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more about essential oils - science

More about essential oils – science

There are currently over 17,200 medical studies being carried out on the benefits of essential oils – according to the National Institute of Health, PubMed.  And that’s not counting all the ones that have finished.

These tests confirm what we have known since before records began – essential oils are good for you.

Here’s what the test-tubes, Bunsen burners, mass spectrometers, gas chromatographs and the clever people who wield them can tell us.

There are a mind boggling 40 million trillion molecules in a single drop of essential oil. They are tiny (less than 500-300amus). This means they can pass quickly into our cells and get right to work helping us feel better.

Essential oils are made up of two main parts – Hydrocarbons and Oxygenated Compounds.

Hydrocarbons are divided into monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes.

Monoterpenes are present in some percentage in all essential oils and they provide the “top note” which is the first scent to hit your nose.

Frankincense, grapefruit, cypress, lemon, juniper and sweet orange all have over 60% monoterpenes.

Therapeutic qualities of monoterpenes include

Analgesic, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, decongestant, Excellent for diffusing  as they kill airborne germs, expectorant, great for getting deep into sore muscles, tendons and ligaments, good for circulation.

Sesquiterpenes are also present in almost all essential oils.

Black pepper, blue cypress, ginger, myrrh, patchouli, sandalwood, spikenard and vetiver all have over 59% sesquiterpenes.

They are more difficult to generalise but their benefits include

Analgesic, anti-fungal, ant-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, antiseptic  and sedative. Also increased oxygenation around pineal and pituitary glands – according to research by the Universities of Berlin and Vienna.

Oxygenated compounds are divided into Phenol, Alcohols, Esters, Aldehydes, Ketones and Oxides.

Phenols stimulate the nervous and immune systems and are helpful in combating infection.

Clove, oregano, tea-tree and wintergreen contain high levels of phenols.

Therapeutic benefits of phenols include

Anti-bacterial, antiseptic, disinfectant and stimulant.


Esters regulate the nervous system making them the most relaxing calming and balancing of the essential oil constituents.

German chamomile, jasmine absolute and helichrysum have among the highest percentage of esters.

Therapeutic benefits of esters include

Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, sedative, soothing and stress-reducing.

Aldehydes  are best known for their stress relieving and relaxing properties. May be calming when inhaled but can cause skin irritation when applied topically.

Cinnamon and lemongrass contain high amounts of aldehydes.

Therapeutic benefits of aldehydes include

Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti- spasmodic, fever reducing, sedative.

Ketones are calming and sedative. They also promote new growth, stimulate cell regeneration and liquefy mucus, making them useful for respiratory issues.

Rosemary, spike lavender and vetiver contain effective amounts of Ketones but Peppermint has the most.

Therapeutic benefits of Ketones include

Analgesic, anti-spasmodic, scar-healing, wound healing and good for circulation.

Oxides are expectorants and can be mildly stimulating.. The most prevalent  of the oxides is eucalyptol (1,8-cineole). It is great for respiratory issues.

Eucalyptus, ravensara and rosemary contain high amounts of oxides

Therapeutic  benefits of oxides include

Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and can stimulate blood flow to the brain when  inhaled.

Alcohols are also divided into monoterpene alcohols and sesquiterpene alcohols.

                Monoterpene alcohols  have an uplifting and energising effect.

Lavender, rose, geranium, juniper and tea tree all contain high levels of monoterpene alcohols.

Sesquiterpene alcohols can help with allergens and inflammation as well help stimulate the liver.

German chamomile, sandalwood ginger, patchouli, vetiver, carrot seed and valerian

Therapeutic benefits of alcohols include

Anti-fungal, anti-viral, antiseptic, anti-bacterial.