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Essential Oil Properties

Read any book about aromatherapy and you will find information about how the applicaton of essential oils can benefit your health.  Many books list different oils and their potential uses.  When ever you use a natural substance such as essential oils they may react differently in different people.  This is often due to the differing body chemistry each of us has.  Every one of us has had exposure to different chemicals and foods.  Our diets are different, our metabolism is different so it makes sense that our reaction to essentail oils may be different.  

To find out more about the difference in essential oil quality, read our post "Aromatherapy Makes Scents".

Here is some basic information on what substances are found in a typical therapeutic grade essential oil and what roles they play in health maintenance.

All pure essential oils have some anti-bacterial properties. They increase the production of white blood cells, which help fight infectious illnesses. It is through these properties that aromatic herbs have been esteemed so highly throughout the ages and so widely used during the onsets of malaria, typhoid and the epidemic plagues during the 16th century. Research has found that people who consistently use pure essential oils have a higher level of resistance to illnesses, colds, flues, and diseases than the average person. Further indications show that such individuals, after contracting a cold, flu, or other illness, will recover 60-70 percent faster than those who do not use essential oils.

Essential Oil Constituents

In general, pure essential oils can be subdivided into two distinct groups of chemical constituents; the hydrocarbons which are made up almost exclusively of terpenes (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and diterpenes), and the oxygenated compounds which are mainly esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, phenols, and oxides.

Terpenes - inhibit the accumulation of toxins and help discharge existing toxins from the liver and kidneys.  Sesquiterpenes are antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. They work as a liver and gland stimulant.  Research from the universities of Berlin and Vienna show increased oxygenation around the pineal and pituitary glands.  Further research has shown that sesquiterpenes have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain tissue.  Limonene has strong anti-viral properties and has been found in 90% of the citrus oils.  Pinene has strong antiseptic properties and may be found in high proportions in the conifer oils such as pine, fir, spruce, and juniper.

Esters - are anti-fungal, calming and relaxing.

Aldehydes - In general, they are anti-infectious with a sedative effect on the central nervous system. They can be quite irritating when applied topically but may have a profound calming effect when inhaled.

Ketones - stimulate cell regeneration, promote the formation of tissue, and liquefy mucous. They are helpful with such conditions as dry asthma, colds, flu and dry cough and are largely found in oils used for the upper respiratory system, such as hyssop, Clary sage, and sage.

Alcohols - are commonly recognized for their antiseptic and anti-viral activities. They create an uplifting quality and are regarded as non-toxic.  Terpene Alcohols stimulate the immune system, work as a diuretic and a general tonic, and are anti-bacterial as well.  Sesquiterpene Alcohols are anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-mycotic, and ulcer-protective (preventative).

Phenols - are responsible for the fragrance of an oil. They are antiseptic, anti-bacterial, and strongly stimulating but can also be quite caustic to the skin. They contain high levels of oxygenating molecules and have antioxidant properties.

Oxides - Cineol (or eucalyptol) is by far the most important member of the family and virtually exists in a class of its own. It is anesthetic, antiseptic, and works as an expectorant. Cineol is well known as the principal constituent of eucalyptus oil. It may also be found in rosemary, cinnamon, melissa, basil, and ravensara.

The information on this page is from the

Reference Guide for Essential Oils by Connie and Alan Higley. For more information on this subject, see also the book,  The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, by David Stewart.

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to be used to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, illness, or injured condition of the body. Anyone suffering from any disease, illness, or injury should consult a qualified health care professional for treatment.