Quality Checks For Essential Oils

Modified: 22nd Dec 2020 ; By: Team Aromapedia
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Today I have come up with my favorite topic of discussion. Being Quality Control Executive it is necessary to bring forth such blog to update readers with current market scenario. We have so far discussed about essential oil, their role in aromatherapy in my previous blogs. In case you missed, please go and read it.

As the general definition of essential oil states that it is a natural product that is extracted from a single plant species. These are concentrated volatile liquids that are extracted from stem, leaves, root, fruits, peels or any other part of plant. In short, they should be pure and natural. Essential oil benefits mind and health only if they are pure. Current market is shifting more towards essential oil adulteration, because of the high cost of essential oils.

Let me clear this with an example, we all love smell of marvelous lavender oil. But you should be aware of the estimate that it takes 300 to 1800 pounds of dried flowers to produce 12 to 15 pounds of essential oil. This results in high cost of lavender oil.

Many people add lavandin oil to lavender oil to decrease the cost which is referred as essential oil adulteration. There are various other ways of adulteration which we will discuss later. Lavandin oil has similar chemical profile that of lavender oil but it differs in odor profile. To comprehend such acts of market, quality evaluation is of utmost importance.

Pure Essential oils

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that are extracted using steam distillation or mechanical extraction methods. The marketing of these volatile oils are often embossed by attractive terms such as ‘100% pure’, ‘100% natural’, ‘therapeutic grade’, ‘clinical grade’ and many such similar labels. These all advertisement claims and hacks confuse consumers to get a true nature of essential oils.

Purity of oil is closely linked with the chemical composition. Purity of oil is defined as state of being fully and completely composed of plant source or plant species. It is generally printed on the label of the bottle in Latin. For example: Peppermint is derived from Mentha piperita which is botanical name of oil and is must to be printed on bottle.

Pure essential oil is also defined as oil that is devoid of any synthetics, fillers or impurities. It should not be adulterated with any base oil, other essential oil or aroma chemicals. There are also diverse views on the essential oil purity. Some relate purity with the chemical composition whereas some characterize it with the therapeutic impact of oil.

There is actually no universally accepted definition of essential oil purity. Purity is often interlinked with the quality of oil which generally does not hold true.

Parameters to check Quality of oil


Dealing with essential oils will make you think is this oil pure? You might have come across many home tests to check the purity but they are least reliable and the end results cannot be trusted. All you do is have a trustworthy supplier or you can have them professionally tested.
 Let us move onto segment of quality testing at laboratories.

If we take into consideration purity of oil is related with composition, we have to analyze the samples in depth to assess the chemistry. The area of quality testing is handled by qualified and experienced analyst.

There are three main analytical branches that give light to the purity of oil:
              a) Organoleptic
              b) Physical
              c) Chemical

Let’s have a look on each of them.

  • Organoleptic: Organoleptic test evaluate the superficial properties of oil that include color, texture, consistency or aroma. These tests can also be defined as tests which involve human senses to deduce the quality.

It needs expertise and experience in the field of essential oil to land on correct results. It happens sometimes that the samples have very fine line of difference, and it can only be filled with someone with high level of diligence and concentration.
As the smelling or sensing is a natural subjective nature, organoleptic tests are less reliable.

  • Physical: These tests involve physical and physio chemical properties of essential oil. These tests are an important factor in assessing the quality of oil. It includes density, specific gravity, optical rotation, refractive index, solubility with ethanol. This could be simplified as pure essential oil is associated with range of these parameters which is referred as reference standard.

These reference standards are published by ISO. These values thus reflect purity and deviation of results reflects contamination or adulteration of essential oils.
There are instruments which can be used for monitoring the physical properties of oil like density meter for density, polarimeter for optical rotation and refractometer for refractive index. This is quite more reliable than organoleptic tests.

  • Chemical: Chemical evaluation of essential oil is by far the most precise, reliable and expensive method. This test focuses on gathering details of composition of oil and checking if there is any adulteration or not.

Two instruments included under this are: GC and GC-MS. GC stands for gas-chromatography which separate chemical components of a sample mixture. This depicts a lot about purity of oil.
GC-MS is more advanced instrument that incorporates features of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.

 GC helps to split oil into its constituents while MS analytically identifies constituent and produce spectrum. Working executivescan then concludethe components along with their percentage. GC-MS report study also brings in knowledge if any unwanted chemical or adulterant is present. Reputed supplies prefer carrying GC-MS testing of each batch of oil to guarantee the oil traded.

These all parameters together help to comment on quality of oil. These parameters are basis of important documentation i.e. Certificate of Analysis (COA). In short, article was written to bring in notice importance of oil quality that is mandatory to be evaluated.

I hope readers are now aware about the market tactics and adulteration which is why one should go for trustworthy suppliers and quality testing. I would definitely come back with another blog that will help consumers to cite whether oil is pure or not.

 What are your views to decide on the purity of Essential Oils. Feel free to comment and discuss.If you are buying or selling Essential Oils, you must have encountered quality issues with Essential Oils. Let us know how have you solved them in the comments below. Any other oil feel free to discuss with me. 

Thank you.

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