Finding New Pathways


Essential oil experts will tell you that the characteristics of an essential oil largely depend on where it’s grown. For this reason, doTERRA actively seeks out the highest quality plants all over the world that produce higher quality therapeutic oil. This goal was a top priority when executives chose to source Cardamom essential oil from Guatemala. But, thanks to Co-Impact Sourcing®, finding the right plant is only part of the story.

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Why Guatemala?

The mountainous region of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, is hot, humid, and rainy, creating the perfect growing conditions for cardamom. The rich clay-like soil also contributes to helping the plants grow with the perfect balance of therapeutic chemical components for the essential oil. The cardamom plant, in the same family as ginger, grows stalks up to 10 feet high. The seedcontaining pods grow on off-shoot vines at ground level.

Most of the world’s supply of cardamom is grown for the spice market, with only 1 percent of cardamom distilled for its essential oil. The market is so unstable and so saturated with middlemen that the farmers have a hard time making enough money to be able to produce quality cardamom. Alta Verapaz is also the hardest hit region for price-drops and manipulation by the middlemen, because the area is so remote. Now, there is a new factor: through the doTERRA Co-Impact Sourcing initiative, circumstances are changing for the better.

Partners for a Better Future

In partnership with CHOICE Humanitarian, doTERRA funded an exciting venture to build a new training center, Sikaab’e, in the Polochic valley. “Sikaab’e” means “seek your path” in Q’eqchi, the language of the indigenous Mayan people living in the area. The center’s primary focus is to break the cycle of poverty by teaching different vocational skills from construction to hospitality. Agriculture is also a main focus; students learn sustainable farming techniques and crop diversification. Other skills taught include how to plant family gardens and build eco-stoves for reduced fuel consumption.

Currently there are 19 male and female students at the center with their families. All the training they receive benefits them personally, but also brings hope to the communities they return to as they share their knowledge with their friends and neighbors.

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Our Approach

Helping our cardamom growers improve production practices and teaching them about optimal harvest timing to produce the best oil is top priority. Just as we have done in Haiti, cooperatives made up of hundreds of families have been formed to provide the pods needed to supply the demand doTERRA has for Cardamom oil. These cooperatives only continue to grow in size as word spreads and doTERRA’s partnership with the cooperatives earns more trust in the area.

Growers are educated on when to pick the cardamom pods and what the plant’s optimum growing conditions are. Immature pods do not produce enough quality oil, and cardamom also requires plenty of shade to grow. For this reason, growers are taught to plant Pacay and Allspice trees throughout the cardamom crops. This provides a source of fruit and also helps replenish nitrogen levels in the soil. By using organic fertilizers and keeping the plants free of dried leaves and debris, the best pods are produced.

Once harvested, the pods need to be dried within two to three days or they will begin to mold. This is where the middlemen have taken advantage of the harvesters. Large drying units are required to dry the pods to prepare them to be sold in the spice market or to be distilled for essential oil. doTERRA is funding drying units and a warehouse facility through the additional margin we pay for our Cardamom oil so the harvesters have control of their pods and do not have to rely on the unfair prices the middlemen offer.

Once the pods have been dried, they are taken to the distillery. doTERRA has an exclusive sourcing agreement with the cardamom distiller for the aromatherapy industry. They are excellent partners, fully aligned with our Co-Impact Sourcing approach and philosophy.

doTERRA pays a margin in addition to the price of the Cardamom oil to support the communities where the harvesters live. Our distillation partners are aligned with doTERRA’s philosophies in this regard and want to give back to the Guatemalan people. We are committed to providing a sustainable income and better way of life to the people who work so hard to pick the pods that benefit us so greatly.

"I am so excited for what the future holds as our Co-Impact Sourcing initiatives begin to bless the lives of these humble, hardworking people. Sustainable jobs are being created, education and health care are more readily available, and a new perspective on the quality of life is given. We are committed to lifting up this community of cardamom harvesters and many others.”

–Emily Wright, Executive Vice President

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Facts

  • Each cardamom pod contains from 10 to 20 seeds, where most of the essential oil comes from.
  • Cardamom is bundled and sold raw as a spice in 100-pound bags called "quintales".
  • Cardamom seeds take 40 days to germinate and then at 60 days can be transplanted as starts. The starts are transplanted when the cardamom plant is one and a half feet tall (approximately four months after germination). Pods start appearing after two years. If well maintained, the plant can then live up to 11 years.
  • About 300,000 families are impacted through the harvesting of cardamom throughout the country.
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Healing Hands

The Healing Hands Foundation is an integral part of the ongoing humanitarian work in Guatemala. In February, two groups of doTERRA executives and Wellness Advocates went to Alta Verapaz to help with numerous service projects. Volunteers worked to paint walls at the Skiaab’e Training Center, terrace the soil on the mountainside, and place septic tanks. Volunteers also helped educate women on personal hygiene in concert with Days for Girls. This event was made all the more special in that, in this area of the world, most women are not educated about their anatomy or have access to feminine products. Reusable feminine hygiene kits were provided to all of the girls who have reached maturation age.

Wanting to make a newly built hospital a self-sustaining facility, the Healing Hands Foundation provided enough funds for a one-year salary to hire a new doctor. He will help the surrounding villages receive not only the medical care they need, but also education on personal hygiene and other basics. The people in the surrounding communities are not always comfortable going to the hospital, because it has never been an option before. Despite this challenge, the doctor is already saving lives and opening doors for improved well-being.

During the expedition, Dr. Hill took the opportunity to teach the new doctor, midwives, and health workers about essential oils and their uses. He also taught the AromaTouch® Technique as a way for the people to apply what they learned. Essential oils themselves will be an effective tool to improve the overall quality of life of the Q’eqchi villages, even as they work to produce Cardamom essential oil for the world.

"Truly the journey of one bottle of doTERRA essential oil is a journey of healing for every single person involved in the process."

–Kyle Kirschbaum, doTERRA Presidential Diamond

doTERRA Cardamom Co-Impact Sourcing

  1. Provides sustainable jobs to the members of the local communities.
  2. Establishes a reliable buyer, fair prices, and develops longterm sourcing partnerships.
  3. Offers higher pay for growers and harvesters.
  4. Teaches the farmers to develop better growing practices.
  5. Donates an additional margin to the price of the Cardamom oil, which goes to the harvesting communities to build schools, hospitals, and pod-drying facilities that will result in the harvesters receiving an even higher price for their pods.

Steps of Cardamom Distillation

  1. Sort pods to produce therapeutic synergy in the oil (there are 40 different types of pods).
  2. Crush pods to release volatile compounds.
  3. Distill crushed pods at low heat (6-hour distillation process).

Cardamom essential oil contains over 200 molecules with varying volatilities. These volatile compounds are released from the plant material and are carried away with the steam during the distillation process. The lighter molecules come off first; a longer distillation is required to get the heavier molecules. These aromatic compounds are then collected from the separator.

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