Information on Growing Essential Oil Crops
Answered by: Rick Miller
Question from: Mary Jo Howell
Posted on: July 25, 2008

I am interested in growing an essential oil crop, or medicinal herbs, and have no idea where to start. I have about 100 acres in Northern Minnesota, and was considering yarrow (Achillea milleffolium) or melissa (Melissa officinalis). Where does one get information on cost analysis of any commercial crop?

The essential oil business is, of course, the primary way most herbs and spices are sold. While there is a market for both yarrow and lemon balm oils, they are rather insignificant. Lemon balm is an easy mint to grow, and is very difficult to save the oil -- an experiment for the hop kiln process,

North American market are estimated to be only 1540 acres for oil production, and another 50 acres for herbage. The oil is very fragile and is easily lost before the drying process. There will always be a limited perfume ingredient market for the oil. Lemon verbena is a far better crop, but requires a more desert-like habitate.

Yarrow is not cultivated at this time as it is still harvested by hand in India and other third-world countries. There is not a lot of information on either of these crops, as they are considered insignificant to other essential oil crops. One that would grow very well in Minnesota would be wormwood. Another might be the various bergamots, growing wild along the Great Lakes.

Another angle on essential oil crops could include aromatherapy, a growing market with lots of book support.

Memory and many other brain functions respond directly to specific scents, often unlocking repressed emotions and other parts of the subconscious mind. Scented geraniums are also a growing in market demand, especially in the potpourri industry.

The best book on essential oils is Gunther’s 6-volume set titled Essential Oils, now out-of-print but available through most libraries. Another important set of textbooks is the 2-volume set titled "Spices," by Purseglove, et al. It is part of the Tropical Agricultural Series, Longman House publishing (London and NY, c1981.

Spices are always in demand. for essential oils. The best set I have seen is the 2-volume set titled "Spices, a Survey of the World Markets". This is ITC Publications, Geneva, circa 1982. They also offer "Markets for Selected Medicinal Plants and their Derivatives".

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