The Warriors of Aromatherapy - Phenols

Based on their distinguishing qualities, each of the 12 chemical families 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 to use alone, or in a formulation, to promote healing for specific conditions, based on their specific archetype and therapeutic chemical properties, actions and effects.

PLEASE NOTE: Depending upon the percentage(s) of a chemical component that comprises an oil, it can be classed in more than one chemical family.

Phenol - Archetype: The Warrior

Aggressive, Powerful Defender


Phenol is an aromatic organic compound that consists of a phenyl group (−C6H5) bonded to a hydroxy group (−OH). Phenols appear superficially similar to alcohols, possessing an –OH group, but in practice they are quite different. The names of phenols end in -ol, i.e. carvacrol. In phenols the –OH group is attached to an aromatic ring or phenyl ring.

Phenols require careful handling due to their tendency to cause chemical burns. They have a viscous (thick, sticky) consistency. Their high viscosity makes them less volatile and subject to rapid evaporation. In fact, phenols evaporate more slowly than water. Phenol’s characteristic scent is intensely sweet.

Phenol may well have been the first surgical antiseptic. In 1865 the British surgeon Joseph Lister, used phenol as an antiseptic to sterilize his operating field. Use of phenol in surgical amputations reduced the death rate from amputations from 45 to 15 percent in Lister’s ward. 

Thymol, eugenol and carvacrol are characteristic components of these essential oils with strongly antiseptic, anti-bacterial, disinfectant and stimulating properties.

Thymol - Results of a study on the chemical Thymol (a constituent of the essential oil Thymus vulgarius) suggest the potential role of thymol as a natural immuno-stimulatory drug which can be used in the treatment of various immunological disorders.

Eugenol - The influence of clove essential oil in antimicrobial activity was studied. The results of the study suggest that the characteristics of organic substances, i.e. eugenol, play an important role in destroying bacteria. Up to 89% of clove oil is eugenol.

Carvacrol -  The biological effects of carvacrol was studied (oregano essential oil contains up to 80% carvacrol). It’s antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, immunomodulatory, anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties were shown to prevent free radicals and hazardous compounds from interacting with cellular DNA. Carvacrol has the ability to change the gut microflora, improving digestion and absorption of nutrients. 

Phenol Actions & Effects 

Anti-infectious - Counteracts infection, used in acute illnesses and infections.
Analgesic - pain reliever.
Anti-inflammatory - controls, alleviates inflammation resulting from injury or infection.
Antiseptic - prevents, halts infection.
Antibacterial - destroys or stops growth of bacteria.
Anti-infectious - counteracts infection.
Disinfectant - destroys bacteria.
Stimulant - quickens the physiological functions of the body, temporarily increases body or organ function, good for convalescence, poor circulation, listlessness, physical fatigue, especially stimulating to central nervous & immune systems, activates the body’s own healing mechanism.
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.

Essential Oils in the Class include:
Preferred distillation method, part of plant used, and some best locations for production.

ANNISE SEED Phenolic Ether - (Pimpinella anisum), steam distilled seed, Egypt.
CINNAMON Phenolic Ether - (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), steam distilled leaf, water distillation bark, Madagascar.
CLOVE BUD Phenolic Ether - (Eugenia caryophyllata), steam distilled bud, Madagascar.
FENNEL SWEET & BITTER Phenolic Ether/Phenol - (Foeniculum vulgare), steam distilled seed, Egypt.
GINGER Phenol - (Zingiber officinale), hydrodiffused fresh root.
OREGANO Phenolic Ester - (Origanum vulgare), steam distilled herb, Turkey.
THYME Phenol - (Thymus vulgaris), steam distilled herb, Germany.

Essential oils high in phenols should always be used in very low concentrations (less than 1%) and for short durations of time as they can lead to toxicity. Phenols are skin and mucus membrane irritants and can cause severe skin reactions.

CAUTIONS: Skin irritant, Hepatotoxic, Nephrotoxic. Please check each essential oil for more specific safety cautions.

READ next article in this series, Aromatherapy Archetypes - 12 Natural Healers: The Lovers of Aromatherapy - Alcohols.

READ first article in this series, Aromatherapy Archetypes - 12 Natural Healers - The Male Athlete.

†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All statements on this website are intended for informational purposes only.

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