Recommended Essential Oil Brands

(One of the most infuriating things about having the blog down was that I’d just finished this huge post and couldn’t publish it. Here it is, at last.)

Google Analytics tells me what search terms bring people to my website. Far and away, the biggest term that leads people here is “essential oil scam.” Apparently, that blog entry I wrote on MLM scams involving essential oils is popular. Hint: the two companies I was talking about still exist, and are still roping people in with outlandish claims and even more outlandish prices.

But where to get essential oils if you don’t get them through the MLM market? As I’ve mentioned before, essential oils aren’t graded or tested, so if you lack your very own gas spectrometer, it can be hard to figure out what brands are of generally good quality.

First, the widely available oil companies. These are the companies that sell at the major natural food chain stores, at vitamin and natural health stores, new age shops, apothecaries, and the like. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just the companies I see a lot here in Chicago, whose oils I’ve used and found perfectly adequate for my (magical) needs. I do not participate in any affiliate marketing programs, nor have any of these companies ever sent me products for review or as a promotion.

Locally Available – most of these will contain an orifice reducer, which you’ll need to pop out if you’re using an eyedropper or pipette for oil measurement.

  • Aura Cacia – easy to find at Walgreens and Target, at least in the Midwest. Itsy bitsy 15ml bottles, but if you’re just starting out, very handy. Kind of pricey for 15ml, but you’re paying for the convenience of buying an essential oil at Target. As far as I can tell, perfectly acceptable oils.
  • Everyone Essential Oils – the basic oils (lavender, peppermint, etc.) in a .45oz bottle. 100% essential oils. Again, you’re going to pay for convenience, but not all that much. They sell blends of oils, but stick to the single-oil type for better control over your mixtures.
  • Nature’s Alchemy – I’ve only seen this one at the Vitamin Shoppe, but I’ve bought a few and found them to be decent quality. Not my first choice, but widely available.
  • Nature’s Truth – New to Walgreens, also available at Target. I don’t have much experience with this one. As far as I can tell, 100% pure essentials, not synthetic. Can’t speak to the quality, but easy to find. They sell blends like “Energy” and “Calming,” as well as roll-on bottles with a mix of sunflower seed oil and essential oil. Avoid those.
  • NOW Essential Oils – 1oz bottles, available pretty much everywhere, mostly in health food stores. Good quality, medium price point, easy to find. HOWEVER, their Jasmine oil is cut with fragrance oil. They say so in the ingredients, but not the brand to use for Jasmine.

Online Vendors – smaller bottles will have orifice reducers, which you’ll want to remove.

  • Camden-Grey – if you need more than 1oz and you prefer a very slick, professional experience, these are your people. Good product, but an extra step if you’re ordering more than 6oz or so. Camden-Grey ships in plastic bottles, because it’s cheaper. You’ll need to decant the oils after you get them, into glass containers. About 30% of my oils are from here, and all my carrier oils.
  • Edens Garden – easy to navigate page, reasonable prices, I’ve always found their oils to be good quality. They sell up to 100ml (just under 3.5oz) in some oils, 250ml (just under 8.5oz) in others.
  • Essential7 – they do use the “pure therapeutic grade” marketing twaddle, but they’re not an MLM and they deliver products of good quality at an excellent price, and they’re very pleasant to work with. Probably about 50% of my oils are from this company.
  • Mountain Rose Herbs – small company, relationships with their distillers, great quality. If I’m looking for a particularly delicate scent, this is where I go. Price reflects the care they take with the oils. If you’re buying in smaller amounts, a good choice. They also sell herbs.
  • Plant Therapy – available on Amazon, often with Prime Shipping. Very nice selection, solid quality assurance, and they’ve worked with essential oil guru Dr. Robert Tisserand to create a line of oils that are safe for use with kids (not that you’re slathering your offspring – or anyone else’s – with magical oils, but for diffusing and topical use of you buy into that). Good quality, decent value for the money, this is a good choice if you’re starting out and you have Amazon Prime and no local health food stores.

Of Note For Magicians
There will be oils that you’ll need that won’t be widely available, and best purchased from a magical oilmaker. When I need Galangal, for example, I can’t get that from bigger companies. I buy those oils from Harold Roth at Alchemy Works. He has a book coming out called “The Witching Herbs,” which I’ve already pre-ordered on Amazon. These oils are not cheap, but they’re worth it. He also sells herbs, seeds, resins and incense. Even the website is worth a thorough perusal, there’s lots of good information about oils and oil use there.

Suggestions? Comments? I’m happy to add to the list. Anyone touting the benefits of Young Living or DoTerra will be laughed right into the spam filter.

Essential Oils and Animals

This has nothing to do with ritual, magic, or anything esoteric, just one of my frequent freakouts over people using essential oils in dangerous ways.

My sister-in-law is a veterinarian in northern California, where a lot of people are really concerned with keeping things as natural as possible.  A few weeks ago, a dog died in her arms.  A perfectly healthy dog, whose owners had decided against a flea treatment like Frontline because of their concerns over pesticides.  They’d done some online research and discovered that certain essential oils can repel fleas, so they bought a bottle of pennyroyal essential oil and rubbed a small amount into the dog’s skin.

24 hours later, the dog died of liver failure brought on by pennyroyal poisoning.

This is not unusual, sadly.  Pennyroyal, which is extremely toxic to dogs, is touted in a ton of places online as a very effective flea deterrent.  Search “natural flea treatment” or “essential oils for fleas” on Google or Pinterest or almost anywhere you CAN search and someone will have helpful directions about using essential oils to treat a flea infestation.  Among the most popular – Pennyroyal.

“A 1992 study (Sudekum M et al, Pennyroyal oil toxicosis in a dog, JAVMA.1992) reported that .07 oz of pennyroyal essential oil was applied to a dog’s skin to help control fleas. “Within 1 hour of application, the dog became listless and within 2 hours began vomiting. At 30 hours after exposure, the dog exhibited diarrhea, hemoptysis (coughing up blood) and epistaxis (bleeding from the nose). Soon thereafter, the dog developed seizures and died. Histopathiologic (tissue) examination of the liver showed massive hepatocellular necrosis”. In other words, the dog died of liver failure.” [source]

.07 oz is less than half a teaspoon.

On the face of it, using essential oils to repel bugs is really sensible.  We use citronella candles with essential oil of citronella, after all, to keep mosquitos away.  People even use citronella sprays.  No big deal.  Plant based, natural, no dangerous pesticides.

Except one of those natural bug repellents is virulently poisonous, and less than half avteaspoon applied to the skin (not consumed, just rubbed on the skin) will kill a dog.  That part didn’t make it into the webpage or pinned recipe for flea repellent.

I have another post in the works on the many, many Pinterest recipes floating around, for human and animal use.  Put it on your skin, take several drops by mouth, diffuse it into the air so you/your kids/your pets/your guests can breathe it into their lungs.  Get the essential oil into your body, they say, because it’s natural and nontoxic and healthy and safe.

Essential oils are the most concentrated form of a plant that exists.  They can make humans and animals sick or dead.  MLM companies want to sell oils; the more you consume in more ways (skin, ingestion, diffuser, etc.), the more you’ll buy from them.  They are salespeople.  Not herbalists, aromatherapists, doctors, nurses, homeopaths, naturopaths, or anyone else who has been through training regarding the safety of essential oils.  Some of them are knowledgeable, I’m sure, but the are first and foremost salespeople trying to sell you something.

Be careful.  Please.  Essential oils are strong, and they can make people and animals very ill, or even kill them.  Never base your use of oils on a salesperson’s pitch, an essential oil company’s instructions, or something you found on Google or Pinterest.  If you’re interested in essential oil use, learn from a qualified program before you use them on yourself, your dog, your kid, or your clients. These pet deaths (the dog my sister-in-law saw was just one of many households pets sickened or killed every year when people try to treat a problem with herbs or oils) are completely avoidable.  Not one of those animals had to die.  They were victims of a “natural medicine” craze that turns salespeople into instructors, advising their customers on the use of oils to maximize their own profits.


Essential Oils STILL Not Medicine

The most popular entry on this blog remains the one I wrote on multi-level marketing of essential oils and the outlandish claims and insane price markups that these companies were peddling.
Anyway, if you’re interested in the topic, you know that the FDA formally reprimanded a number of MLM essential oil companies for making claims that their oils were medical treatments. Which, of course, they’re not. A lot of these MLM companies make (or have made in the past) claims about FDA certification, lab testing, purity standards, national certifications, oil grades, and other marketing inventions. I went poking around today to see if there was anything new that I hadn’t run across on the topic, and found a blog called “The Fraud Files” that’s run by a forensic accountant. She did an entry earlier this year on the essential-oils-as-medicine claims and does a fairly good takedown of the MLM company claims and insinuations.
You can read it here.
(as an aside, I really don’t want to hear from any more DoTerra or Young Living reps accusing me of being a shill for the FDA, or hating essential oils, or claiming that I hate holistic medicine, need Jesus in my heart, or that I’m basically a terrible person for thinking MLM essential oil companies are deeply offensive to anyone who’s in the essential oil/ritual oil business – I’ve got plenty of correspondence on the topic, I’ve even published some of the comments, but I’m tired of reading the crazy and you’re not changing my mind by ranting at me.)

Abramelin Oil

One of the first magical oils I ever encountered was Abramelin Oil – probably because I hung out with Thelemites. It was a sort of spicy-scented oil that was used for anointing things, and that was all I knew about it.
Eventually, of course, I learned a lot more about magical oils, and one of the choices I encountered when starting Quadrivium Supplies was whether or not to make Abramelin Oil.

My decision was no.

Mostly, the people who use Abramelin Oil make it themselves – as I explained to someone, if you’re in a situation where you need Abramelin Oil, you’ve probably got enough experience to make it yourself. Plus, traditional Abramelin Oil is made with an olive oil base, and no matter how much Vitamin E or Rosemary Oleorosin I put in olive oil, it starts to turn in about six months. It was just too different from the other oils I make, basically, so I elected not to carry that one.

A few weeks ago, a customer contacted me to ask that I make him two vials of Abramelin Oil, using the ingredients and proportions from the original manuscript of The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. If you’re not familiar with Abramelin Oil, there are several recipes for it. The one from the original manuscript, the Crowley variant, and the Mathers variant are the most popular ones. There’s also different ways of making the oil. Some people (like me) mix essential oils in an olive oil base, others macerate and steep herbs in the olive oil base, then decant the oil after a month for use.

Since I was already making a batch of Abramelin Oil, I told a few people that if they wanted some, they should let me know. The response was surprisingly positive. Positive enough that I started to worry that I was going to miss an order or two, or send someone the wrong thing (Hi, Christopher in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne! Sorry!). Mostly, Quadrivium Supplies is intended to be a wholesaler working with stores – the fact that you can order the product off the website is mostly due to my understanding that there’s places with either no stores, or stores I haven’t convinced to carry my line. Yet.
Happily, one of the stores I work with got really really really excited about the prospect of Abramelin Oil made by the obsessively detail-oriented.

I did not write their copy on the oil, by the way. They did that. You can pre-order Quadrivium Supplies Abramelin Oil via Good Luck! Conjure Shopw in Kansas City, through this link:

The oil should ship by March 1. I will be accepting orders until February 21. After that, you’ll be out of luck.

Where Do I Buy….

I get asked about where to get the ingredients for the oils I make. While I would much prefer you buy your oils from ME (obviously), I know there’s a lot of do-it-yourself types out there. This is the first in an installment of “Where Do I Buy….?” entries.

Where Do I Buy Essential Oils?

Probably better subtitled “If I’m a beginner with oils and don’t have any clue of where to go or who to ask or what to look for.”

These days, essential oils are a lot easier to get than they used to be. Most natural food stores carry them – but they carry different lines, different brands, and it’s hard to tell which are the reliable national brands and which aren’t as reliable. And then there’s stores that carry a whole rack of oils next to their incense displays, which lead people to believe that these are essential oils – but they’re not. They’re “fragrance oils,” or “essential fragrance oils,” or “essential oil blends,” – none of which are actually essential oils.

Something to remember:
The area of essential oils is rife with fraudulent marketing ploys, as I’ve said before. The only essential oil is the one that says it’s a 100% essential oil. Not a fragrance oil, not an essential oil blend, not a ritual oil, not a magical oil, or an anointing oil – none of those terms mean anything other than “this is not an essential oil.”  It might be tempting, when you see the price difference between the “fragrance oil” and the “100% essential oil,” but you’re not making potpourri.  You’re making magic.

It’s hard to know what to look for, so here’s three national brands that I’ve found to be of uniformly pretty good quality.  These are oils priced for retail sale, so the price may be a bit higher than if you buy in bulk, or on eBay. However, they are national companies with quality control standards and a uniform means of making oils, which counts for quite a lot when you’re just learning about essentials.

  • Aura Cacia – this is a company that makes a variety of products with essential oils, as well as providing the essential oils themselves. They also make essential oil blends and other products, so you have to be careful to ensure that what you’re buying is from their essential oil line. Everything is documented on their labels – if there’s any additives, if the oil has synthetic ingredients, if it’s diluted – and on their website.
  • Nature’s Alchemy – owned by Lotus Brands, is sold in many retail outlets. They sell in .5oz and 2oz sizes. This is probably the brand I have the least experience with, but I’ve used three or four of their oils and found them to be about the same as the other nationally available brands. This is the brand usually available at the Vitamin Shoppe, but you can also buy via their online shop.
  • NOW Essential Oils – some are organic, some are not. Their citrus oils are cold pressed, everything else is steam distilled, and it’s a US company that distributes all over the country. The oils are available on Amazon, and through other online outlets, as well as through the NOW Foods website. These oils are sold in many health food shops, Whole Foods, and other places.

Some of the more expensive and scarce oils, like sandalwood, are sold as blends – in some cases, 10% sandalwood essential oil and 90% grapeseed oil. As long as all the ingredients and the ratio of essential oil to carrier oil, are on the label, it’s a perfectly legitimate way to make a very expensive essential more affordable.  Always read the labels.  If the price seems too good to be true, check the labeling.  You might have run into a sale (score!) or you might have run into a company or store hoping that the consumers aren’t well-educated about oils and the marketing practices used.

So that’s how you buy essential oils locally if you’re just starting out.  Thoughts? Questions?  Criticisms?  Let me know.


Preserving Magical Oils

In previous posts, I think I’ve addressed the fact that natural oils eventually go rancid. It happens to all of them – probably everyone has had the experience of opening a bottle of olive oil and making a face at the smell.

Natural oil products go “bad” because of oxidation, which occurs when light and air hit the oil. This is why Quadrivium recommends keeping your oils in dark glass bottles and storing them in a dark, cool place. Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant, is used in all of our oils to slow down the process. Nothing will stop an all-natural oil from eventually getting rancid, but using an anti-oxidant additive will make the oil last much longer.
The trick is to find out which kind of Vitamin E oil you have before you add it to an oil. There are two kinds of Vitamin E oil available, one natural and one synthetic. The synthetic oil (dl-tocopherol) has no anti-oxidant properties. Check the label before you buy Vitamin E oil to ensure that it says d-tocopherol, as this means it’s the natural form of the oil and has the anti-oxidant qualities needed.
It only takes a few drops of natural Vitamin E for the antioxidant qualities to work – usually the final product is about 0.04- 0.5% Vitamin E.

mason jar full of oil

Another option that some oilmakers use is benzoin, though Quadrivium does not use benzoin for some reasons that I’ll outline below. Benzoin (styrax benzoin) is a resin, which means it’s sticky and thick. It can’t be added to an oil in it’s natural form. There’s no real essential oil of benzoin, though there’s often products that claim to be essential oil of benzoin. Remember that there are no real rules in place in this regard, and that companies can claim that liquid benzoin is an essential oil when it’s not. In order for the benzoin to be liquid, it has to go through a chemical process often referred to as “solvent extraction.” This means the resin has been chemically processed, and will contain solvents to make it pourable and liquid. Odds are the people using the liquid benzoin have no idea what solvents or chemicals are in their liquid benzoin, which leads to the possibility of carcinogens, allergens, and other issues. In fact, benzoin itself can be an allergen, and there have been cases of people developing a sensitivity to benzoin after using so many products that have used it to prolong shelf life.

This is why Quadrivium does not use liquid benzoin as an anti-oxidant.

Benzoin resin can also be dried and made into a powder, which can be added to an oil, but that presents another set of problems. There is no way of knowing what is in the powder. The label may say it’s 100% benzoin resin, but unless the user has made the powder themselves, there’s no way of knowing which variety of benzoin is being used (there are several), if the powder is pure resin, if there are added chemicals, or how the powder was processed.
Since Quadrivium isn’t a chemical processing company, and we don’t have the means to test powders for purity, we’re not taking the risk with benzoin powder, either.

Grapefruit Seed Extract is another antioxidant that’s often mentioned when talking about natural preservatives, and it is indeed an antioxidant. However, it’s extracted with synthetic compounds, including methylparaben. It’s also something of a newcomer to the “natural preservative” family and while some people have found it effective, it doesn’t have the track records that benzoin and Vitamin E do.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) extract, also known as Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, is another powerful anti-oxidant that can be used in oils, though it’s much more common in soapmaking. Per the Camden-Grey essential oil site, which sells this product, an oleoresin is an extraction of a natural food or flavoring raw material using selected solvents to remove the vital components; the oleoresin will contain the essential oil and other important non-volatile components which enhance the flavor, act as fixative or contain other desirable properties. ROE is very strong and some people find it irritating to the skin; it’s also a very thick liquid. Most people disperse it in vegetable oil before adding it to their product. As with Vitamin E oil, it doesn’t take much ROE to work as an anti-oxidant – .1% to 1% in a finished product. ROE has a distinct herbal odor, but so little of it is used in the product that it’s not particularly noticeable.
While this is an excellent product, Quadrivium Supplies believes that every plant ingredient in an oil should have a meaning – and since ROE is extracted from rosemary, it retains the magical properties of rosemary, which aren’t appropriate for many of our oils.

If you want to keep your oils from going rancid, you have many options. We use all natural low d-alpha mixed tocopherols, also known as T-50 Vitamin E.

Making A Ritual Oil – Part II: Selecting Your Essential Oils

This is the second in a series, which starts with Making A Ritual Oil, Part I.

Since you’ve decided on both your purpose and your table of correspondence already, considered your emotional reactions to certain scents, and determined if you want a solid component to your oil, you’ll be able to select the oil ingredients without too much trouble.
I’m still going to talk about selecting and buying oils, though.

oil bottle

Find pure essential oils. At first, this will probably mean buying from the major essential oil companies that sell in health stores and organic food markets. The brands that these places carry, in my experience, are perfectly serviceable for magical oil-making. You’re restricted to commonly available oils, but when you’re starting to make ritual oils, you probably don’t really need to be tinkering with things that cost $30 for 5ml. There’s a retail mark-up, of course, and you do pay for the convenience, but there’s something to be said for ease of access and uniform oil quality. These are the commercial oils least likely to have synthetics added to boost the scent, or solvents added to “stretch” the oil. Look at the back of the label to check the ingredients. Much as it pains me to say it, your local metaphysical shop is not the best place to shop for pure essential oils. Most of them carry the major metaphysical oil “blends,” which are largely synthetic.

What you’re looking for is 100% essential oil – with a few exceptions. Some very reputable sellers sell a Sandalwood blend, since true Sandalwood (Santalum album, or sandalwood mysore) is endangered and thus extremely expensive. Expensive as in roughly $85 for 5ml, or 1/6 oz. Most people, even those of us who own oil companies, can’t afford true Sandalwood oil. Several major essential oil makers sell a Sandalwood blend that consists of a different strain of Sandalwood (normally Australian, Santalum spicatum) in a base oil. It’s a way of stretching the oil, and as long as the consumer is informed up front that they are purchasing an essential oil in a base, it’s an ethical practice. Some companies also sell Rose essential oil blends, for the same reason. Check the ingredient list on the back of the bottle, if it says it’s a blend – it should have the Latin name of the plant, and the name of the carrier oil. If there’s anything else, it’s probably synthetic additives and that’s not an oil you want.

A lot of people buy their essential oils online, but for people just starting out making oils, I recommend choosing your oils in person. If you can, that is, as I’m aware that some people live in areas that don’t have much in the way of shopping options. Try to avoid eBay and similar sites. They may have perfectly good essential oils available but at this stage, you’re not going to know the good sellers from the ones marketing synthetic scents as essential oils. If you really feel the need to use eBay or another site, ask the seller specifically if this a pure essential oil with no additives, even if the listing seems to indicate that it is. I once got what I thought was an excellent deal on bayberry essential oil, only to discover upon receiving it that it was entirely synthetic. The seller had gone to great lengths to avoid claiming in the listing that it was a pure essential oil, using catchphrases like “pure anoining oil” and “pure ritual oil.” It was my own fault – I didn’t ask enough questions.

Try to avoid the MLM brands. They tend to be massively overpriced.

Now you’ve chosen your oils, based on your table of correspondence and your own instincts. For a simple mix for beginners, I tend to recommend no more than three separate oils. If you feel the oil needs additional attributes, consider adding solid herbal ingredients rather than more essential oils. The scents of the oils can interact with one another in unexpected ways.

In the next part of this series, I’ll actually get around to talking about mixing a ritual oil.

Oil and Water

With a lot of the success and drawing oils – Crown of Success, Money Drawing, Love Drawing, Get A Job, etc. – I’ve talked about anointing a resume or other kind of paper with oil. Recently, I got an email from someone who wanted to be absolutely sure she didn’t leave an oil smudge on her paper, which was a perfectly legitimate concern, and asked me if Quadrivium Oils can be mixed into water.
Short answer: sure!
Long answer (oh, you knew it was coming): Turning a magical oil into a sprayable water while retaining the magical properties requires a few things, but it’s pretty easy to do. You do have to use up the water within a few weeks, however, if the solid matter in the oil is added to the water. Even dried herbs get moldy when they sit in water for two months.

glass spray bottles

What you need:

  • The solid herbal ingredients from the oil – you can get them out of the oil bottle by decanting the oil into another container and straining out the solid ingredients with cheesecloth. If you happen to know the solid ingredients, you can just use those without going to the trouble of straining your oil.
  • An eyedropper or pipette.
  • About eleven drops of oil per cup of spray you intend to make.
  • A good-sized pot with a lid.
  • Distilled water.
  • A glass bottle with a spray attachment.
  • Your stovetop.

First, separate the oil from the solid ingredients, as explained above. Measure out how much spray you’d like to make, and add that much distilled water to the pot. Put in the solid ingredients from the oil. When the water has started boiling, add nine or eleven drops of oil per cup of water. How much oil you add will determine the strength of the fragrance in the water – use a light hand and don’t dump the whole bottle of oil in, unless you’re making a vat of spray water. Allow this mixture to boil for about three to five minutes, then take it off the burner and cover it immediately. Allow the water to cool completely, while covered.
At this point, you can either strain out the solid ingredients from the water, or leave them in. My personal preference is to leave the solid ingredients in the water, as they’re an integral part of the mixture. As mentioned above, though, this means you have to use up the water/oil mix more quickly, as the solid herbs can get moldy.
Fill your glass bottle with the water and add in some of the solid herbs. Attach the spray top. Ta-da! You now have a scented water made from magical oil that you can use on….pretty much anything you like. It’s diluted enough that it won’t leave stains on paper or fabric, and can even be used as a room freshener. I like to use a Van Van water to spray on unscented dryer sheets before I put my family’s clothes in the dryer, and my kids insist that their room be sprayed with it before bed. According to them, it chases away nightmares and monsters. There’s lots of uses for these sprays. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making them, I’m happy to do it for you upon request.

Caveat Emptor

Look, more Latin! Caveat Emptor is a Latin phrase meaning “let the buyer beware.” This is an important thing to keep in mind when dealing with essential oils.

Here’s the thing about essential oils, at least in the USA: they’re unregulated. There’s no governing body with minimum standards, there’s no organization or government entity checking essential oils purity, content, additives, or anything else. There’s no group that certifies essential oils or tests them, either. A company can claim pretty much anything about their essential oils – that they’re graded, pure, rarefied, certified, etc.

This presents a problem for the consumer – since there’s no one certifying or grading oils, the buyer has to be aware that they’re at risk for being swindled. Unless the consumer is very secure in the company they get their oils from, or makes the oils themselves, the “essential oil” that they buy at a store or online could actually be an essential oil…or it could be a fragrance blend oil, a synthetic fragrance oil without one whiff of plant material, some mix of all of these, or something entirely different. To be blunt, if you don’t know your vendor, you don’t know what you’re getting.

There are no regulations on the essential oil industry, and no standardizations. There are no requirements that an oil must meet to call itself an essential oil. It is up to the buyer/user to be aware of this.

So why do companies tell you that their oils are “therapeutic grade” and “aromatherapy grade” and “top grade?” Marketing. Companies can charge more money if they can convince the consumer that what they’re selling is somehow better, or more pure, than the other people selling the same thing.

Most buyers don’t know that there’s no regulation or licensing or quality standards for essential oils, that essential oil sellers can toss terms about grading oils and purity standards around with impunity because they don’t actually MEAN anything. One especially misleading multi-level marketing company claims that their oils are certified as pure by a regulatory entity in France….an entity that does not test or certify essential oils. Likewise, companies claiming that their oils are pure and they can prove it with gas chromatography or a mass spectrometer (a few companies do this) are misleading the consumer – neither gas chromatography or a mass spectrometer can tell you if an oil is a true essential plant oil, or a lab-created facsimile.

So how do you know what companies to buy from? The same way you learn about quality vendors of other items – you ask around. You order teeny-tiny samples and see how they work. You do your own research and your own tests and you educate yourself.

(As to why it’s important to use actual essential oils in magick and not, say a synthetic fragrance oil that you got for $5 on eBay, you can read my entry on Why Oil Ingredients Matter.)

Why Oil Ingredients Matter

There’s a lot of cheap “ritual” oils being sold these days. I can go down to a new age shop and pick them up for, at most, $6 per 1/2oz. There’s no list of ingredients, no information about what the oil is other than what’s on the label. “X oil to be used for Y purpose.” People buy them, take them home, use them in candle magic or for other purposes, and generally seem pretty underwhelmed.

I know this because I did it myself. I used cheap, mass-produced “ritual oils” and I got no results whatsoever, if you don’t count an asthma attack every time I did candle magic with an oil. The reason, I concluded, was that magical oils don’t work.


Cheap, mass-produced oils don’t work. Why? Because the supernatural properties of magical oils are tied in to the plant ingredients – essential oils and solid herbs. When you buy a cheap oil, you’re getting chemical solvents, mineral oil, food dye, and synthetic fragrances.

The ingredients matter. The plants matter.

Magical oils should contain essential oils, a carrier oil, and possibly curios and herbs added as a focus. There shouldn’t be chemical solvents to stretch the oil further, or synthetic scents to make it “smell right.” Adding chemicals to magical oils is an excellent way to not get any results from your spellwork.

Know what you’re getting. There’s no governing body over oils, or requirements for labeling, so unless you have a list of ingredients on the bottle, you don’t know what’s in the oil.
The term “anointing oil” is meaningless – it’s oil meant for anointing, and could contain anything. “Ritual oil” and “magical oil” are similarly without any guarantee that you’re getting something other than a bottle full of chemicals. And those “essential oil blend” oils listed in catalogs? That just means that there’s an essential oil in it – the rest of it might be synthetic and solvents.

Know who you’re buying from. Buy from practitioners, if you can. It’s more expensive, because we use the real thing. Someone selling “sandalwood anointing oil” for $5.00 is selling a synthetic – sandalwood essential oil runs about $400 for 1/2 oz. Creative practitioners will find ways to keep the cost down, though, like using powdered sandalwood instead of essential oil, which is much more reasonably priced.

Natural oils do not smell like synthetics. They don’t feel like synthetics. And they certainly don’t have the shelf life of synthetics. They’re more expensive, they can be harder to use, and they have to be stored in a particular way.

Why would anyone go to all that trouble?

Because they work.