Choosing the Right Ingredients | A Few of My Favorite Sources

"I really enjoy your blog & all the great information you provide!  I loved your post, "What They Don't Tell You!"  You mentioned a few places you trust to order your essential oils from, but I was curious about other products like beeswax, shea butter,  cocoa butter, etc. Would you trust New Directions Aromatics  or Mountain Rose Herbs for essential oils or the other products I mentioned? Also, when making lip balm, & lotions, what  type of beeswax is better?  Do you recommend Cosmetic grade?" - A blog reader

This morning I received the above comment/question from a blog reader. And I thought I’d use this opportunity to address a few things for all of you. Because the reality is, the majority of those who prepare our own home remedies or skin care products {at whatever level}, care about getting the right ingredients. What to put in is the first question, but where to get those ingredients {and ensure that they are actually pure and beneficial} is possibly more important even, than which ingredients we settle on putting in. How is one supposed to make sure they are getting the “real deal”?

essential_oil_brands

Since I create my own natural and herbal skin care and wellness products, I’m always searching out new sources that I can trust and rely upon for good, high-quality ingredients. So today I’m going to give a run down by category or some of my ingredients and where I purchase them from {and/or personally recommend to others}.

Carrier Oils

carrier-oils

Carrier oils are huge to me.

They are the base ingredient in my salve-making. I use a small amount in each of my essential oil blends to make them ready to roll on, no further dilution needed. And yet this is one of the hardest ingredients {in my personal opinion} to find.

You will save yourself loads of time if you start out by understanding a few of the basic terms associated with carrier oils. Check out this list, complete with thorough definitions/descriptions. 

Terms

In my product making, I always look for cold-pressed & unrefined oils. You will notice on the list of terms that cold pressed, cold expeller pressed, and expeller pressed undergo the least amount of change {less heat is used because these mainly rely upon friction from the mechanical pressing}. I avoid solvent-extracted oils because I do not want the risk of chemical residue or the high heat that these oils must undergo in order to remove the solvent in the end. I also avoid RBD {refined, bleached and deoderized}, however it is possible for an oil to say “refined” and simply undergo a thorough straining or filtering {in very rare cases}, such as in the case of several oils produced by this company.

Knowing the truth

Sometimes the easiest way to understand what one company is really selling vs. another, is to call with a list of questions. If an oil says “refined”, I want to know whether or not that involved chemicals or if it is merely filtered through some type of strainer. If it says “cold pressed”, I want to know that there were absolutely no chemical solvents used – because in order to remove that solvent in the end, an oil cannot legally be called “cold pressed”. Check out this example from a phone conversation I had with one company about their supposedly “cold-pressed” oil.

Sources

I really appreciate Organic Infusions Wholesale {you can purchase from them even if you are not a business} because in talking with them on the phone they were very knowledgable and able to help me understand what I wanted to know. I also love that they are passionate about purity and high-quality – take a look at their about pages. They offer a variety of better quality oils that you can choose from – cold pressed & expeller pressed, unrefined & refined … but always organic or wildcrafted, and without the use of additional chemicals.

I also use this Organic Cold-Pressed Unrefined Jojoba Oil from New Directions Aromatics. In general, I do not recommend this company as a trusted source for just any ingredient. But I pick and choose carefully, and have been very pleased with a few of their pure, cold-pressed, unrefined, and organic products. They have a couple of other carrier oils that I would gladly try but have not had the use for yet.

Essential Oils

c700x420

Essential Oils. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’ve written posts on pregnancy & childbirth, the difference between terms on labels, how to use them for allergies and asthma and preventing infection … and even answered numerous questions that come up again and again in my interactions with people.

As I’ve mentioned before, over 70% of the essential oils on the market are adulterated. And yet the labels almost always say pure, essential oils. Did you know that in order for something to be therapeutic grade, by law it only has to be 5% pure? You might as well have not standard for it at all.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching essential oils, calling companies, sifting through information on individual companies’ oils, and reading reviews and opinions… but sometimes the best thing you can do is read carefully, then smell them and try them. If you try enough brands of oils, believe me – you WILL notice the difference between different brands.

What to Look For

I favor organic or wildcrafted. Check out this post on what an essential oil actually looks like on a plant! Now stop and think about whether or not it makes a difference if that plant has been soaked with chemical sprays, or if it has grown free and untainted in the wild, or on an organic farm.

Wow… are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Beyond that, it doesn’t really matter if it says therapeutic grade. It doesn’t even matter if the bottle says it’s pure. A lot of times a “pure” essential oils has carrier oil added to it so it’s actually a “watered down” oil – better used for massage.

I avoid the generic brands on the grocery store shelves. Sure, everyone know about Aura Cacia and NOW. But take the lid off of either and take a whiff … when I passed my oils around at a recent essential oil class I taught, everyone talked about how huge the difference was.

Personally, I’ve found that my favorite essential oils companies are the smaller companies, and those who write and blog about their passion for higher quality. In talking with a few of my favorite sources they actually understand their products. They are familiar with the healing benefits of essential oils and the standards of their products. They have answers for my questions. They seem to be educated on what they make and sell. And they usually care about me as a person, and whether or not their products make a difference in my health.

Sources

I sell a few of my favorite essential oils here. While they are not from certified organic farms, they are organic {or higher} in their standards of quality. I’m continually amazed at all the amazing stories people come back with – how a single oil cured them of some undesirable symptom or took the place of a drug {and worked far better!}, or brought speedy healing to some health issue.

Organic Infusions Wholesale – yes, here they are again! This company is all about a higher standard of quality. They know their stuff! And I’ve never tried a product from them that I didn’t absolutely love! And the best part – all of their essential oils are pure, organic or wildcrafted {you will notice that they also sell some absolutes. Check out this post on the difference between an essential oil, an absolute, and some other commonly misunderstood terms}.

Heritage Oils – a small, Christian family run company. Heritage oils are not certified Organic, but the standards are that of organic – or higher. I am very happy with the few oils that I’ve tried from this company. Clary Sage, Cypress, Birch, Cinnamon Bark and Basil are a few that I’ve tried and loved.

Dried HerBs

herbal-teas2

You’ve probably guessed that I use a lot of herbs. I use more herbs than just about anything else. Herbs go right along with carrier oils for me – together they are the base of all of my salves and infused oils. I use them to soak breaks, fractures and sprains. I sometimes create an herbal tea for a hair rinse. And during the Summer and Fall we make iced tea and immune-boosting wellness teas … and with 9 people in our family we go through a lot of tea. 🙂

What to look for

Herbs are one of the easier things to select. I favor chemical-free. Organic. Now that I’m starting to grow many of my own herbs, I care more than ever about what those delicate flower petals and little green leaves are soaking up. Sunshine – awesome! Chemicals – not so much!

Sources

I started with Monterey Bay Spice Company after searching the internet for hours – looking for a great place to purchase in bulk without draining my bank account. While I still haven’t adjusted to their shipping prices {honestly though, this is true with many of my ingredient suppliers}, I appreciate the value I have received, and the powerful healing results I’ve seen from their Organic herbs. And… with their categorized tabs at the top, you can easily sort the organic options and not the whole index! Love!

Bulk Herb Store is a huge like! My family has purchased quite a few things from them over the years, as have I {from time to time when I need something smaller or I’m on a time crunch}. Bulk Herb Store ships fast for something like $6.00. They often have great sales or offer coupons. Their prices are excellent. However, they price and quantify more for the family, not the business. So in general I do not purchase from them unless I’m making up some Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup for my family or just need a 1/2 pound of Comfrey in a pinch, etc.

Mountain Rose Herbs is a {fairly new} favorite of mine. They sell bulk + offer 10% off if you purchase 5+ pounds of herbs! Their shipping prices are reasonable. They have a HUGE variety of dried Organic herbs, unlike any other source I’ve come across so far. And I am very pleased with the quality {and taste} of their herbs!!

BUTTERS

cocoa-butter

I love the soft, moisturizing, healing properties of Cocoa and Shea Butter. They can really add some loveliness to a lip balm, lotion or salve.

What to look for

I recommend unrefined. Avoid bleached and deodorized, and go with the natural, yellow stuff that smells a little strange. Believe me, I’ve tried both and it’s well worth the “real” stuff. Once you’ve used unrefined Shea Butter you’ll take one look at the refined stuff and toss it {literally, that’s what I did when I received a free refined Shea Butter by mistake, that I hadn’t actually ordered}. Of course chemical-free is always ideal.

Sources

I haven’t used many butters, but you may consider Mountain Rose Herbs {I trust them as a company and am very pleased with their dried herbs}.

My original source for Shea and Cocoa {when I first used them in one of my products a few years ago}, was Bulk Apothecary. Since that time I have done a lot of research, and through my personal phone encounter with one of their customer service reps began to seriously doubt the validity of some of their statements and products. I do not recommend their company as a whole {especially for carrier or essential oils}, but I had very good results with their unrefined virgin Shea Butter and pure natural Cocoa Butter.

Waxes

beeswax

First off, I only use beeswax. It’s all I’ve ever used, and honestly I love it and don’t plan on using anything else.

The first time I ever used wax in my product-making was when I purchased a Bug-Bite Salve Kit from Bulk Herb Store. It came with some of their Organic Beeswax Pastilles. let me tell you, the pastilles are a joy to work with, now that I’ve experienced shaving pieces off of blocks-by-the-pound. 😉

Having been a beekeeper for over 10 years, I know what goes on inside a beehive. I know all about the diseases that threaten a hive, as well as the limited options for treating them {and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to save them anyway}. I also know that {whether you think it’s silly or not}, there is a difference between pure beeswax, and organic beeswaxI highly recommend organic.

Recently I purchased a bunch of 1 oz blocks from some dear friends in WV who also keep hives {organically, cared for without chemicals} and are starting to sell their wax {we do not harvest the wax from our hives, we leave it and opt for a higher honey production each year}. I purchased the smaller blocks because they are easier to cut and break {or throw in by the ounce which is how I measure for my salve recipes anyway} than chipping slices off a solid block. This wax is a lovely pale golden color, and smells a little like raw honey. So pure and natural. Like nothing else I’ve purchased. I have a feeling I’m not going to want to go back to the bright yellow stuff from my other suppliers. 🙂

If you can get it from a local beekeeper, happiness! But as is the case most often, the majority of you will have to find a company that supplies wax.

In my opinion, and from my own personal experience, it does not necessarily matter if the beeswax is cosmetic grade or food grade. Food grade may be more filtered or “purified” than cosmetic grade, thus the different in price. I have used several different beeswaxes and never had a problem.

Conclusion

I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing and understanding exactly what it is that you are using, and putting into your remedies or skin care products, etc. It matters. For more reasons than one.

I started out knowing next-to-nothing about these things. I have poured over everything I could get my hands on {these past 3 years} to learn all that I can – to know and understand more of the truth. It has not been easy. I have left stores and hung up the phone and deleted emails, feeling discouraged and completely confused. I have dealt with frustrating customer service reps that don’t know what they are talking about. I have compared articles and books and people’s advice that all seem to contradict each other … and all the while I have wondered “what is the truth” and how will this information make a difference in my life and the lives of the people I am reaching out to and impacting every day?

Be willing to ask questions. Go as far as you need to go, in order to find answers to your questions.
Realize that you will have to pay more and work harder for the things that matter – for value, truth, honesty, purity, commitment, and higher standards in general. It pays to know someone, or have something that you can trust.
Don’t give up. There will always be more to learn, questions left unanswered, conflicting advice. Don’t just “go with the flow” because it’s the way the majority think. What works for you or what makes a difference in your life and in your family won’t always have the same results for others.
It’s okay to be wrong. How many times have I thought I was right and I gave the wrong advice? Be willing to go back and re-learn.
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