The Science of Scent: How To Ensure Consistent Oil Quality

Take a moment and think about the sweet, herbaceous, comforting aroma of lavender. Now, recall the fresh, bright scent of oranges. Can you remember the cooling, sharp scent of peppermint? What memories do you associate with these scents? Do you feel a sense of calm? Nostalgia? Energy?

We have all experienced a time when a scent caused a wave of memory to flood our minds before we knew what hit us. Sometimes we can recall the memory associated with a smell before we can even name the aroma. The power of scent is incredibly strong and can elicit a range of visceral reactions. Beyond just a sensation, though, some would argue that scents can actually have an impact on human health. From adding a pleasant smell to a homemade cleaner to treating fungal infections, the business of scents – essential oils, in particular – is certainly varied.

Quality Is Essential

Currently, the FDA regulates essential oils on a case-by-case basis. FDA intervention, or lack thereof, depends mostly on the claims that are made about a particular product. Are their health claims associated with the essential oil, or not? This regulatory situation can make it hard for consumers to understand differences between essential oil producers and the quality of their products.

What can essential oil producers do to ensure the quality their customers expect? During production there are several physical properties of essential oils that can be measured to pinpoint product quality and purity, such as refractive index and optical rotation. Many essential oils have known optimal refractive indices and optical rotations. By measuring these parameters and comparing results against the known values, producers can validate the identity as well as purity of their products.

Quality Control Solution

Anton Paar polarimeters and refractometers are particularly well suited for testing essential oils, as only a few milliliters of sample are needed to determine refractive index and optical rotation. In a business with such precious and high-cost samples, small sample size can make a big difference. Anton Paar polarimeters can even measure the optical rotation of dark essential oils by providing smaller sample cells, thereby shortening the path length.

Testing of these physical parameters allows essential oil producers to ensure they are providing quality products that their customers will be confident in.

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