by Stephanie Chambers and Dr. Christoph Streicher
In recent years, organic food has become desirable. Given the extent of chemicals that are poured to conventionally farmed foods, that is hardly surprising. People also like the fact that there are certifying bodies that check that the foods really are farmed in an organic way. But when it comes to deciding whether organic essential oils are better than wild-crafted ones, there is more to consider.
The first major factor to consider is that generally, organic plants are grown in a monoculture. This is far different to the way in which they are grown in the wild. Just as people are now discovering the value of “shade grown coffee” as opposed to coffee grown the normal way, there are many factors that organically grown herbs may not be taking into account. It could be that the potency of the oil being produced may be affected.
The production of organic herbs has become an industry. It isn’t like the old days, when we all decided to grow organic veggies in our backyards and we did companion planting and planted marigolds to repel insects and so on. When plants are grown organically nowadays, they are generally grown in defined rows so that tractors can mow down the weeds between the rows. This, of course, makes sense.
But as with any industry where large amounts of money are being generated, we can’t be sure that the things they are using now to control pests may later be added to lists of those banned from organic production.
A story may help illustrate this. One of my girlfriends and her husband started growing bananas organically. They didn’t do it because they believed in the principles of organic farming – they did it because organic bananas were fetching a higher price.
They would be fined if they didn’t deal with weeds, so they and their children spent many hours whipper-snippering the weeds. They were growing them in an area where it was cold, so the bananas had to be grown on slopes, and they couldn’t use tractors to cut the weeds.
Recently, their children left home, so they had no free labor to help deal with the weeds. So, they went back to growing bananas with chemicals. I was horrified when I heard this. But that’s the reality. For many, growing organically is just a commercial decision, not one of the heart.
Of course, wild-crafted essential oils have their demons, too. For example, if not properly regulated, they could be taking too many plants from native forests and leaving it devastated. There always is a fine line when it comes to sustainable harvesting. And when there is a four-lane highway right next to the forest, the plants can be just as susceptible to having high levels of lead and other pollutants as any crop.
Of course, Ayurveda adds another level of complexity. It says that for maximum potency, the herbs that the essential oils are made from should be harvested at certain times of the day and lunar cycle (ideally with certain Vedic sounds being played during the harvest). However, few modern day suppliers will go to that level of perfection.
Generally, I, like most, have tended to buy organic essential oils. But now that I have thought about it some more, I think I will try and buy wild-crafted ones (where available) – ideally where the plant is grown in the place where it originated.
For example, Sweet Birch from Russia, Cypress from France, Siberian Fir from Russia, Frankincense from Somalia, Juniper Berry from Albania, Lavender Extra from France, Manuka from New Zealand, Oregano from Turkey, Green Myrtle from Albania, Palmarosa from Nepal, Rosewood from Peru, Sage from Hungary, Spruce Hemlock from Canada and Blue Yarrow from Bulgaria.
The Good News Is That Many Of Amrita's Organic Essential Oils Are Also Wild-crafted
In the process of writing this blog, my boss Dr. Christoph Streicher pointed out that many of Amrita Aromatherapy's USDA certified organic essential oils are from wild-crafted sources. They were wild-crafted to begin with and then applied for organic certification. We only have room to say "organic" on our website, but here is a list of those that are also wild-crafted:
- Balsam Fir from Canada (pictured)
- Bay Laurel from Croatia
- Black Spruce from Canada (pictured)
- Cedar Atlas from Morocco
- Cedar, Himalayan from Nepal
- Chamomile, Blue Morocco from Morocco
- Cistus (Rockrose) from Portugal
- Eucalyptus Citriodora from Madagascar
- Eucalyptus Radiata from South Africa
- Eucalyptus Staigeriana from Brazil
- Frankincense from India
- Helichrysum Serotinum from Italy
- Hyssop Cineol 1.8 from Spain
- Inula from Corsica
- Juniper Alpine from France
- Juniper Berry from Croatia
- Marjoram Spanish from Spain
- Niaouli from Madagascar
- Ravintsara from Madagascar
- Rosemary Borneol from Spain
- Rosemary Cineol 1.8 from Tunisia
- Sage from Bosnia
- Sage, Spanish from Spain
- Sandalwood from Australia
- Sandalwood Tamil Nadu from India
- Spikenard (Nardo) from Nepal
- Tea Tree from South Africa
- Thyme Borneol from Morocco
- Thyme Red from Spain
- Vitex from Albania
- Wintergreen from Nepal.
If I can’t find a wild-crafted essential oil (or an organic oil from wild-crafted sources), the next best will be organic. I am lucky that Amrita has so many wild-crafted and organic essential oils available. What are your views about the great debate? Which have you found to be the best? Please comment below so that all can learn.
Disclaimer: The statements made on this page have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.