“I love essential oils, and am learning so much about the difference between quality oils and those I used to find at my health food store. The problem is the quality oils are so expensive! Do you have suggestions for companies that sell quality oils at lower prices? How can I save money and still get the oils I want or need?”
– Susan B.
Unfortunately, I’ve not run into a company with consistently good oils that also sells for consistently low prices. I’ve gotten good oils at super-low prices, but it has always turned out that I hit a sale, or the company’s other oils weren’t great. That is not a good way to “save”.
It’s also important to remember that great companies produce a bad batch, and really shoddy companies may get their hands on a great oil. In the oils world, most companies purchase from a bulk supplier and re-package for sale. These are usually the less expensive oils. They generally haven’t been individually tested, and may be adulterated. They may also be quality oils from the same batch of fruit and distillation you could buy for three times as much. The problem is that the next batch may not come from the same supplier, or the supplier may have a lower-quality batch.
What You Pay For
It’s important to remember what goes in to a quality oil. Your one bottle may have taken hundreds of pounds of plant matter to create. That’s what makes oils like rose so wildly expensive. Some of those plants are difficult to grow in quantity, or grow in areas of the world not always friendly to business or humans. For most of us, those plants must be grown organically or wildcrafted, adding another layer of difficulty and expense. Then an artisan must use the plants to create an oil, a process that takes knowledge and practice. You want your oils tested by a third party? GM/MS testing is not cheap, my friend. Neither is the salary of the person who ensures each bottle is labeled with a correct batch number and that the test results are accurate online.
If a company wants to make cheaper oils, they have to cut cost somewhere. Maybe they skimp on batch testing. Maybe they don’t acquire the very best plants. But it’s difficult to imagine they could really ever be cheap. So, while I am usually a budget-conscious penny-pincher, I don’t know how to consistently get quality oils at a low price. What I do know are a few ways to make your necessary purchases a little easier on your budget.
1. Find a Network
Maybe the easiest way to save on essential oils is to share them with a friend. Ideally, you already have a friend selling from an MLM with a great discount. They need some sandalwood, you need some sandalwood, so you order and share the cost. This is great if you don’t order frequently, and only need a few oils. It allows each of you to have a little of something really special. Of course, you don’t have to know someone, or involve an MLM. Ask in an online forum, or find a buddy at the farmer’s market. Two or three people can go in on an oil from any company, really – just make sure someone is signed up for the loyalty program!
The great thing about this is that the most expensive oils are also the most potent! If you’re mixing some rose into a rollerball bottle, you may use less than one drop of rose oil. (You swirl a toothpick in the oil, then into the blend.) So splitting the oil isn’t really a sacrifice – it’s actually pretty reasonable.
2. Look for Smell-Alike or Same-Purpose Oils
Need Peppermint, but it’s pricey right now? Check out cornmint – it will smell the same in a craft project, and some candy companies actually use it rather than peppermint to flavor peppermint food. Really want to use Sacred Frankincense in a diffuser blend, but feel a little ill looking at the $80 price tag? They won’t smell exactly the same, but frankincense serrata has a nice, sharp smell, and carterii brings some of the earthier notes – both are usually far less spendy than boswellia sacra. Can’t come close to getting that prized bottle of Blue Tansy? You may save with chamomile. Many plants have similar components, so if you’re looking for eucalyptus, check out its shared compounds with rosemary and sage.
Obviously, this can take a little work. I was forced to do it when I discovered a specific sensitivity – lavender triggers migraines. I couldn’t use the majority of the stress blends and sleep synergies on the market. I didn’t do it because lavender is pricey; the opposite is true. But you can do it for the same reason, to find an oil that meets both your budget and your oily needs.
3. Join the Silly Clubs
I’m not talking about the “clubs” you pay to join. If you choose an MLM or membership that requires a fee, you should really know how it will affect your budget. You can save money on oils, especially if you’re selling them, but you need to know what you’re getting into. Most MLMs will have a few levels of buy-in, so don’t toss the idea immediately, just do research first.
I mean the loyalty clubs. Give your e-mail address, check the box, and in exchange you get coupons and points. You get in on the sales, and it is actually possible to earn free oils with regular purchases and really save. Don’t be led astray by oils you might like, wait for the ones you’re really interested in. Save those points and watch the e-mails. Follow social media accounts for the companies you prefer. Pro tip: Set aside an oils budget. It might be less than the price of a bottle of lemon, but set something aside regularly. Then when the sales some and the really good coupons show up, you don’t have to find the cash to take advantage of it.
4. Try Pre-Diluted Oils
I know, I know. I’ve spent much of my life recently telling people the best ways to avoid “adulterated” oils. Now I’m telling you to go ahead and buy them! But only under certain circumstances. Only when you would buy the undiluted pure oil from that company if you were able. Only when they tell you it’s diluted, sometimes distinguished with the label, “blend”. Only when they tell you what they used to dilute the oil, and what percent of the bottle is essential oil.
The priciest of oils are also some of the strongest, remember? You’re going to dilute these oils very heavily, anyway. As long as you know the rose is already at 2%, you can adjust your recipes to include just the right amount. These bottles are far less spendy than their pure counterparts, and if you’re buying from a quality source, it’s no different than if you’d done it at home.
5. Make Infused Oils
Along the same lines as pre-diluted oils are infused oils. You can make these at home and save lots of money, and they still give you many of the benefits of essential oils. When you make an infused oil, you’re collecting nearly all of the same components that are in a distilled essential oil into a liquid carrier oil, like olive oil or sweet almond. It’s not the same, but when you look at the cost savings, some plants just might be worth trying a little DIY!
Susan had asked specifically about Melissa, sometimes called Lemon Balm. It’s a favorite of mine, and it’s really on the high side of the price range. But here’s the thing – it’s super easy to grow, even in a pot. It’s a member of the mint family, and makes beautiful infused oils. So do rose, and lavender, and orange and nearly any other plant you might use for essential oils. Give it a go – there are some great instructions for how to make infused oils on Preparedness Mama.
A hydrosol is, or can be, a by-product of essential oil distillation. It’s mostly the distilled water, but contains tiny droplets of the intended essential oil. A hydrosol will smell of the oil, and have the same properties in a weakened form. One popular oil also frequently sold as a hydrosol is neroli, or orange blossom. In fact, you’re more likely to see it sold as “orange flower water”, and near the facial toner at the drugstore. Some essential oil companies sell the hydrosol version of popular oils, so if you’re looking for neroli or rose to change up your skincare game, consider a hydrosol rinse instead. You’re still getting many benefits, and paying a fraction of the price.
You can also create a version of hydrosol right at home. Simply add the desired plant matter to a glass container, and cover the leaves, petals, or parts with water. Add a small pinch of salt to help extract the plant’s essences, and leave on the counter overnight. Strain the plant matter, and use as you would any hydrosol, as facial toner, food flavoring, or right in your diffuser. Use more plant for something like a lavender room spray, and a lot less if you want to drink it. That’s right, hydrosols are one of the safest ways to ingest essential oils, and can be pretty darn tasty. Mint water with lemon is a beautiful thing, my friends. And you can make it for way less than you can buy mint or lemon oil.
7. Sell Your Creations
If you’re buying single oils, chances are you’re blending them. You’re diluting with carrier oil for topical use. You’re mixing them with other essential oils to make a preferred scent blend. You’re making homemade skincare products or household cleaners.
Sell them. If you’re making one, you might as well make five. Or ten. Set up a Facebook page, use eBay, or Etsy. You don’t have to really go into business or worry about stock – if you’re out of something, it’s OK to be out, or need a minute to make more. But if you use the right mark-up, you can pay for your oils with what you use and sell. It takes creativity and a little effort, but if you choose to keep it small, it doesn’t take much more time or effort than making things for yourself. Even just a diffuser blend that works well for you might be something that interests your friends. Yes, this is making money, but because you’re earning with your oils, you’re going to save on their overall expense.
8. DIY Essential Oils?
You may have read that you can make essential oils yourself. Now that would save money, right? Most of these articles refer to infused oils, and most of them tell you so right off the bat. Some refer to a process where you make a tincture of alcohol and plant matter, then evaporate the alcohol, leaving only the “essential oil”. Rarely, you’ll get an actual tutorial on making distilled essential oils at home.
Without a still, you can’t really create quality essential oils at home. You can certainly make helpful and healing oils from the desired plants. You can definitely have fun extracting something close in a little vodka. But they’re not the same. In my opinion, it’s important to be clear when we talk about medicinal plants. It’s important to talk about an infused oil or a tincture when that is what I mean. Confusing them can be dangerous to someone who reads my material, and I would hate for that to happen.
If you have a still at home and make your own oils, I’d love to hear about it! I haven’t made the leap, and I want to so much. But it’s a big investment, and I’m saving for so many dreams…
What About You?
What helps you save on oils? Talk about your brands if you wish, but no affiliate or personal MLM links, please! This is for information only, but I’d love for you to share your tips. Don’t forget, many lovely oils can be just as helpful and a lot less expensive when used in their whole form, so check out “herbology” (herbalism) in addition to the aromatherapy you’re learning about!