NOW is one of the larger distributors of essential oils on the market. Combined with a wide array of other health and food products, this is a brand that is well known and trusted by a lot of consumers. They are widely known for offering a huge variety of oils at extremely competitive prices. But just as they are a selling point, these low prices are also cause for concern by some. In a market that’s heavily driven by ethically sourced and sustainably produced products, some people are concerned that corners are being cut to keep costs low. After all, running a sustainable company is expensive. Is this a company built to serve the ethical consumer, or are they big-businesses attempt to dominate a popular market?
How does NOWs oils stack up against the competition? To find out, we decided to do a deep-dive into their production methods, business practices, and sourcing procedures.
With so much selection to choose from, it can be daunting to make a purchase. For what it's worth, these are a few of our favorite products that they offer, hopefully you enjoy them as well!
Now's Lavender oil is just one of the absolute best we've ever used. It's a powerful aroma, but not overpowering. Very relaxing, and so it's great for evenings as a wind down, or throughout the day to promote a peaceful environment in your home. We use our lavender oil so often (diffusing, cleaning and more), the 4oz (~120ml) is a much more convenient size, at a great price point.
This three pack of oils is another staple in our household. We actually make a blend of these three for mornings to provide energy pre-coffee. They're also great on their own in various uses, though diffusion is our primary use for these. We like the orange because it isn't artificial smelling at all, like some oils do. The sandalwood is smooth and earthy, and the ginger is extremely potent and spicy! They're only 1oz bottles, but they are very powerful so don't worry about not getting any bang for your buck. If you can find the three for anything less than $40 this is a great buy in our opinion
We typically buy things in bulk, especially when the price is right (probably the Eastern European genes). As far as value goes, this 10-oil variety pack with 1oz bottles of 10 different high quality oils is a great option. The Lavender as you know is one of our favourites, but you also get some other incredible, useful and therapeutic oils - tea tree, jasmine, clove and more. These oils purchased individually would be $100+ and so if the price is anywhere less than $60 on Amazon, we typically buy one and stock up!
The purity of an essential oil is strongly tied to the method in which it was extracted, but that’s not the only factor. The source of the oil and the way it stored and packaged can also have a big impact. The vast majority of NOW’s product line is sold as a purse essential oil. However, there are a few exceptions we found.
NOW does have two products which use solvents, namely their rose and jasmine oils, which they label as “absolutes.” Absolutes have the same chemical properties as pure jasmine and rose, but are extracted differently and blended with a carrier oil. This reduces the purity, but does keep the cost low for these otherwise very expensive oils.
Beyond those two, NOW’s extraction methods are conducive to highly pure oils. They come from natural sources and are extracted using proper methods.That means no synthetic oils and no residue. Any exceptions are clearly labelled, so it’s easy to be informed.
The extraction method is an extremely important factor in determining the quality of an essential oil. How an oil is extracted can affect everything from the aroma to the effectiveness and potency of an essential oil. We wrote a guide that explains these methods in great detail for those who want to know more. In short, cold pressed and steam distillation extraction methods produce the purest essential oils. With the use solvents or Co2 extraction, there is a risk of impurity. Solvent can be left behind in the process, diluting the final product. That being said, there are ways of producing contaminant-free oils when great care and attention is taking when using solvent based methods of extraction.
The good news is that NOW appears to be dedicated to pure extraction methods. All of their fruit and citrus oils are extracted using cold press distillation. There are a few oils, like rose and jasmine in particular, that are extracted using solvents. This is industry standard with oils that are quite rare or expensive to produce by other means, as it can be somewhat wasteful. NOW seems to have spent quite a lot of time refining their process in order to produce the best oils possible, and they offer a writeup on their website for those who are interested.
A company’s testing methods are a good indication of their commitment to quality. Generally, the best essential oils on the market are all made by companies who do purity testing with at least two different methods. With organic products, even more testing is required. NOW does four analytical tests on their oils, most of which are done in house. These tests are gas chromatography, infrared spectroscopy, refractive index, and specific gravity. The data from these tests is used to determine the chemical makeup of their final product, so they can ensure that everything is up to standard. We are dealing with a natural product, so there will always be variances in the raw botanicals and this kind of testing is the only way to ensure a consistent end product.
Aside from purity, they also test their cold-pressed oils for heavy metals, which not many companies in the industry do. Heavy metals can be present in trace amount in natural products, so a test like this can be worthwhile to make sure that none of it made it’s way to the concentrated product. That being said, this test may be a little unnecessary since heavy metals typically aren’t volatile enough to be extracted in the same manner as the oils. Nonetheless, NOW still chooses to conduct this test on certain oils.
NOW also tests all of the raw materials that come into their facilities. They test for GMOs, look at the chemical constituents, and for organic products oils they only source from other certified organic sources. All of their products are vegan and GMO-free, and 70% are verified by the Non-GMO Project.
One thing NOW does not test for it pesticides. According to their website, testing for pesticides is not a common industry practice because most of the botanicals used for essential oils act as natural pesticides. Also, like heavy metals, it is highly unlikely that any pesticide will be processed through the distillation process. Personally, we find this a fair stance, and given that most of NOW’s products are certified organic (which involves pretty rigorous standards), we don’t consider pesticides to be a concern. However, if you are especially picky about the testing companies do, this might be good to note.
So what does all this testing mean for the quality of the oils? For starters, all of their products are naturally source, certifiably pure, and contain no synthetic compounds (with the exception of their jasmine oil of course). Better yet, NOW has a selection of Certified Organic products, which a particularly hard certification to get.
It’s easy to advertise a product as being organic, but In order to be certified organic, extensive testing is done on a company’s products, facility, sourcing and testing methods every year. Being certified organic means that even their cleaning products need to be organic - at no time (even in recent history) can they have used non organic compounds in the production of the oils.
It can take a long time for a company to become certified (as anyone in the industry trying to do so would know), and difficult to keep the standards up. So if organic is high on your priority list when judging products, NOW certainly delivers in this category. If you prefer organic products but are not especially picky about the certification, you’ll be happy to know that even their uncertified products go through the same testing and processing. The only difference is that they are not sourced from other certified organic ingredients.
NOW oils are also all GC (gas chromatography) and FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) certified, both of which are industry standards. Their oils are intended for aromatherapy, therefore they are not considered food-grade by the FDA. This doesn’t always mean that the oils are necessarily harmful if ingested, but NOW does not recommend their oils for this use. It’s always best to work with a certified aromatherapist if you’re considering topical use.
NOW oils are not labelled as therapeutic grade. Most people are aware that this label is a completely meaningless marketing move, and therefore gives no indication as to the actual quality of the oils. The main issue is that there is absolutely no independent testing done to certify a product as therapeutic. Being aromatherapy grade doesn’t mean that there isn’t rigorous in-house testing done. In this case, we are happy with the testing and certifications that now obtains, so we don’t view the lack of this certification to be a downside. If you want to know more about why we don’t consider “theraputic grade” certification to mean much, you can read our article on it here.
Cost is one of the huge advantages NOW has over its competitors. Given their quality, NOW products are some of the most affordable on the market. Some people take this to be a red flag, concerned that low prices must translate to cut corners somewhere along the line. However, as far as we can tell, NOW’s ability to keep their products at a low cost has little to do with cut corners.
For one thing, NOW does not strictly sell essential oils. They are a huge, widespread company that sells all kinds of other health food products. The reason this gives them a competitive edge is that they don’t need to draw as much of a profit from their essential oils. Most companies that focus solely on oils and oil products need to inflate their prices to draw a profit. But NOW can - and does - choose not to profit as much from their essential oils since they have other products that can bring profit in. So why would they do this? NOW is a family owned company (bonus points in our opinion!) that believes health and organic products should be available to a wider audience than just those with disposable income. Part of what they stand for is making products like essential oils available for more people, which is why they choose to price their quality products so low.
Being a large company also gives NOW an advantage with their retailers. Having the ability to order in bulk gives them access to discounts that smaller companies might not get. So rather than over charging for cheap oils, NOW is simply a profitable enough company that they can sell top tier oils at lower prices to their customers - us!
Given what we’ve learned about the quality and pricing of NOW’s products, it is pretty clear that this brand offers great value. NOW essential oils have a lot going for them, from their quality to their pricing. NOW essential oils stand out as a high value product largely because of their ability to offer low costs on their oils without sacrificing quality. The company also offers a wide range of oils, including certified organics and a wide variety of scents. They have variety packs of their essential oils, as well as numerous kinds of carrier oils. The combination of quality, variety and cost are certainly hard to beat! For these reasons, we consider NOW some of the best valued essential oils on the market.
One area that NOW essential oils could improve on is in their labeling. Beyond the standard warnings, you won’t see a lot of information on blending, safety, or use. For those of you who are well studied on essential oils, this might not be a problem. But we find that this information can be extremely handy, and would like to see NOW include a little more. On the plus side, we didn't find anything misleading at all on NOWs labels. In fact, they are big on educating consumers about how to read and understand label claims.
You can’t learn everything about a product form the label. Here are some common questions we get asked about different essential oils brands, and the answers as they apply to this one:
Yes. NOW oils are vegan, and the company does not conduct animal testing. This policy extends to all of their products, not only their essential oils.
These oils are intended primarily for aromatherapy, so generally speaking, they should not be used topically. The FDA requires that any oils whose primary purpose is aromatherapy not be labelled as food-grade. It is also widely known that undiluted essential oils can irritate the skin if applied directly. There are many ways to appropriately dilute essential oils for topical use (such as carrier oils) for massages, etc. However, all oil blends and mixtures should be made with knowledge and caution that abide by the label’s warnings, or under the supervision of a certified aromatherapist. Unless you are comfortable using your own carrier oils, this isn’t something you can use on your skin straight out of the bottle.
Some of NOW’s essential oil blends are specifically blended with a carrier oil (such as jojoba), but they are clearly labeled as such. All other oils (including their pure & natural and certified organic oils) are not diluted in any way. Many companies dilute their oils to save money and reduce the cost of their products, but NOW oils are always pure and never watered down.
Absolutely! Different oils blend better with some than others, so making essential oil blends should always be researched or done with guidance. NOW also offers premade essential oil blends to save you the hassle. Not only can you blend concentrated oils, you can also purchase NOW carrier oils and blend those as well.
We looked closely at everything from the quality of their oils to their labelling and purity testing. Not only did we love the product, we found that NOW offers some of the best bang for your buck. Despite their comparatively low cost, NOW uses either cold press or steam distillation to extract the oils which results in a very pure product. They are also certified organic, which is not often something you see at this price point. While the company does offer a few of their own blends, we’d primarily recommend these products to any user who is looking to get a specific oil at high purity for a low cost. There are very few oils at this price point that are manufactured to such a high standard, and we don’t hesitate to recommend them.
Whether you're just getting started in essential oils or you're a seasoned vet, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to help you find new and exciting ways to use essential oils!
While NOW Foods gets a thumbs up approval from us, there are a few other brands we also approve of that produce high quality essential oils - and also a few that we would caution you against. Check out our full comparison of essential oil brands to find some more great products.