New BAPP bulletin summarizes info on adulteration of English lavender oil

July 9, 2020

Although the safety and efficacy of authentic English lavender oil have been documented in published clinical trials, due to the comparatively high cost of English lavender essential oil, substitution with other, lower-cost species of Lavandula has been reported.

The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP; Austin, TX) published a new Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletin on English lavender oil obtained by distillation of the flowering tops of Lavandula angustifolia, a small shrub in the mint family. The oil is used to support stress and promote restful sleep. 

Although the safety and efficacy of authentic English lavender oil have been documented in published clinical trials, due to the comparatively high cost of English lavender essential oil, substitution with other, lower-cost species of Lavandula has been reported. One of the most frequently mentioned adulterants is lavandin (Lavandula × intermedia) oil, though lavandin is an acceptable substitute by some international authorities. Other adulterants include the undeclared addition of other essential oils or oil fractions rich in the natural chemical compound linalool. 

“Over the course of my tenure at the American Botanical Council (ABC; Austin, TX), several lavender growers and lavender oil manufacturers have raised concerns about the presence of relatively low-cost, adulterated materials in the marketplace,” said Stefan Gafner, PhD, chief science officer of the nonprofit ABC and BAPP technical director, in a press release. “We hope that this new bulletin will be a useful educational resource for everyone with interest in the quality of lavender oil.”

The bulletin includes information about the production and market importance of English lavender oil, a review of the available literature on adulteration, data on adulteration frequency, and analytical approaches to detect adulterants.

“There has been a surge in interest in the United States and worldwide in the personal and household uses of essential oils, with lavender being one of the most popular,” said Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director, and director of BAPP, in a press release. “The existing scientific literature and BAPP’s new research indicate that a significant amount of what is sold as ‘lavender oil’ in the marketplace is adulterated with undisclosed, lower cost ingredients. As in all cases of botanical ingredient adulteration, industrial buyers are urged to employ significant caution and robust analytical methods to determine the proper identity and authenticity of material being considered for purchase for use in finished products.”

Blumenthal noted there are numerous companies that sell high-quality, authentic lavender oils that meet various internationally recognized standards for identity and purity. “As in most cases of adulteration of botanical ingredients and essential oils, ethical and responsible sellers of authentic material find it challenging to compete in the marketplace with sellers of low-cost products containing undisclosed levels of diluted, adulterated, and/or otherwise fraudulent oil,” he added.