Essential Oils: why are they so expensive?

Why Are Essential Oils So Expensive? | Conscientious Confusion

If you have ever considered using essential oils for your health, for your home, or for aromatherapy, you might have a little bit of sticker shock. I know I did. I was accustomed to buying tea tree oil at our local natural foods store at something like $10 for a small bottle. Before I was pregnant with my son, I was investigating the dangers of phthalates that are used in all chemical perfumes. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, which is obviously especially risky for pregnancy and in infancy. Instead of using traditional perfumes on my body, I decided to add essential oils to unscented lotions from Whole Foods. One of the scents I particularly liked was Amber, but unfortunately a small bottle cost around $30, so I went with some of the less expensive oils such as orange, lemon, and gardenia. More recently, I heard that chamomile oil might be good for calming my son. When I went to Sprouts to buy some, I found it was $36 for 15 ml. Essential oils: why are they so expensive?

Now that I’ve joined Young Living and have access to their library of knowledge, I am starting to understand why essential oils can be so pricey, and why they are worth what they cost.

First, we have to consider how much plant matter it takes to produce true, pure essential oil.

Have you ever twisted a lemon or orange peel? The beads that pop up on the surface of the fruit’s skin are the essential oils of that fruit. Now consider the leaves of tiny plants like Thyme or Lavender. How much oil can be produced by the leaves or flowers of those tiny plants? From the book Quick Reference Guide for Using Essential Oils by Connie and Alan Higley:

“Producing the purest of oils can be very costly because it may require several hundred pounds, or even several thousand pounds, of plant material to extract 1 pound of pure essential oil. For example, 1 pound of pure Melissa oil sells for $9,000-$15,000. Although this sounds quite expensive, one must realize that 3 tons of plant material are required to produce that single pounds of oil”

Then why are we able to buy much cheaper essential oils at stores like Walmart or Whole Foods?

The oils I’ve been buying at local food stores and cheaper prices probably are not therapeutic grade and are also pre-diluted with other carrier oils such as jojoba oil or almond oil.

“High pressure, high temperatures, rapid processing, and the use of chemical solvents are often employed during the distillation process so that a greater quantity of oil can be produced at a faster rate. These oils may smell just as good and cost much less, but they will lack most, if not all, of the chemical constituents necessary to produce the expected therapeutic results”

Why use therapeutic grade oils?

As I read more about essential oils, it does seem like the term “therapeutic grade” can be used loosely by a lot of different manufacturers to mean a lot of different things (like the label “natural” that’s put on food).

My common-sense take on the label is: take a look at why you want to use the oils. If you want to use oils just to smell good, who cares if it’s therapeutic grade? I think oils from Walmart or Whole Foods would be just fine for those uses.

But if you are using the oils internally (as in, you will ingest them), or as a compress, or for inhalation, or if you are using the oils to try and treat a specific health condition — I think in those cases you probably want to make sure you are getting something that is therapeutic grade. And, in the case of ingestion, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting food-grade oil as well (obviously).

Why are the oils I buy at some stores diluted?

It sounds shady, but it can be practical. Even very pure, therapeutic grade oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil to keep their potency from burning the skin or other areas to which they might be applied (such as the tongue in the case of ingestion).

What’s important to know is whether the oil you are using has already been diluted or not. If it’s been diluted, for heaven’s sake, don’t go diluting it more! But if it’s pure, you will need to seek instruction from the manufacturer on how much it should be diluted before use.

Of course, you can probably tell somewhat from the price, the brand, and where you are buying it whether the oil you’re considering is therapeutic grade and whether it might have been diluted.

One more note on cost

As I’ve been starting to use my pure, therapeutic grade oils I’ve noticed that they are indeed MUCH more potent than any of the oils I had previously purchased. I could definitely see how they could have health benefits when used correctly. Also, I can see that it takes only a few drops of these oils, regardless of application method, to yield the benefits. So while I might be paying more, I have to use much less, and the purity makes the results much more effective.

To me, it seems like you get what you pay for, and that researching the purity of oils before purchasing is an important cost-saving measure.

I’m enjoying learning more about oils, please let me know what you think. Did you find this post helpful?

Comments

  1. Hi Jenny -
    I read this post when it first came out and have been meaning to comment.

    My mom and I have been distributors for Young Living (she still is; mine lapsed awhile back) but I’m so excited to see your explanation here about WHY the oils are so expensive. Friends I talked to about purchasing oils backed away as soon as they saw the price, but I’ve always felt like there was great value.

    In fact I’ve taken several bottles of Purification with me on mission trips to Haiti and Africa to use instead of chemical mosquito repellent (and to ease the itching if I did get bitten). It’s amazing stuff and I got the chance to share it with several people on our trips. Oh, and it works on Dallas mosquitoes too!

    I wish you the best with Young Living! You’re doing a great job educating us!

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