Essential Oil FAQ's
What are essential oils?
Essential Oils are the naturally occurring volatile oils obtained by steam distillation or cold pressing (expression), having the characteristic aroma of the plant part from which it was derived. These 100% pure oils are “neat”, meaning they have not been processed, diluted or manipulated in any way with solvents or other additives. Although a particular species of plant harvested and distilled for its essential oil during a particular growing season in a specific region may produce a fragrance that differs from the same species grown in a different region, many of the main chemical markers and physical specifications may be very similar.
NOW’s citrus fruit essential oils are 100% cold pressed. Our other essential oils are typically 100% steam distilled.
Do essential oils have a grading system to tell me which is better?
There is no official grading system that grades essential oils as A, B, C or Therapeutic grade. All NOW 100% pure essential oils are accurately labeled as such and are the highest purity and quality available.
Are NOW essential oils pure or do they have anything added to them?
All of our 100% pure essential oils are labeled as such. We also sell clearly labeled oil blends that are formulated with essential oils or absolute extracts and another oil as a base, usually pure grapeseed oil.
Natural Essential Oils by their very nature will vary slightly from season to season. We allow nature to take its course and do not add isolated compounds to the oil to try to standardize the naturally occurring variations of a particular oil. We take both the organoleptic (sight, smell and taste) and chemical properties into account when selecting and testing NOW essential oils.
What are NOW’s criteria for testing essential oils?
Our Quality Assurance and Quality Control departments adhere to specifications used by the Essential Oils and Flavor Industry and published in The Essential Oils by Guenther, as well as Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients.
These texts, as well as other sources of scientific information, detail specific physical and chemical properties of a particular oil. A partial list of the components that we analyze include Specific Gravity, Refractive Index, Optical Rotation, Flash Point, Infrared Absorption (as published in FCC), Solubility, Taste/Odor, Color/Appearance, Heavy Metals and Predominant Active Chemical Components.
Our in-house laboratory employs state-of-the-art analytical equipment that allows us to perform highly specialized analyses, such as Gas Chromatography and Infrared Spectrometry. We use our own analysis results to confirm specification sheet results and certificates of analyses received from 3rd party outside laboratories and vendors. As always, when it comes to Essential Oils, individual practitioners and consumers will decide for themselves which variety of a flower or leaf produces the essential oil that best suits their particular need. With NOW 100% pure essential oils, you can be assured that you have the real thing.
NOW Foods is committed to offering the purest and most potent natural Essential Oils available. All of our 100% Pure Essential Oils are FCC or food grade and derived through natural distillation or cold pressing methods without chemicals or solvents.
The Importance of Species
By Lou DeMers, Quality Assurance, January 7, 2005
The quality of an essential oil, or the perception of this quality, involves many factors. One factor has much to do with the specific plant species used. When obtaining an essential oil, one must look past the common or trivial names and insist on the Latin binomial or scientific name. To do otherwise will result in the purchase and use of a material that is of lesser or no therapeutic value, and certainly of different aroma.
Take, for example, Sandalwood essential oil. The highest quality oil is derived from the East Indian Sandalwood tree species Santalum album. This essential oil has been vigorously analyzed to determine that it contains 16 major components, the chief being the alpha and beta Santalols at not less than 90% of the total content. There are 12 other sesquiterpene analogues of Santalol, which also lend to the overall characteristic aroma associated with this essential oil. Additionally, much of the therapeutic value is attributed to the two Santalol isomers and their high content.
Another sandalwood essential oil is the West Australian Sandalwood derived from the tree species Eucarya spicata, also called Santalum spicatum. While this essential oil does contain alpha-Santalol, it also contains other sesquiterpene alcohols that are not analogues of Santalol. Interestingly enough a typical analysis will state the free alcohol content (calculated as Santalol) as not less than 90%. But this is deceiving in that the actual Santalol content is much less than this at around 60-65%, and only the alpha isomer and not the beta isomer is present.
A third lesser-known sandalwood is another Western Australian sandalwood called Santalum lanceolatum. The essential oil from this species contains no Santalol whatsoever.
In conclusion, the Santalol content of the three sandalwood essential oils accounts for their very different aroma and therapeutic values, and care should be exercised to ensure the desired product is obtained.
You can be assured that the NOW Quality Assurance team is looking at these issues when deciding how to source our raw materials so you can be assured of the highest quality products in our label.