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.
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.
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
doTERRA Cardamom Co-Impact Sourcing
- Provides sustainable jobs to the members of the local communities.
- Establishes a reliable buyer, fair prices, and develops longterm sourcing partnerships.
- Offers higher pay for growers and harvesters.
- Teaches the farmers to develop better growing practices.
- 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
- Sort pods to produce therapeutic synergy in the oil (there are 40 different types of pods).
- Crush pods to release volatile compounds.
- 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.