|Essential Oil Suppliers|
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Manuka (L. scoparum)
When I first got into aromatherapy, I found it very difficult to evaluate suppliers. I didn't know how oils were supposed to smell or how to tell good from bad. Also, very few people were willing to share their experiences with vendors. Many of the people on my email lists have small aromatherapy businesses so they wisely recommend their own oils. Happily, I only have a small local business, so I'm going to share my experiences with internet-based suppliers.
The first thing I learned is that there are different qualities of oils. The only way to learn the difference between good and bad oils is to sniff everything that you possibly can. Also pay attention to the color and consistency of the oil. For example, real sandalwood oil is thick, and fresh German chamomile is deep blue. Higher quality oils typically have a lot of depth and complexity to their fragrances. Oils that are commonly used in foods or the pharmaceutical industry like cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus, and peppermint are easy to find and generally inexpensive. They are of reasonable quality from most suppliers. Better suppliers will search for more fragrant or organic versions of these oils.
Perfume industry oils and aromatherapy oils are more difficult to find. These oils are often expensive to produce, requiring a lot of raw plant material. Unscrupulous producers or importers sometimes dilute or adulterate oils with artificial fragrance chemicals or inexpensive natural isolates like linalool. Oils can also be extended with cheaper essential oils of similar composition. For example, rose geranium is sometimes added to rose otto. The only way a vendor can try to evaluate whether he or she has pure oil is by costly gas chromatography (GC) analysis. Since batches are often small, the fragrance and quality of the oil can vary and inferior smelling oils are sold at lower prices. Examples of these oils include helichrysum, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, neroli and frankincense.
Here's a list of commonly adulterated and synthetic oils.
Some rare oils and absolutes are shockingly expensive and frequently adulterated or completely synthetic. Plan to pay a premium for such exotics as lotus, orris root, melissa, narcissus absolute, or tuberose absolute. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Finally, for citrus and conifer oils that you plan to use on skin, it is of vital importance to find a reputable vendor who will tell you how old the lot of oil is or confirm that they store their oils refrigerated and under nitrogen.
With that, on to my supplier recommendations. First, suppliers where you can get small retail bottles of oils.
Appalachian Valley Natural Products (AVNP) High quality, good selection, great service, reasonable prices. AVNP is my current favorite supplier. Everything they carry is purchased directly from carefully chosen distillers and GC tested, and the selection has grown considerably. The oils I have bought here (many) have been of high quality and very fragrant. I love the frankincense, ravensara, clary sage, and sandalwood here. Oils are sold in generous 20 ml bottles unless the price is over $10, and then a smaller sized bottle is offered as well. AVNP is particularly well known for their heavenly Turkish rose otto. Samples and fragrant herbal tea are included in every order. Actually, I have liked these oils so well that I don't often worry about sampling. See below for wholesale info.
Nature's Gift High quality, wide selection, great service, moderate to high prices. Nature's Gift is a great place to turn for carefully sourced oils, absolutes, and fragrant blends, In fact, I've liked almost everything from Nature's Gift that I have smelled. My favorites are the vetiver, ginger CO2, good bergamot FCF, yuzu and osmanthus absolutes and frankincense CO2. Nature's Gift is well-known for carrying a wide range of rare absolutes. Everything is offered in standard 15 ml (or larger) bottles, and expensive oils are also offered in smaller, affordable quantities. Oils are GC tested either by Nature's Gift, or by the wholesale suppliers and distillers. Samples are included with every order. The web site is also worth a visit because it has a wealth of essential oil information.
A Garden Eastward Varied quality, good selection, low prices, very fast service. This is a good place to find lots of reasonable smelling FCC (food and cosmetic) grade oils, CO2 extracts, and cosmetics supplies. Oils are available in a wide range of quantities, including large bottles for projects like soap. The quality of individual oils depends on the wholesale supplier. Some oils at A Garden Eastward are from Essential Oil University (see below) and A Woman of Uncommon Scents, which is known for quality. Check out the ylang ylang and geranium CO2s, USA organic peppermint, and nice unscented lotions. You won't find very many "special" oils here, but watch the wholesale sources, order inexpensive samples or $2 to $3 small bottles, and enjoy the bargains on the oils you like.
Whole Foods Market Low to medium quality, moderate selection, high prices, self-service. My local Whole Foods Market carries a lot of essential oils, but they tend to be either low quality, overpriced, or both. The advantage is convenience, since I don't have to wait for mail order or pay shipping and handling. The biggest disadvantage is that perishable oils like citrus and tea trree are not kept refrigerated. They carry Aura Cacia, Tisserand, Oshadhi, and their own brand. Oshadhi oils are nice but expensive and I find Tisserand and Aura Cacia oils uninspiring. The new Whole Foods brand is promising but only has a few oils.
White Lotus Aromatics High quality, very wide selection, $100 minimum, resale certificate required, great prices and service. White Lotus offers oils, CO2 extracts, absolutes, Indian ruhs and attars, and amazing incense. Oils are sold in 15 ml bottles at the smallest, with a 30 ml minimum for the less expensive ones, all the way up to quarts. Large 1.5 ml samples are available for purchase. The oils are fragrant and of high quality, and White Lotus enjoys a very good reputation among natural perfumers. My favorite oils from here are the sandalwood CO2 total, Ruh Khus, Shamana attar, and the white champa flower oil. GC analysis of many of the oils is in progress. The companion site, The Fragrant Harvest, has information on the oils sold at White Lotus.
Essential Oil University Varied quality, very wide selection, no minumum, great prices and service. The cool thing about EOU is that Dr. Pappas, the owner, is upfront about the quality of his oil and GC tests them all himself. You can get cheap mass-produced oils like lavender 40/42, or exquisite American-grown certified organic lavender from the same site and you know exactly what you are buying. In general, the cheap oils smell decent and the expensive ones are outstanding. There is no order minimum, but there is a $8 shipping and handling minimum that discourages small orders. Bottle sizes are one ounce and up.
Appalachian Valley Natural Products Same outstanding oils as retail, no minimum, great personal service. Email and ask for the wholesale password to get AVNP oils in 4 oz. and larger sizes.
Note: I keep getting emails asking why I don't mention Young Living oils. First and foremost, they're horribly overpriced because of the company's MLM structure. Second, Gary Young and his company have some serious ethical problems. You can read about them at Quackwatch and Aromatic Sage.
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