Lavender Oil ISO Standard FAQ

October 30, 2017

Does NOW’s Lavender essential oil meet the ISO standard?

No, we choose not to for very good reasons.

The ISO/AFNOR standard for lavender essential oil recommends two cultivars used to meet the specific needs of perfume manufacturers. Their recommended composition of lavender oil favors the low camphor Reya and Munstead types for fine fragrance use precisely because these do not have the depth, nor complexity of constituents, that other legitimate lavender oils commonly used in aromatherapy have. That standard notably does not allow the use of all four of the major cultivars of Lavandula angustifolia (formerly known as Lavandula officinalis) used by aromatherapists: the Vera, Munstead, Silver and Raya cultivars. It also excludes many minor subspecies of L. angustifolia.

The reason why is that the ISO standard was developed as a very narrow qualification test for the fragrance industry, keeping "undesirable" but naturally occurring compounds such as camphor low because they're not ideal in ingredients used specifically for formulating expensive perfumes, where purer scent notes are more useful than more complex ones. However, the original cultivars of lavender actually had considerably more camphor - and other complex components - than the two cultivars that ISO recommends for perfume industry use. For example, the presence of more naturally occurring camphor, 1,8-cineole, and/or boreal is expected in a blend of the four major cultivars, but not in the two cultivars preferred by perfumers and reflected in the ISO standard prepared for that industry. Perhaps these very compounds in higher amounts may be at least partially responsible for the historical uses and good reputation of lavender oil.

Today, the processors (distillers) of essential oils carefully blend proprietary mixtures of L. angustifolia subspecies and cultivars to produce a combination of true lavender oils that have a more consistent aroma, rather than providing only the low-camphor Reya and Munstead subspecies as specialized perfume ingredients. These other lavender essential oils are as true and pure as the two cultivars used by perfumers, but with four cultivars they provide a wider palette of scent and a more diverse scope of practical application due to their wider range of natural constituents.

Our Lavender oil is genuine Lavandula angustifolia oil from various L. angustifolia cultivars, pure and undiluted, with no additives. It has only the naturally occurring ratios of natural constituents and is not put through any secondary distillation to manipulate its component profile. This is a blend of selected cultivars, rather than only the specific subspecies that are specifically and narrowly suited to perfume formulation. In this way, we produce the highest quality Lavender oil that meets the needs of aromatherapy consumers and professionals alike, rather than offering it as a limited use fragrance ingredient per the ISO standard.