Having access to reliable information and being able to cut through the marketing hype is important in herbal medicine. It is even more so in the essential oil community due to the multi-year boom in the popularity of using essential oils.
There is no shortage of quality oils on the market and accurate, in-depth teaching is available from experienced instructors. Sadly, unverified claims made by people trained more in marketing than health or chemistry are giving the field a dubious reputation. The current lack of critical thinking in this community has the potential for ineffective therapeutics and even serious complications.
In spite of these problems, I include essential oils in Community Herbalism classes because of the great potential aromatic plants have for healing. To avoid the issues noted above, this article has been written to provide you with trusted sources for products and information.
To keep boundaries clear, I have no financial connection to any of the companies or schools mentioned.
Purchasing Essential Oils
First of all, there is no one single best source for oils. Smaller companies tend to have better oils as their reduced size allows for tighter quality control. Below is a partial list of trusted essential oil companies.
This is the company I work with the most and I have been continually impressed by their quality. One of the few that offers attars.
White Lotus Aromatics
They have some nice attars, which are hard to find.
Original Swiss Aromatics
A superb site from Slovenia with in-depth information I have not seen elsewhere. Its approach is more relaxed (less marketing hype), grounded and scientific than what we get in North America.
A fantastic resource, also from Slovenia. While some access is paid, the free options are very worthwhile.
The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy
One of the primary professional level organizations in the US. If you are ready to up your level of study or practice, this is a great place to start.
Outstanding blog that corrects many of the myths in this field. Its focus is research and safety.
This site compiles injuries caused by misuse of oils. Any serious student or practitioner of oils needs to view this site to see what is happening with irresponsible use.
I teach a introduction to the safe and effective use of essential oils as part of the Foundations of Herbal Medicine program. It also offered to the general public as a separate weekend class.
The curriculum for this two day class is here.
The home of Andrea Butje. Positive, low key and unpretentious, her enthusiasm for working with oils is obvious and she is a quality instructor. She has a great YouTube channel where she demos making new formulas and products each week.
Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy
A good professional level site to explore. The home of Kurt Schnaubelt.
New York Institute of Aromatic Studies
Jade Shutes is a knowledgeable, experienced and outstanding instructor. One of my primary teachers and a continuing influence on the healing work I do with aromatic plants. Anything she offers is highly recommended.
The home of David Crow, another primary influence in my work. They offer basic and advanced courses with an Ayurvedic angle.
David also has one of the few courses available on using oils from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective. This particular course (titled Hua Lu) is best viewed as an addition to basic training rather than a complete, stand alone program.
The school of Cathy Skipper. She spent many years studying and teaching France and recently moved to northern New Mexico.
There are endless introductory titles in this field. Many are well done. The main issue is they mostly share the same basic information. The titles listed below go beyond the general introductory offerings.
“Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art” 2nd edition
by Kathi Keville and Mindy Green
A very well done introduction to this field and a great place to begin. The authors have 40+ years of experience in this field
“Essential Oil Safety” 2nd edition
by Robert Tisserend & Rodney Young
A professional level resource that clarifies much of the confusing and contradictory safety information on using various oils.
This is not a how-to book.
“Aromatherapy for Bodyworkers”
by Jade Shutes & Christina Weaver
This is an intermediate to advanced level book in a market full of introductory titles. Despite the title, it is written for a much broader audience than body workers. Essential for the serious practitioner. The info in this book is similar to what is provided in some high quality certification courses.
A Trio of Titles from Kurt Schnaubelt
Scientific and chemistry oriented.
His creative way to illustrate chemical profiles is well done.
1. “Medical Aromatherapy: Healing with Essential Oils”
2. “Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Oil Therapy”
Beginner to intermediate level. Scientific oriented, these titles explain plant chemistry in a clear and systematic way. They contain information not found in other books and many authors and instructors use these works as references. These two titles are important because they can be used for scientific validation of essential oils.
3. “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils: The Science of Advanced Aromatherapy”
For the experienced and dedicated student. Slow reading but well worth the effort.
“Ayurveda & Aromatherapy: The Earth Essential Guide to Ancient Wisdom and Modern Healing”
by Light Miller
For many years, this was the only resource available on combining these two healing systems. It is well done but is limited to an introductory level. For the serious Ayurvedic student, Floracopeia’s programs are more in-depth.
What to Avoid
Unfortunately, there is tremendous marketing competition in the essential oil industry which leads to some companies giving misleading information or cutting a more expensive oil with a cheaper substitute.
Most over-the-counter oils are mediocre at best. While the prices are certainly attractive, their quality is not comparable to the above companies. The best OTC oil companies I have found are Aura Cacia and Mountain Rose Herbs.
Avoid any company that claims to have the one and only, best, authentic, pure oils. The truth is – there are several companies with top quality oils. Some are listed above.
Terms such as Certified, Pure, Natural, Authentic and Therapeutic Grade have no official meaning or legal status. They are impressive sounding words used for marketing purposes.
Know the difference between accurate education and a 90 minute sales pitch that is labeled a “free class on essential oils”. This is a major source of problems.
Avoid using safety information from social media.
Avoid thinking essential oils replace the neighborhood pharmacy or the ER. They are a useful branch of herbal medicine, not the trunk.