Essential Oils & Sustainability: The Top 4 Worst Ones

You made a choice of using essential oils over fragrances since they are naturalplant based extracts and better tolerated by your skin.


There is a lot of plant material used to produce drops of essential oils that are then used for aromatherapy, natural remedies and cosmetics.

Being super concentrated, a small amount goes a long way. They also need to be used within the recommended usage rates for safety.


Unfortunately there are some essential oils though that are produced using trees and plants that are endangered or over harvested creating many issues about sustainable harvesting and workers’ rights.

The first step is to source them from an organic supplier.

The 4 top essential oil to avoid are the following.

1. Spikenard

Fragrance Group

Roots: deep, earthy and woody

Aroma Type

Energetic: grounding, pacifying,..

Problem: The roots of this plant is used to produce essential oils and cannot regenerate easily. It is a slow-growing plant and requires specific environmental conditions: it grows wild on rocky soil at high elevation.

Substitutes for Spikenard: Vetiver, Spike Lavender, Valeriana

2. Sandalwood

Fragrance Group


Aroma Type

Energetic: soothing, grounding, pacifying,..

Problem: This tree is totally uprooted leading to habitat destruction. Sandalwood trees are slow-growing and take decades to reach maturity, approx 30-35 years, making it difficult to replenish the supply. Even if there are restrictions on harvesting sandalwood, there are black markets where the trees are uprooted too young to meet the demand.

Substitutes for Sandalwood Essential Oil

For aroma: patchouli, vetiver. For stress relief: lavender and chamomile

3. Rosewood 

Fragrance Group

Floral, wood

Aroma Type

Energetic, Soothing, romantic

Problem: The wood chips are used for the essential oil but unfortunately the entire tree is totally cut down due unsustainable practices, leading to deforestation.

Substitutes for Rosewood Essential Oil

For aroma: Rose geranium. For skin therapeutic: lavender, tea tree,

4. Frankincense

Fragrance Group

Resinous, woody

Aroma Type

Comforting, serene, opening, expanding

Problem: the tree bark is continuously damaged causing weakness and death of this tree.

Substitutes for Frankincense Essential Oil
For aroma: Pine, fir, eucalyptus. For nervous system – valerian, lavender, chamomile. For relaxation: Vetiver and Clary Sage make great substitutes for Frankincense


Read about more about essential oils and sustainable living in our newsletters. Not a subscriber? Join now! You will also get a welcome discount code on our self care products.

 Photo Credit: Tara Winstead v.Pexels

Back to blog

Our Hand & Body Handmade Soaps


1 of 4