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About Essential Oils


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Title: About Essential Oils

About Essential Oils
What are Essential Oils?
  • Essential oils are concentrated essences of
    plants extracted through distillation or
    pressing. They are used widely for their flavor,
    fragrance and even therapeutic effects. Given
    their wide range of applications and the
    increasing trend to favor natural products,
    there is great demand for essential oils in the
    pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food and drinks
  • Examples of essential oils include Cinnamon bark
    oil, bitter almond oil, bergamot oil, peppermint
    oil, cumin fruit oil, lemongrass oil, etc.

Adulteration of Essential Oils
  • Essential oils are expensive to produce, and with
    their increasing popularity many companies choose
    to use the more readily available synthetic
    versions often denoted as fragrance oil.
  • The synthetic versions do not have exactly the
    same components as the naturally sourced oils. In
    the production of the natural essential oils,
    there are other compounds in low concentrations
    that are also extracted. For example, when
    synthesizing cinnemaldehyde, the other compounds
    found in the natural cinnamon oil are not
  • Biobased content testing (Carbon-14 analysis)
    determines whether the essential oil is natural
    or synthetic.

Natural vs Synthetic Essential Oils
  • Bitter almond oil vs Synthetic Benzaldehyde
  • Bitter almond oil is used widely as a flavoring
    agent. In addition to almond kernels, bitter
    almond oil can also be extracted from fruits like
    peaches and apricots. Due to the limited supply
    and higher cost of the natural form, the
    synthetic compound is often used in food and
    drink products.
  • Cinnamon oil vs Synthetic Cinnamaldehyde
  • Cinnamon oil is used in the food industry as
    flavoring and fragrance, as a fungicide and for
    its health benefits. Cinnamon oil can refer to
    two types the stronger and more expensive to
    produce cinnamon bark oil and the cheaper
    cinnamon leaf oil and cassia oil. Given the high
    production price, it is cinnamon bark oil that
    runs the higher risk of being adulterated with a
    cheaper alternative.

There are several test methods that quality
control and quality assurance departments use to
detect adulteration. However, only carbon-14
analysis can identify if there are
petrochemical-derived synthetic adulterants in a
product claiming to be 100 natural.
Beta Analytic Garlic Oil Case Study
About Carbon-14 Analysis
  • One of the methods of adulteration of natural prod
    ucts (of plant or animal origin) is using the ofte
    n cheaper petrochemical-derived synthetic version.
      This may be identical in chemical composition
    to the natural source but adulteration can be
    detected using carbon-14 analysis. 
  • A weakly radioactive carbon isotope, carbon-14
    decays over time according to the law of
    radioactive decay. As part of the carbon cycle,
    all living things have a known level of
    carbon-14, whereas petrochemical-derived
    compounds have been out of the carbon cycle for a
    sufficiently long time that they do not contain
    any carbon-14. 

About Carbon-14 Analysis
  • Thus, by measuring the carbon-14 content of a
    product, its petrochemical-derived sources can be
    distinguished from plant or animal sources.
    Carbon-14 testing, however, cannot distinguish
    between different natural sources, for example
    between plant and animal-sourced material.

The testing methods available today offer a great
arsenal for those in the natural product industry
to ensure the authenticity of their materials.
This is of course not a fail-safe guarantee. By
employing several testing methods that detect
different issues, quality control is
enhanced. For details, please read Beta
Analytic's article Verifying Natural Products
Is Carbon-14 Analysis Necessary? www.betalabse
Information compiled by ISO 17025-accredited
natural products testing lab Beta Analytic. For
more information, please visit https//www.betalab
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