Top Essential Oils to Avoid and Best Alternatives

Choosing essential oils over fragrances means opting for a natural, plant based oil, with aromatherapy and natural medicine benefits and in addition better tolerated by your skin.

Essential oils are very concentrated oils extracted from plants using various methods including steam distillation, cold pressing and expeller pressing.


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

sustainable essential oils


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 top essential oil to avoid are the following:


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. 

Top essential oils to avoid


Fragrance Group: Wood

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.


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.


Fragrance Group: Resinous, woody

Aroma Type: Energetic, Comforting, serene, opening, expanding

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

essential oils overharvested plants


What are the best substitutes then?

Substitutes for Spikenard: Vetiver, Spike Lavender, Valeriana

Substitutes for Sandalwood Essential Oil: for aroma: patchouli, vetiver and for stress relief: lavender and chamomile

Substitutes for Rosewood Essential Oil: for aroma: Rose geranium and for skin therapeutic: lavender, tea tree.

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


Photo Credit: Ian Krukau and Dominika Roseclay v.Pexels


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