distillers that offer 100% pure, authentic, high quality essential oils for sale. This claim is entirely false.

“Other brands/professionals say that it’s not safe to ingest essential oils because their products aren’t pure. Ours are, so that’s why we can recommend it.”

See above and below.

“Our brand is the only brand that is safe to ingest.”

Implying that the brand name is what makes the essential oil safe to ingest is misleading. Brand names aren’t what make essential oils safe to ingest. The authenticity, quality, and chemistry of each individual oil combined with the level of education the practitioner has received, and the factors the client brings to the table (their age, constitution, and current state of health), determine whether or not a particular essential oil is safe to ingest in any given situation. A reputable brand may have several essential oils in their catalog that are ‘safe’ to ingest, but they will most likely also have many more that are not safe to ingest because of the plant species and the chemical makeup of the essential oil.

Additionally, safe ingestion of essential oils is incredibly nuanced and involves advanced aromatherapy education at a Level Four training standard (Level Two certification requires 200+ hours of education; Level Three clinical training usually involves an additional 100-200 hours, and Level Four training in aromatic medicine and internal use is offered on top of this). Without this training, it really is not safe to ingest essential oils because you won’t be educated in the proper methods of application, dilution rates, contraindications, duration and dosages, etc.

Salespersons often recommend ingesting essential oils daily, regularly, and/or in water. None of these methods will ever be recommended by a qualified, trained aromatherapist. Essential oils are not meant to be treated as tonics or water flavorings and there are proper, safe ways to take them that involve a lot more information that I can share in this already long article. But most people are not trained to use them this way.

Please do not take essential oils internally at the recommendation of anyone other than someone who has received Level Four training in aromatic medicine on top of their levels two and three training.

“The soles of the feet are the best place to apply essential oils.”

I don’t know where this idea came from, but it’s a popular claim made by salespersons. Amy Kreydin has written an excellent article addressing this issue – click here to read it

Aside from the things she mentions in her article, the feet are not usually a great place to apply essential oils. Two of the main reasons we use essential oils are for their physical and mental effects. To benefit from their physical effects, we either need to inhale them or apply them topically to a location where they will be most useful. Very rarely is there an ailment of the sole of the foot that requires local essential oil application to improve it. Most physical ailments that indicate topical use of an essential oil would best have the essential oil applied in that direct area. The other main method of application used in aromatherapy is inhalation. When we mean to inhale the essential oil, placing it on the soles of the feet isn’t exactly a conducive place from which to breathe in the aroma. It’s almost always better to use smelling salts or to apply the blend to the skin of the arms or chest or to use a steam application.

“Essential Oils Were Used in Biblical Times”

Aromatic plants were used in biblical times. Aromatic plants were used to make infused herbal oils in biblical times. But we have no solid evidence to indicate that any biblical references to these plants are referring to the essential oils that come from them.

Ancient stills that were thought to have been used as far back as 450 BC have been found (see a photo of a pot still thought to have been used during that time period here). The Bible was written over a period of about 1500 years – somewhere around 1400 BC through 95 AD – so it’s safe to assume that some sort of distillation process was in place at some point during that time period. However, it would be a stretch to conclusively state that the stills were used to make essential oils (distillation was used for other purposes too).

Aristotle described distillation in the 300s BC and it is thought that the process could have been employed as far back as 2,000 BC.

Is it possible that essential oils were being used in biblical times? Yes, it is possible. But we simply don’t have enough evidence to claim this as absolute truth.

Keep this in mind: None of the biblical references to aromatic plants are specifically using Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic words to indicate that the reference is to an essential oil rather than an infused oil or the plant itself. (I have personally studied the Bible for over 20 years, attended Bible college, and have dedicated myself to deeper study of this topic.) In fact, there is only one instance in the Bible where it could be legitimately debated that an essential oil was used rather than an infused oil, but it would still be difficult to reach a conclusion either way based on the information we have.

On the other hand, to assume that peoples who lived in ancient times didn’t know how to distill something does seem a bit naive. The process is so simple that you can do it on your stove top with a simple pot and a bowl. If you can boil water, you can distill something, so it’s not fair to completely rule out the possibility of ancient distillations either.

The bottom line: You weren’t there. I wasn’t there. The biblical words are not explicitly referring to essential oils. So we cannot say for sure either way.

“Adverse Reactions to Essential Oils Are Detox Symptoms”

Adverse reactions to essential oils are adverse reactions to essential oils. If you have an adverse reaction, such as a skin reaction or a respiratory, mental, or other physical reaction to an essential oil, you should immediately discontinue use and seek medical care if necessary.

You can have an adverse reaction to a 100% authentic, high quality, pure essential oil. Every person’s body responds differently to them – remember, they are highly potent! You can have allergic reactions and they can cause negative physical or mental effects when they are not used properly.

“Essential Oils Contain Nutrients/Vitamins/Are Nutritious”

While the plants from which essential oils are derived may contain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, those constituents do not make it through the extraction process into the essential oil. Essential oils do not contain vitamins, minerals, nutrients, etc.

“Pure Essential Oils Are Safe for Everyone to Use”

Not everyone should use an essential oil. This is something that I go into much further depth about in the Herbal Aromatherapy™ Certification Program because it’s a very complex topic but suffice it to say that some people should avoid using them at all, not because of the quality of the essential oil (or lack thereof), but because of their own body and their current state of health.

“Essential Oils are natural, so they’re much safer to use than…”

Authentic essential oils are natural, but that doesn’t make them automatically safe. They are highly potent and strong and when not used properly, can be dangerous, toxic and even poisonous. That something is natural does not automatically qualify it as safe. Poison hemlock is completely natural, but it will still kill you if you eat it…

Where to Look for Third Party Information

There are a few consumer reports type communities where you can look up independent, third-party test results of many different essential oil brands and products. Large companies tend to publicly refute their findings when they aren’t great for the brand, but I think they’re worth looking at. Who do you trust? The person who is trying to sell you something or the third party who is completely independent?

Note: I’m generally not a fan of Facebook, but these few groups can be a good place to find unbiased information about a brand you’re curious about.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

  • Companies that sell a wide selection of essential oils are not usually producing them themselves. They are importing them, which means that the product is changing hands several times between the original grower and the end consumer. The more hands, the more opportunities for adulteration along the way.

  • If you can make the essential oil yourself, do it.

    Distillation is an art, but it is not complicated. I live in an urban neighborhood with an average sized backyard and I am able to distill several plants each year for their hydrosols and essential oils. It can be done, even with a limited amount of growing space. I teach you how to distill hydrosols and essential oils in our Herbal Aromatherapy™ Certification Program.

  • If you can’t make it yourself, buy it locally from a trusted farmer/grower/distiller who uses sustainable growing practices.

  • If you can’t find it locally, then look for reputable companies that sell a wider selection of essential oils.

  • The chemistry of each batch of essential oil can vary based on the growing environment, weather and soil conditions.

  • The chemistry of the essential oil and the species from which it has been derived, not its brand name, is what determines the safe use, contraindications, and other safety information related to the essential oil.

  • Some companies produce beautiful, high quality, incomparable essential oils but offer educational materials that are not consistent with the accepted safety standards. Sometimes you’ll purchase essential oils from a company but will need to educate yourself on how to safely and effectively use the products elsewhere. Good quality educational materials and safety information and high-quality essential oils aren’t always available from the same place, though it’s nice when they are!

I truly hope this article was helpful for you. If you’re interested in learning more about how to safely and effectively use aromatic plants, including their essential oils and hydrosols in your apothecary, please check out our Herbal Aromatherapy™ Certification Program. I’d love to hear how this article helped you in the comments below.

Much love,

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Erin Stewart is an herbalist, NAHA certified aromatherapist, organic gardener and urban homesteader. She grows over 150 kinds of aromatic and medicinal plants for her own apothecary and distills essential oils and hydrosols in her PNW garden. Erin is the founder of Floranella and of AromaCulture’s herbalism + aromatherapy magazine.

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AromaCulture Magazine is filled with educational articles, case studies and recipes written by practicing herbalists and certified aromatherapists. New issues are published each month and issues are available individually or via subscription. Visit for more information.

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31 thoughts on “How to Tell If an Essential Oil Brand Is Any Good”

  1. Wonderful, wonderful information … and so needed… and so welcomed!
    The most thorough and in depth article on this topic I have ever read.

    1. Erin Stewart

      Thank you for your kind words, Mike! I really appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  2. This is a wonderfully written article that is to the point and honest. As a certified aromatherapist I tire of seeing such misinformation out there about essential oils. I think I’ll be referring people to this article as it so eloquently explains how best to choose essential oils. Thank you!

  3. Cheryl Martin

    This article is FULL of such valuable information. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, clarifying descriptions of products sold, and bringing understanding to the interpretation of information.

  4. Thank you so much, Erin, for this information. I’ve just started my aromatherapy studies, but I know enough, maybe by instinct, to be nervous about how much essential oils have become a kind of fad. I wasn’t sure how to express my fear of overdoing their use with friends who blithely use these oils for “everything,” so I appreciate your shared knowledge here. Keep up the good work you’re doing!

  5. Wow! Erin, this is excellent. I have tried to be diligent about making sure the oils I buy are really good, but there is such good info here, I will need to read over and maybe even over again. Thank you so very much for sharing with us.

  6. Grace-Anne

    This message is so very important and you said it so well! Thank you for your honest dedication to the beautiful plants that grace our planet. It is our honour to be in this space with them and they deserve our respect and protection. I will continue to be mindful in my practice and guide others to be as well.

  7. Fantastic article. Very well written. Thank you so very much for writing this article. It is incredibly valuable and much needed information.

  8. Fantastic article. Im also wary when I see companies suggest the use of essential oils on or around animals or pets.

  9. Erin, thank you so much for this article. You answered all of the questions and concerns that I had about the purity of the essential oils that I purchase. Very thorough article.

  10. Your time on this is most appreciated! Thank you for sharing your knowledge so freely. I feel empowered to now make informed choices!

  11. Thank you for such a great article! I appreciate your thoroughness and clarity. I have used and read up on essential oils for quite a few years and all the conflicting information out there can be so confusing, even after studying it out.

  12. Derrick Chen

    Would be interesting to learn from one level to another level and reach to highest level of aromatherapy some day. I have to the consistency to me make it happen. I recently reach Taekwondo black belt on December and it is not slowing me down at all. The journey from black belt 1st degree to 9th degree is takes fifteen year and 10th degree, no one knows because there is less than ten percent in this world who will get the lifetime achievement award. This is the kind of consistency I have in my life and if you are welling to teach even level 4, I will still climb up there someday and put in good use. Not just for family members, I will put my knowledge to benefit the society around me.

  13. Hi Erin, Thank you for your beautifully written article. I am new to aromatherapy largely due to not wanting nor having the time to decipher what is true and not true. It was easier to just avoid. However, after reading your article, I feel much better about learning to use aromatherapy in the future. On another note. Maybe you can direct me to information on oils that are safe to diffuse around kitties. I have four fur babies and have been reluctant to use my defuser around them.

    Again, thank you!
    Winter Blessings,
    Deana C

  14. Well written and great information that is easy for the “layman” to understand. Thank you!

  15. Susan Carter

    Excellent overview of the “ins and outs” and misconceptions of essential oils and their usage. When one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, one seeks any and all viable information to ease the pain and suffering of oneself, family member or friend. So, the vultures that pray on those in need of physical and spiritual assistance lie in wait for it’s next “victim”. Your research, well written articles on timely topics, is so valuable to us laymen. Easy to understand and sensitive, knowledgeable but not so much that your “ideas” are muddled. So, THANK YOU, for the knowledge and support you give your readers. Commendable.

  16. Thank you for writing this article. It addresses many concerns I have about the industry. I love essential oils and have learned that I made many mistakes when I first began buying and using them. I took an EO class that was offered to healthcare professionals and was a bit disheartened when I got to the class and learned it was being “taught” by two representatives of a particular EO company, not a trained aromatherapist. I very much appreciate good information. Thank you again.

    1. Erin Stewart

      Snow Lotus is owned by Peter Holmes, a reputable aromatherapist.

      I no longer recommend brands publicly, but this article should give you a good idea of what to look for when you’re looking at brands. =)

  17. Thanks for the valuable information. I had no idea there was so much to consider and I appreciate your going into full details. This will be very helpful to me as I refer back to it when purchasing my oils. Can’t I just buy them all from you? Much blessings sister.

  18. Erin,
    Thank you so much for this valuable most informative article. I’ve been using EOs for about 1.5 years.
    Totally believed the misinformation regarding using oils on my feet. Your article will help me make
    better decisions. And maybe not spend as much $.

  19. Erin, I don’t know how long it took you to put all the information together but this is the hell of an incredible piece. Thank you!!

  20. Erin – Good Day from Australia! Thank you so much for this WONDERFUL information!…and for clarifying lots of myths. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  21. Pingback: How to Make Night-Time Aromatherapy Blends for Kids – Floranella

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