The most common question that clients ask me is ‘Which essential oil brand is the best?’
Before I give you my opinion, let me stress this point: I do not represent any specific essential oil brand. Nor do I work for any essential oil company, or sell essential oil kits.
Having said this, I do not have any intention of putting down anyone who does work for a specific essential oil company. I purchase from both direct marketing companies and conventional retail suppliers. I enjoy working with representatives from essential oil direct marketing companies on both a personal and professional level. However, I don’t follow the business practices of a direct marketing company.
A fair number of my aromatherapy clients only purchase a specific essential oil brand. Many other clients want to start using essential oils, but don’t know where to begin. These customers often depend on someone with an expert opinion to guide them to a reputable brand. More often than not, they receive essential oil information from people who have a vested financial interest in a specific essential oil company, which causes a bias towards that company.
Ultimately, which essential oil company that you buy from is your decision. My goal is to educate you so that you can make an informed decision based on factors other than cost. Remember, essential oils are medicinal: you inhale them, you absorb them through your skin, and – in some cases – you ingest them.*
How to Evaluate Which Essential Oil Brand is the Best
Consider the Plant Source
One of the first things to check when assessing the quality of an essential oil is sourcing, or how the plants are grown and harvested. Climate and cultivation methods can have an effect on the final chemical composition of the essential oil. A great example of this can be found in a 2015 study published in Natural Product Communications. When considering sourcing of a plant as a metric for quality, one of the top companies is Young Living. Young Living sources plants for their oils carefully from their native countries, which will have a marked effect on quality. In addition, the company distills its own oils, and is one of the few companies that does not ‘re-bottle.’ Re-bottling refers to when companies buy oils that are already distilled, re-bottle them, and change the labels.
Quality Control (QC) Tests
No matter how carefully the distillation process is carried out, essential oils should be tested for their purity and potency. QC testing ensures that every bottle of essential oil contains pure volatile aromatic compounds at the appropriate ratios to allow for maximum efficacy. The best essential oil companies should perform, through an independent third-party laboratory, a battery of quality control (QC) tests to assess potency and purity of their oils. Some examples of these tests include:
- Organoleptic Testing: the senses of expert oil distillers are used as the first line of QC standards to provide immediate clues about the acceptability of a product (think along the lines of expert wine tasters…).
- Heavy Metal Testing: essential oils should not contain traces of any heavy metals (i.e. mercury, arsenic, lead, etc.)
- Microbial Testing: involves analyzing a batch of essential oils for the presence of bio-hazardous microorganisms such as fungi, bacteria, viruses, and mold
- Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) Analysis: provides a detailed report of the chemical constituents present in essential oils and at what levels
Unfortunately, there is no regulatory body that oversees the quality or safety of essential oils. Therefore it is up to you, the consumer, to do your research! The results of QC tests can help you purchase products that are completely pure, free of adulteration, and have desired beneficial characteristics.
The results of QC studies don’t mean a lot unless the company is willing to share the information with the consumer. There are a few companies that release their QC test results, including (but not limited to) Plant Therapy, Rocky Mountain Oils, doTERRA, GEO, and Eden’s Garden.
Variation of Price Within the Brand
You know the old addage, ‘You Get What You Pay For?’ This is not necesarily the case when it comes to essential oils. The prices assoicated with an essential oil brand is often based on overhead costs incurred by the company. These overhead costs include staffing, marketing, product research and testing, and ongoing education. Brands that are the most expensive do not guarantee the highest quality oils, in the same sense that less expensive oils indicate lower quality.
A better indicator of quality is the price variation of oils within the specified brand. For example, a bottle of lavender should not cost the same as a bottle of frankincense. This price variation is based on several factors, including the costs associated with the growth and harvest of the plant, method of extraction, essential oil yield, QC tests, and supply and demand of the product.
So Which Essential Oil Brand is the Best?
For me, the verdict is still out as to which essential oil brand is the best, so I use several different brands. Hopefully I have provided you an overview as to how you can make your own informed evaluation. I purchase oils from nearly every company listed in this article. Comment below and let us know: which is your favorite essential oil brand?