Essential oils are aromatic volatile (evaporate quickly) liquids steam distilled from shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, or seeds. Vegetable oils, such as olive, jojoba, or grape seed oils are usually pressed from the seeds, fruit or rind and can become rancid over time (and should be refrigerated) but essential oils do not go rancid, if they are not contaminated.
The molecules of organic essential oils are much smaller than that of vegetable oils. Which is why essential oils evaporate into the air and float across the room and absorb much more quickly into the skin. Organic essential oils are chemically very complex, consisting of hundreds of different chemical compounds, which can make choosing which oil to use a little difficult, ask me if you need help. They are highly concentrated and far more powerful than dried herbs. Organic essential oils are not greasy, like vegetable oils, and do not clog the pores.
The highest quality of organic essential oils are ones that have been produced to preserve as many of the delicate aromatic compounds as possible. Fragile aromatic chemicals are easily destroyed by high temperature and pressure as well as contact with chemical reactive metals, such as copper or aluminum. Organic essential oils are steam distilled using pure water at low temperatures and low pressures. The plants have been grown using “organic” farming methods: no pesticides, no herbicides and no chemical fertilizers. They were planted at the right time of the year in well-balanced organic soil, and given the right amount of pure water. They were harvested at just the right time of year at just the right time of day and distilled immediately. All these aspects affect the quality of the oil and the labor-intensive methods push up the price.
Some manufacturers use chemicals in the distilling process to speed things along or to create more volume, and bring the price down, but then those chemicals are passed on to the essential oil and can cause skin reactions. Also many manufactures use high heat and pressure while distilling the essential oils because it is quicker and therefore bring down the cost of production, even though they destroy some of the chemical compounds in the essential oil.
Adulteration is the addition of other substances either synthetic or natural to extend or to alter the appearance or smell. It is a common practice for many manufacturers to add chemicals to create more volume and label it as pure essential oil!
Many pounds, even tons, of plant material may be required to produce a relatively small amount of an essential oil. Over 150 pounds of lavender flowers will make only one pound of essential oil. Over 5,000 pounds of rose petals produce one pound of rose essential oil!! (Just imagine how much space 5,000 pounds of fluffy pink rose petals take up) That explains why it is so expensive!