URBANA, IOWA (October 15, 2010) – An Iowa-based company is getting ready to make a third trip to Nepal for evaluating previous efforts to upgrade essential oil distillation facilities and determine if the lemongrass, palmarosa, German chamomile, and other essential oils are ready to bring to market in the U.S., which will ultimately mean a better way of life for the Tharu village. Aura Cacia, a leading manufacturer of essential oils and aromatherapy products in the U.S., has taken a leading role in helping the Tharu community. As a result, Vice President, Steve Shriver, Aromatherapy Educator, Tim Blakley and Buyer, Jennifer Ferring, are making final preparations for their October trip which will take them to a remote region in western Nepal, home of the Tharu tribe.

“It always amazes folks when they find out that there’s a small essential oil company in eastern Iowa that is fervently working to source the highest quality oils, regardless of how far around the world they have to travel,” admits Shriver. “A basic tenet of our core values and competency encourages and supports our experts to work with farmers and communities, here domestically and internationally.”

Blakley has traveled to western Nepal twice before to assist with projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that are designed to improve the economic welfare of the impoverished communities there. One of Blakley’s goals was to help the Tharu community increase the productivity and profitability of their essential oil distillation operations. The Tharu people grow the plants for the essential oil botanicals by hand using oxen, and deliver the harvest by ox cart. Six crops — lemongrass, palmarosa, citronella, German chamomile, corn mint and eucalyptus — are currently distilled by the Tharu. The project’s distillation operations are decidedly low-tech and yet, quite sustainable.

Blakley was also pleased to see significant improvements as a result of his first visit. “Getting them to realize they can sell internationally and set up a system to make it work has incredible potential for them,” he adds. “Also, alleviating phthalate and other contaminant concerns with the new storage containers Aura Cacia donated was a significant improvement. I also got them thinking about the long-term needs of their fields. They will have to petition the government for the rights to use organic fertilizer or cover crops on the fields,” Blakley stated.

“Since Aura Cacia became a division of Frontier Natural Products Co-op back in 1993, many of the unique strengths of our purchasing philosophy have been integrated, including the expertise of identifying quality botanicals and establishing long-term partnerships directly with farmers and growers, all around the world,” Shriver adds. “These principles are the foundation of what made Frontier a leader in the natural and organic industry, and they are strongly adhered to by our experts at Aura Cacia.”

Previous Aura Cacia sourcing trips have been taken to Australia, France, Ukraine, Germany, Morocco, Bulgaria, as well as the Pacific Northwest. The Aura Cacia team recently traveled to Madagascar, the source of their organic Ylang Ylang essential oil. Watch the trip video and learn how their ylang ylang essential oil supplier is helping prevent deforestation by using fallen trees for a sustainable fuel supply.

Trip videos, including footage from their most recent trip to Madagascar, are available online at www.auracacia.com/sustainability.

Aura Cacia® Aromatherapy: Aura Cacia® provides personal-care products made with 100% pure essential oils. Since 1982, Aura Cacia has been a leader in aromatherapy sales and quality, fulfilling consumers’ desires for comfort, health and safety in personal care products by combining the benefits of essential oils with practical products that can be used every day by the whole family. Aura Cacia Organics® offers an extensive selection of essential oils and aromatherapy products. Find out more about Aura Cacia at www.auracacia.com.

Frontier Natural Products Co-op(TM): Founded in 1976 and based in Norway, Iowa, Frontier Natural Products Co-op(TM) offers a full line of natural and organic products under the Frontier, Simply Organic®, Aura Cacia® and Aura Cacia Organics® brands. Products include culinary herbs, spices and baking flavors; bulk herbs and spices; and natural and organic aromatherapy products. Frontier’s goal is to provide consumers with the highest-quality organic and natural products while supporting and promoting social and environmental responsibility. For more information, visit Frontier’s website at www.frontiercoop.com.