Whether you’re new to essential oils or a seasoned essential oil guru, there are probably certain things that you look for when you try out a new brand. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to essential oils too, which can further complicate the purchasing process. Today, I’m reviewing NOW Foods Essential Oils for you to hopefully demystify some of the unknowns around this prominent brand.
First I’ll share what NOW Foods is and tell you a little bit about the company history, then talk about the quality associated with this brand including how oil are manufactured, then finish up with some of the top-rated oils from NOW and share my final thoughts on this essential oil brand.
What is NOW Foods?
NOW Foods is a natural foods company that makes not only essential oils, but supplements, natural foods, sports nutrition, pet supplements, and even beauty products. They have a wide range of products that can help you live a more natural lifestyle and have been in business since 1968. They have several manufacturing facilities based in Sparks, Nevada, Bloomingdale, Illinois, and several in Canada as they continue to grow their expansive product line. I’ll be focusing in on their essential oils, but keep in mind that you can check them out for other health food and nutritional needs as well.
Their mission as stated on their website is “to meet consumer needs for healthy foods by offering affordable, high quality natural products.” Before even delving into the “high-quality” portion of their mission statement, I can attest to NOW Foods as being a more affordable brand. I am accustomed to seeing their products widely available in grocery stores chains like Whole Foods with price tags that are affordable.
NOW Foods provides an extensive timeline on their website that I am not going to get all the way into here, but I will hit some of the important points so you can get an idea of what this company is all about.
NOW Foods actually has a history that dates all the way back to the 1960s. NOW Foods’ founder Elwood Richard owned a small chain of healthy food stores in the Chicago area that didn’t perform very well. Granted, essential oils and healthy foods weren’t quite as popular in the 1960s as they are today, but Mr. Richard felt that the reason his stores weren’t successful was because he was unable to control the prices of premium health foods and health products. So, NOW Foods was born!
Once he was able to stock his stores with products that he manufactured, he began to grow and expand. Today, NOW Foods is celebrating over 50 years in business and holds a wide range of awards and recognitions for quality standards in the healthy product space.
NOW essential oil quality
Now here’s the good stuff (pardon the pun) – quality! We all care about getting essential oils that are high quality and pure because this means they’re safe for use. It’s a good sign that this company has been around for a while – it means that they have withstood the tests of time and competition from the essential oils boom. Their manufacturing processes are extensive and impressive and focus on quality and safety above all else. Let’s dive into their manufacturing process first.
How are NOW Foods Essential Oils manufactured and processed?
The Now Foods website outlines an extensive process for producing their essential oils that begins way before the raw materials even touch their equipment. According to their website, NOW Foods has an entire team of “purchasing agents” who scour the globe for raw materials that are up to snuff for use in their essential oils. This is no simple task. If you’re an at-home gardener, you can visualize how different your plants bloom every year. Imagine that, but on a scale of an industry that spans 4+ manufacturing facilities. I respect NOW’s commitment to tracing ingredients all the way back to the source and putting in that kind of effort into their product.
Affirming this is what happens when the products actually arrive at the manufacturing facility. According to their website, once the plant product arrives at the facility several things happen.
First, they physically inspect truck trailers for tell-tale signs of poor quality, using sight, smell and touch. Now says this can help give an early indication that a shipment doesn’t meet their stringent quality standards.
Then, their receiving department performs a physical black-light scan of the shipment and the truck trailer, which they say can help detect contaminants that may not be visible to the naked eye. Their receiving department also matches records from their purchasing department to the shipping manifests to make sure that they’re getting the right thing from the right supplier.
To complete the first part of the process of manufacturing their essential oils, they have Quality Assurance technicians who go in and perform specific scientific analyses on their incoming raw materials to verify identity, purity, and strength.
I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted just from reading all of the initial processes that NOW has in place to make sure that their oils are safe for consumption. They carry this meticulous behavior throughout their manufacturing process, too.
Although they don’t share the specific steps that they take to manufacture their essential oils, which is understandable since they are in competition for their market share, they share a few important items of note.
After the initial analysis and verification of purity, they do an intense amount of extensive testing in-house by their own staff. They complete GC-MS testing, which basically tells them how pure of a product they are producing and every chemical compound that is present within the essential oil. They also publish these results on their website with each essential oil that they sell. If you don’t have peace-of-mind at this point, they take our trust a step further and create certified organic products and are actively working toward creating essential oils that are completely GMO-free.
Their essential oils are made by either cold-pressing or steam distillation, depending on the type of plant matter that is being used for the oil. Cold pressing is exactly what you think it is: high pressure applied to a plant material so that the oils can be collected. This process isn’t used as frequently as steam distillation because it isn’t as efficient and doesn’t as effectively preserve nutrients in the plants, but still is in use for some essential oils.
Steam distillation takes place in a sealed still where steam is forced over the plant to create a mixture of water and oils from the plants. When the process is complete, it is easy for the oil from the plant to be collected from the surface of the mixture because water and oil naturally separate. This process of steam distillation is typically better than cold pressing because of its excellent ability to preserve valuable nutrients in the plant matter.
During the process of steam distillation, the purpose it to steam the plant product just right so that the aromatic molecules are released into the solution that is further refined into essential oil. Because of this, temperature control is of the utmost importance. Botanical material will respond to steam that is hot enough to make the carrot seed essential oil come out of the plant, but if it is too hot it can burn and waste the plant material.
After the distillation process, NOW describes on their website the extent to which they clean the machines and testing materials before and after the product is made. These folks are incredibly meticulous with every part of the essential oil making process.
Either way you slice it, NOW is making a product with processes that are tailor-made to ensure high-quality essential oils from farm to bottle. Since researching for this article, I personally have gained a new respect for this essential oil brand.
What controls does NOW Foods have to ensure purity?
Since they do their quality control processes mentioned above in-house, they know that we’re all wondering who’s keeping them honest. They’re way ahead of us. There’s an organization called the Natural Products Association (NPA for short) and an independent global safety science company called Underwriters Laboratories (or UL) that got together and reviewed the procedures that NOW Foods uses to test for quality and gave them a globally-recognized accreditation called ACLASS/ANAB.
ACLASS/ANAB accreditation demonstrates UL’s technical competence as a monitoring body, which gives legitimacy to Now’s claims that their products are being tested.
This accreditation coupled with their private and third-party lab testings are how NOW proves that they are taking care to make the best essential oils possible.
NOW Foods also goes into detail about “Therapeutic Grade” versus “Food Grade” essential oils on their website. They say that “Therapeutic grade” is not actually a thing. It cannot be chemically measured and is really just a marketing term made up by the industry with no authoritative body or organization behind the term. So if an essential oil claims to be “therapeutic grade”, make sure that you seek out the quality testing results to make sure that it checks out.
They also say that claiming an oil to be “Food grade” (i.e., edible) would mean that brand has to display a Nutrition Facts panel on their label as required by law. However, if you recognize the source of these oils as food, 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. So basically, saying an oil is “food grade” is also nonsensical marketing speak that actually means nothing.
Their final knowledge drop is that oils that are not food grade will say “Not for Internal Use” in the caution box on the label.
If you’re still confused, you can also contact their Certified Nutritionists by calling 888-669-3663 and choosing option 5 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
List of the best Essential Oils from NOW
This lemon essential oil is a two pack from Amazon boasting 22 five star reviews. To make things even better, this lemon essential oil is a two pack of 4 ounce bottles for $31.18 currently. If you’ve ever purchased a lemon essential oil before, you may have easily paid that for one small bottle of lemon essential oil. The value here is incredible and it’s a high quality oil. Reviewers note how strong and delicious the scent of these oils is and even share good experiences with putting it in their foods.
By the same token as the lemon essential oil, you can also get a two pack of peppermint essential oil from Amazon that is highly rated and costs under $30. The bottle size here is similarly two 4 ounce bottles. If you’re a big peppermint fan like I am, I would definitely give this essential oil pack a try.
Lemongrass is one of the top rated essential oils from Now on Amazon and comes at an affordable cost as well. Check out this one promising review: “I’ve been buying EOs for a couple years from the “MLM” companies and paying through the nose for them. Then I found NOW Foods brand am thrilled with them. They are the BEST oils!! Just as good, if not better than the ultra pricey brands but for a fraction of the cost plus 2-3 times more product and then some. I’m a regular consumer and have not been paid or incentivized for my review.” That sounds promising to us, folks!
Their eucalyptus is described in reviews as being pungent and strong – I’m on board with this! That means that the oil is concentrated and exactly what we are looking for in a good oil. Here’s a promising review on their eucalyptus oil: “Excellent product, high quality as all NOW Essential Oils are. Strong, pungent Germ Fighter. Perfect for making a Four Theives formula. I just want to state that there is NO CLASSIFICATION by the FDA for “Therapeutic Grade” Essential Oils. Do your research and do not be duped into purchasing expensive “Therapeutic Grade” when such a thing doesn’t exist.” This reviewer gets it and threw in the “therapeutic grade” knowledge for bonus points.
One of my favorite thing about NOW’s essential oils is that they have these awesome sample packs so that you can try out all of the, well, essential essential oils at a discounted price. If you’re a beginner at essential oils or you just need to re-up a few favorites, give their “5 Pack Variety Sampler” a try. This one contains lavender, peppermint, orange, eucalyptus, and tea tree. Here’s what one reviewer had to say: “Great set of oils. I mostly use the tea tree, peppermint and lavender. Peppermint smells delicious. I use it quite a bit in my diffuser with Cinnamon, Clove and Orange essential oils (or Grapefruit, which I actually prefer over the orange). Smells like the holidays! Lavender took some getting used to, but I’m not into “floral” scents that much. However, it grew on me quickly and I use it quite often, especially in my daughter’s room at night (with a drop of peppermint oil…which smells wonderful). I use the tea tree oil with a carrier oil (grape seed oil) on my face every other day or so to help keep my face clear. Overall, a great set. I would recommend as a great starter set for those just getting into essential oils. I haven’t been disappointed in any of the NOW brand oils so far. A great value for 100% oil.”
There are several things that I personally like about NOW Foods’ essential oils that I’ll break down here for you. As I mentioned above, I have really gained a new respect for NOW Foods as an essential oil company after writing this review. They may not be as trendy or flashy as some of the other essential oil brands, but this company puts an incredible amount of effort into ensuring that these products are high quality.
There was a review that I read online that claimed that NOW Foods’ essential oils are more pricey than most. After researching prices, I can tell you that this is verifiably false. In comparing lavender essential oils, NOW Foods’ version costs $4.19 for a standard 15ml bottle – far cry from the $23.10 that you will pay with Doterra and the whopping $32.73 from Young Living. But it’s not just lavender! Peppermint, another essential oil staple, goes for just $3.69 with NOW Foods, compared with $22.15 from Doterra and $29.21 from Young Living. You can get essential oils that are of arguably higher quality than either of these brands for a small fraction of the price. Don’t let the trends rule your decisions – be a smart consumer and purchase based on factual research!
There’s a reason that NOW Foods has been in the essential oils game for over 50 years, and that reason is quality. These folks know what they are doing, from accreditation to their quality control process, Now Foods really gets it right. I really liked how meticulous they are about where the plant material comes from. They go so far back in the origins of their oils that they can tell you which part of which farm the product comes from – how many other essential oil companies can tell you that?
No MLM Nonsense
My biggest personal beef with Doterra and Young Living are their MLM setups that create the illusion that getting into essential oils is something that needs to cost a lot of money – unless you pay up and get a membership. I like that you can get essential oils on Amazon (did someone say Prime?) and not have to deal with going through a rep to get some kind of “insider pricing” that is still way more expensive than a product like NOW Foods offers. Skip the essential oil party and hop on Amazon the next time you need to stock up on some essential oils.