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Jennifer Ferring

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Organic Essential Oils Expert

Here, Aura Cacia's Jennifer Ferring describes organic essential oils and the unique benefits they have to offer, and offers her top tips for bringing organic essential oils into your life.

Jennifer FerringQ: How do essential oils differ from other types of oils?

A: Essential oils are the concentrated “essence” of a plant.  With the exception of the citrus essential oils such as orange or lime, which are pressed from fruit peels, essential oils are steam distilled from the plants from which they are derived. This means that steam carries the essential oils out of the plant and into another container where the steam and oil is condensed by cool water.  The essential oil and water is then separated to produce pure essential oils.

Pure essential oils come directly from steam distillation without any other processing besides, in some cases like citrus oils, filtration.  Essential oils are generally not intended for internal consumption in the practice of aromatherapy in the USA, although some essential oils are used in a much diluted form in food flavorings.

Q: What are some common examples of essential oils?

A: The most commonly used essential oil is Lavender.  Other common essential oils include Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Tea Tree. 

Q: How do organic essential oils differ from their non-organic counterparts?

A: Organic essential oils are steam distilled from plants that have been grown under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standard of organic farming.  This means that no toxic and persistent pesticides were used during the plant’s lifespan.  The entire process from the ground to the distillation occurs without the use of toxic pesticides, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, or GMOs. 

Q: What are the key health benefits that come from choosing organic essential oils?

A: The benefits of using organic essential oils are similar to those of choosing organic foods.  Essential oils are typically used in personal care or for medicinal purposes in which the essential oils are applied topically to the body.  Choosing to apply an organic essential oil frees the user of worry about the possibility of toxic pesticides in that application. Additionally, when users burn an organic essential oil, they do not have to worry about inhaling harmful chemicals or pesticides. 

Q: What are the key characteristics you look for when sourcing organic essential oils?

A:  We regularly follow the supply route back to the source with overseas sourcing trips. We conduct thorough inspections of the sites where our oils are grown, distilled, and packaged. During the course of these inspections, we work from our Well Earth certification document.  This is an 8-page document with over 100 questions ranging from worker treatment and benefits, to technical questions about the facility and processes, to questions about environmental sustainability.

Additionally, all our organic essential oils must be accompanied by USDA NOP organic certification, which includes information on country of origin, lot numbers, the date of manufacture, the botanical name, the plant part used, and any processing procedures used. We use this certification, along with other documentation, to ensure we can trace each lot back to the grower.

Finally, every container of Aura Cacia organic essential oils must be pre-approved by Dr. Denys Charles, Director of Research.  He screens for non-natural or missing components, or components occurring in unnaturally high ratios, signifying contamination. Upon arrival of the shipment to the Aura Cacia manufacturing facility in Urbana, Iowa, the lot is re-tested to verify that it is the same lot as the pre-shipment sample.

Q: Where are most organic essential oils sourced from? Do they have to meet U.S. organic standards if they are grown and processed outside of the U.S.?

A: Organic essential oils are grown and processed throughout the world.  Currently, Aura Cacia sources over 30 organic essential oils from 14 different countries.  Any organic essential oils that we purchase must meet the USDA NOP standard.  

Q: What are your top 5 tips for deciding which organic essential oils to incorporate into your life?

1. If you want your organic dollar to make a larger impact, buy organic citrus oils.  Most conventional essential oils don’t need to be grown with non-organic herbicide and pesticide inputs. Conventional (non-organic) citrus oils, however, have a higher probability of containing pesticides due to the manner in which they’re cultivated. 
2. When formulating with other organic ingredients such as carrier oils (sesame, jojoba), it’s ideal to add organic essential oils so that your entire end-product is organic. 
3. Choose organic Lavender oil when used as a topical application for a burn or a scrape. 
4. Choose all organic essential oils when using with babies, children, or aging persons. 
5. Use organic Eucalyptus and/or Tea Tree oils in a humidifier during cold and flu season to ward off germs. 

About Jennifer Ferring 
Jennifer Ferring is the Commodity Manager for Aura Cacia, working there since 2008. Ms. Ferring has helped grow the essential oil business into one of the largest in the United States by developing strong relationships with botanical suppliers around the world. Her most recent trips have taken her to Madagascar, Indonesia, Nepal, Bulgaria, Morocco, France, Croatia, and Ukraine.  Traveling to the botanical source is the best way to evaluate the supply chain and how the oils are produced.  Ms. Ferring holds a B.A. from the University of Iowa.