Essential Oil Adulteration Information Posted by Botanical Adulterants Program

AUSTIN, Texas (September 13, 2017) — A book chapter on “The Adulteration of Essential Oils,” from the award-winning 2016 book Handbook of Essential Oils, 2nd edition (Taylor & Francis), is now available in the new “Essential Oil Adulteration” section of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program (BAP) website.

Essential oils (EOs) are volatile materials produced by specialized secretory structures in many medicinal and aromatic plants, often giving each plant its characteristic fragrance and flavor. EO-containing materials have been used for thousands of years as fragrances, incenses, and food flavorings, and are currently used for a variety of medicinal, personal, household, and industrial purposes.

Because a relatively large amount of plant biomass is often required to produce a small amount of EO, the cost of many of these EOs has traditionally been very high. High prices for commodities have often led to adulteration, at the economic benefit of the seller and frequent detriment to the buyer or user. Adulteration occurs when a labeled ingredient is substituted or diluted with a different, undeclared, lower-cost material, creating an ingredient or product that does not have the features and/or does not provide the benefits claimed by the seller and expected by the buyer.

The entire book chapter, written by Erich Schmidt and Jürgen Wanner, two leading European essential oil experts, is available here. In addition, Schmidt has written a brief (ca. 2,700-word) summary of the chapter, available here.

According to American Botanical Council (ABC) Chief Science Officer Stefan Gafner, Ph.D., “Essential oils have always been a precious and highly prized commodity. While EOs and EO-containing ingredients have a history of adulteration, the high costs of many of these oils continue to make these oils attractive targets for adulteration by fraudulent suppliers.”

“Adulteration may involve the addition of lower-cost essential oils or vegetable oils, natural or synthetic EO isolates, or various diluents,” Gafner added. “Although analytical methods to detect falsification have improved, so has the sophistication by which EOs are adulterated, demanding manufacturers to use additional (and often more costly) quality control methods.”

Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC, noted that essential oils have become an increasingly popular category of consumer products in the past decade. “As consumer demand grows for these products, we at the Botanical Adulterants Program are energizing our research and educational efforts to help provide members of industry and practitioners with the tools to help ensure that they are purchasing appropriately labeled essential oils and their products,” he said. “Such useful tools include the essential oil adulteration chapter, and its summary, that we’ve made available to the public on our website.”

BAP recently published a Botanical Adulterants Bulletin (BAB) on tea tree oil, a popular essential oil that is used in personal care and household products, some of which has been confirmed to be adulterated with lower-cost essential oils and synthetic chemicals. This is the program’s first BAB on an essential oil.

In March 2017, the 2016 ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award was presented to the authors of the Handbook of Essential Oils, 2nd edition: Professor Hüsnü Can Başer, Ph.D., of Near East University in Nicosia, Northern Cypress, and Professor Gerhard Buchbauer, Ph.D., of the University of Vienna.


About the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program

The ABC-American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP)-National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) Botanical Adulterants Program is an international consortium of non-profit professional organizations, analytical laboratories, research centers, industry trade associations, industry members, and other parties with interest in herbs and medicinal plants. The program advises industry, researchers, health professionals, government agencies, the media, and the public about the various challenges related to adulterated botanical ingredients sold in commerce. To date, more than 190 United States and international parties have financially supported or otherwise endorsed the program.

To date, the program has published 33 extensively peer-reviewed articles, BABs, Laboratory Guidance Documents, and Botanical Adulterants Monitor e-newsletters. All of the program’s publications are freely available on the program’s website.

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