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Essential Oils: Factors That Impact the Cost

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Everything you need to know regarding how pricing is determined in the essential oil industry.

Although I have been using essential oils for over 10 years, I didn't start researching them until about a year ago. I was baffled by the difference in cost at the local drug stores or big box stores compared to companies that focus specifically on essential oils. Like many people, I was looking for ways to improve my overall health holistically and wanted quality products that were produced ethically and tested for authenticity. But I needed to understand why there was such a difference in the overall cost. I learned that not all are created equal. Let me explain.

Many factors influence the price of essential oils.

Essential oils are derived from plants, flowers, or trees. The location in which they are found will affect the price.

For instance, those that are scarce and found in remote locations versus those that are available worldwide will increase the cost. Myrrh does not grow well outside of its native land of southwest Asia including Arabia, and parts of Africa specifically Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, making the demand far greater than the supply.

How well the plant is harvested also impacts the cost. The efficacy of utilizing machines to harvest a product versus handpicking is evident with Jasmine. Jasmine must be handpicked at night to preserve the scent and it takes 8,000 blooms to produce one milliliter of oil.

Perhaps the single most important influence on the cost is its purity.

Examples of why some oils are pricey.

Where the essential oil is obtained and when it can be obtained is critical when looking at the cost. For example, the oil Melissa is native to Europe, Central Asia, and Iran. It takes 3.5 to 7.5 tons of the plant to produce one pound of oil. The Melissa plant is also seasonal and does not grow in the winter. Some companies dilute Melissa with lemon or citronella essential oil.

Frankincense is another example of an oil that does not grow well outside of its native environment of India, Yemen, Africa, and Oman. The process of obtaining the resin from the trees is time-consuming and cumbersome. The cost of Frankincense is also due to its high demand. Some reports indicate that Catholic Churches use a combined 50 tons per year.

Sandalwood trees are the second most expensive wood in the world (FYI African blackwood is the most expensive). The sandalwood tree produces expensive sandalwood oil. The tree is native to India and Indonesia. It takes a minimum of 15 years for a tree to be mature enough to obtain the oil needed. The older the tree, the higher quality of oil that is produced. A mature Sandalwood tree weighs approximately 220 pounds and produces less than three cups of oil! The increase in demand has led to many crops being smuggled, which also raises the end cost to the customer.

What is in the bottle?

Aromatherapy has gained traction in the last several years in the fragrance, beauty, and wellness industries. Unfortunately, approximately 80% of essential oils on the market have been adulterated. This means that synthetic or natural components have been added, lowering the quality of the oil you are purchasing. Contamination is also evident in companies that do not have safe handling processes in place. So how do you as a consumer ensure you are getting the real deal? I’m glad you asked 😊

There are some red flags to be aware of. If a company is selling Frankincense at the same price as their Lemon oil, you will want to explore more on the purity of the product. Also, essential oil companies should list the ingredients on their label. If they say 100% pure and have more than that ingredient on their label, it isn’t pure. Other things to look for are company transparency with where their oils are obtained, how they are processed, and what types of testing have they gone through. It is best if the company uses an unbiased third party to test the product and publicize the results.

Finally, establish if the company is working ethically. Are they paying adequate wages and creating a healthy work environment for farmers, harvesters, distillers, and suppliers? Is the company a steward of the environment meaning safeguarding the longevity of plant ecosystems and complying with national and international rules and regulations?

I hope this has provided you with information to help determine which oils are legit. The health benefits are numerous and have been around for centuries so I look forward to answering any questions you may have. I must disclaim that I sell doTerra products. I believe in their company and am impressed with their transparency on all their products.

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