Essential oils have become increasingly popular. If you decide to use essential oils for health, here is some basic related chemistry it will be helpful to know.
First, you should know that therapeutic grade essential oils never contain propylene glycol or petrochemicals. Second, the chemical makeup of any essential oil determines its medicinal properties. Being aware of the chemical constituency of oils facilitates blending them for optimal effect.
What are the Main Groups of Compounds in Essential Oils?
The two main groups of compounds in essential oils are hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds. These, in turn, are further divided into subgroups, listed below:
Monoterpenes – Monoterpenes are present in most essential oils.They inhibit the accumulation of toxins, and they enhance the therapeutic values of other components in the oil. They also restore the correct information to the cell’s DNA once the sesquiterpenes and pheonlics have done their job. They all contain the functional group C10H16.
Grapefruit, Orange and Balsam Fir all contain high levels of monoterpenes..
Sesquiterpenes – These compounds delete incorrect information in cellular memory and they occur in almost all essential oils. They are larger than monoterpenes and are very viscous and thus less volatile. Viscous oils have a longer half-life and blend well with lighter, more volatile oils.
Cedarwood, Sandalwood and Myrrh all contain high amounts of sesquiterpenes.
Phenolics – These stimulate the nervous and immune systems. They clear the cell’s receptor sites so that sesquiterpenes can delete faulty information from the cell. Penolics are antioxidants and contain oxygenating molecules.
Wintergreen, Clove, and Melaleuca alterenifolia (Tea Tree) oils are high in phenols.
Alcohols – These are highly resistant to oxidation and they can return cells to normal function, as demonstrated in animal studies.
Rosewood, Geranium and Rose Otto have a high level of alcohols.
Esters – Esters are created by the reaction of an alcohol with an acid. Esters are the most relaxing, calming and balancing of all the constituents of essential oils. These compounds regulate the nervous system and are antispasmodic.
Bergamot, Valerian and Roman Chamomile are all high in esters.
Aldehydes – The delightful fragrance of essential oils come from the aldehydes, which calm the nervous system, relieve stress and promote relaxation.
Cinnamon Bark and Lemongrass have a high level of aldehydes.
Ketones – Ketones are less prevalent than monoterpenes and alcohols. They have distinctive scents and have calming and sedative properties. They support cell regeneration, promote new tissue growth and liquefy mucous.
Western Red Cedar, Idaho Tansy and Rosemary are rich in ketones.
Oxides – Oxides come from other compounds such as alcohols, terpenes or ketones which have been oxidized. They act as expectorants and are mildly stimulating. 1,8-cineol or eucalyptol is the most prevalent member of the oxide family; it is present in many plants.
Ravensara, Rosemary CT cineole and Eucalyptus species are all high in oxide.
Are there any other Classes of Compounds in Essential Oils?
Other compounds are present in essential oils in small amounts, usually less than twenty percent. They are: Alkanes, Ethers, Carboxylic Acids, Lactones, Coumarins and Furanoids.
Knowing the chemical profile of an essential oil can help you determine how to use it, and how to combine oils for a desire effect.