The title of this discussion can be misleading I know. But it is just so on purpose. As we will be discussing two actual meanings of the sources of Essential Oils. The first will be Sourcing from the source, the actual farms, etc. The second will be suppliers that are essentially the middle man or the importer or gathering place, ie; the wholesaler, and among other related items.
So here we go with the second part. One of the main things that you must remember is that for some oils and in some areas, the marketing of them is somewhat like the commodity markets, which the essential oil is simply just another item within the agricultural production community. Many times these oils will pass through brokerage houses, bidding markets, and so on. However, some oils, usually the artisan type oils will simply pass from the distiller to the retailer or is retailed by the distillers themselves. Most of the time these artisan oils will be domestically produced so the whole export/import deal is a mute issue. But for many oils, you will find them subjected to the export/import rules, policies, and laws as any other item that passes from/through one political authority to another. All of the oils are shipped subject to the material data requirements that are mandated by various government agencies. For the most part, people using the oils at the consumer level by purchasing these little 10 ml. or 15 ml. have no real concept of all that is involved with essential oils before they ever get them. When you get a so-called small user of oils, like doing what I do, using/buying small amounts, like say 1 Pound (16 ounces) or even a Kilo it doesn't make much sense to try to import from a foreign country as the costs on that amount would make the oil extremely expensive. Besides some of these distillers overseas won't even give you the time of day if you aren't buying like 6 or maybe 10 totes from them at one given time. Some use these totes, some uses barrels, these 2 are among the most widely used containers. For example, these are the totes used in the liquid markets that are usually around 300 gallons. So 300 gallons X 10 totes comes to about 3,000 gallons, which is perhaps one of those 20-foot shipping containers stuffed full of one distillation of one single essential oil. Depending on the weight of the individual oil that could roughly amount to close to +/- 20,000 Kilos. Let that sink in, lol. I read a report on the amount of Orange essential oil that is sold in the North American market and that was a report that was 3 years old that said the dollar value was around, as I recall, 480 million dollars. So as we listen to many people dealing with essential oils making claims that they go to these foreign distillers and they give them the top of their line oils, the first crack at buying them and they are buying maybe 5 gallons or even with these big companies, maybe 500 gallons of a given oil.. yeah right, a serious detachment from reality. Yes, those types of claims may be honest if buying from a small local artisan distiller, but otherwise, let's get real here.
I have posted a number of Youtube videos of harvesting crops that are used for essential oil distillation in my FB group. So those that follow there will have at least a concept of what the real world of essential oil production is al about. I wish some of these stories about some warm fuzzy feeling feel-good story that makes a person feel good inside that is pushed by some companies was truthful, but most aren't. Most of these big distillers, not all, are honest and straight forward. However, after the oil leaves the distiller, at one of the many points along the line, sometimes the financial temptation is overpowering to "cut" the oil, ie; add into it some "advantage" otherwise known as adulteration happens. So for most people working with oils, we rely on some of these "middlemen" so to speak. Some of these do their own testing and some rely on the reports from the distillers. I use both types of suppliers. You know what? In over 15 or so years in dealing with several of these suppliers, I have never had a bad oil come from them. There are several 2 tier suppliers that a person sometimes has to use and I have seen some bad oils come from them. So basically over the years you learn and develop relationships with the good suppliers. In fact one of these top tier suppliers sent me the oil that I had ordered, it was supposed to be 16 ounces. I figured out there were only 14 ounces in the container. I sent them a note and mentioned it and maybe whoever is filling them might want to pay closer attention. They got right back with me and asked what they could do to make it right with me. But we still quality check the oils, one of those "Trust but verify" types of things. I do know that some of these suppliers have an outside, side job company that they market their so-called, less than the top of the lines oils excess oils that aren't quite right, usually starting to go bad, though. Kind of like a discount wholesaler so to speak. I think you might be getting the picture by now. But their front line flagship company, usually top of the line oils. With these suppliers, they have all of the import/export licensing, and contacts along the way and have been cleared by customs to do what they do. So most of us use them, including the big companies.
When you go to these suppliers you can usually get the report before you even consider buying the oil. This is where we make determinations of which oil to buy. Everyone will use their preferred methods of evaluation of the oil and assess if it has the right properties and ratios to meet their needs, depending on the demands of their aromatherapy program. There are many different aromatherapy programs out there, so what one aromatherapy program needs and requires to be successful may not work for a different type of program. For example, one popular aromatherapy program is one that attempts to play doctor. That program will have a certain set of needs and requirements. Another one is one that we try to work with for most people and that is a lifestyle type of program. Sometimes a particular oil is used in both programs, sometimes they will require a different set of chemical makeup for one over the other. Then yet another type of program is one that is referred to as the "Soapers" program. These are ones that use the essential oils in various programs like making soaps, etc. Their requirements are yet different than the two previously mentioned ones. Doesn't mean that the oils they use are bad, it just means that the needs are different and sometimes the oil will work across the board and sometimes not. There are several more different types of aromatherapy programs, but it would take too much time to mention them, and as it is I hope you get the picture here as well.
One of the biggest consumers of essential oils is the food industry. As more and more people are becoming aware of what is contained in their foods, these big food companies are using more natural products for flavoring and enhancing flavoring and one of the big use items is essential oils. Essential oils for this purpose requires yet a different set of requirements for their needs over the previously mentioned needs. I guess you could say that the food industry has its own specialized aromatherapy program. Because of the more widespread cultivation of crops used for essential oils, the cost of production for many oils has come down and thus it makes it affordable to use massive amounts in the food industry vs when looking at use in these feel good or playing doctor aromatherapy programs.
Years ago when I first started doing my own thing with essential oils, I made a huge mistake, well actually two huge mistakes. The first one was that I figured that people were concerned more about what was actually in the bottle and so I didn't spend money on labeling. I just printed off the old Avery labels and went with that. I also used 15 ml. bottles as I thought that I could get the most value to the consumer by working with that amount. Well, I found out that for most essential oil use that the 10 ml. bottle worked best as that amount was what most people would need before their needs changed to another oil. So around that 5 ml. amount would end up being wasted, one way or the other. But the biggest problem that I learned and it shocked the living daylights out of me was the labeling. Believe it or not, but in almost 100% of the cases, the quality of the oil was judged by the label. By the actual appearance of the label, I kid you not. So to test this concept, I made a various set of testing protocols, testing various groups of people from different backgrounds. Now keep in mind, the actual appearance of the label was tested in some groups. In these groups, people indicated that if it had a nice classy label, then the oil was better. Then with some of the others, I covered the label but left something that would prompt an indication as to what company the oil being sampled was from. Every time and I kid you not the people always went with their preferred company's oil. At least what they perceived were their favored company's oils. What made this interesting was that in some of the sampling sessions, I simply used the same actual oil in all of the bottles. In some cases, I switched out the oils with each other as to where oil from company A would be put in company B's bottle and so forth. Then to my horror, as I took it to the next step, I actually used some fragrance oils as the test oils and some of these, well, what was supposed to be experts actually preferred the fragrance oi over the natural. when I asked them to reexamine the oils and assess if any of them were or contained fragrance oils, almost without fail they would indicate on the fragrances being the natural and the natural as being the fragrance. As part of the test, I also indicated prompts with some of the people, as to which was each, real subtle mind you, but when I either dropped the prompts or used the prompts, the results were pretty much the same. I tested enough people and under the varying conditions that the differences were statistically insignificant. So when the issues of quality and some of these so-called experts start carping about this stuff, I just roll my eyes. Now keep in mind, if you run this type of a test on someone who actually knows their stuff about essential oils, they will hang you to dry, after they stick your own head up your own rear end and drop kick you down the road, figuratively speaking that is. I have not done that, but I have seen it done. As a side note, I do use fragrances at the time when working with aromas on a blend for example. Many times a fragrance will help you get to where you need to be as regards to ratios and order of blending. Once I get to close to where I need to be, then I switch over to the real oil and polish it off from there. I do this because working with some of these expensive oils, well, it can get to be expensive and I mean expensive to use the natural all the way. Pretty much most of the time, when playing with these oils, the various test runs can't ever be used for anything useful, basically wasted oils. So oils like Rose, Neroli, etc., you can only dream of how much money can get wasted in short order. lol. .
Anyway, from this point on, by the time the oil is finished and ready for the retail customer a lot has gone into it all. But what most people don't realize is the amount of money that it costs to take the oil from a large container and break it down for individual use by the consumer. A lot of labor is involved as well as the costs of things like, well the label. The whole essential oil and aromatherapy structure is very labor-intensive. Perhaps one of the most sickening things about the essential oil business is the amount of slave labor involved in the harvesting of a number of essential oils. I try to avoid as much as I can of using oils where slave labor is involved. A lot of essential oils are produced by the use of slave labor, but it is the high priced oils produced by slaves that I try to avoid. I guess we all draw the line somewhere. So for such reasons I am glad to see Frankincense getting moved to the endangered list.
Anyway, I need to end this one as I figure I have lost everyone anyway. Obviously a lot more should be included here, but.. the length. Maybe some of that stuff will show up in other discussions.
End of Report.