NOW Essential Oils
With new beginnings and a new name from NOW Foods to NOW®Solutions; the company is rapidly rising in the essential oil market. However, they just don’t make essential oils, but related aromatherapy products like essential oil diffusers, organic oils and pre-blended purposeful essential oils for relaxation, meditation, purification & cleansing, energizing & uplifting, balance, romance and seasonal.
In 1948 Paul Richard, an entrepreneur, purchased Fearn Soya Foods, a Chicago based manufacturer of grain and legume-based products. In 1962 his son, Elwood opened their first retail store in Elmhurst, Illinois. This began a six-decade legacy of providing health-seeking consumers with high-quality affordable and nutritious products.
Today, NOW manufactures over 1400 products in natural supplements, foods, sports nutrition, pet health, essential oils, and still have their ‘veins’ firmly rooted in family ownership.
NOW has been manufacturing premium quality natural products for decades. By ‘natural’ they mean safer, more effective products than other products made with ingredients not found in nature. The challenges, however, that needed to overcome in producing natural products are:
- Producing consistent color and texture.
- Difficulty in sourcing because of the weather or environment.
- Storage issues as they can go stale or spoil.
NOW uses 5 different approaches to meet the definition of natural:
1. Set specific requirements for raw materials.
2. Test in state of the art laboratories.
3. Audit key suppliers.
4. Investigate supplier’s manufacturing and processing.
5. Identify those suppliers that meet the same standards.
Poor extraction methods can compromise the potency, aroma and effectiveness of the resulting oil. NOW’s essential oils are extracted by three different methods, using only the best possible practices:
The essential oils are converted into vapor and then condensed into liquid form where they are then bottled. It is the more widely used extraction method as it is a more precise, natural way way to extract essential oils, while leaving behind any undesirable components. Examples of steam distilled oils include Basil, Cedarwood and Chamomile.
Cold Press Extraction
Cold press extraction is used primarily for citrus extracts, such as Orange, Lemon, Lime, Bergamot and Tangerine. It involves carefully applying a cold “press” to the plant to extract the highest concentration of beneficial oils.
Pats of the plant that are too delicate or costly for distillation are often extracted using the safe solvents such as ethanol. Examples of solvent-extracted oils include Rose Absolute and Jasmine Absolute.
CO2 Extraction is used to remove the oils or essence from the plant matter without using heat or leaving any solvent residue behind.
To ensure high standards and purity of their essential oils are maintained NOW Solutions use state of the art testing facilities and analyses. Their labs may perform as many as 16,000 individual tests in order to comply with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
What do they test?
> All raw materials – to test for unadulterated, mold, bacteria and heavy metal levels.
> Manufacturing Facilities – to test for the presence of unwanted microbes
> Final products – to test the end product matches the specifications.
How do they test their essential oils?
All NOW essential oils are tested to assure the identity and purity of their essential oils. They use the aromatherapy industry-standard series of tests:
Gas chromatography (Mass Spectrometry (GLC-MS)– technology to separate an essential oil into its components for analysis. It enables them to compare their outputs with a standard analysis for a specific oil.
Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)– Technique that uses infrared spectroscopy to compare the “fingerprint” of an essential against standard spectra for that essential oil to ensure its identity.
Refractive index – Another analytical technique in which light is bent or “refracted”. As each essential oil will refract light differently it enables them to ensure the purity and identity of the essential oil.
Specific gravity – A simple technique to compare the density of an essential oil to a known sample for the purpose of verifying identity. If anything has been added to the essential oil that is not naturally part of the plant then this test will help determine the variance in specific gravity. Whatever is added to the oil, natural or not, if it’s not disclosed then it is ‘adulterated’.
Purity Guide (PDF) – NOW Solutions have produced a purity guide which you can download here. It publishes a list of 57 essential oils that have undergone rigorous testing in their labs. It was last updated in July 2014. They list for each oil its suggested use; botanical name; ingredients; aroma; benefits; the extraction method; its “Cloud 9 Blend” and the GC/Infrared Spectrum characteristics.
Food Grade and Therapeutic Grade
NOW Solutions are often asked if their essential oils are edible, or “food grade”. All their citrus oils, and other specific edible oils, are from edible plants. If you recognize the source of these oils as food (i.e. peppermint, oregano, cinnamon bark), then natural extraction methods such as steam distillation and cold pressing do nothing to change this quality, and these methods do not make the oil toxic.
However, in order for an essential oil to be ‘food grade’ you would have to sell the oil as a food product and include a Nutrition Facts panel on the label, as required by law. Brands that claim their essential oils are food grade should display a Nutrition Facts panel on their label.
NOW Solution oils are intended for aromatherapy and are labeled as such. Additionally, they include cautionary notes created by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) intended to protect consumers from misuse of the product. Some presumably food grade oils do have specific cautions against internal use that should be followed.
Please note that their essential oils are highly concentrated and thus caution should be taken if you consume them. Oils that are not food grade will have the statement “Not for Internal Use” in the caution box on the label.
Classifying an oil as a therapeutic grade oil, is also a clever marketing tactic. There is no such official classification.
Although we do have official bodies who have very stringent rules on certifying products organic, there is no such body that will, or can, certify that essential oils are of a therapeutic grade. This means that no company has the monopoly on a ‘therapeutic grade’ essential oil.
What you need to understand and to keep in mind is, it is the chemical profile of an oil that identifies it as that oil. For instance Thyme essential oil will still be high in phenols no matter where it is grown.
The degree of information that NOW Solutions has available about their essential oils, their extraction methods and stringent laboratory techniques indicate that they are one of the best essential oil companies around today. I would definitely recommend anyone who is starting out using essential oils and need to rely on the expertise and information they provide. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do the research for yourself then NOW essential oils should be on your shopping list. They have all their range available now at amazon. Their most popular oils are: Lavender, Orange Oil, Eucalyptus, and Peppermint Oil. In no time you will be on your way to using essential oils!