This holiday time of year, there are great deals everywhere and multi-level marketing networks working overtime to sell essential oils. Don’t get me wrong – essential oils are amazing aromatic medicines, but they are also extremely potent tools that should be used sparingly.

The rise in popularity of aromatherapy over the years is exciting and inspiring, however, it also increases demand on wild plants and strains their populations, often in a big way. The harsh reality is many herbal plants could soon become extinct if we don’t change our consumption habits. 

Essential oils are very powerful, but they’re also resource-intensive products. Thousands of pounds of fresh plant material are usually required to make just 1 gallon of essential oil! Often hundreds of pounds for just 1 fluid ounce.

As we start brainstorming holiday gifts for others, or ourselves, it’s important we remember how to be a conscious consumer – keeping sustainability and ethics in mind. In the video above, you’ll learn helpful hints on how to shop wisely for essential oils and help preserve the unique wild aromatic plants that we love so much. You’ll also learn ways to deepen your connection to aromatic plant medicine.

Less is more

Marketers do a great job at convincing us that we need it all. But when it comes to aromatic medicine and essential oils, sometimes less is more. A medicine cabinet with 20 or so essential essential oils that you get to know really well will be more beneficial for you in the long run than one filled with 100 different essential oils. 

Many people in our modern world often struggle with something called 'choice overload' or 'decision fatigue' – when there are too many options, people tend to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed. Having a ton of different essential oils can be mind-boggling and it can be quite challenging to remember all of their benefits. Why not simplify your life and your aromatic medicine cabinet?

Once extracted, essential oils can lose potency over time; therefore, it’s better to buy them in smaller quantities. A general rule of thumb is to only buy an amount of essential oil that you can realistically use in one year (for most people this is often 1/2 - 1oz of an essential oil). After 1-2 years, the aromatics of many essential oils begin to lose strength and their medicine will not be as effective.

Many ancient healers only used a handful of plants in their lifetimes. Working with just a few plants closely and often gave them a deep understanding of the plant's medicines and healing wisdom. Many aromatic plants have a lot of different uses that cover such a wide variety of health benefits that it’s possible to address most common ailments with just a handful of plants.

Instead of caving to this season's marketing gimmicks, try to take a moment to give thanks and appreciate what you have. Take time to ponder your needs verses your wants. Is there already an essential oil in your bathroom cabinet that you haven’t used in a while? Maybe it’s time to revisit it.

Or instead of buying a handful of essential oils, try buying one and learning everything you can about it. Really invest your energy and time into getting to know that aromatic plant. Develop a relationship with it: be with it, smell it, meditate with it, feel it, observe it, learn about it, and understand it. 

Find the living plant if you can even. Spend some time with it as well, and take some home with you to dry and burn as incense. Connecting with the plant's energy in this way can help you deepen your understanding of it and how to work with it in its many forms, including its essential oil. 


Again, it’s totally okay to buy essential oils; as an herbalist and aromatic medicine lover, I've always enjoyed using them. The key is to treat them with sacred intentions instead of as a commodity. When buying essential oils, try to choose smaller artisan companies that support sustainable and ethical harvesting methods or ones that use locally grown organic plants. Never buy essential oils of wild-harvested plants that are on the endangered species list.

The next time you consider buying essential oils, ask yourself if it is a want or a need.

Buy only the amount you think you will need in a year's time (1/2 - 1oz for most people).

Consider using raw botanicals or other applications like incense, salves, and infused oils more often, which use much less plant material and are quite effective.

Connect with the plants you already have in your essential oil collection more deeply.

Research the aromatic plants you buy to determine if buying them is sustainable and ethical, or threatening and unsustainable to wild plant populations. 

With this knowledge in mind, you’ll be able to not only be a conscious consumer, but also deepen your relationships with aromatic plants while ensuring their safety and existence for the future. 

© 2021 The Northwest School of Aromatic Medicine. All rights reserved.

*The statements above have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your physician before you use this information for health purposes.

    13 replies to "Being A Conscious Essential Oil Consumer – Resist the EO Marketers!"

    • Maria Santiago

      Evan I couldn’t agree with you more. I do like all the different ways of using plants as medicine and for blessings. I would like to add that I think just being in the presence of certain plants can be healing without doing anything to the plant. I encourage people to keep a “garden” of favored healing plants that grow in their locale. I do make bundles and burn them but derive benefit from having the plants growing nearby… like old dear friends. Thank you Evan for all the lovely messages and teachings that you share.

    • Merja Hadeq

      Great article! I often want to buy an essential oil only to know how it smells first. It would be great to get them in tiny 2ml sample bottles to save precious resources.

    • Karen Worth

      thank you for this Evan. I appreciate your kind sensibilities surrounding your craft and the diminishing abundance of our world as it relates to it, and our role in supporting sustainable practices.

    • LisaAnn

      Thank You for this! I see people overuse and misuse these oils all the time and it boggles my mind! I tell people regularly, these are powerful medicine to be used intentionally and sparingly. They are often surprised by this, as they have been increasingly marketed, by MLMs and in the general marketplace, in a very frivolous way. So again, thank you for speaking out, as a trusted teacher and authority in the field. I will be sharing this video!

    • Deborah Hladecek

      Thank you for this. As an aromatherapist I appreciate your perspective and that you’re not anti essential oils but promoting good land stewardship practices by recommending moderation. I agree with everything you shared. Happy holidays to you too.

    • Em

      Thankyou id never considered eo sustainability before and now feel like my eyes are wide open, thankyou x

    • Carol Summons

      That was really interesting Evan, I agree with you because I do believe that before too long certain plants will no longer be around or harder to find and I don’t think people realise this.

    • Teryl Cruse

      Thank you for this reminder.

    • Helen Matejovic

      Thank you, I like the thought of just owning a few oils at a time, and I totally agree that just one oil will have many different uses. I need to get to know them better . Very grateful!!!

    • Jen Vipond

      Such amazing and appropriate content. Thank you for your words. The idea of burning it as an incense is perfect. I plan on heeding your advice to its fullest. Thank you again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.