How Essential Oils Are Made & Produced

Let’s delve behind the scenes of essential oil production. You may or may not be surprised by the amount of time, manpower and money that is required for the final product – which is a tiny bottle of high quality, highly concentrated, pure essential oil.

Essential oils are volatile organic compounds derived from multiple parts of a plant such as the flower petals, the bark, and the leaves and so forth. The plants are sought after for primarily their fragrance and potential health benefits such as assisting with sleep, facilitating easier breathing, promoting calmness and more.

It can take tens, hundreds, even thousands of pounds of a specific plant (often handpicked, too, by the way) and at least half acre large field to produce one tiny bottle of essential oil. Do note that the half acre field is for one type of plant so if you have multiple, well… do the math.

The oldest and the most common method to date is steam distillation. This method helps extract the oils and capture the essence from the plant by using high pressure steaming, without breaking down the delicate and volatile compounds of the plant during the condensation process.

The same plant from two different brands can have very distinguished scents from one another although both high in quality and pure. This is because the country of where the plant is sourced, growing conditions, extraction method can vary vastly in terms of aroma and chemical constituents.

Where are essential oils produced, mainly? The world’s top five essential oil producers are:

  • Brazil
  • China
  • France
  • India
  • United States of America

There are certain essential oils such as frankincense, myrhh, ylang ylang, yuzu, neroli and others that are typically produced in only selected countries, due to the source, growing conditions and labour cost.

Whereas some oils, such as the very common and popular peppermint essential oil, are produced in the United States at a commercial scale. Manufacturers often use essential oils to sell as they are, and/or to add into cosmetics, perfumes, soaps as fragrance components.

After it’s been farmed, harvested and produced, it’s ready to sell, right? No. To ensure the quality and the purity of the oil, making sure it is not contaminated with pesticides, chemical solvents or cheap fillers; meticulous testing must be done before the finished products hit the shelves.

The above mentioned testing done for essential oils for quality and purity check are called “Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectometry”, or just GC/MS testing for short. They are actually two different types of testing but are often carried out together in a lab. They are often tested many, many times before they are ready to be packed and sold.

Essential oils are not regulated by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) therefore it can be an opportunity for unethical companies to slap on a false label and scam customers into thinking they’re buying the real thing. Thankfully, many reliable brands are listed on the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy website.