A Guide to Sustainable Essential Oils

Essential Oils are a must-have item in your sustainable toolkit. They offer us the chance to make homemade remedies in a sustainable and purse-friendly way but with increased demand, sustainability of the oils themselves is crucial for biodiversity on our already threatened planet.

Whether you are on a mission to eliminate toxic chemicals from your cleaning products or finding ways to introduce more natural ingredients into your skincare regime, they are natural, biodegradable, come in a highly concentrated form (so a little goes a long way) and they allow you to create hundreds of products at home in a simply way.

the kind store the nature of things essential oils

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated volatile plant extracts, obtained from a natural raw material of plant origin by distillation. There are several different kinds of essential oil distillation methods including steam distillation, cold pressing and expeller pressing. The distillation method used depends on the type of plant species and material. Typically, it is the most aromatic part of the plant used, for example, rose oil comes from the petals of the rose, while citrus oils come from the rind.

Pure essential oils are all natural but they are extremely potent. On average, they are 75x more powerful than dried herbs and must be handled with care. A couple of drops go a long way and aside from very specific oils, essential oils should always be diluted (for example in carrier oil) properly before applying them directly to your skin.

How are Essential Oils made?

Most pure essential oils are extracted from plants through steam distillation. Freshly picked plants are suspended over boiling water, and the steam pulls the oils out of the plant. The steam rises, is captured in a vessel, and is pushed along tubing. Then the steam is rapidly cooled, causing it to condense back into water. Since water and essential oils do not mix, the two separate, and the essential oil is collected.

Did you know? A byproduct of this distillation is the remaining water. Some plants contain aromatic compounds that are so water soluble, they remain in the water that is left over after distillation. Such waters are very fragrant and are prized by aromatherapists, who refer to them as hydrosols (or toners). In aromatherapy, hydrosols are used mostly in cosmetics to moisturize skin.

picked flowers flat lay

Benefits of essential oils

Essential oils are prized for their therapeutic effects on the body. They are renowned for easing muscular aches and pains, improving circulation and easing sinus congestion. They also have a positive effect on the skin; the oil molecules' ability to penetrate into deeper skin layers encourages cellular renewal, enhances blood circulation and helps with issues such as acne, sensitivity and eczema.

Essential oils can also be used in home cleaning products and for general well-being in the context of emotional support and the scent themselves.

Some of the most popular essential oils, like lavender and sweet orange, cross over into many categories and can be used effectively for many applications.

Although there's no doubt that essential oils boast a multitude of amazing uses, if you are pregnant you should consult your doctor before using them.

How to use Essential Oils?

Dilluting essential oils allows them to work better as when exposed to air along, the molecules of the pure essential oilstend to evaporate very quickly.

For skin care, in addition to avoiding a potential skin reaction, adding a few drops of the essential oil to a carrier substance better facilities the absorption of the oil by the body. Common carrier substances include neutral, plant based oils such as sweet almond, jojoba, olive and avocado oil.

The general rule of thumb is to aim for a 1-5% dilution. Ideally 1-3% for skincare and 3-5% for home and air care. A 1% dilution is 6 drops per 30ml.

If you want to find out how to create your own oil blend, see our blog post here.

Sustainably Sourced Essential Oils

Essential oils offer us the chance to make homemade remedies in a sustainable and purse-friendly way but with increased demand, sustainability of the oils themselves is crucial for biodiversity on our already threatened planet.

Aromatic plants contain anywhere from 0.005 to 10% essential oil so that's a lot of plant material being used to create essential oils (typically 1-2%). This accounts for the difference in essential oil prices per plant.

The essential oil industry is dependent on natural resources which has sparked concern over sustainable sourcing alongside worker's rights, climate conditions, pestilence, disease and civil unrest, however if sourced sustainably, essential oils are highly concentrated and if used properly, they can be both environmentally sustainable and economical.

Over-harvesting and threatened species

There are certain essential oils that continue to be unsustainably produced from dwindling resources such as Indian Sandalwood, Agarwood and Rosewood plus Frankincense and Myrhh which are in great demand but are collected from limited resources in areas of the world that tend to duffer from severe drought conditions. These five highly sought-after and valuable essential oils, in particular, are often subject to illegal poaching and trade.

over harvested sandalwood essential oil

Illegal logging of Sandalwood 

Workers rights

Much of the farming required to produce essential oils occurs in less developed countries where working standards are not necessarily well regulated. Looking for Fairtrade or choosing a brand that sources direct are your best options to ensure workers rights are protected and respected.

Organic essential oils certification vs sustainability

It is important also to remember that not all farmers who practice organic farming are necessarily certified so we do need to look beyond certifications sometimes. Some plants distilled into essential oils are not farmed but collected in the wild, especially in forests (so they are not eligible for organic certification which only covers farmed produce). The key for wild plants is to make sure the collection is managed and controlled in a way that allows for a healthy regeneration of the resource and at the long term impact on the environment, the communities and the viability of the activity. 

organic lavender field france

Why we have chosen to stock The Nature of Things Essential Oils

We have chosen to stock essential oils by The Nature Of Things based in Dublin, Ireland. With over 20 years of experience working in the world of sustainable essential oils, the founder Benoit Nicol noticed the market was flooded with underwhelming oils and wanted to use everything he had learnt, from the farmers, distillers and scientists to create a brand that celebrates the best quality natural oils and ensure every process of creating the end-product has a record of sustainable practices, finally presenting the products in beautiful packaging to encourage consumers to embrace essential oils as part of their 'sustainable toolkit'. All of the oils are imported from different parts of the worlds directly from producers and bottled in Dublin. Benoit has hand selected producers who have a genuine passion for distilling top quality oils and a proven record of sustainable practices. Their producers work hand in hand with their communities to protect the environment and support their local economies. 

"Our policy is that whenever possible, we will source essential oils that are organic certified and/or fair trade certified, whatever the cost. But quality and sustainability will come first as we are committed to offering the best essential oils from the most trusted suppliers."

 The Nature of Things are a 1% For The Planet member.

"Sourcing our ingredients and packaging from ethical suppliers is not enough, we also need as an organisation to play our part. As a business, we are committed to: 

  • Using packaging with the highest possible recycling rate, such as glass, aluminium and paper​
  • Limiting our operations footprint by reducing our energy and water usage
  • Compensating our people fairly and supporting their development 
  • Supporting organisations that help protect the environment and promote responsible business."

A few of our favourite essential oils

Lemon oil

Organic Lemon Essential Oil, 12ml, £6.80
  • Scent - Juicy, fresh and zesty
  • Mind - Energising, uplifting and ind boosting effects
  • Skin - Tonic, but avoid use before exposure to the sun
  • Health - Good for winter infections and anti-microbial
  • Home - Antiseptic and antibacterials in cleaning formulas and fresheners

lemon essential oil

Lavender oil

Lavender Essential Oil, 12ml, £13.00

  • Scent - Balance of aromatic, florl and sweet notes
  • Mind - Calming and relazing effect, promotes sleep
  • Skin - Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory
  • Health - Helps healing light burns, wounds and insect bites
  • Home - Freshener and antimicrobial

lavender essential oil

Tea tree oil

Tea Tree Essential Oil, 12ml, £12

  • Scent - Medicinal, herbal
  • Mind - Head clearing and stimulating
  • Skin - Astringent for acneic skin, anti-inflammatory and regenerative for wounded skin
  • Hair - Revitalizing and good against lice
  • Health - Antiviral and antibacterial
  • Home - Antibacterial and antimicrobial benefits, freshener

tea tree essential oil

Peppermint oil

Peppermint Essential Oil, 12ml, £7.20

  • Scent - Strong fresh menthol scent
  • Mind - Energy and mind boosting effects
  • kin - Muscle pain and tension
  • Health - Headaches and colds
  • Home - Powerful antiseptic, freshener

peppermint essential oil

To see more of our top 10 best essential oils and how to use them in your health, beauty and cleaning routine, see our blog post here.

To find out how to blend essential oils, see our blog post here.

Safety caution
Note that these properties were compiled from books on aromatherapy and natural wellness. The Kind Store does not endorse health claims and always advises to use basic common sense when using the oils and seek advise from a qualified physician if you suffer from any illness.

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