Aura Cacia is an established brand that is unique for its co-op structure. With humble beginnings as a two person operation based in California, Aura Cacia is now a globally sourced company with health oriented retailers throughout North America, such as Whole Foods.
As a co-op, they are not owned by one small entity, but rather ownership is divided amongst each and every one of its distributors. This joint membership means that all of its owners are active advocates for sustainable, ethical practices. Aura Cacia is known for its investment in communities. With some, they strive to educate and train the farms they source from on these sustainable practices. In others, they aim to give back to underdeveloped communities.
In spite of all this, Aura Cacia is not without criticism. It has been noted that while Aura Cacia products are labelled as pure, they do not readily offer information on their testing procedures and results like some companies now do.
Does this mean that Aura Cacia products are not the quality they claim to be? We decided to judge for ourselves!
Aura Cacia makes many unique essential oils, and their organic production makes them that much better. This "Rose Absolute" oil is our absolute favourite oil they make. It has a rich, floral scent, that has an uplifting effect, cleansing the air and energizing your space. The exotic aroma is great as a base in homemade blends, too. Try with some lavender or patchouli! It's powerful, so a small amount goes a long way, which is what you get in this small bottle, since it's such an expensive oil to produce!
While the Rose Absolute is OUR favourite oil (since it's the only company we can get it from) I think that most Aura Cacia customers would likely rank Aura Cacia's Chill Pill as their favourite. This magnificent blend contains a proprietary mixture of lavender, chamomile and a hint of cintrus and handful of other herbals. The resulting aroma is soothing, calming and refreshing. This is our absolute favourite oil to diffuse in the evening as a result.
Another oil that Aura Cacia really specializes in is its Vetiver. Similar to the Absolute Rose, this oil is the most powerful one that we've come across. It has a rich, deep, earthy smell with a hint of smokiness. It's a great oil to blend with neroli or lemon, or just use it on its own. The quality is superior to most - if not all - other brands we have reviewed, and yet they still manage to make it an affordable oil.
High quality essential must be as pure as possible. Synthetic oils or oils that contain fillers and contaminants will not only fall short in their aromatic properties, but will also be less effective therapeutically. This is because synthetic oils do not contain the natural constituents extracted from botanicals that pure oils do. To get 100% pure essential oils, a number of important steps need to be taken. For starters, the botanicals need come from quality, reputable sources. The most potent sources are often the botanical’s country of origin. Essential oils also need to be extracted properly, to ensure that no adulterants or contaminants are present in the final result. Aura Cacia lists their essential oils as being 100%, so let’s take a look at why.
Why is the extraction method of an essential oil so important? Well, when an essential oil is extracted using poor methods, there is a greater chance of failing to extract the pure oil and/or damaging the botanical. The three most common methods used are steam distillation, cold press, and solvent extraction. Steam distillation is ideal for parts such as leaves, flowers, and stems. Cold press distillation is ideal for citruses. Solvent extraction is not an ideal option due to the possibility of contaminants by using a solvent, but it is an excellent option for rare botanicals. Aura Cacia uses steam distillation and cold press methods for their essential oils. This is one of many important ways to ensure their product is pure and of the highest quality.
If you want to know more about extraction methods, we talk about this at length in our roundup of the top oil companies:
Quality control is another way companies ensure the purity of their products. As mentioned, where a botanical is sources plays a large role in the result of the oil. Generally speaking, a botanical that is sourced from its native land will produce the highest quality, most potent essential oil. This is one reason Aura Cacia uses globally sourced botanicals to make their oils. For example, their Argan oil is sourced directly from Morocco, where the nuts are grown in the wild and hand picked. But Aura Cacia also values ethical sourcing. Rather than using endangered sandalwood from India, they source high quality sandalwood from Australia. Aura Cacia examines their oils before and after the product is shipped to ensure the quality is consistent.
Testing is another important way companies can ensure the quality of their product. Industry standard testing include GC/MS tests that look for adulterants, contaminants and other impurities. With some research, I generally understand that Aura Cacia does do GC/MS testing, and that their oils contain no synthetics, and are paraben and petroleum free.
It is unclear whether these tests are done in house or by a third party. Some people believe that third party testing is the best reflection of honest test results, whereas others believe that in house testing is not inherently flawed. Both are certainly true, but since it is difficult to verify in the case of Aura Cacia, that judgement is left to your discretion.
Grading certifications for essential oils are different than industry standard tests, and their worth depends on your personal preferences in this area. Many people prefer certified organic products, or products that are not tested on animals for example. These kinds of certificates require third party verification, and are usually readily advertised. They can be a useful reflection of a company’s values and priorities.
If you like organic essential oils, you know that they can be pretty hard to come by. Luckily, Aura Cacia is one of the brands that actually does offer a line of 37 USDA certified organic essential oils. Certified organic oils are held to very high standard, and it means that everything from the farm where the botanicals were sourced to the manufacturing procedures were audited for strictly organic materials and procedures. Aura Cacia’s organic oils include some essentials like peppermint and tea tree, as well some more exotic aromas like blood orange, black pepper and dark patchouli.
Aura Cacia’s essential oils are not listed as aromatherapy grade, but don’t let this deter you. The omission does not reflect a reduction in quality, but rather a choice on the part of the company not to participate in this grading system. As many readers will know, there is currently no objective third party that deals with grading essential oils as therapeutic grade or not. It not a testable quality so much as it is a marketing point. This doesn’t mean the label is a sign of bad business practice, it simply means that it does not reflect the quality or usefulness of an essential oil. Some companies, such as Aura Cacia, opt not to include it on their labels as they feel it is misleading.
Aura Cacia offers and impressive variety of essential oils and other essential oil based products. These include singles, blends, organics, roll ons, a full lineup of body/skin/hair care and aromatherapy diffusers. They also provide one of the largest selections aromas, with literally hundreds of different choices. So whether you like to stick to more common oils and make your own blends, or if you’re looking for more exotic and rare aromas, there’s a very good chance Aura Cacia will carry it. Aura Cacia also has great kits at competitive prices. Their popular starter kit is perfect for first-timers, and it includes some of their most popular blends which are peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender.
Consumers are increasingly invested in the quality of the products they buy, which means they are more inclined to want informative labelling. This is important when it comes to essential oils because it is useful to know things like ingredients, whether it can be used topically, sourcing information, and more. The difficulty is that essential oil bottles are quite, and it is not easy to fit so much information in limited space. Aura Cacia has addressed this issue by using peel-back labels. Aura Cacia labels contain all kinds of information such as dilution rates, recipes, sourcing info, and an ingredients list. It’s extremely handy to have all that information available right on hand.
Company transparency is something we really value. There is a lot of misinformation about essential oils out there, and sadly much of this information comes from essential oil companies themselves. One glaring omission from Aura Cacia is there testing procedures and results. Some companies make this information available for free online, others are available upon request. It is unclear why Aura Cacia does not seem to disclose this information freely. That being said, it doesn’t inherently mean that Aura Cacia products are not tested. Between their sourcing, GC/MS testing, and organic certification, it seems unlikely that Aura Cacia is taking any shortcuts. On the plus side, all of their products come with informational pamphlets that include training literature and information about their botanicals. So Aura Cacia clearly values quality products and educating their customers, but it would be great if they could share more testing information for us research-inclined consumers.
Something that really stands out about Aura Cacia is their business practices. In contrast to the more sales-inclined MLM companies, Aura Cacia is deeply invested in working with communities and conducting ethical, sustainable, “people and planet” oriented business methods.
Aura Cacia is unique in that they are a co-op business structure under Frontier Co-op. Being a co-op means that there is no overarching ownership. Rather, the entire company itself is owned by each and every one of its members and distributors. This means there is greater community input and that the company is held to a high level of accountability. Their dedication to “people and planet” is clearly demonstrated in the way they conduct business.
For starters, Aura Cacia donates funds to educate farmers on organic and sustainable farming around the globe. The are deeply involved in the communities they source from, offering donations and grants for construction, education, training, and development other projects. For example, the Positive Change Project is an annual grant program that helps women and girls better their lives. Aura Cacia is a company that puts their money where their mouth is when it comes to ethical and sustainable farming practices.
Aura Cacia is not a budget brand. With their quality standards, you can expect to pay premium prices for their oils. That being said, many of their products are still cheaper than a lot of premium brands. Also, Aura Cacia oils tend to come in larger quantities per bottle (except their organics), giving you more bang for your buck. The real value in Aura Cacia is not just in the high quality of their pure oils, but also in the structure and business approach you’re supporting when you buy their products.
You can’t learn everything about a product form the label. Here are some common questions we get asked about different essential oils brands, and the answers as they apply to this one:
Most essential oils are not labelled as food grade or meant to be ingested. This does not necessarily mean that they are unsafe to use topically or to ingest. Aura Cacia oils are regulated by the FDA as cosmetic, so they are are not Food Grade by those standards. The reason essential oils are usually graded as cosmetic is because they are a very concentrated substance. People can have undesirable reactions, such as allergies, to these concentrated substances. Potency is a great concern, especially when consumers overuse the product or don’t understand how to safely use it. Some essential oils can be ingested, but this requires the consultation and guidance of a professional and should be diluted with a carrier oil or other diluent.
Cruelty free means that a company does not test their products on animals. One easy way to tell is to look for the Leaping Bunny logo on any product. Aura Cacia is not Leaping Bunny certified, but this does not mean they are not cruelty-free. Many retailers advertise Aura Cacia products as cruelty-free, and Aura Cacia says they do not test their products on animals. It is at your discretion to decide if the Leaping Bunny certification is something you need to see before you trust that a company is cruelty-free.
Aura Cacia is a unique co-op structured business that places a high value on “people and planet.” They are dedicated to ethical, sustainable, organic farming. They are not just dedicated on paper, they actively invest in the communities they work with to educate and improve farming practices and the lives of the people they work with.
Their products are pure and high quality, and come at a competitive rate compared to other premium brands. It is difficult to find detailed information about the actual testing procedures and results of their oils, and it is unclear why. However, it does not necessarily mean that Aura Cacia’s products are low quality, or that the company is intentionally withholding the information.
While certain testing details are hard to come by, Aura Cacia provides lots of other useful information that speaks to the quality of their products and of their priorities.
Aura Cacia is a great company that we are proud to purchase from. Their initiatives as a co-op, their organic products, and the quality of their oils really stand out. But, there are some other great companies out there we also purchase from. We put together this full guide of the essential oil brands we trust and recommend. If you want to shop around some more, that's a great place to start.