If you are just getting started with essential oils, then it is imperative you know what to look for. There are quite a few essential oil distilleries and suppliers, each with their own process of delivering the products they have packaged as essential oils. Some of the things you want to research before making a buying decision are; the product name applied to the oil or blend by the supplier, the Latin name of the plant from which the essential oil was derived, the country in which the essential oil originated, what part of the plant was processed to deliver the essential oil, how the essential oil was extracted, as well as under what conditions the plants used for the production of essential oil were grown (naturally, hydroponically, etc.) These topics of interest will provide you with the information needed to make a wise buying decision. For instance, several essential oil suppliers offer a Ylang Ylang oil or blend; Ylang Ylang only grows in certain areas of the world, so if the Ylang Ylang you are considering wasn’t grown in a country it is native to, there’s a fairly good chance it is not a pure, or as pure, essential oil as it should be.
It goes without saying that one of the best tools people have for determining the quality of something like essential oils is the nose. While our sense of smell may not be as heightened or keen as those of other animals in the kingdom, it can still serve a very useful purpose for us in our endeavor to become better acquainted with essential oils. Some of us, myself included, have held previous careers in industries that have crippled our sense of smell; however, many of us can still differentiate between a powerful odor and an enjoyable aromatic experience.
Increasing Your Sense of Smell:
Most of us are not fully aware of our sense of smell. For the most part there are two times that we, as humans, pay attention to a passing smell; when it is an offensive odor we are trying to avoid or escape from, and/or when it is an aroma that embraces us, catches our attention, and causes us to try and identify what it is without seeing it, a pleasant smell in other words. We can improve our sense of smell by thinking of it as a muscle; the more we use it to identify objects within our environment, the better equipped it will become to handle the tasks thrown at it. We can begin exercising our sense of smell in a couple of ways. First, we need to spend as much time as possible throughout the day identifying obvious odors and aromas. Write down smells you are overly familiar with; the litter box, the laundry hamper, the closet, our fresh, clean clothes, shoes, gym bags, our children, our spouse, pets, etc. Secondly, we can practice identifying uncommon odors and aromas by using a blindfold testing procedure. Place a blindfold over your eyes and have somebody introduce various smells to you in a controlled environment. When the odor is properly identified, it should be written down on a different list and kept separate until such a time as it can be easily identified through olfactory observation alone. Practice these exercises in each environment you frequent on a regular basis each and every day. Within a month you should realize a drastic improvement in your ability to identify the smells you come into contact with on a regular schedule.
Getting in Touch with Plants:
A practicing herbalist often has a distinct advantage over an aromatherapist, and for good reason. Herbalists often spend an excessive amount of time in the garden, growing, observing, and cultivating the wide variety of plants they prefer to use in their practices. Herbalists know almost as much about the plants they use, as the plants do themselves. Aromatherapists, on the other hand, are like kids in a candy store; they purchase the essential oils they are told about, or that they like the smell of, without ever having come into contact with the actual plant it was distilled from. The relationship established between an herbalist and their plants, is the same relationship an aromatherapist should strive to have with the plants used to produce the essential oils they appreciate using. While it is impractical, and all but impossible, for aromatherapists to find and locate all of the native plants used in the distillation process of producing essential oils, there are an abundance of aromatic plants we can locate and become familiar with when using essential oils.
The best way to become familiar with the plants that are distilled to produce essential oils is to grow them, if possible. Obviously not everyone has the space or talent to grow a garden full of aromatic plants and herbs for the sole purpose of becoming more familiar with them. The garden will give you personal investment and commitment, which you might otherwise lack, or shrug off. If you have a garden available in your backyard, the process of becoming familiar with those plants is as simple as visiting the garden daily and enjoying the environment.
If a garden is not a possibility, for whatever reason, then the next best course of action for getting familiar with the aromatic plants used to make essential oils, is to visit an existing garden. If you have family, friends, or neighbors who have a garden, then schedule a visit once a week, if possible, for tea, gossip, or whatever excuse works best for getting your foot in the gate. If this presents a problem, or is not a possibility, then visit a privately owned garden. Most big cities have a garden as a tourist attraction located somewhere within the city limits, or in close proximity. An example of this would be the Longwood Gardens located in Kennett Square, just outside Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. These environments will provide you with the types of aromatic plants you need to become more familiar with.