About Essential Oils (FAQ)


What are essential oils?

Essential oils are the subtle, volatile liquids and aromatic compounds that are distilled or pressed from plants. Essential oils are present in the oil glands, hairs, ducts, bark, stems, leaves, and flowers of many plants. They are called “essential” because they are the immune system of the plant and without them the plant would die.

What is Essential Oil Therapy and Aromatherapy?

Essential Oil Therapy is the use of therapeutic quality essential oils to address psychological or physical ailments. Aromatherapy focuses more on the inhaled used of essential oils to treat a client. In recent years the term Aromatherapy has grown to include external use of essential oils applied to the skin.

What is the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils?

Essential oils are derived from the true aromatic essence of plants, while perfume or fragrance oils are artificially created or contain synthetic materials. Perfume or fragrance oils do not offer any of the therapeutic benefits that true essential oils do. Only essential oils can generate a therapeutic benefit because they contain all the chemical constituents necessary for the cell receptor sites to recognize the oil and to utilize it. Fragrance, perfume, or synthetic oils are missing some of these key chemical constituents, therefore, causing the cell receptors to repel the isolated compound and initiate an immune system response such as an allergic reaction. True essential oils are hypoallergenic. If a company offers essential oils (single notes, not blends) such as peach, new mown hay, morning dew, etc. then they are most likely offering fragrance or synthetic oils. Some precious oils like Rose requires hundreds of pounds per ounce and if they are being sold for less than $50/ounce, as it is most likely synthetic.

How are essential oils extracted from plants?

There are four main methods for extraction: steam distillation, solvent extraction (absolute), cold pressing (sometimes called expeller pressing), and CO2 extraction.

The most common method is steam distillation. In steam distillation the plant material is placed in a large chamber and subjected to steam from heated water. The steam travels through the plant material gathering the essential oils. The steam then continues out of the top of the chamber into a condenser, which cools the steam. The cooled steam reforms back into water and the essential oil. The essential oil is lighter than water so it floats on the water surface. Once the essential oil is removed from the water surface the remaining condensed water is then sometimes sold as a by-product called a Hydrosol. Depending on the type of plant material, the pressure, temperature and time to do this process will vary.

The second method used for more delicate plants and flowers is solvent extraction. In this method the plant material is soaked in a solvent (usually Hexane) to break down the material into a “concrete” which is a solid mixture of wax and oil. The concrete is then soaked in ethyl alcohol to release the essential oil from the concrete mixture. The alcohol is dissolved finally leaving the essential oil. Rose, Jasmine, and Vanilla are the only 3 absolutes we carry at Elizabeth Van Buren Inc.

The 3rd method is cold pressing. This method is typically used for citrus essential oils and vegetable/nut based carrier oils. The material is simply placed between two hard surfaces and pressed until the oil is released.
The final method is CO2 or carbon dioxide extraction. This method uses the CO2 to carry the essential oils out of the plant instead of steam.

Why are some essential oils more expensive than others?

Essential oils are sold like other commodities in which the price fluctuates based on availability, location, plant species, yield, weather conditions, harvesting conditions, and the labor used to grow, harvest, and extract the oils. Variations in weather conditions can drastically affect prices. Fires, rains, flooding, drought and frost are just some of the natural conditions that affect the plant materials. Pests can also have an effect. Some essential oils are also more labor intensive to process. For example, Rose petals must be picked in the morning before dawn while the dew is still on the leaves in order to get the most essential oil extracted. It takes 10000 pounds of Rose petals to yield one pound of essential oil compared to Lavender that only requires 150 pounds to yield one pound of oil.

How do I use essential oils?

We have an excellent article on our website called Using Essential Oils that can help give you some tips for essential oil use. Also in the descriptions of the essential oils there is a section called “Application Method” that gives further use for that particular oil.

What is carrier oil?

Carrier or fixed oils are vegetable based oils mostly pressed from seeds or nuts. These oils are used to dilute essential oils in order to reduce chance of irritation or skin sensitization. They also extend the essential oils so that they can facilitate coverage of larger surface areas during massage.

What makes a good quality essential oil?

We are continually researching the world’s best growers and distillers of essential oils. Plant cultivation, growing (environmental) conditions, and botanical variety are all important factors to the quality of the essential oil. Essential oils come from all around the world. No one location can grow all types of essential oils because each oil requires specific conditions to best flourish.

Just as it is important to farm and harvest plants cultivated in the best terrain, it is also important to use the most advanced distillation methods. Quality oils are the result. To promise you that the oils are unadulterated in any way, Elizabeth Van Buren tests every oil. Every sample and batch is analyzed in our laboratory with the most sophisticated scientific method using our GC/MS (Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer). Only with thorough GC/MS analysis can we guarantee you unaltered, highest quality, correct chemotype, 100% pure essential oils.

Because of our rigorous testing we have set the “standard” for purity in the industry and have “raised the bar” for other companies to follow suit. We have tested many sources of oils including some of our competitors and have found more than 80% are adulterated. This is why we test every batch and every sample.

We provide a Gas Chromatogram on our site for each oil so you can see the peaks for the oil. But a Gas chromatogram is not enough you need the Mass Spectrometer to identify each peak to find out what the chemical constituent is and the level it is present in the sample tested. If only GC testing is being done then you are only seeing two-dimensional analyses where the Mass Spectrometer provides a three-dimensional view. Why is this important? If you are using adulterated, synthetic, contaminated, misidentified, or poor quality oils you will never see any therapeutic benefit and in many cases may even do more harm than good.

Beyond chemical testing we also perform organolyptic testing. Since essential oils are natural products and as such can vary in scent from crop to crop, and season to season we strive to minimize this variation as much as possible. We do not add compounds or synthetics to standardize the variations caused by nature and will not sacrifice quality for scent. Larry Jones our chemist has written two great articles talking about quality and purity. The Beyond Organic and Essential Oil Purity articles are both very enlightening.

Elizabeth Van Buren is the first essential oil company in the US to include a traceable lot code on all our single note essential oils that tracks back to the test results of the batch of oil.

Are organic essential oils the best quality?

We believe in the ideals of organic farming and whenever possible include organic sources for our oils but will never sacrifice the quality of our essential oils. According to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), the term organic is all about the how a product or food is grown and processed. Organic does not mean that a product is free of something, nor is it a judgment about the quality, safety, or nutrient value of a product. Organic also refers to products that are produced without using conventional pesticides, irradiation, or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or bio-engineering. Elizabeth Van Buren goes Beyond Organic standards by testing all our oils to ensure the chemical profile meets our therapeutic quality standards.

What is the difference between Therapeutic Quality and Food Grade Oils?

We sell therapeutic quality essential oils (also known as pharmaceutical grade). That means the plants are grown in an environment whereby the species of the plant produced is very concentrated in the peak chemical constituents that would be considered better for use externally. Food grade essential oils are weak in their chemical constituents and are not toxic to the liver. They also are NOT very valuable as far as healing properties and are most likely used to flavor foods, beverages and some perfumes.

Can I use your essential oils internally?

No. Even though many essential oils are listed by the FDA as Generally Recommended as Safe (GRAS) it is very important to understand the consequences of the internal use. Some essential oils in undiluted form can be toxic even in small dosages. Elizabeth Van Buren Essential Oils are only to be used externally either in a diffuser or on the skin as a safe and effective therapeutic application of the oils

Are there any safety concerns with using essential oils?

Essential oils are concentrated plant energies and may have serious effects even at low dosages. Some essential oils can affect pregnancy, blood pressure, and/or the skin. These warnings are listed in our essential oil product descriptions under the heading “Warnings” for each of our oils. All essential oils should be diluted but Lavender, Roman Chamomile, and Tea Tree can be used undiluted. When treating children and the elderly it is recommended to use only half the dosage normally required.

What specific safety guidelines to you suggest?

General Safety

  • Oils should not be ingested.
  • Keep oils out of the reach of children.
  • Children/elderly cut dose by half.  Infants use even less.
  • Avoid these oils when spending time in the sun, as a component in them increases the chance of sunburn: Bergamot, Lemon, Lime, Angelica, and Orange.
  • Avoid these oils for people with epilepsy: Fennel, Hyssop, and Rosemary.
  • Avoid most oils in the first trimester of pregnancy except Chamomile, Lavender, Geranium, and Rose.
  • During pregnancy, nursing or with high blood pressure some stimulating oils should be avoided.

Safety for Practitioners

  • When you use the same oil too much or for too long, it’s possible to build up a sensitivity. Essential oils are released from the body through urine, exhalation and sweat.  Follow a few simple steps to be sure your body is being purged of excessive oils.
  • Drink plenty of clear water every day.
  • Take breaks during the day and breathe lots of fresh air.
  • Vary the essential oils you use as much as possible.
  • Practice what you preach – take a bath when you get home from work. Perspiration draws the excess oils from your skin.

How should I store my products?

Essential oils are best stored sealed in a cool, dark environment. Sunlight, as with heat, will cause essential oils to evaporate and degrade. Sunlight and heat also effects carrier or fixed oils causing them to go rancid. The optimum temperature range for storage is between 40-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Undiluted essential oils should be stored in amber glass bottles because the amber tint protects the oils from sunlight and the glass is inert and will not react with the oils. Blue glass and green glass bottles offer the next best protection with clear glass offering the least protection. Diluted essential oils can be stored in plastic containers, if the essential oils in the dilution is between 0-3%. Beyond 3% and essential oils or blends will slowly dissolve the plastic contaminating your mixture. If properly stored essential oils have a shelf life of several years, while carrier oils have a shelf life of 6-18 months (except for Jojoba which is much more stable and lasts longer). Always keep your oils sealed while not in use to prevent oxidation. Pure undiluted essential oils do not go rancid but they may lose their aroma (especially top note oils like the citrus). This loss of scent does not mean it is any less therapeutic when applied to the skin but will not be very useful as an aromatic.

How do I get your oil out of the 4 ml and 8 ml vials?

Our 4 ml and 8 ml vials come with a plastic reducer in the neck of the bottle to impede the flow of the oil. Our reducer is designed for a single drop use to give you better control when applying or making your own blends. Remove the cap, turn the bottle upside down and tap the bottom of the vial once with your index finger to get one single drop. Multiple taps will give multiple drops.

What is a note?

A note is term used in the fragrance industry to explain the lasting effect of the material. There are three notes: Top, Middle and Base. Top notes are the first ones the nose recognizes and are usually the fastest to fade. Base notes are the last to be recognized by your nose but they linger for long a period of time. Middle notes, as the name implies have characteristics in between a top and base note. Most all blends contain at least one oil of each note in the blend. When blending you may want to try 3 parts top note, 2 parts middle note, and 1 part of a base note to make a well-rounded blend. Blending is a highly developed skill and takes time before you can become a master blender.

Do your products contain parabens?

Many products in the market place today are formulated with petroleum-derived synthetics, which may cause allergies and adverse reactions. We use plant-derived emulsifiers and preservatives. None of our products contain parabens or synthetic chemicals. Elizabeth Van Buren puts 100% pure and natural in the bottle, not just on the label.

Do you do animal testing of your products?

We do not test on animals. Elizabeth Van Buren is Leaping Bunny recognized cruelty free by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC).

Are your products vegan?

Yes, our products only contain plant-based materials and do not contain any animal by products.

Are your products Green?

We at Elizabeth Van Buren strive to use recyclable/reusable materials in all our packing materials and products. Our glass and plastic bottles are both recyclable as well as the cardboard we use for our boxes. The packing material we use is also biodegradable starch puff.

Why does your single note essential oils have different colored labels?

The single note essential oils are color coded by family of oils. The color code definitions are listed in each of the essential oil descriptions on the line called “Color Energy”.

Red- Action: Stimulating, Magenta- Action: Energizing Pink- Action: Regulating

Orange- Action: Nourishing, Gold- Action:Revitalizing   Yellow- Action: Cleansing

Green- Action: Tonifying, Blue Green- Action: Healing,  Teal- Action: Drying

Blue- Action: Comforting, Rose- Action: Uplifting, Purple- Action: Relaxing

How can I contact you?

We strive to assist our customers in a timely fashion with your questions, comments and complaints. We also love to listen to feedback from our customers on testimonials, product development and suggestions. You can reach us by phone  1-800-710-7759 or 831-425-8218 By email: billing@elizabethvanburen.com, and by fax: 831-316-1134. Our Contact page has all our information and a form you can complete to reach us directly from the web.

What forms of payment do you take?

We accept Checks, Money Orders, and VISA, Mastercard, and American Express

Do you sell Wholesale and to Practitioners?

Yes, we have both wholesale and practitioner pricing. Wholesale pricing is only available to those businesses who want to retail our product to their customers. Practitioner pricing is for all health practitioners who use our products with their clients. Please contact our sales department to set up your account. Western United Sates sales Dial Extension 2 and Eastern United States Sales  Dial Extension 5.

We offer Retail pricing in our online webstore for retail sizes.

Return Policy:

Goods can be returned up to 20 days from date of receipt without a restocking fee. From 20-60 days will require a 20% restocking fee. Returns must be in usable condition. We cannot except returns or give credits on orders after 60 days from date of receipt. Please send an email to billing@elizabethvanburen.com or call us at 1-800-710-7759 to request your RMA number. All returns must have an RMA number supplied by our staff. Once our staff receives your return, you will receive a credit memo and refund.

Lost or Damaged Items Policy:

All orders are triple checked to insure they are complete and undamaged before shipment. If for some reason items are lost or damaged during shipment, we must be notified within 10 days of receipt of the order and we will replace them free of charge. Note: Some of the items we ship are very small and fall to the bottom of the box or get lost within the packing material. Please check thoroughly before calling us at


Orders for currently in stock items will ship within 1-3 days. We ship by UPS FOB from Santa Cruz, CA or by USPS Priority Mail. Shipping costs are calculated by shipping weight according to the shipping method you choose. Backordered items will be shipped as soon as possible and will have a shipping charge since we ship by actual weight.

How do we protect the security of your information?

We protect our databases with various physical, technical and procedural measures and we restrict access to your information by unauthorized persons. Our information systems are maintained behind both a software and hardware firewall to isolate them from access by other networks connected to the Internet. We also advise all employees about their responsibility to protect customer data and we provide them with appropriate guidelines for adhering to our company’s business ethics standards and confidentiality policies. All information transmitted is over secure servers only stored on in-house systems and not on the Internet. We will never share your information with any other company for any reason.