ESSENTIAL OILS CHEMICAL CONSTITUTENTS
Typically essential oils that are high in monoterpenes are chosen for their tonifying, decongestant, analgesic and rubefacient properties. For example their decongestant activity has been know to be used for respiratory congestion and oedema.
Common Monoterpene compounds are: Limonene, alpha–pinene and camphene.
Examples of Monoterpene rich essential oils include:
Sweet orange –94% limonene
Pine – 45% a–pinene
Rosemary – 10% camphene
Typically, essential oils rich in esters are chosen for their antispasmodic, adaptogenic and often calming properties. Their pleasing fragrance lends them well to blends for reducing stress and for general harmonising effects. Methyl salicylate has confirmed analgesic, anti–inflammatory and rubefacient activity.
Common esters include: linalyl acetate, bornyl acetate, benzyl acetate and methyl salicylate
Examples of ester rich essential oils include:
Black spruce – 24% bornyl acetate
Wintergreen – 93% Methyl salicylate
Jasmine grandiflorum – 17% benzyl acetate
Clary sage – 54% linalyl acetate
Typically essential oils that are rich in monoterpenols are chosen for their antioxidant, anti–infectious and antimicrobial properties. Many are also analgesic and antispasmodic, anti–inflammatory, sedative and may have immune system–supporting properties. As their individual properties vary widely, it is hard to give general information.
Common monoterpenols include: linalol, menthol and citronellol
Examples of monoterpenol–rich essential oils include:
Lavender – 26% linalool
Linaloe berry – 43% linalool
Coriander seed – 68% linalool
Peppermint – 36% menthol
Geranium – 23% citronellol
Rose otto – 26% citronellol
1,8 cineole is the most common cyclic ether/ oxide that is found in many essential oils . 1,8–cineol rich essential oils are often selected for their anti–inflammatory and analgesic properties for muscles and joints as well as for promoting mental alertness. 1,8 cineole is also acknowledged for its action on the respiratory system with multiple properties including antiviral, expectorant, spasmolytic and mucosecretory qualities. It is known as a mental tonic and is also a skin penetration enhancer. Bisabolol oxide is anti–inflammatory and antimicrobial.
Common oxides include: 1,8 cineole, rose oxide and bisabolol oxide
Examples of oxide containing essential oils include:
Eucalytpus globulus – 65% 1,8 cineole
Chamomile German – 5.3% bisabolol oxide
Geranium – 1.3% rose oxide
Typically essential oils that are high in sesquiterpenes are chosen for their anti–inflammatory, pain relieving and tissue repair properties. They are generally non–irritant and non–sensitising.
Common Sesquiterpene compounds are: β Caryophyllene, chamazulene and zingiberene
Examples of Sesquiterpene rich essential oils include:
Balsam copaiba – 40% β Caryophyllene
Black pepper – 26% β Caryophyllene
Tulsi – 30% β Caryophyllene
Melissa – 25% β Caryophyllene
Chamomile german – 17% chamazulene
Ginger – 27% zingiberene
Typically, essential oils rich in ketones are chosen for their antimicrobial, antiviral, mucolytic, sedative, analgesic, cicatrisant and digestive properties but each ketone has its own individual action. Some are known for their use in wound care and for improving the appearance of scar tissue.
Common ketones include: thujone, menthone and camphor
Examples of ketone–rich essential oils include:
Common sage – 43% thujone,
Peppermint – 36% menthone
Spike Lavender – 13% camphor
Typically essential oils that are rich in sesquiterpenols are chosen for their anti–inflammatory (often anti–histaminic), immunostimulant, antispasmodic and anti microbial properties. Some are known to aid cellular regeneration and support the immune system.
Common sesquiterpenols include: daucol, patchoulol, vetiverol and santalo
Examples of Sesquiterpenol–rich essential oils include:
Patchouli – 32% patchoulol
Carrot seed – 74% carotol
Vetiver – 50% vetiverol
Sandalwood – 38% santalol
Typically essential oils rich in aldehydes are chosen for their antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti–inflammatory properties. Citral has confirmed sedative and anti–inflammatory properties and there is evidence that citronellal has anti–inflammatory activity for muscles and joints.
Common aldehydes include: citral (neral + geranial), citronellal and cinnamaldehyde
Examples of aldehyde–rich essential oils include:
May Chang – 38% geranial and 27% neral
Citronella Java – 39% citronellal
Eucalyptus citriodora – 88% citronellal
Cinnamon bark – 60% cinnamaldehyde
Typically essential oils rich in ethers are chosen for their antispasmodic, carminative and possibly sedative properties. Some ethers are thought to have a hormone–like activity, for example trans–anethole is said to be weakly oestrogenic. Due to their high pungency and therapeutic potency it is rare to use ether rich oils in high doses or over the long term.
Common ethers include: methyl chavicol (also known as estragole) and anethole
Examples of ether–rich essential oils include:
Sweet basil – 8.8% methyl chavicol/ estragole (tropical basil has much higher amounts)
Aniseed – 89% anethole
Fennel – 77% anethole