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The Science Behind Essential Oils

Recently I completed my aromatherapy certification course.  What I learned from the experience can not be summed up in a dollar amount.  I have read many books concerning essential oils and their therapeutic properties but it did not go into the science behind it.  Of course science can not explain all aspects of essential oils because as stated in a previous blog and it will be stated a million times more by me; part of aromatherapy still remains a mystery. 

Essential oils are made up with many molecules which consists of mainly carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.  I will not scare you off with the technical side but I just want to give you an example about the chemistry aspect.  The structure of these molecules will determine the chemical component.  Essential oils can have hundreds of different components and these components can change depending on where and how a plant was grown.  This is why testing (GCMS) of essential oils are so important; because no two essential oils can be alike.  A plant grown and harvested in Bulgaria will have a different chemical makeup than that same plant that was grown in Turkey.

Majority of these components will belong to a chemical family.  These chemical families have certain therapeutic properties and essential oils fall into certain chemical families.  What is so amazing is the fact that some essential oils fall into more than one family; such as Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia).  Tea tree is a monoterpene and a monoterpenol.  So what is the importance of knowing the chemical family?  Chemical families helps in determining safety concerns and sometimes we can generalize a chemical family therapeutic properties.  It is a must to know for making blends for a certain concern.  Of course blending can go a lot deeper than knowing the chemical family but it is a start.

Below is a chart to that list only a few of the chemical families.  The chart also shows one of many essential oils that belong to that family and only one of the therapeutic properties along with the safety concerns.  For example Aldehydes also consist of Lemongrass (Cymbogon citratus).  The inclusion of the chart is to demonstrate that chemical families have certain therapeutic properties and concerns which requires training to make blending as safe as possible.  It would not be a good thing to formulate a blend using an oil that should only be used at 1% and without proper knowledge it could be incorrectly used at a much higher percentage.

Chemical Families and Their Therapeutic Properties
Chemical Family Therapeutic Property Essential Oil Safety Concerns
Aldehyde Sedative Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) Use in low dosages
Sesquiterpene Varies depending on the essential oil.  Some are anti-bacterial Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) If oxidized
Monoterpene Rubifacient
Orange (Citrus sinensis)
if oxidized

To summarize, quality oils must be used and testing of these oils are a must.  I have many tested essential oils in my tool box.  I know that when it is time to replace an oil;  I must have a analysis of that oil because the properties may be slightly different and I want to make sure that the oil is pure and not adulterated.  I have really generalized the science behind essential oils because I wanted to paint a understandable picture for those that are unaware of the value of aromatherapy.  Following this blog will be sample case studies and videos to help people gain a better understanding about aromatherapy and know that it is more than just a wonderful scent.

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