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a series of small amber glass bottles laying on their side among scattered leaves, seeds, and petals.
Photo by Tara Winstead:

Smell is a big part of my life. I think maybe it’s the kitchen witch in me. I learned to really cook by smell – a little of this, a little of that, until it smells right. Cook it till it smells right. I use my nose when I craft soaps and perfumes in the same way. And sometimes, I can craft my mood the same way.

I started with aromatherapy so long ago that it’s hard to put a number on it. As a child, my mother mail ordered essential oils (and bach flower remedies if memory serves) from a nursery in Oregon that’s still going strong all these years later. It’s very possibly that some of those oils were not essential oils but fragrance oils as I very definitely remember there being strawberry and there is no proper strawberry essential oil.

She made simmer pots with herbs, fruits, and greens for every season because the scents made her feel a certain way. She made potpourri and candles for our home and for gifts. Every year we made pomanders and scented waxed pinecones. She loved lavender for everything. Which is part of why I don’t actually like lavender as an adult. Got a burn? Lavender oil. (ok, so sorta yeah here). Got an earache? Lavender oil. (more the heat of the compress than the oil on the compress imo). Have a sad? Lavender. Have trouble sleeping? Lavender. For some those might work – not for me. I make a tea blend that actually does work for me though.

When my mother died, it was yet another thing that just disappeared from my life. I don’t think my grandmother really approved. A few years later, I came back to it when I was pregnant the first time. I was reaching for any and all connection to my mother and, at the time, I couldn’t keep a plant alive to save my life. I bought a proper book in early 2000 and it’s been a very big happy place for me. Scent in general but also the energetics. Not everyone follows that and that’s fine, but it works for me. When life is too much, a little grapefruit oil can be a small reset. When I need to feel a bit more soft and loved, there is nothing better than a little vanilla infused jojoba oil on the pulse points (there really is something special about good vanilla).

Now, let’s talk malarky marketing. There is no such thing as “therapeutic grade” essential oils. There is no regulatory body giving that a definition so it’s really meaningless – a marketing ploy. MLM essential oil companies are predatory and there are better companies for so many reasons.

Companies I recommend and use regularly: Aura Cacia (they’ve been around since at least 2000 and probably before but were the most common for me to be able to get in 2000), Jade Bloom, Plant Guru, Plant Therapy, and some of NOW. I am willing to try new companies if their price points aren’t stupid (in either direction), if they have the gms reports available, and they don’t promise you all the fixes that some MLMs throw at you. Also, make sure the bottle is labeled with the proper scientific name of the plant – my experience has been those who don’t label the product properly are more likely to be counterfeit or poor quality.

Jade Bloom had, may still have, a series of classes you can take on safety, usage, a little of how it’s made, some of the side effects, things of that nature. If you do or are interesting in doing aromatherapy yourself and haven’t taken any classes, it might be worth looking for. I’ve done a number of courses over the years and work with essential oils pretty regularly in my soaps and skin care stuff.

I don’t use essential oils often in my magic because I’m a whole plant sort of person whenever possible and, honestly, essential oils are not really sustainable. I’d rather steep orange peels in vinegar to make a cleaner than add orange essential oil to my vinegar. It takes an enormous amount of plant material for a tiny bit of essential oils. I don’t think people really understand just how much material is needed for even 5 ml of oil.

I do use essential oils in my skin care because I try to avoid fragrance oils (my skin doesn’t care for a large number of them) and because there are some benefits specifically to the essential oil that I can’t pull out in an infusion and there are plants I don’t have access to. But, when it’s possible, I’d really rather use the whole plant – tea in place of water, glycerites, infused oils.

When I make my magic oils – like the money oil I shared not too long ago, and I have a dream oil that’s similar – I like to infuse a carrier oil with plant material rather than adding essential oils. I find it to be more potent personally and doubly so when I have also grown the plant.

In short – don’t fall for marketing double speak. Most essential oils don’t need to cost a bazillion dollars (except some special oils: if you find cheap neroli or rose or jasmine, it’s diluted or adulterated). Don’t get sucked in by predatory MLM companies!


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