SMALL-SCALE CRAFTSMANSHIP - Chapter 6
Partnering with distillers around the world
Meet three organic, fair-trade producers from India, Somaliland, and Africa who are changing their communities.
Pouring our care into our plants in Montana is deeply fulfilling, as is handcrafting our organic aromatherapy products.
We get equal joy from supporting farmers and distillers around the globe who share our values of sustainability, quality, and small-scale craftsmanship.
It’s no secret that different plants thrive in different environments. That means many of the best essential oils come from locations all over the world. Our search for the highest quality sources for each oil has taken us to many countries. We’re thrilled to introduce you to some of our friends around the world, who distill the most beautiful, pure essential oils we’ve found in all of our travels!
Lemongrass: Gurpreet in India
When we received a sample of Gurpreet’s lemongrass essential oil, we fell in love with its aroma. It smelled softer than the lemongrass we were familiar with. The fresh rosy notes were irresistible!
A GC/MS test confirmed what Gurpreet had told us: this lemongrass was very unique, indeed.
Most lemongrass oil is rich in a component called citral, which makes the oil superb for purifying surfaces and reducing the presence of microbes… but is also quite irritating for the skin and mucous membranes. When we use lemongrass oil for skin or inhalation, we always keep the drop count low to stay safe.
But instead of high levels of citral, Gurpreet’s lemongrass oil had high levels of rhodinol.
The chemistry told us that this lemongrass would be just as good at reducing microbes, but thanks to the high rhodinol content, it would also be gentle on skin and mucous membranes.
That’s how we met our friend Gurpreet. Over time, we got to know him better and learned about his lemongrass farm in India. It’s a wild place, surrounded by tigers, snakes, and even aggressive bees.
But the farm has been in Gurpreet’s family for generations, and he couldn’t imagine letting it go. He even came back from studying biochemistry at a university to ensure he could keep the family farm open. The farm was bigger than Gurpreet and his family—it was a critical source of income for people in the nearby village.
His rhodinol-rich lemongrass oil was impressive enough; when we got to know Gurpreet and the wonderful things he was doing for his community, we decided to work with him more closely. We financed his entire farm, interest-free, so he had the time and resources to dedicate to his lemongrass.
At this time, Aromatics is the only aromatherapy company that sells his rare lemongrass oil.LEARN MORE ABOUT GURPREET
Frankincense: Boswellness in Somaliland (and Vermont!)
In the dry climate of Somaliland, local harvesters take part in an age-old tradition: hiking into the mountains to collect frankincense resin.
They make small “incisions” in the trees’ trunks, then wait for a few days while the tree sends forth a rich, aromatic resin to heal itself. Only then can some of the precious resin be gathered. It’s all done by hand, with small hammers and chisels.
Our friend Mahdi comes from Somaliland.
Mahdi and his wife had a dream: if they could distill frankincense resin into essential oil, they could get a fair price for the harvesters and help to support their communities. (Many villages in Somaliland badly need access to amenities like water and sanitation.)
However, distillation takes a great deal of water. Since water is so scarce in the area, Mahdi felt that it was not right to distill the frankincense in Somaliland. (In fact, the people of Somaliland were unaware of the process of distillation until Mahdi introduced them to it. He told us that when he shared a bottle of frankincense oil with some of the village elders, they were amazed. They asked him, “How did you get our tree into this little bottle?”)
Instead of distilling the resin in Somaliland, Mahdi and his wife collaborated with several friends and built a distillery in Vermont: Boswellness was born!
The Boswellness team import frankincense from Somaliland and distill it in Vermont.
They pay the harvesters well for their resin. When the harvesters told Mahdi what they thought would be a fair price for their precious resin… he doubled it! Boswellness has also helped several Somaliland communities get funding for solar-powered wells and sanitation facilities.
Shea butter: Global Mamas in Africa
Women in Africa have been collecting shea nuts by hand to make shea butter since the 14th century.
Today, some of the highest quality shea butter in the world is handcrafted by the women of Ghana, who sort the nuts by hand to ensure they’re working with only the highest quality shea. Their homes in the Northern Region are far from the more populous, urban areas of the country. Instead, they’re surrounded by gorgeous, expansive African savannas.
However, these beautiful areas are very dry and impoverished.
In 2003, an organization called Global Mamas was founded to help the women of Ghana improve their business skills. Global Mamas helps them get a fair wage for their crafts, care for their families, boost the economies of their communities, and get easier access to water and other vital needs, like education and health care.
Global Mamas practiced fair trade principles before they knew that “Fair Trade” was an international movement. When they sought Fair Trade certification, their application was granted immediately.
The shea butter Mamas include women like Augustina Dery, who wakes up before dawn and walks nearly three miles every day to collect shea nuts, carrying them back in a basket on her head. Augustina now earns rates well above market prices for her shea butter. It enables her to support her five daughters, sending them to school and providing good meals and quality health care.
Another shea Mama is Mary Brote, a widow who cares for her grandchildren. With her traditional skills and the training she receives from Global Mamas, Mary earns enough income to care for her grandchildren.
At Aromatics, we’re proud to receive our raw, wildcrafted shea butter from the Global Mamas. Thanks to the traditional production methods these artisans use, our shea butter retains its antioxidants, vitamins (A and E), and essential fatty acid content.
Thank you for your dedication to pure aromatherapy products!
With the popularity of essential oils and aromatherapy these days, there’s been a rise in adulterated and impure products. Demand is high, and some people and organizations take advantage of that.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about the products you’re using. It’s not only healthier and safer for you and the people you blend for—it’s an ecologically responsible, people-first practice.
Thanks to your dedication, the earth benefits from all-natural, sustainable farming techniques. And the people who work so hard to ensure their plants are organic and their products are pure, are compensated with fair work and good pay.
If you have questions about our practices, products, or the people we’re proud to work with, just email us!
Our workshop may be in the mountains of Montana, but we’re just a phone call or email away, ready to answer questions from any and all locations on this beautiful planet we all call home.