LET’S TALK OIL SCIENCE!
Chemical groups in Essential Oils and why they should matter to you.
While you may not realize it, more than 90 types of essential oils can be broken down into two different groups of chemical constituents. While the hydrocarbons consist almost entirely of terpenes, oxygenated chemical compounds consist of aldehydes, alcohols, esters, oxides, and phenols. The following offers a quick look at these groups, including how they work, as well as examples of essential oils they may be found in.
(ALSO REFERRED TO AS MONOTERPENES)
Known for their antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties, terpenes play a crucial role in getting rid of the toxins that have accumulated in your liver and kidneys, while also preventing toxins from recollecting in the future. (Toxins include alcohol, illegal and over-the-counter drugs, and industrial chemicals you may have unknowingly breathed in, just to name a few.)
Terpene alcohols, which include farnesol, geraniol, and linalool, are often identified by their aroma, which is a unique mix of uplifting and stimulating, yet sedative. They can be found in wide variety of oils, including lavender, tea tree, sandalwood, and peppermint.
Characterized by the group Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen (CHO), aldehydes have anti-infective properties (antimicrobial, disinfectant, and anti-inflammatory), while also working to calm down the nervous system. Aldehydes, such as citral, benzaldehyde, and cuminic aldehyde, are often found in lemon, citronellal, and lemongrass. They have a scent that is often described as fresh and bright.
Alcohols form in essential oils from combination of oxygen and hydrogen molecules and are well recognized for their anti-viral and antiseptic abilities. They also have an antibacterial component and work well as diuretic. It’s important to understand that when essential oils are primarily made up of alcohol, it is neither irritating nor toxic and can be safe when used in special populations.
Alcohols are further broken down into terpene alcohols, which help enhance the immune system and work as diuretic, and sesquiterpene, which also help prevent the formation of stomach ulcers and also act as an anti-myotic. Essential oils that count alcohol as part of their chemical makeup include rose, geranium, eucalyptus, and palmarosa.
Ester compounds form when an alcohol reacts with an acid. Esters have antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, while also working as an antispasmodic and even a sedative, when used in small amounts. Ester is very calming and is characterized by its floral, fruity aroma. Esters, such as linalyl acetate and geraniol acetate, can be found in lavender, geranium, roman chamomile, and even wintergreen. While it safe, methyl salicylate, an ester that is a constituent of wintergreen, should only be used at low doses.
Oxides are considered to be compounds that consist of any element binding with oxygen. They function as stimulants, while also having an expectorant effect, which means that it promotes the secretion of sputum. As a result, it should come as little surprise that oxides, such as linalool oxide, cineol, and bisabolol oxide, are often found in eucalyptus, cinnamon, basil, and rosemary.
Phenols contain a significant amount of oxygenating molecules and have a well-documented history of acting as a stimulant to both the nervous system and immune system. They are also known for having strong antimicrobial properties, as well as antiseptic qualities.
Phenols, such as eugenol and thymol, are often found in cinnamon oil, clove, and oregano. On a side note, phenols are responsible for the essential oil’s fragrance.
Ketones act as analgesics and also have a regenerating effect on cells, while also promoting the formation of new tissue. While some ketones, including fenchone and jasmone, are completely safe, others, such as mugwort and wormwood, are toxic and should be avoided. Thujone is particularly toxic and can cause significant damage to the central nervous system. Ketones may be found in fennel and jasmine.
All essential oils contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, as well as other components. You often find that an essential oil contains over 100 different chemical compounds, which all have specific therapeutic properties and are the reason essential oils can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Just like they sound, chemical compounds are formed by chemically bonding two or more different constituents, such as those discussed above. For centuries essential oils have been used for medicinal benefits. Without a doubt, they will continue to be used for centuries to come.