Essential Oil FAQs
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 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.
Your essential oils cost less than other brands, how can you offer such low prices?
At NOW® we’ve established long-standing relations with our essential oil vendors, and we purchase our oils in large quantities that qualify for bulk discounts, which we then pass on to consumers in the form of everyday low pricing. We also sell direct to retailers instead of going through distributors, which can add as much as 30% to a product’s cost.
NOW’s founder Elwood Richard said it best when he was asked why NOW’s prices are so much lower than our competitors. “The question shouldn’t be why are our prices so low, but rather, why do our competitors price their products so high?” We use the same quality essential oils as other companies; we just choose to price our essential oils with the best interests of the consumer in mind. By not marking up our essential oils like perfumes, as many competitors do, we can offer essential oils of comparable quality at a lower price.
Are your oils watered down or diluted in any way?
No, both our pure and natural essential oils and our certified organic essential oils are never diluted or watered down in any way. We do offer a variety of essential oil blends, some of which are combined with carrier oils such as jojoba, but these blends are manufactured specifically as blends and are clearly labeled as such to avoid any confusion.
Are NOW essential oils pure or do they have anything added to them?
All of our pure essential oils are labeled as such. We also sell clearly labeled oil blends that are formulated with essential oils or “absolute” extracts with another oil as a base; usually pure jojoba 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.
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 pure essential oils are accurately labeled as such and are the highest purity and quality available.
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), Ultraviolet/Visible Spectroscopy (UV/Vis) for pigment detection, Solubility, Taste/Odor, Color/Appearance, Heavy Metals, and Predominant Active Chemical Components.
Our in-house laboratory is staffed by highly qualified chemists and technicians. It 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 reports 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 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.
Are any of your essential oils food grade?
FDA regulations state that natural product labeling, including all website claims as well as product label content, cannot legally suggest that a product intended for topical or aromatherapeutic use be taken internally without labeling the product as food. NOW Solutions closely adheres to all federal regulations. See more Essential Oil Food Grade FAQs.
Are your oils as good as oils from multi-level marketing (MLM) companies?
Absolutely. While there are a finite number of essential oil suppliers worldwide, our long-standing relations with our vendors, as well as our good standing and sheer order volume, ensure we get fresh, premium quality oils that we believe are the best in the industry.
Are your oils synthetic?
With the exception of one of our jasmine oil blends, which is clearly labeled as synthetic, all NOW Solutions essential oils are naturally derived. Pure, natural jasmine oil is hard to source and very expensive even at wholesale, which translates to exorbitant retail pricing. Synthetic jasmine is much less expensive and its aroma is equivalent to that of pure jasmine, which is why we offer this option to our customers. We also carry a pure jasmine absolute blended with carrier oil as a natural alternative.
Are your essential oils non-GMO?
Yes. There is no commercial crop today that is both genetically engineered and used to make essential oils. http://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/what-is-gmo/
Does NOW Solutions test essential oils for purity?
Yes, our identity and purity testing program consists of four individual analytical tests – gas chromatography, infrared spectroscopy, refractive index, and specific gravity. The vast majority of testing is done in-house, but we do utilize third party testing when necessary.
Do you test your essential oils for heavy metals?
Heavy metals are not typically found in distilled oils because these metals are generally not volatile enough to be concentrated by the distillation process. For cold-pressed oils such as citrus, NOW does perform routine heavy metal testing, but this not a common industry practice.
Do you test your oils for pesticides?
There is substantial literature on pesticide residues in essential oils. Because many of the botanicals used for essential oil production are very aromatic and weedy, they tend to naturally repel insects; many are even “companion plants” that are planted with crops for the purpose of repelling insects.
Only pesticide residues that are hydrophilic, thermostable, and volatile can be carried over into an essential oil during distillation. Few pesticides possess these characteristics, so pesticide levels found in distilled oils are typically insignificant. In one large database, out of 73,541 analytical results on distilled essential oils, only 0.55% had positive results for pesticide detection.
Are your organic oils and conventional oils simply the same oils with different packaging?
While both our conventional and organic essential oils are tested to ensure identity and purity, our organic oils are subjected to far more stringent requirements. NOW organic essential oils are certified organic by QAI to USDA standards.
Certified organic manufacturers must undergo annual audits to ensure they’re adhering to established government standards for organic product production, including sourcing of raw materials and testing. Manufacturers who sell non-organic products as organic are quickly identified and their certification is revoked. NOW is a responsible manufacturer and adheres to all organic certification requirements for the manufacture of organic products.
Are NOW essential oils cruelty free?
Yes. Our essential oils are vegan and we do not do any animal testing on any of our products.
Do NOW essential oils contain alcohol?
Only the essential oils labeled as absolutes (Jasmine & Rose) are alcohol extracted, all other NOW oils are either steam distilled or cold pressed without solvents.
Are NOW essential oils therapeutic grade?
“Therapeutic grade” is simply a marketing claim with no real independent meaning or value, and no credible third-party standards. However, the quality standards for authentication of essential oils have been long established by authoritative references. Our quality control team tests essential oils to the specifications published in The Essential Oils by Ernest Guenther, as well as Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients by George A. Burdock. These are the same standards used by major European distillers that are the primary suppliers of these oils to our industry.
What is an absolute essential oil and what is the extraction process?
Absolute essential oils are similar to their pure distilled and cold-pressed counterparts, but for various reasons the extraction process is more involved and requires the use of chemical solvents that are removed later in the production process. NOW Solutions offers two absolutes, Rose and Jasmine, which are extracted with solvents and clearly listed as such on our product labels. These two absolutes are produced by using the solvents hexane and ethanol in sequence, which are then actively reclaimed and removed via a stripping distillation process that leaves the essential oil portion intact.
All absolutes are prepared by first extracting the oil from the plant matter using the solvent hexane. This solvent is then evaporated and removed via a stripping distillation process to typically less than one part per million (ppm) remaining, producing what is called a concrete. This concrete is a combination of the plant’s essential oil as well as co-extracted plant waxes. The essential oil is separated from the concrete by ethanol, leaving behind the plant waxes. The ethanol is then actively removed from the remaining material in a second evaporation process, separating the essential oil portion, which is now called an “absolute.” Residual ethanol is typically less than 1 ppm in the absolute material.
Though the solvents are reclaimed by distillation, these absolute oils are not actually re-distilled because the essential oil portions are left intact and not torn apart into constituents during the distillation process. We only offer these two absolute oils due to the rarity and high cost of obtaining steam-distilled rose or jasmine essential oils, which would be many times the price of our absolute products.
My family and I have been using an essential oil topically on our feet. Is this OK since your bottle says “Not for Topical use”?
No, we advise against it. Skin irritation is possible with some essential oils, including Cassia or Cinnamon. Though many people do use our oils in a variety of ways, due to the powerful nature of steam distilled pure essential oils we label these products with cautions and suggest that you follow them and, as needed, consult an aromatherapist or health professional for proper use. There are also many good reference books on using essential oils safely.
These pure oils are of the highest quality, undiluted and unadulterated. They are appropriate for any use where these concentrated oils are indicated, either for aromatherapy or with significant dilution per an appropriate recipe for aromatherapy or massage oil blends, in accordance with our label claims and cautions.