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How to Source High Quality Herbs, Essential Oils, & Herbal Products + Where I Buy Mine

I am often asked where I like to buy herbs, essential oils, and other herbal products. I tend to be a little vague when answering this question and give people several options to choose from because I try lean toward a brand-neutral presence. That said, this is a question I receive so often that I decided to open up to you about it today. Let’s put aside the business side of things for a moment and talk as if you are sitting in my living room and we are just having a friend-to-friend chat about the companies from whom I personally choose to purchase products for my own home. Okay? If you were to come over for a visit and raid my stash, this is what you'd find.

Note: This article is not an endorsement of any company.
It is simply a look at what I have in my own apothecary.

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FRESH HERBS

I try to grow as many of my own fresh herbs in our organic garden as I can (we currently grow 70+ varieties, not counting lavenders), but if I need to source a batch from somewhere else, I always try to purchase locally first. Friends in my own local herb community are sometimes open for trade and many of our local farms grow organic herbs that can be purchased in bulk. If you’re unsure of where to find local farms that grow herbs, start asking around at your local farmer’s market. Many farms will even contract grow a crop for you if you let them know what you want to purchase (and how much of it) ahead of time. An online search for organic farms near you should also produce some results for farms that you might not have known about. Additionally, the master gardener’s extension office in your area is a great resource for finding people and farms who might be able to sell you what you’re looking for.

If I am unable to source a fresh herb locally, I will order it online from an organic farm that ships fresh herbs the day they are harvested. Pacific Botanicals in Oregon has been my favorite company to source fresh herbs from in the past and I have personally visited their beautiful farm several times. They will harvest an herb, pack it with ice, and ship it overnight to you the same day. Overnight shipping cost may be a deterrent for some, but if you absolutely can’t find what you need near you, this is an option. Pacific Botanicals sells herbs wholesale, requires orders of at least one pound of herb at a time and does have an order minimum. You can see their fresh herb selection here. Zack Woods Herb Farm on the eastern side of the US also ships fresh herbs, but requires a minimum of 10 pounds per species for most herbs. You can view their selection here.

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DRIED HERBS

If I don’t grow an herb in my own garden (the best way to source the highest quality herbs) or need more of it than I was able to harvest in its growing season, I’ll order dried herb by the pound from Pacific Botanicals. They are local to me and I love the quality of their products. I recommend ordering dried herbs from a farm that is local to you if at all possible. People often ask me how I am able to source such vibrant, high quality herbs for the products I make and photograph for the blog and the magazine and the truth is – growing them yourself will give you the best results, but when ordering herbs, as long as you are ordering freshly harvested and properly dried herbs from nearby, you should be able to source herbs that are high quality.

If I cannot find an herb locally or at Pacific Botanicals, I will turn to small farms who make their dried herbs available for purchase online. If it's a harder-to-find herb that I'm after and I absolutely can't source it from a small or local farm, I will turn to Mountain Rose Herbs and then try to add that herb to my garden the next year.

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HERB SEEDS

My most favorite place to order organic herb seeds is Richo Cech’s companyStrictly Medicinal Seeds (formerly Horizon Herbs). I have had successful germination rates with his products and he has such a wide selection available that I have to whittle down my shopping cart contents every time I go to purchase something from their website. They will also ship plant starts when seasonally appropriate and they offer excellent customer service. Richo’s books are all excellent, enjoyable, entertaining reads with a wealth of information about growing herbs and using them to make plant medicine.

I also purchase herb seeds from Renee’s Garden, which was a local-to-me seed company when I lived in California, but they also sell online on their website. Their flower and pollinator plant seeds are outstanding.

Botanical Interests is another favorite source for organic herb seeds (and veggie seeds) and their products are available at most garden stores, co-ops, and online.

There are many other companies that offer organic herb seeds for sale, but these 3 are my personal favorites and are the ones I most often purchase seeds from. I also enjoy trading seeds with like-minded local gardeners who I know and trust and I recommend saving your own seeds from your garden whenever possible.

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HERB PLANTS / STARTS

I will sometimes purchase an organic herb plant or start from a local grower if I want to get a head start on a plant. My favorite source for organic herb and pollinator plant starts is Goodwin Creek Gardens. They specialize in Lavender varieties, but also offer hundreds of varieties of organic herb plants. Their nursery is certified organic and they do offer mail order plants. The owners are planning to retire soon, so I’m not sure how much longer the company will be selling plants, but their plants are amazing. The owners are super sweet – we always love visiting them. I have never ordered from them through the mail – I have always picked up plants from their nursery or at the farmer’s market, but they do offer shipping. I would call ahead first to see what’s available for shipping if you plan to order plants online, as their online catalog lists most everything they offer, but not necessarily what is currently in stock for shipping.

Strictly Medicinal Seeds also ships organic herb plants / starts seasonally and offers a wide selection. The plants that I have picked up from them in person are all happily thriving in my garden.

Several organic local farms sell organic herb and veggie starts in the spring and early summer. Many of the ones near us sell both on-site at their farm stands/stores and at our local farmer’s market.

Our local chain of co-ops sells organic herb and veggie starts from local farms, including the ones we purchase directly from at their farm stands and Goodwin Creek. Your local co-op may be a great place to find organic starts too, but you’ll want to ask them about how they manage pests at their location. Our co-ops are pretty good about keeping organic plants separated from non-organic plants (and we are in a non-GMO county, which also helps), but not all garden departments are the same. If you’re planning to save seeds from your plants and you want them to be organic, I’d recommend purchasing directly from an organic farm or nursery or growing the plants from seed yourself.

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HERBAL TINCTURES

When I don’t make them myself, I usually purchase them from Herb Pharm and will buy them from iherb or vitacost because they are sold at a slight discount there. I’ll also pick them up at our local grocery co-op if I don’t want to wait for shipping. Herb Pharm is an outstanding company – I’ve visited their location as well and have always been pleased with the quality of their products.

Gaia Herbs also sells beautiful herbal tinctures – I’ve tried a couple of theirs and have been pleased. There are several smaller companies that offer tinctures as well, but these two are the brands I purchase from most often. Local herbalists often carry their own line of tinctures too.

FLOWER ESSENCES

The Bach Flower Remedies are probably my most purchased (when I don’t make them myself), but I have also been impressed by the flower essences from Lotus Wei. Several smaller companies sell a wide variety of them as well and you can often find a unique selection at a local herbalist / apothecary.

ESSENTIAL OILS

I have been able to work with many brands of essential oils over the years, but for the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to feature the ones I most often purchase from at this time.

Please note: There are obviously many other brands that produce quality essential oils. Please don't take this as a "These are the only good ones" kind of list - it is simply a glimpse into my own apothecary. I often recommend other brands as well, but that is not the purpose of this post. It is simply a, "Sure, come take a look in my fridge and I'll show you what I have right now."

I'm an advocate for choosing essential oils and related products that are produced from organically cultivated plants whenever possible – regardless of whether or not any contaminants make it through the distillation process (there are mixed reports about this), essential oils represent a lot of land mass. Choosing organic is supporting organic land (caring for the planet and the soil and future generations) and protects our pollinators.

I am also a huge fan of home distilling. If you’re able to purchase or build a still to use at home with your own plants, I highly recommend doing so. I’ll be writing a lot more about distilling at home and becoming part of the process in a deeper way in the coming year.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m also a huge advocate for purchasing from local sources whenever possible. I try to purchase essential oils from local farms and artisan distillers whenever I can, especially if I have had the opportunity to visit the farm first and see their distillation process firsthand. Small farms are often able to craft their essential oils with so much more love and intention than a commercial farm and that is something that I personally believe makes a big difference in the subtle nuances of the end product. Whenever I can, I try to purchase essential oils from small farms who distill their organically grown plants with mindful intention and lots of love. My favorite essential oils have come from these small farms.

When I purchase essential oils online from a larger brand, the company I most often purchase from at this stage of my life is Aromatics International. They offer a beautiful selection of essential oils from organically cultivated, wildharvested, and conventionally grown plants. This brand offers batch-specific GC/MS reports for every essential oil they sell and the sales page for each oil includes basic chemistry information about the oil as well as its date of distillation and some suggestions for use. Their customer service is excellent. They follow the NAHA and AIA guidelines for safe use.

Other brands I have purchased from and been pleased with include Stillpoint Aromatics and Eden Botanicals, both of which offer batch specific GC/MS reports on their websites (and sample sizes!). I have also liked Snow Lotus' products.

CONCLUSION

If you were to come over and go through my stash of herbal products, this post summarizes what you would find, aside from my homegrown goodies. When it comes to herbal remedies, body and personal care products, and cleaning products, I make most of them myself at home. This post isn't by any means a comprehensive guide to all of the great brands out there. It's simply a glimpse into my own apothecary, as if you were sitting here with me and asked if you could take a look at what I have.

Where do you purchase herbal products? Do you grow your own herbs and make your own remedies? Let me know in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin


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It's Lavender Season! A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse at Lavender Farms

When you ask an herbalist or an aromatherapist to choose a favorite herb or essential oil, most of them preface their response with a statement somewhat like, "What!? How could you ask me that!? I could never choose just one!" I'm the same way. But if you were to ask me what my favorite herb to grow is, I would say Lavender, without hesitation. Walking out into the garden and seeing her happy, purple-topped stalks makes me feel so at home and so peaceful and so joyous that I would choose her first for my garden every time. I always come home with a batch of new varieties when I visit our local Lavender experts (I just can't help myself!) and Jon and I dream of planting at least an acre of it after we purchase our land. Since I'm fairly certain that I'm not the only one who feels this way about this special plant, I thought I would set aside a day to take you on a relaxing, behind-the-scenes stroll through some of our local Lavender farms here in the PNW. Here are a few of the photos I've been taking at some of our dreamy, purple hot spots this season.

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If you're ever able to visit the PNW during Lavender season, try to visit near the end of June or the beginning of July. We have Lavender festivals and events most weekends during that time frame throughout both Oregon and Washington!

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I could get lost in these rows for hours and be quite content. I recently told a friend that if I were a mouse or a fairy, I would want to live in a Lavender garden.

Every plant in a Lavender garden is alive with pollinators. Thousands of them flit about throughout the fields, happily working the day away. Wouldn't you like to have their job?

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One last photo, from my own garden. It's not a field of blooms, but I just love this dark variety. <3

I'm currently knee-deep working with lavender spikes and with some of these beautiful dreamland locations to bring you some extra special Lavender surprises very soon, so stay tuned! If you love Lavender too, make sure you're on our email list so you'll be amongst the first to know when we're ready to share more info. <3

Much love and wishes for Lavender-filled days,
Erin

A Personal Update + A Giveaway: Enter to Win a One-Year Subscription (Closed)

Note: This is a personal update post, not an educational post like the ones you're used to seeing around here. If you're not interested in those kinds of posts, feel free to skip this one. =) I do have a giveaway to share with you at the end of the post, though, so you may want to stick around for that. *giveaway closed*

Our home is currently a mess of boxes and packing paper and bubble wrap and all manner of half-organized mess. My closet has a suitcase in it instead of its usual drawers or hangers and the kitchen now has a stack of paper plates in the cabinet. Our family is moving from our little studio in southern California to a home in the Pacific Northwest and our POD was delivered today, so we've been making trips to and from the parking lot and our third floor apartment for the past 12 hours. (Thank God for my strong husband and brothers and their muscles!) By the time you're able to read this post, it'll be Tuesday morning and we'll be loading up the last of the boxes and looking at a very empty studio.

When my husband and I were married almost 8 years ago, we started out in a little apartment in the middle of the desert and we've since moved 5 different times. I won't lie - the moving process is always exhausting. But this move is pretty special for us. We're moving into a house for the first time. We're moving to a brand new, wilderness-filled state that we love, complete with GMO-free counties and fluoride-free water. Our new town is peaceful and comes with a generous dose of charm and friendly people. A stark contrast to our traffic-at-all-hours busy city street and the chronic smog cloud that seems to ever loom around the freeways here. Don't get me wrong - we love our beautiful coastal state - but we crave fresh air and the quiet stillness of nature. We've been working toward being able to buy land and build a life on it (growing our own organic food and cultivating an herbal sanctuary, among other things) and this is a huge step in that direction for us. It's feeling a bit crazy and a lot scary at the moment, but mostly, it's exciting. It also doesn't hurt that our new home will have a dedicated apothecary room from which I can work on AromaCulture and blend and write to my heart's content!

We decided to make this move after we visited the Pacific Northwest in August and fell in love with it. We visited several herb farms and hiked through forested, fern-filled trails with waterfalls and wild herbs and our hearts sang right along with the fullness of nature's melody. We're moving just in time to get our spring garden planted and I can hardly wait for all of the fragrant herbs, cheery blooms, and vibrant veggies to greet me every time I step outside the back door!

With all that moving entails, please be patient with me if I'm a bit slow to answer your emails over the next week or two. This is a huge transition for us and there will be days when we don't have internet access or are just too tired to think about turning on the computer. =) But, that said, I did want to do something special so that you all could celebrate with us as we transition into this new life stage, which leads me to the giveaway!

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I'm giving away a one year subscription to AromaCulture Magazine to TWO lucky winners! If you haven't read the magazine yet, it focuses on herbalism and aromatherapy and features educational articles, case studies, and recipes from practicing herbalists and professional (certified) aromatherapists. To enter the giveaway, you must:

  1. Be a subscriber to our mailing list. (It's free - you can sign up through the form at the end of this blog post.)
     
  2. Share this post with your friends on social media. Use the hashtag #aromaculturegiveaway so we can see your post (you'll need to make sure that post is enabled as a publically viewable post; if your settings have it set to private or friends only visibility, we won't be able to see that you shared it).
     
  3. Leave a comment below to let me know where you shared your post.

NOTE: This giveaway is closed. Our winners are Shannon B. and Cassie B. I'll be emailing both of you with more information. Thank you to everyone who entered and for all of your kind words of support in the comments!

Much love,
Erin

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