"Why Natural oils?...Why not anything that smells nice, whether it’s natural or synthetic? The answer is simply that synthetics or inorganic substances do not contain any 'life force'; they are not dynamic...organic substances like essential oils have a structure which only Mother Nature can put together. They have a life force, an additional impulse which can only be found in living things."
- The Art of Aromatherapy by Robert Tisserand
Selecting Your Essential Oils
Selecting the highest quality essential oils is much like selecting your favorite wine. Right now, my favorite house wine is Bella Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Big Canyon Estate. Such signature wines of a given vintage have a distinct identity that cannot be substituted with another zinfandel from anywhere else in the world. Like wines, essential oils must definitely have just the right richness and complexity. It's a very individual perception.
Researchers have found that even if we soon forget things we see or hear, we remember odors for a lifetime. We all have a unique reaction to particular smells because we’ve all had a personal history of exposure to aromas with associated emotional connections. Choosing aromas is very much a matter of personal taste. No single oil will have the same appeal to everyone. I had terrible hay fever and bronchitis as a child. When I was 12, I got a job at a dry cleaning plant so I could hire a gardener to mow our lawn. I have someone else select all the oils from Graminae (Grass Family) –lemongrass, palmarosa, vetiver, and even though I’m into organics and natural remedies I can’t use Citronella to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes so I came up with a non-grassy blend that works just as effectively.
To determine the best aroma, you need the gift of a well endowed, trained and experienced nose and compare your impression with other experts. In doing this the expert will take into account how the fragrance varies over time. We consult a half a dozen experts and see what they are recommending and why.
Then we investigate the region the oils come from to ensure they are using the correct botanical. It requires that the workers harvesting the wild or cultivated plants to be knowledgeable and honest in only gathering plants from the one species that you ordered. Substitution of lesser quality species is a big temptation to farmers and impossible to test for. Definitely essences distilled from different species or compositions can potentially have different effects and healing qualities.
Then we consider the reputation of the distiller and like a wine maker this is where the real magic happens. Even the best crop can be ruined by overheating during the distillation. During all stages of producing a therapeutic grade essential oil the distillation must be carried out as slowly and carefully as possible. This limits the quantity of the oil that can be distilled and is less economical for the distiller but it’s worth it.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to attend every distillation ourselves so we must depend on the integrity of the facility and the people in charge of the distillation.