In the last decade much of the modern alternative health field has been swept up by the power of aromatherapy and essential oils to help improve mood, health and wellbeing. The connection between plant volatile oils and their effect on wellbeing has been noted since ancient times and the art of perfumery has roots dating back to the eras of the Egyptian and Roman empires.
The scents of essential oils and hydrosols are almost instantaneously processed by the thalamus and then influences our mood, cognition, memories and behavior. For example, to help insomnia, herbs such as jasmine, neroli, rose, sandalwood and chamomile have long been used to help bring greater tranquility and ease a person into deep sleep.
With the advent of modern distilling equipment and an immense international focus on the health benefits of essential oils, aromatherapy has become a multi-billion dollar industry. And while the new found reconnection to the healing powers of aromatherapy has ushered in a renaissance in herbal healing, it has also brought increased focus on the problem of large scale essential oil manufacturing.
One of the main problems is that it takes an enormous amount of plant material to make small amounts of oil. It takes almost 16 pounds of lavender flowers to make just an ounce of lavender essential oil. It takes a whopping 625 pounds of rose petals to make just one ounce of rose oil. This points to the serious problem in ethical harvesting and the challenge of working with essential oils. Some of the large companies involved with essential oils such as Young Living and DoTerra have not done nearly enough to address these issues and they have also been implicated in promoting multi-level marketing schemes as well as suggesting ways of using its that are seen by many as unethical and potentially damaging to health.
Because of these concerns with major essential oil companies, I want to promote small batch distillers that use ethical and sustainable harvesting practices. Recently I attended a workshop with some master distillers who showed not only their technical expertise but their passion in creating aromatic oils and hydrosols from plants. Its hard to express the beauty in their work. The only term to use for their passion, brilliance and emphasis on the importance of environmental stewardship is…magical .
Like Eric and Dan pictured in the top photo, a small batch distiller is someone who works very closely with the plants themselves and has a deep and intimate knowledge of the craft of distilling. They pay very close attention to the intricacies of distilling so as to produce the best top quality oils and hydrosols out there. Think of these companies as similar to microbrews, folks who really are artisans at work and care deeply about the quality of what they make.
Here is a selection of small batch distillers doing some beautiful work…
Ring Botanicals: Jessica Ring. “Ring Family Farm is an island safe-haven for native plants and animals displaced by surrounding clear cuts. The Ringfamily have been good stewards of the land, fulfilling a promise to protect the natural world we were lucky enough to grow up with. Nestled in the foothills of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, the land supports a wide array of aromatic plants: from rosemary, sages, roses, lemon balm, mints, to many types of lavender and evergreen trees. These fragrant beauties are used in my essential oil distillations and natural perfume blends. Sustainable, organic farming is practiced at the farm, and all of the plants are propagated, planted, maintained and harvested by the Ring family with love.”
Morning Myst Botanics: Ann Harman. “We are artisan distillers that are passionate about producing excellenthydrosols. We believe quality hydrosolsbegin with quality plants. Many of our beautiful hydrosols begin as seeds and cuttings that we carefully plant and care for months and sometimes years before they make it to the stills.
Cascadia Terroir: Eric Zvonchenko. “ We at Cascadia Terroir are excited to offer you our exquisite artisan hydrosols and essential oils from the CascadianBioregion. Our hydrosols are produced in small batches with the highest level of quality and respect in mind. We harvest the plant people with the greatest respect for we are all related. We believe in giving the most possible respect in wildcrafting the plants we work with and do so with the greatest of ethical concern.
Apothecary’s Garden: Dan Riegler. ”Providing a selection of fresh & fair trade, ethical and sustainably harvested Frankincense and Myrrh species,local and exotic fragrance materials, unusual essential oils, Natural perfume ingredients and animal essences. Fairtrade Frankincense explores our ancient and modern relationship with Nature’s fragrant, medicinal oleoresins and provides a link joining traditional harvesters directly with our western market in fair and mutually beneficial commerce.”
American Wilderness Botanicals : Ben Clark. “American Wilderness Botanicals, LLC has some of the purest and most potent hydrosols andessential oils in the business. Virtually all of our hydrosols and essential oils are wild harvested (wildcrafted) in Wyoming and the vast majority are harvest in Jackson Hole. I regularly have random samples of hydrosols tested at the Sagescript Institute in Longmont, Colorado. We make sure our customers are satisfied in knowing that they are getting pure hydrosols that microbe and fungus free.”
Blue Ridge Aromatics: Ian Montgomery. “We hand-distill beautiful essential oils and hydrosols in our custom-built stainless steel distillation unit.Our plant material is sustainably harvested from local nationalforests and private property in the ancient Southern Appalachians. Additionally, we source “waste” plant material from local businesses for distillation, such as juiced fresh organic ginger pulp and Christmas Tree trimmings slated for incineration.”
Wild root Botanicals: Leslie Lekos. We are a young family of four with an intense passion for vibrant health for all beings. We appreciate the wildness in life, the wisdom of the plants, animals and elements around us. Together we dwell in our mountian home nestled in-between the stellar Cascade mountain range and the Salish sea we call home. It is here in these mountains, fields and shores that we wild harvest and farm grow herbs for our goods…offering fresh herbal remedies for making your bodies feel well and nourished. We take pride in the quality and uniqueness of our medicinal hydrosols and essential oils. All of our distillations are all true steam distilled from our wild harvests and organically farmed medicinals. Our small artisian family business values high quality over high profit.
Snow Lotus Peter Holmes. Snow Lotus Aromatherapy was founded by Peter Holmes, L.Ac., M.H. in
response to the need for high quality, unadulterated essential oils for use in therapeutic, clinical, and practical home-care applications. Peter personally sources and selects the oils directly from small producers worldwide who ethically wild harvest or sustainably cultivate the plants and distill the oils in small batches. As a result of working directly with artisan – and not commercial – producers, quality is never compromised – the oils remain genuine, authentic and as unadulterated as when they were first distilled.
PhiBee Aromatics: Clare and Max Licher. PhiBee Aromatics is a family run business (named after our girls), born out of our love and passion for the native plant world. Clare began studying medicinal herbs in 1987 and has completed a 235-hour AIA and NAHA approved Clinical Aromatherapy course. She is currently working on a book titled Native Essential Oils of the American Southwest. Max is an avid botanist and plant photographer, and has catalogued over 1,200 native plants in the Sedona Oak Creek Canyon region.
Pejuta Essentials: Jonathan Smith. “Pejuta essentials only distills locally grown organic plant materials & wild plant materials.we also carefully sourceand sell various oils of the finest quality from all over the world. All oils and spritzers are completely unadulterated and have no added chemicals or filler. Products are great for home or domestic uses as well as use for the professional.I take great pride in providing a product and service that is a step above the rest.”
You can also find me at the Facebook group Herbs for Mental Health