The More Expensive the Essential Oil, the Better?

"Invest in your health now or pay for your illness later.".

"If you think wellness is expensive, then try illness."

"When you replace 'I 'with 'we', even illness becomes wellness."

The basis behind these statements is true. Preventative measures are easier, less expensive, and just plain smarter than being blindsided with a major illness or disease. Your health is priceless. I have had many health scares in my younger years and I can tell you that when your health is failing, it consumes your entire life. When you get that cancer diagnosis, your entire world changes in an instant. It's all you think about. What if I die? What will happen to my kids? My husband? How can I afford not to work during this? How can I pay these medical bills? No one wants to deal with a major diagnosis. So as a holistic heath educator, I encourage people to do what they can to stay healthy. 

But are sales reps using this line of thinking to make you believe that paying more for a product means you're doing what's best for your health? Or better yet, the more you pay, the higher quality the product is?

Let's look at the essential oils market. It's hard not to read somewhere that essential oils that are cheap are considered either fake or low quality. How much truth is there in that?

Well first, we need to get a few definitions straight here.

Purity is objective. It can be tested scientifically and proven to be free of synthetics or adulteration. An essential oil is either PURE or NOT PURE. There is no rating scale when it comes to purity. A company cannot have the "purest " essential oils. They can have pure essential oils or not pure essential oils and that's about it. This sliding scale of purity is a marketing ploy, similar to "therapeutic grade". (Side note: There are no governing bodies that assign grades to essential oils. There is no perfume grade, food grade, therapeutic grade...all malarkey). 

Quality is subjective. It is one's opinion and experience. For example, there is a brand of essential oils that tests pure and is a well established and respected company. But to me, their essential oils smell flat in comparison to others. They lack the roundness I am looking for aroma wise or lack the energetics I am seeking. Their Helichrysum may not have as high a level of italidiones that I desire. But many think their essential oils are fantastic and highly recommend them to others . There is nothing wrong with that. We are just looking for different things. What I consider high quality has nothing to do with purity. It takes into account what I am looking for and if an essential oil meets that criteria.

So if an essential oil is pure, does price have a direct correlation to quality? Meaning, if you are going to buy essential oils, should you go with the most expensive bottle you can get your hands on because it must be the best?

The answer is NO.

For pure essential oils, price is determined by the following (not an exclusive list):

1. The availability of the plant matter- basically this is supply and demand. If the essential oil has low supply and high demand, the price will be expensive. For example, right now there is a vanilla bean shortage in Madagascar. So sadly the price of vanilla CO2 has skyrocketed (which has made me a very sad aromatherapist). Sustainability is a real issue in the aromatherapy world. Using essential oils wisely is crucial for keeping essential oils available and affordable. 

2. The amount of plant matter needed to produce the essential oil (also known as the yield). Rose comes to mind when it comes to this. According to Andrea Butje,  it takes about 50 roses to produce a single drop of Rose Otto essential oil. ( Butje (2017) The Heart of Aromatherapy, Hay House, Inc.) I love how she mentions imagining 4 dozen roses coming out with each drop. It takes a lot of plant matter to make essential oils. You really don't know until you see that still in action. It is a magnificent process. 

3. The extraction method- some methods cost more than others. CO2 extraction is more costly than cold-pressed. Even with the same botanical matter, different extraction methods can be more difficult, therefore most costly. 

4. Where the botanical was harvested- What country is it from? Is it high altitude? Is it considered an organic farm? How were the crops harvested? The source is a key factor!

5. Behind the scenes business costs- In order to keep a business running, they need to factor in the cost of employee salaries, rent, bottles, labels, marketing, storage, etc. etc. etc. There is so much more to owning an essential oils company than people realize. So much more...

6. How much the company can afford at once- If you can buy your EOs in bulk, then you can get a better price. So that's why a small, artisan company might charge more than a big wig company. They might actually buy from the exact same distiller but be charged different prices. Therefore they in turn charge different prices to their customers. 

In other words, many factors come into play when a company determines price.

Can a company who feels their product is high quality charge more? Yep.

Can a company who feels their product is high quality sell it for less? Yep.

Price is not an indication of quality or purity. I have owned expensive essential oils that ended up testing not pure. I have owned cheaper essential oils that have tested pure. I have owned expensive essential oils that I did not feel were high quality. I have owned cheaper essential oils that I felt were high quality. 

When it comes to essential oils, it's more a matter of transparency and trust, than price. If you are in love with a 5 ml bottle of Frankincense that costs $45 and you can afford it, then go for it. If you prefer to buy that pure $15 bottle at your local Whole Foods, then so be it. To me, as long as an essential oil has tested pure, how much you want to pay for a bottle is your preference and your business. 

But I do get asked about brands a lot. It's a valid question that can cause a lot of confusion, especially to the new essential oil user.  If you want some guidance on which brands to buy, go ahead and read my suggestions here. Regardless of the brand, I encourage you to find the beauty of aromatherapy guided by purity, your quality preferences, and what your budget allows.



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