Chemistry is the science of aromatherapy.
This brief introduction and explanation of the organic building blocks of essential oils is meant to be a helpful reference guide you can refer to as needed.
It will give you a basic understanding about the chemical make up of essential oils, and their therapeutic properties, actions and effects. Using archetypes to describe each of the chemical families can make it more fun and easy to remember all of the families.
Aromatherapy Archetypes - 12 Natural Healers can also be used as a quick reference for blending ideas and information on the healing properties for each chemical family.
Essential oils are composed of complex mixtures of volatile organic compounds. All of life is made of three (3) elements carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These three molecules are the components of every essential oil.
Based on their distinguishing qualities, each chemical family can be divided into 12 Archetypes and their characteristic Elemental Powers. These 12 archetypes, and their chemical families, tell us about the therapeutic properties, actions and effects of essential oils.
You can select essential oils based on their specific archetype and therapeutic chemical properties, actions and effects to formulate aromatherapy blends for healing specific conditions.
In these series of blogs you’ll learn about:
- Aromatherapy Archetypes - 12 Natural Healers - starting with The Male Athlete/Monoterpene.
- Healing Tools - Plant Identification - How to Select Your Essential Oils.
- Twelve (12) Elemental Powers.
- Twelve (12) Chemical Families - Specific properties, actions and effects.
- Pure essential oils in each family.
- Any cautions for each chemical family.
This information is for educational purposes only and not meant to take the place of diagnosis or treatment by a qualified medical professional. Though all statements are believed to be accurate actual results in practice when using essential oils is individual. No expressed or implied effects are guaranteed, nor liability taken. Please consult your physician regarding serious health concerns and do not attempt to self-diagnose.
Healing Tools - Plant Identification - How to Select Your Essential Oils
- The Latin name for each plant is listed for each essential oil. This is important as it identifies the exact type of essential oil to select.
- A Latin name, or botanical name, is the most precise way to identify a particular plant. Many plants will have several varieties. Each species of a plant has different aromas and therapeutic qualities.
- In order to know the chemical make-up and properties of an essential oil, the label must include the species of the plant.
In general, pure essential oils can be subdivided into two distinct groups of chemical constituents; hydrocarbons which are made up almost exclusively of terpenes (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes), and the oxygenated compounds which are mainly esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, phenols, and oxides, ethers and lactones.
Monoterpene compounds are a class of terpenic hydrocarbons. Terpenic compounds end with -ene. Monoterpene are generally found in most all essential oils and are known to react readily to heat, light and air sources. For this reason bottles containing pure essential oils need to be tightly sealed and kept in a cool, dark place for storage.
ARCHETYPE: The Male Athlete.
ELEMENTAL POWER: Masculine (Yang character), promotes strength, stability, courage, endurance, stamina, strength and agility.
Citrus oils are especially high in monoterpene hydrocarbons and readily oxidize when left open to the light and air.
Monoterpenes contain only hydrogen and carbon molecules (hydrocarbons).
Pinene and Limonene are the two most common -terpenes making up Essential Oils.
Limonene - found in Bergamot, Lemon, Orange and other Citrus Oils. It gives the plant a citrusy, orange-like aroma. Limonene has antibacterial, antifungal, and antidepressant effects and has been used for weight loss. Research reports suggest that limonene has anti-carcinogenic properties.
Pinene- found in Coriander, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Black Pepper, Oregano and conifer oils like Pine, Cypress, Rosemary, Spruce and Juniper. Pinene gives a plant a characteristic pine tree aroma. Alpha-pinene is one of the most well known -terpenes, It gives the plant a more woody and earthy aroma. It has a powerful energizing effect on the brain and can aid attention and focus. It can be used as a topical antiseptic, a natural expectorant and bronchodilator for respiratory health. Frequently used as an insect repellent.
Monoterpene Actions & Effects:
Stimulant - an agent that quickens the physiological functions of the body, temporarily increases body or organ function, good for convalescence, poor circulation, listlessness, physical fatigue.
Analgesic - pain reliever.
Anti-inflammatory - relieves inflammation.
Antiseptic - helps control infection.
Anti-viral - prevents or inhibits viral activity, destroys virus.
Tonic - strengthens and enlivens the whole or specific parts of the body.
Rubefacient - Warming, agent which reddens skin, dilates vessels, increases blood flow.
Astringent - drying, causes contraction of organic tissues.
Diuretic - increases urine flow.
Deodorizer - excellent air freshener, airborne deodorizer.
Decongestant - entire body.
Expectorant - helps promote the removal of mucus from respiratory system, stimulates the action of decongestion for the entire body, heals respiratory system.
Essential Oils in this Class (partial list)
Preferred distillation method, part of plant used, and some best locations for production.
ANGELICA - (Angelica archangelica), steam distilled root or seed, France.
BERGAMOT - (Citrus bergamia), cold pressed peel, Italy.
BLUE TANSY - (Tanacetum annum), steam distilled flower tops, Morocco.
CUMIN - (Cuminum cyminum), steam distilled seed, Egypt.
CYPRESS - (Cupressus sempervirens), steam distilled leaf, Crete, Mediterranean region.
ELEMI - (Canarium luzonicum), steam distilled resin, Philippines.
EUCALYPTUS (Eucalyptus globulus, E. radiata), steam distilled leaf, Australia.
FIR, Douglas - (Pseudotsuga menziesii), steam distilled needles, Canada.
FRANKINCENSE/OLIBANUM - (Boswelia fereana, B. serrata, B. carterii), steam distilled resin tears, India or Somalia.
PEPPER, BLACK - (Piper nigrum), steam distilled fruit, Madagascar.
GALBANUM - (Ferula galbaniflua), steam distilled resin, Iran.
GINGER - (Zingiber officinale), steam distilled fresh root, Sri Lanka & Madagascar.
HYSSOP - (Hyssopus decumbens), steam distilled whole plant, Spain.
JUNIPER BERRY - (Juniperus communis), steam distilled berry, Bosnia.
LEMON - (Citrus limon), cold pressed fresh fruit peel, USA or Italy.
LIME - (Citrus aurantifolia), cold pressed fresh fruit peel, USA or Italy.
MYRRH - (Commiphora myrrha), steam distilled gum resin, Ethiopia or Kenya.
ORANGE, SWEET - (Citrus sinensis), cold pressed fresh fruit peel, USA, Italy, Portugal.
SPRUCE, BLACK - (Picea Mariana), steam distilled leaf, Canada.
TEA TREE - (Melaleuca alternifolia), steam distilled leaf, Australia.
TANGERINE - (Citrus reticulata), cold pressed fresh fruit peel, USA.
GRAPEFRUIT - (Citrus paradisi), cold pressed fresh fruit peel, USA.
MANDARIN - (Citrus deliciosa), cold pressed fresh fruit peel, USA.
NUTMEG - (Myristica fragrans), steam distilled or CO2 extracted fruit, Indonesia.
PINE - (Pinus sylvestris), steam distilled needles.
RAVENSARA - (Ravensara aromatica), steam distilled leaf, Madagascar.
ROSEWOOD - (Aniba rosaeodora), steam distilled wood, Brazil (Endangered ICUN Red List).
GENERAL CAUTIONS (check each individual oil for more specific cautions): Monoterpene oils are the most volatile oils in aromatherapy and oxidize rapidly when exposed to heat, light and air. Avoid oxidized oils (recommend refrigeration). May be kidney and skin irritants.
READ next article in this series, Aromatherapy Archetypes - 12 Natural Healers - The Female Athlete - Monoterpenols.
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