Adventures in Living a Natural Lifestyle

Sharing my adventures in living a more natural lifestyle, information about essential oils and natural home, health, and beauty recipes!

Hydrosols-


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French Aromatherapy: Hydrosols

Hydrosols-

I have been so busy with clients at work and creating online classes to share my love of essential oils that I have not had much time to study my aromatherapy certification material let alone blog lately.  But today I had an unexpected free day where I was caught up with all my classes and team obligations and my only client on my schedule at work no showed.  So I took advantage of this opportunity to pick up where I had left off with my aromatherapy certification course.  As I started studying this material I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to share another installment in my French Aromatherapy blog series.  Today’s topic: Hydrosols.

What are Hydrosols?

Hydrosols, are the water-soluble components of the plant that is produced during the distillation process.  Many essential oil distillers will simply throw out the hydrosol as they are after the essential oil.  However, hydrosols have a long history of use in aromatic medicine and are often a better option for certain uses or individuals.  Hydrosols are often referred to as “flower waters” yet this name is misleading as not all hydrosols are produced from flowers or even from aromatic plant material.  Like essential oils, hydrosols may be produced from the whole plant or individual plant components such as leaves, stems, roots, seeds, flowers or resins.  However, unlike essential oils, hydrosols may also be produced using nonaromatic plant material, such as nettles or plantain.

Hydrosols contain many of the same therapeutic properties of essential oils.  However, they take much less plant material than essential oils to produce and generally contain less than 1% of the chemical constituents found in essential oils.   The other constituents are the hydrophilic compounds not found in the essential oil at all.  While hydrosols only contain small quantities of the plant molecules, this does not necessarily mean that they are less effective than essential oils.  Sometimes, the more a preparation is diluted the stronger its action may be on the organism.  In other words, less is sometimes more!

Uses of Hydrosols

In general, hydrosols can be used in almost anything that essential oils can be used in.  They are perhaps best known in the following aromatherapy applications:

  • To support the individual’s overall terrain
  • For internal use (in water or tea, alone or with other hydrosols – full strength)
  • In cream, lotion or gel recipes
  • As Facial toners
  • In Facial and body cleanser recipes
  • In facial exfoliants
  • As bath additives
  • In clay compresses
  • Room spritzers
  • As mouth washes and gargles
  • For an internal detox
  • In hydrotherapy
  • In Sitz baths
  • For nose washes
  • As an addition to baby baths
  • Towel baths (for elderly or in hospice)
  • For eye rinses and compresses
  • In house cleaning products

Hydrosol Dilutions

Since hydrosols are far less concentrated than their essential oil counterparts, they are considered extremely safe and effective with few known side effects.  Hydrosols are not mucous membrane irritants like many essential oils, have no known contra-indications and are a safer alternative for long-term treatment protocols.  They are considered ideal for babies, children, and pregnant or breasfeeding women.   Hydrosols can be used both internally and externally without any significant safety concerns.

For internal use: Add between a tsp and a dessert spoonful to a glass of water or herbal tea at least three times per day. This protocol can be continued for up to 21 days if needed.  If longer treatment is desired, take a week off then resume the same protocol listed above.

For creams, lotions, gels and cleansing bases: Choose your hydrosols based on the desired therapeutic properties.  Simply replace the water content in your recipe with a hydrosol or combination of desired hydrosols.  For cleansing bases, a general rule of thumb is to combine 3 ounces of your base, such as Castile soap, with 1 ounce of hydrosol.  You may need to experiment to find the perfect ratio for your cleanser, however.

For clay and other facial exfoliants: Again some experimentation may be warranted but begin by adding 1 tsp or 1 Tbsp of hydrosols to your clay or other exfoliant and blend.  You may need to add more to achieve your desired consistency.

With the elderly: Because elderly individuals tend to have thinner, more sensitive skin many essential oils may be too strong when used topically or internally.  Hydrosols are an excellent option for helping to provide support for digestive and respiratory systems as well as to support their overall terrain.  They may also help promote relaxation and soothe and calm the individual.  Safe for internal usage.

With babies and small children: Unlike essential oils, hydrosols are safe for both internal and external use with babies and small children.  Hydrosols may be diluted with water, juice or warmed milk (dairy or nut milk).  Internal usage of hydrosols can be very effective at helping to support the child’s overall terrain.  For children under 3, reduce internal dosage to 1/3 tsp 3x day in water, juice or milk for up to 21 days.

Dilutions for Baths, Compresses and Spritzers/Toners: 

Infants to 6 months of age – Add 1 tsp of chosen hydrosol to an infant bathtub or 2 tsp for an adult tub filled to baby depth
Children up to 12 years of age – Add 1 tsp of hydrosol per year of age, up to a maximum of 8 tsp
Adults – Use from 30 to 250 mililiters (or 1 to 8 ounces per tub)
Foot Baths – Add 2-3 Tbsp for foot bath
Compresses – For adults, add 3-5 Tbsp of hydrosols to 1 liter of water at the desired temperature; for children, add 2 to 3 tsp of hydrosols per 1 liter of water
Spritzers/Toners – Use 100% concentration of single hydrosols or a combination of hydrosols

A Brief Overview of a Few Hydrosols and Their Uses

Cistus Hydrosol – has toning properties that are beneficial for skincare and can help tighten the pores, calm occasional acne breakouts and protect against wrinkles.  Cistus Hydrosol is also useful in your natural first aid kits as it can help slow bleeding and promote wound healing.   For bloody noses, spray Cistus Hydrosol on a cotton ball and insert into the nose to help slow down the bleeding.
Eucalyptus Globulus Hydrosol – a refreshing hydrosol beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin.  Eucalyptus Globulus Hydrosol may also help calm red, dry, or irritated eyes when used in a compress for the eyes.
German Chamomile Hydrosol – useful for children and related skin problems as it can help calms and soothe common skin irritations.  German Chamomile Hydrosol is commonly used for the eyes and ocular irritations.  When used internally, may help to calm digestive problems, such as nervous digestion.  In a mist spray, German Chamomile may also help protect against seasonal irritations and calm occasional coughs.
Helichrysum Hydrosol – may help minimize bruising and alleviate minor pain from bumps and bruises, such as trapping a finger in the door. Also useful for ciruclatory support and can be used in a bath or Sitz bath to encourage circulation to the pelvic region and soothe vaginal or anal irritations.  Helichrysum Hydrosol has a calming effect that may help sooth burns or sunburns, either alone or used in conjunction with Lavender, Chamomile or Plaintain Hydrosols. Energetically, Helichrysum Hydrosol can have a calming and nurturing effect that can help with emotional turmoil or working through trauma.  Simply add to a spray bottle and spritz in the mouth and around the aura from time to time.
Lavender Hydrosol – Just like the essential oil, Lavender Hydrosol is like the Swiss Army Knife of hydrosols because it has so many uses! It is yet another calming hydrosol that can help soothe sunburns or other burns.  Lavender Hydrosol may also be used externally in a spray or internally in a glass of water 2-3 times per day to help calm overly excited children or decrease stress and worry in both children and adults.  It may help reduce inflammation and calm insect bites or stings.  It is also beneficial for oily or acne-prone skin and other skin irritations due to its remarkable ability to help promote healing.  In addition, when blended with Clary Sage and Rose Hydrosols, or used alone, Lavender Hydrosol can be a great relief in the bath for menstrual pains or just simply to soothe and nourish the skin for a relaxing bath before bed.
Melissa Hydrosol – known to be calming to the digestive system and can appease indigestion or upset stomachs.  Like many hydrosols, Melissa has astringent properties which suits oily skin and can be especially useful for when those monthly acne breakouts pop up.  Melissa Hydrosol also has a calming effect which can help promote relaxation, calm anger and rage as well as help promote a restful night’s sleep.   Add a soup spoon full of Melissa Hydrosol to your evening herbal tea or in the day to help alleviate stress and sadness.
Peppermint Hydrosol – an excellent general toner which can bring back vitality to tired skin and support circulation.  A strong digestive support which can help ease occasional queasiness and travel sickness.  Peppermint Hydrosol can also be used alone or in combination with Rosemary Hydrosol as a mouth wash or gargle to help get rid of bad breath.  In addition, Peppermint Hydrosol may help ease a pounding head when used alone or in a 50:50 blend with Lavender Hydrosol to create a compress and place on the forehead.  Add 2 soup spoons full to hot water and inhale the vapors for 10 minutes a couple times a day to clear a stuffy head and support the respiratory system.
Sage Hydrosol – unlike the essential oil of Salvia officinalis that needs to be used carefully and sparingly, Sage Hydrosol is very well tolerated by individuals.   It is a powerful antioxidant that effectively combats free radicals, and helps regenerate the skin and fight against wrinkles.  It is known to harmonize, purify and helps protect the skin and scalp, bringing vitality back to lifeless hair and may help regulates excessive secretions such as sebum and perspiration.  Sage Hydrosol also helps provide hormone support, especially for premenopausal women.  Like Peppermint Hydrosol, Sage Hydrosol also makes an excellent general mouthwash and supports oral health.  Energetically, Sage Hydrosol is considered to be opening and may help one confront fears and support meditation practices.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct linalool) Hydrosol – Be aware of different chemotypes of Thyme as they do not contain the same quantities of each molecule and therefore have different usages. Thyme Hydrosol is considered to be stimulating to the nervous system and is often used in herbal teas, diluted in water or in inhalations for respiratory irritations.  It is also helpful in calming intestinal inflammations and may help support the urinary tract and a healthy vaginal flora.
Witch Hazel Hydrosol – best known for its astringent properties and is often recommended for sensitive skin and those who have a tendency to suffer from rashes.  Witch Hazel is a very gentle hydrosol and suitable for all skin types, especially mature skin due to its antioxidant effect.  May also help support the circulatory system.
Plaintain Hydrosol – any of the three common plaintains: Plantago media, Plantago major, and Plantago lanceolata can be used – although Jade Shutes prefers the Plantago lanceolata variety, Plaintain Hydrosol is useful for calming insect bites, stings, blisters and other skin irritations or as a facewash for acne-prone skin.  It is also effective as an eyewash for ocular  irritations and can be mixed with Cornflower, Greater Celandine, German Chamomile and Sweet Clover Hydrosols for those who suffer from chronic weakness and sensitivity of the eyes. When taken internally, Plaintain Hydrosol may be beneficial in supporting the respiratory and digestive systems.  Can also be used in conjunction with Plaintain tea and tincture for seasonal relief and to create a protective barrier against pollen.
Nettle Hydrosol – provides a grounding effect to help manage stress and helps the individual pace themselves in order to push forward and carry on.  Nettle Hydrosol may also be helpful to nourish and fortify the hair, bringing a shine to dull or lifeless hair.  When used on the skin, it can help tone and regulate sebum and is an excellent choice for acne and skin related issues.

Where to get Hydrosols

Unfortunately, Young Living does not carry hydrosols at this time, although I hear rumors through the grapevine that some of them are used for hydrotherapy and in organic farming practices on the Young Living farms.  I hope that one day they will realize that there is a market for high quality, therapeutic grade hydrosols for aromatherapy students, practitioners and members who are interested in living a more natural lifestyle.  While I have never used and cannot endorse the essential oils from the following companies (you guys know I only trust Young Living due to their Seed to Seal guarantee!) these are the companies that Jade Shutes and Cathy Skipper recommend:

Stillpoint Aromatics – a small, boutique essential oil company based out of Arizona that distills their own oils and hydrosols.  They have relationships with organic and ethical farmers around the world and promise quality, therapeutic grade products.

Inshanti – another small, boutique essential oil company founded by a spa owner in Pennsylvania who wanted to create her own pure synergies and blends.  She studied aromatherapy at another reputable school, Aromahead Institute, and has expanded her selection of essential oils to include hydrosols over the years.

Mountain Rose Herbs – A larger company but one I respect and trust.  Before discovering Young Living I used Mountain Rose Herb’s essential oils and I’ve also used many of their butters, waxes, carrier oils, herbs, salts and spices over the years.  They promise an extensive selection of organic products and I’ve always been really pleased with the products I’ve ordered.

 

So there you have it.  The latest installment of my French Aromatherapy blog series that follows along my journey while I study for my certification in French Aromatic Medicine.  Hopefully I’ll be able to give more attention to my studies and get back to writing more consistently in the near future.  Just in case you missed them, here are the links to my other French Aromatherapy blog installments:

French Aromatherapy: My New Adventure

French Aromatherapy: The Concept of Terrain and “Oil Mapping”

French Aromatherapy: Chemistry of Essential Oils (for the non-Chemistry major)

French Aromatherapy: The Ternary Concept

French Aromatherapy: Methods of Application

 
* Source: Jade Shutes and Cathy Skipper’s Hydrosol course material in the School for Aromatic Studies French Aromatherapy Certification program http://www.aromaticstudies.com

 

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor. Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

French Aromatherapy: Hydrosols was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures

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My newest and favorite DIY Deodorant recipe (for sensitive skin)!

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you may remember my previous post on my Quest for the Holy Grail of DIY Deodorants.  Turns out, what I thought was the holy grail failed to live up to my expectations in the long-run.  It was great in the beginning but then the unthinkable happened, I was approached at work and informed that there had been a complaint about my body odor.  Seriously, the most embarassing thing to have ever happened to me in my adult life.  Try as I might, I still to this day cannot figure out who would have been close enough to actually smell me.  But I digress.  Either way, a change had to be made so I headed to some of my crunchy granola online groups to see if anyone had any suggestions.

In one of my previous deo posts I shared about my failed attempt at using Milk of Magnesia as a deodorant alternative.  You may be wondering how on Earth MoM would work to decrease body stank.  The active ingredient, magnesium hydroxide, is alkaline it helps balance the acidity of the sweat and sebum (skin’s natural oils) mixture thereby preventing odor from this buildup.  When I turned to my support group for answers, several of the women pointed out that they had also had failed attempts until they learned the magic trick.  See, MoM works best when it has dehydrated a bit.  Someone, somewhere along the way discovered that the thicker, creamier paste that started to crust around the top of their MoM container was more effective than the liquid itself.  Who knew?  The trick they suggested was actually pouring it out onto a baking sheet and letting it dehydrate for 24 hours or so to let it thicken up. (More information about this trick from Buddhaful Brit) So, I thought “What the hell? I’ll give it a shot!” But I was a bit skeptical that MoM by itself would be effective enough.  I wanted to make sure it had some drying power and that it smelled good too.  So I set to researching options.

Since I have a sensitivity to baking soda I considered adding Arrowroot powder.  This would be effective I’m sure but I’d heard a lot of people say that they had good luck with corn starch.  I had a container of J&J Natural baby powder that is basically just corn starch with some Vitamin E and Aloe added.  I don’t use baby powder on my child so it was never going to get used and I thought it might make a suitable alternative and that the added Vitamin E and Aloe might help soothe the skin as well.

But I wasn’t done yet.  Y’all know me, I had to throw in some essential oils! I had good luck using Rosemary neat so figured I’d add it to my recipe and I had been learning about the deodorizing benefits of Geranium and Cypress essential oils in my aromatherapy class so I set to researching different oils and selected 5 to add to my recipe.  These are the ones I chose:

Geranium – Geranium not only has a pleasing fragrance, it also has properties that help combat odor-causing bacteria on the body.  Geranium essential oil is wonderful to add to your collection for a number of skin conditions as it helps cleanse oily skin and soothes dry, cracked or irritated skin.

Rosemary – Another great oil that provides a refreshing and cooling sensation to your deodorant blend while helping to protect against odor causing bacteria.

Cedarwood – Cedarwood helps provide a nice, earthy balance to this blend while also preventing body odor.

Lavender – Like Geranium, Lavender has a lovely fragrance and many deodorizing, skin-soothing, and healing properties that make it a wonderful oil to add to your homemade deodorant and skin care recipes.

Cypress – Cypress helps reduce excessive sweating and prevents body odor.  It has a somewhat woody fragrance that pairs well with Geranium and is suitable for men or women.

 

Other oils I researched that you may want to add to your homemade deodorants:

Lemon – Often added to homemade deodorants and body washes, along with other citrus oils (like Bergamot), due to its refreshing aroma.  It’s cleansing properties help prevent odor causing bacteria growth.  Citrus oils pair well with Geranium. *Note: Many citrus oils can cause photosensitivity so be mindful if you are sunbathing as you don’t want to burn your pits. Grapefruit is a wonderful alternative as it does not cause photosensitivity but still contains many of the same properties as Lemon and Bergamot essential oil.

Tea Tree – A beneficial oil to keep in your oily first aid kit as well because of its ability to help cleanse wounds, promote healing, and prevent the harboring of bacteria which can cause odor and infection.

Lemongrass – Another oil well renowned for its ability to help prevent the growth of odor causing bacteria.  This oil has a strong but refreshing fragrance that provides a nice complement to many of the other oils listed or can be used on its own.   Note: Lemongrass is a “hot” oil so make sure not to use this oil “neat” on the skin. 

Patchouli – An acquired fragrance but Patchouli is a strong smelling oil that has long been famed for its ability to help reduce and masque the scent of unpleasant body odor.

**Feel free to research other oils that have antibacterial, antifungal or astringent properties as any of these would make great additions to your homemade deodorant blends!  I really like the Essential Oils Pocket and Desk Reference Guides by Life Science Publishing as well as Dr. Scott Johnson’s Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy for references and resources when researching essential oils and their properties.

I’m pleased to report that my experiment was a TREMENDOUS Success!  I have been using it for awhile, long enough to completely run out of my first batch and I also shared a sample with a very athletic friend of mine who has been on the quest for the holy grail of deodorant for a long time as well.  We have both put this recipe to the test! It has not only stood up to the challenge that she has presented it while hiking and rock climbing but it has stood up to the heat and humidity of 100º+ heat index of Alabama summers! I do cleanse with baby wipes and reapply my deodorant after my lunch time walks in the heat of the summer but when it was cooler outside this wasn’t necessary.  And I’m super stoked that no one has complained again! I even walk with my co-workers and have had feedback that my office smells lovely from client’s that have come in for afternoon sessions.

So, without further ado, here it is:

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DIY Milk of Magnesia Deodorant

(for sensitive skin)

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of plain, unflavored Milk of Magnesia
  • ¼ cup Cornstarch (I like the J&J cornstarch baby powder with Aloe and Vit E added)
  • 5 drops each of: Geranium, Rosemary, Cedarwood, Lavender, and Cypress essential oils

Instructions:

1.       Pour entire bottle of Milk of Magnesia out into a baking sheet (with sides) and allow to dehydrate, usually 24-36 hours, until it forms a creamy paste.  If you live in a humid environment, it may take a little longer.  If it starts to harden or crack around the edges just a tad it’s perfect! When you mix it all together it will be like the consistency of cream cheese icing that has started to melt.

2.       Add in ¼ cup of Cornstarch and mix well (before you allow your mixture to dehydrate).  While you can skip this step, I chose to add the Cornstarch to help absorb some of the liquid from sweating and to keep my pits drier.  If you swore by an antiperspirant but don’t want to use aluminum, you probably want to add something like Cornstarch or Arrowroot to help provide a sense of dryness to your homemade deodorant.  This is an especially good alternative if you are sensitive to Baking Soda in homemade deodorant recipes.

3.       After your mixture has dehydrated and is ready, add 5 drops each of your essential oils.  I like Geranium, Rosemary, Cedarwood, Lavender, and Cypress.  Stir until your oils are mixed well throughout your mixture.  You do not want to add the oils before you let your mixture set out because they will evaporate and lose their potency.

4.       Transfer to a small glass jar.  I found this recipe made a bit more than I could fit in my 4 oz jelly jar but I like this size for ease of application.  I now transfer the remainder to a 2 oz tin that I carry with me to work or when traveling.

Instructions for Use:

1.       Apply underarms using your fingers (I find this works better than using a cotton round) and allow to dry while you are getting ready.

2.       If you are especially prone to body odor, make sure you shower or scrub your pits with your soap/body wash of choice before applying.  You can also use Apple Cider Vinegar to help balance the pH of your pits.  I spray a bit on a cotton round and apply under my arms.  Allow to dry before applying your homemade deodorant.  I haven’t had to use this method since I started using this deodorant recipe, however!

 

So, there you have it! Did you make this recipe? What did you think?  I love to hear feedback from my readers! Please comment below to share your results or other homemade natural deodorant recipes!

 

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor. Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

 

My newest and favorite DIY Deodorant recipe (for sensitive skin)! was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures

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Yellow Jackets are my Nemesis… But, “there an oil for that!”

Been ages since I wrote anything, I’m sorry for that. Sadly I’ve overcommitted myself with my full-time job, aromatherapy class, oily biz and commitments at home to my hubby and daughter. But I learned something new today so thought I’d pop on and share this little tidbit with you, my lovely readers!


Who here HATES Yellow Jackets as much as I do!?! 😱🐝 These little demons are my nemesis when mowing grass. Got me 3 times before I could get away this morning. 😭😭😭 But I learned something new today, Purification essential oil blend is AMAZING at taking the sting out. A drop, neat, on each location and I was ready to get back to taking on the yard jungle! ❤️🌱🍋💧

So next time you or your little* gets stung by something, grab the Purification! You won’t be sorry!

*Make sure to dilute appropriately when applying essential oils to children.

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor.  Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

Yellow Jackets are my Nemesis… But, “there an oil for that!” was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures

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French Aromatherapy: Methods of Application

French Aromatherapy: Methods of Application

French Aromatherapy: Methods of Application

French Aromatherapy utilizes a variety of applications when using essential oils for therapeutic purposes.  In general, these applications will fall under one of three main categories:  Aromatic, Topical, Internal.  I’ll be discussing each of these in a little more detail below.

Aromatic: Diffusing and Inhalation

Perhaps the simplest method of application is aromatic.  There are several ways one can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of essential oils through their aroma, including direction inhalation (smelling the oils direction from the bottle or using 1-2 drops on a cotton ball, handkerchief, or your pillow case), diffusing, steam inhalation, make your own inhalers, or even making your own smelling salts. In general, aromatic application can be beneficial for:

  • reducing stress or anxiety
  • promoting relaxation or a restful night’s sleep
  • providing relief from discomfort from headaches or migraines
  • to minimize motion sickness or nausea
  • to enhance focus and concentation while studying

Rainstone diffuser

Aromatic diffusion involves the use of an electric diffuser that helps break up the essential oils into microparticles which can then be dispersed throughout the air.  You want to make sure to use a cool humidifer rather than one that heats the oils over 55°, as this can cause the breakdown of the therapeutic properties.  Also remember that some essential oils, especially citrus, can degrade plastic (that’s why we store them in glass) so make sure to purchase a diffuser that is made of medical grade plastic, or glass, to prolong the use of your machine.  Young Living has several diffusers to choose from, including the ones available in the Premium Starter Kit.  Some, like the Home and Dewdrop diffusers double as cool-mist humidifiers.  The newest diffuser, and a user favorite, is the Rainstone diffuser (pictured) which not only functions as a diffuser but also features a negative ionizer which helps remove pollutants from the air and increases oxygen flow to the brain! This will be my next diffuser for sure!

Aromatic diffusion is especially helpful when wanting to:

  • purify the air, in lieu of candles or air fresheners, or to create environmental ambiance
  • help reduce stress and minimize depressive or anxiety symptoms
  • promote relaxation and a restful night’s sleep
  • increase alertness, energy levels or motivation
  • to support the immune system and keep your family healthy
  • to support the respiratory system

Read the instructions on your diffuser for more detailed directions and follow the times recommended in your resources guides for details on how many drops to use and how long to diffuse.

Safety note: Be cautious diffusing essential oils if you have a history of asthma or epilepsy.   Use with caution around small children.  Be mindful of which oils you are diffusing and be aware of any contraindications or mucous membrane irritants in your selected oil/blends.

Steam Inhalation is another method of aromatic application.  It is one of the classic ways of using essential oils, originating in ancient Egypt and still often used in France for the treatment of common colds, flu and sinus infections.  It is a relatively easy method that anyone can do in their own home.  To use steam inhalation, simply bring 2 cups of water to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.  Pour your water into a large glass bowl and add 2-5 drops of essential oil, or blend, to the water.  Place your face above the water and inhale the vapors.  You can also place a towel over your head to increase the concentration of the steam inhalation.  (Does anyone else automatically think of that scene in Crocodile Dundee 2 where Mick dumps the playboy’s cocaine into a bowl of steaming water to help him clear up his congestion!?! lol)

Steam inhalation is a wonderful option to help:

  • provide relief from congestion in the upper respiratory tract (such as common colds or the flu)
  • help reduce pressure and breathe easier when you are suffering from a sinus infection or sinusitis
  • overall respiratory support

Oils that are beneficial to use with steam inhalation are Laurus nobilis, Myrtle, Pine (to help reduce mucous), Cypress, Lavender, Eucalyptus globulus, and Roman Chamomile.

Safety note:  Keep your eyes closed during steam inhalation to avoid irritation.  Use with caution if you have a history of asthma.  Avoid essential oils rich in phenols, such as Clove and Thyme ct thymol as these can be mucous membrane irritants.

Inhalers are a great DIY project for ease of application or to take your essential oils with you on the go!  Check out Sage Marie’s, The Wellness Sage, video on how to make your own inahlers.  She also has a new eBook which has tons of great inhaler recipes for you to try out at home!

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Smelling Salts are yet another way you can make your own blend to use for inhalation.  Combine your desired essential oils (using 3-5 desired oils, 20-30 drops total) to create a synergy, or essential oil blend in a 10 ml bottle.  Fill the remainder of the bottle with sea salt, can be fine or coarse.  Simply waft the bottle under your nose while taking deep inhalations.  You can do this 3 to 4 times per day or as needed.

Topical: Cutaneous or Dermal Application

Because essential oil molecules tend to be lipophilic (they combine with or dissolve in fat) they have a unique ability to penetrate the dermal layers of the skin.  Essential oils rich in monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and esters have especially strong penetrating power.  Topical, also known as cutaneous or dermal, application is the most widely used method of essential oil application.  The absorption of essential oils into the skin allows for a local effect (just the area of the skin that is covered), a regional affect on the tissue and organs under the skin (through applications like deep tissue massage), and even a general effect by being absorbed into the blood stream.  There are many methods of topical application, including:

  • facial or body creams, oils, serums, butters or exfoliants (scrubs)
  • massage oils or lotions
  • salves
  • full body baths, hand and foot baths, or sitz baths
  • warm or cool compresses

Topical use of essential oils is the preferred method of administration for many conditions, including:

  • to moisturize and promote healthy skin
  • to slow the visible effects of aging on the skin
  • to assist with ridding the skin of bacterial, fungal, and viral infections
  • to relieve itching
  • to reduce inflammation
  • to help promote cellular regeneration and healing of skin, preventing scar tissue formation
  • to address musculoskeletal issues, including aches and pains, spasms, and sprains
  • to relieve stress and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety

Most often topical application will involve diluting the essential oil with a carrier oil of some kind but some are gentle enough to be used neat, or undiluted.  Traditionally, dilution can range anywhere from a 0.5% solution to 10% depending on many factors including: age, constitution/terrain, pregnancy, use or intention, and the specific essential oil.  Some trained aromatherapists may even use oils in 20, 30, 50 or even 100% dilution for specific uses.  A good rule of thumb to follow with regards to dilution is:

  • 0.25-0.5% for infants 6 months or older, the elderly, individuals with a poor constitution, or immunocompromised individuals
  • 1 % for children ages 2-5 years old
  • 1-2% for use when pregnant or breastfeeding
  • 1-5% for facial serums, creams, or exfolliants
  • 2-5% for stress management, to support the nervous or endocrine systems, for general massage lotions and oils and for body butters and lotions
  • 7% to promote wound healing, to support the lymphatic and circulatory systems and for stronger massage concentrations for localized treatments
  • 10% to musculoskeletal support, including inflammation of the joints, tendons and muscles as well as for deep tissues massage, trauma injury, and to make salves
  • 20% is the highest dilution recommended for oils that can be dermacaustic (irritating to the skin), these include essential oils rich in phenols and aldehydes
  • 30% for localized action, acute musculoskeletal trauma, and for the treatment of warts and worms
  • 30-50% for gentle essential oils and those used for acute treatments
  • 100%, or neat/undiluted for localized frictions (undiluted, 1:1 or 1:2 essential oil combinations use for localized treatment), especially for use to help calm bronchial spasms and as an expectorant

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for how to determine a specific dilution percentage.  And remember, less is often more with essential oils.  Always start with lower dilutions to make sure that the individual will not experience any irritation before increasing your dilution.  And always do a patch test (Mix a very small amount of essential oil/carrier at twice the concentration you plan to use. Using the inside of the forearm, apply a couple drops of your double concentration mix to the pad of a Band-Aid and keep the bandage on the skin. You may repeat to check for allergic sensitivity).

French Aromatherapy: Essential Oils Dilution Chart

 

Solar Plexus

Often you will hear that you should apply essential oils to the Solar Plexus.  But what is the Solar Plexus? Basically it is concentration of nerves belonging to the sympathetic nervous system that are linked to the stomach, liver and spleen.  The role of the solar plexus is to aid in digestive function and the absorption of food and nutrients. It is located in the middle of your belly button and the tip of your sternum, you might refer to this point as the “pit of your stomach” when you feel anxiety or loss.  In Ayurveda, yoga, and some forms of meditation the solar plexus is associated with the Manipura chakra point.  This chakra point is the source of our personal power and self-esteem, transformation, and our warrior energy.

In French Aromatherapy, it may be recommended to apply essential oil(s) or blends to the solar plexus.  It is believed that this application helps calm the nervous system, can aid in digestion or soothe digestive distress, and provides overall support to the individual’s terrain.  It is usually recommended to massage the oils into the solar plexus or other vital organ areas in a clockwise manner.

Vita Flex

Vita Flex is Gary Young’s reflexology method based on an ancient Tibetan technique that means “vitality through the reflexes.” The premise is that slight pressure applied to reflex points throughout the body can stimulate all the internal body systems.  When applying essential oils to specific reflex points an electrical charge is released which sends energy throughout the body via neuroelectrical pathways.  The idea is that this electrical energy will travel throughout the nervous system following these pathways until it reaches a break in the electrical circuit, usually caused by damaged tissues, toxins, or loss of oxygen.   Vita Flex is different from common reflexology techniques due to the gentle rolling and releasing motion using the fingertips.   You will often see references to applying essential oils on the bottoms of the feet according to the Vita Flex chart and it is a complement to Gary Young’s Raindrop Massage technique.  You can find more information about both these techniques in the Essential Oil Pocket and Desk Reference Guides available through Life Science Publishing.

Safety Notes: Essential oils rich in phenols, such as carvacol, cinnamic aldehyde, eugenol, and thymol as well as aldehydes, such as citronellal, citral, geranial, and neral may be skin irritants or sensitizers.  These oils should always be diluted prior to topical application.  Examples include: Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme, Clove, Cintronella, Ginger, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, and Melissa.  In addition, some oils can cause photosensitization, or a darkening or burning of the skin when exposed to UV light.  Some pharmaceuticals, like tetracycline, may exacerbate this reaction as well.  Use caution with sun exposure when using potential photosensitizing oils.  These oils include: Angelica, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, and Lime.

Internal: Oral, Suppositories, or Pessaries

Perhaps the most controversial method of essential oil application is through internal use.  This appears to be unique to French Aromatherapy and is often shunned by essential oil users that follow English or Anglo-Saxon Aromatherapy guidelines.  However, when properly trained, internal use of essential oils can be utilized safely for a number of conditions.  There are three main ways that essential oils can be used internally: taken orally, through rectal suppositories, or through vaginal pessaries.

The oral route involves ingesting essential oils through the mouth where they are passed into the digestive tract.   Essential oils can be ingested using honey, sugar cubes or alcohol as a delivery medium or through the use of gelatin capsules, herbal tinctures, syrups, or pastilles/lozenges.  I personally like to add essential oils to my herbal tea to support my immune, digestive, and/or respiratory systems.  I like to sweeten my tea with honey so I will get a spoonful of honey, drop 1-2 drops of my desired essential oil into the honey, stir with a toothpick to disperse the oil, then stir the honey mixture into my prepared tea (after I have removed the tea bag – you don’t want the tea bag to absorb your precious oils!).  Some like to drink water with essential oils to help detox or flush the system or for weight management.  It should be noted that oils and water do not mix and your oils will tend to float on the surface (so shake before each drink) and there is the possibility of mucous membrane irritation with this route if you are particularly sensitive.   You can add a small crystal of Himalayan salt to your water which will help bind the essential oils or you can premix an oil blend with a fatty oil, like Olive Oil, which will envelop the essential oils and help prevent irritation as they are ingested.  Remember to always use glass or stainless steel, not plastic, if you choose to add essential oils to your drinks.

Rectal suppositories are another method of internal application. Suppositories are an effective means of delivering the essential oils into the circulatory system bypassing the digestive system where some of the therapeutic properties of the essential oils may be lost due to hepatic metabolism.  They are especially powerful for the treatment of lower respiratory infections, bronchial disorders, constipation, hemorrhoids or rectal fissures.

And vaginal pessaries, a form of suppository, is the third method of internal application. They are generally utilized for vaginal infections, like Candida (Thrush), to soothe irritation in the vaginal canal, or to help with vaginal dryness.

Safety note:  You should be proficient in your knowledge of essential oils or under the care of a trained aromatherapist before using essential oils internally.  Make sure to research any essential oil you ingest or apply internally and know the safety precautions and contraindications of that oil before using. Remember essential oils are powerful and small doses may be very effective.  A general rule of thumb is no more than 12 drops of your essential oil or synergy should be used internally per day.  Some practitioners use more than this dosage safely and effectively but they have extensive experience with essential oils and know how their body reacts to them before beginning these regimens.  For more information or training on the internal use of essential oils I highly recommend the French Aromatherapy course I’m taking through East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies!

 

Sources:

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor.  Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

French Aromatherapy: Methods of Application was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures

Norwex


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Norwex & Young Living: a “Natural” Fit! (A Product Review)

Norwex

I finally did it, I jumped on the Norwex bandwagon.  I’ve known about Norwex for awhile, having first encountered their products at a local vendor expo that had a lot of chemical-free, natural living companies represented.  I was more than impressed but I honestly couldn’t justify the pricetag that came with their products.  I have been invited to several Norwex Facebook “parties” over the years and resisted for a long time because I used to be pretty anti-MLM.  But after joining Young Living and really jumping in headfirst into this crazy business I started to really reconsider my stance on MLM companies and began attending my friend’s various parties in order to help support their growing businesses.  It was only a matter of time before I finally attended a Norwex party.

In mid-January a friend invited me to attend her Norwex Facebook party and I figured I’d check it out.  I was impressed so I commented on a few of the posts and asked a few questions.  I was fortunate enough to be selected as a random winner for a free EnviroCloth.  This was fortuitous, because I still probably wouldn’t have spent the money on it myself.  So, early February rolls around and my new, free, baby pink (a color I never would’ve purchased myself) Envirocloth arrives in the mail.  I send my obligatory “Thank You” message to my friend who sent it to me and go on about my day.  The cloth probably sat on my dining room table untouched for several days before I finally admitted to myself that I should probably get some cleaning done and reached for it to try it out.  Y’all… Norwex is a GAME CHANGER!!!

Seriously, it was Facebook status worthy.  Here’s my post from February 7th, 2016:

“Okay y’all, as much as I’ve resisted I am officially on the Norwex bandwagon. I had attended a friend’s party a couple weeks ago and was lucky enough to win a free EnviroCloth. It arrived in the mail this past week and I had some cleaning to do today so thought “what the hell, I’ll give it a shot!” Let me just tell you, I cleaned my ENTIRE kitchen with this one cloth!

I have historically not enjoyed cleaning with microfiber because it leaves little balls of fluff everywhere and isn’t very absorbent (like the water just sort of sits on top of it you know?). Well, this Envirocloth is in a whole other league! It was absorbent enough to clean my kitchen counters, my glass stove top (and even got all the crusty bits off), and was still going so I actually cleaned the front of my oven/stove (I’m embarrassed to say when the last time it was cleaned was).

So yeah, Norwex’s Envirocloth and Young Living’s Thieves Household Cleaner will never not be a part of my cleaning routine!!! (There will be a very positive product review on my blog in the near future) Now to invest in the travel size envirocloths, the dusting mitt, and that kitchen scrubby cloth thing! Maybe I’ll find some extra cash lying around when I clean the sofa cushions….”

The very next week, another friend decided to host a Norwex Facebook party.  I was so impressed with how my new EnviroCloth had tackled my kitchen cleaning that jumped on her party and shared the testimonial that I had posted to my own timeline.  I decided to stick around and learned even more about Norwex’s products.

So, what makes Norwex microfiber so special, you ask? Really it seems to come down to quality.  I’ve used lots of microfiber cloths and I have to admit, I’m not a fan.  They just don’t seem to really absorb anything and I wind up with all kinds of fluffy balled up bits that come off them in the wash.  Honestly, paper towels just seemed to work better for cleaning my counters and dusting.  But my inner hippy dies a little every time I use a dozen (or two) paper towels when I get around the cleaning.  But Norwex Microfiber is made up of teeny tiny (1/200th the size of a human hair is what they say) polyester and polyamide fibers which are tightly woven together to create a really strong piece of fabric.  You can literally feel the difference when you pick up an EnviroCloth. The microfiber helps create an electrostatic charge which picks up dirt and debris rather than just moving it around.  In addition, many of their products, including the ever popular EnviroCloth, contain what they call BacLock which is a natural antibacterial silver-based agent that is activated when wet and helps prevent bacterial odor, mold or mildew growth within the cloth itself.  So you can toss that old sponge you keep microwaving… blech!

I can’t do justice to their products like their sales reps can when it comes to explaining all the amazing products that Norwex has to offer so you should totally attend a party (local or online) if you get a chance.  But in the meantime, it was this video that really impressed me:

x

 

So I was pretty much sold and created a wish list of products I was really interested in trying.  I loved my EnviroCloth and was using it to dust in addition to cleaning my kitchen counters so I knew I wanted to try Norwex’s Dusting Mitt!  Plus, I’ve got 5 dogs and a tiny human that love to put finger prints on my French doors and figured the Window Cloth would get some use.  Plus there were some other products I was interested in like their Makeup Removal Cloths, Baby Body Cloths, the All Purpose Kitchen Cloth, and maybe even one day their famous Mop System.  So my wish list quickly became bigger than my pocket book would allow.

Turns out, Norwex does these incentives to encourage people to join their sales team where you can get a sampling of their products (or even a whole starter kit some months) for FREE (just pay s&h).  My friend who hosted the party had jumped on board and decided to be a Norwex consultant already. The February 2016 Jump On Starter Kit consisted of an EnviroCloth, a Window Cloth, a Dusting Mitt, and a 2-pack of SpiriSponges.  While technically this is to encourage people to join their team, there is no sales requirement but you do have an opportunity to work the business and earn more free product if you choose.  I know I don’t have time to dedicate to learning a new business with my Young Living commitment but I couldn’t pass up a good bargain.  So I “jumped on” and paid my $9.99 s&h to get my free stuff ($42 worth of products)!  (You can get this deal too if you order before March 16, 2016 by following this link: http://www.norwex.biz/pws/idakostur/tabs/join-us-jump-on.aspx)

I’ve honestly never been as excited to clean as I was when my package arrived (which was surprisingly fast, so kudos to the packaging and shipping department at Norwex)!  Now, they recommend using just water with their microfiber products but y’all know I’m super in love my with Thieves Household Cleaner  and my DIY cleaning products (like my Natural Dust Repellent) so I opted to use both.  While it may not be necessary with the BacLock antibacterial silver I feel extra confident when I combine that with the cleaning power of Thieves and Lemon essential oils!  As before, my new EnviroCloth (that thankfully isn’t pink) didn’t let me down.  I was not only able to clean my entire countertop, my glass top coffee table (which I finished off with the Window Cloth and I honestly don’t think it’s ever been so clean) and my glass stove top but I also decided to clean the inside and outside of my microwave! I did use my natural microwave cleaning method for the inside but it was even easier to clean out with the EnviroCloth than a sponge like I have used in the past.  Plus, no nasty sponge germs! Winning!  And the outside of my microwave, which is the only stainless steel appliance in my kitchen so far, sparkles without having to use my stainless cleaning trick!

The Dusting Mitt also surpassed my expectations.  Norwex says you can use the Dusting Mitt dry or wet.  So I started with it dry and cleaned my television screen and the other electronic gadgets like the modem, router, and PlayStation 4. The amount of dust that my house produces is a little bit insane so by the time I had tackled these things my dusting Mitt was getting a bit dusty.  But I was able to shake most of it off in the trashcan and then used my DIY Natural Dust Repellent with it to help provide a protective coating on my wooden entertainment center, end tables, and the bottom of my coffee table.  Well, by then the Dusting Mitt was completely covered in dust.  I was really impressed with how well it picked up the big chunks on the bottom of my coffee table instead of just spreading them onto the freshly vacuumed floor (because I never have the sense to dust first and vacuum second…).  But I was curious how much further I could take this thing.  So I shook off the big chunks and rinsed the Dusting Mitt in my sink and set to taking on my bookcases.  Seriously, this thing just kept on picking up dirt and dust! I probably could’ve dusted my whole house, but I was way too lazy to give that a try last weekend!  That’s a challenge for another day.

And last but not least is the SpiriSponge. I honestly didn’t really care if I got this or not but it came with the Jump On special and was fortuitously timed.  My husband, who is an amazing cook, had just roasted a turkey in the oven the night before and the roasting pan still had some stuck on grime.  I had been scrubbing with our Ocello dish wand before I remembered about the SpiriSponge and thought I’d give it a try on the second half of the roasting pan.  Let me tell you, this was SO much easier.  Still required a bit of elbow grease but nothing like I was having to scrub with my dish wand.  Now I’m really intrigued by Norwex’s Spirinett and Pot Scrubbers! I may just get one to see if they help the hubby clean the cast iron (because I refuse to learn how to do it the right way so it’s the one cleaning job that remains his and his alone).

I haven’t had a chance to really use the Window Cloth a lot, besides on my glass top coffee table and my microwave and oven doors.  It did an exceptional job but the real challenge will be my front storm door and French Doors leading to the back porch.  Lots of puppy noses and tiny human hand prints to clean.  But that’s on the agenda for this coming weekend and I couldn’t wait that long to share my excitement about these amazing products with you.

In summary, the Pros and Cons of these Norwex products are:

Pros:

  • Safe for your whole family – No toxic cleaning chemicals necessary!
  • Prevents the spread of germs – Antibacterial silver agent prevents odor, mold, and mildew
  • Environmentally friendly – No paper towels mean you save a small forest over time!
  • Gets the job done and keeps on cleaning – You can use one EnviroCloth or Dusting Mitt to clean many things

Cons:

  • Cost – but if you factor in the fact that you’ll save a ton of money on paper towels when you use Norwex microfiber instead, then you come out ahead

So there you have it.  My wish list keeps on growing and I hope to be able to share reviews of more amazing Norwex product with you in the future.  I’m super excited to be planning a non-toxic home class with my friend and Norwex rep, Jane Kostur, in the next couple months where we will spotlight both Norwex and Young Living products that can help you rid your home of toxic chemicals and learn how to keep your home clean naturally.  I’ll share the dates of that class in the Events section of my website if you’re interested in attending.  Don’t want to wait that long? Contact Jane Kostur to learn how you can host a Norwex party or to find out when her next party is being held!  Many of the parties these days are online so you don’t have to be local or take too much time out of your busy schedule! Just hop on the Facebook event page and read at your leisure!

Note: I have not been compensated, either monetarily or with free product, for this review by Norwex or any independent sales consultant.  I merely like to share my love of natural products with my readers and when I can help our a friend in the process I love to pay it forward! 

 

Norwex & Young Living: a “Natural” Fit! (A Product Review) was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures

THE-TERNARY-CONCEPT


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French Aromatherapy: The Ternary Concept

THE TERNARY CONCEPT

The Ternary Concept

When you start to dive into the world of Aromatherapy it is very likely that you will often see the same reference books recommended time and time again by aromatherapists.  One of these books, often cited by French and English aromatherapists alike, is L’aromatherapie exactement by Pierre Franchomme and Daniel Pénoël.  Oddly enough, this book has never been translated to English so if you’re lucky enough to read French you can reference this book yourself.  I, however, can barely speak American bastardized English, let alone read French or any other language.  I am lucky enough though to be taking a French Aromatherapy certification course at East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies taught by Cathy Skipper and Jade Shutes who have shared with their students some of what this book has to offer.

One of the teachings of Pierre Franchomme and Daniel Pénoël that Cathy Skipper often references is “The Ternary Concept.”  Ternary basically just means divided into three parts.  Thus, the Ternary Concept divides essential oils into three aspects: Energetic, Molecular, and Electrical.

Energetic Aspect

The Energetic, or Informational, Aspect of the Ternary Concept pertains to the information about an essential oil that we can perceive through our five senses, with a particular emphasis on our sense of smell. For example, when you open up a bottle of Lavender essential oil and inhale it’s aroma, what do you sense? Most people experience a sense of calm, or peaceful relaxation. This would be an example of the energetic aspect of Lavender.  But the other senses are also important.  What you taste when you eat the plant or ingest its essential oil and the visual characteristics or structure of the plant also gives us information about the possible application and its therapeutic uses.  Cathy Skipper emphasizes the energetic over the informational aspect because essential oils are so powerful that just a sniff can activate our senses, influence our psycho-emotional state and/or spiritual states, even align our chakras all while still having a profound impact on our overall health and well being.

Molecular Aspect

The Molecular, or Substance Aspect refers to the chemical constituents that make up an essential oil.  Remember from my Chemistry post where we discussed hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds?  Every batch of essential oils will vary slightly but the overall molecular makeup of the oil should be similar from batch to batch.  You can find out the exact molecular makeup of your batch by reviewing the Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) report.  Many essential oil suppliers offer this information on their webpage.  Others, like Young Living, view this information as proprietary.  However, if you are fortunate enough to visit one of Young Living’s farms you can view their GC/MS reports in person.  But reading and interpreting a GC/MS report is actually a pretty specialized skill, one which I don’t have.  If you’re like me and it just gets overwhelming looking at all those chemical constituents and teeny tiny percentages you are in luck, because most essential oil reference books (like the Essential Oils Desk and Pocket References by Life Science Publishing and Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy by Dr. Scott Johnson) provide you with a handy breakdown of the most common compounds found in each of the single essential oils with a range of acceptable percentages.  It is these chemical constituents that give the essential oil its therapeutic properties (e.g., sesquiterpenes tend to have anti-inflammatory and sedative qualities).   By studying the therapeutic properties of each of the constituents commonly found in essential oils and examining the chemical makeup of specific oils, we can then make educated assumptions about the ways in which each oil can help support the different body’s systems and our overall health and well being.

Electrical Aspect

The third aspect of Franchomme and Pénoël’s Ternary Concept is the Electrical Aspect.  The Electrical Aspect of an essential oil is determined by taking the oil and placing it in a refined aerosol generator. During this process, the essential oil’s components are broken down into very fine particles that tend to have either a positive or negative charge.  What they found is that the chemical compounds that have a positive charge tend to be warming, stimulating, and more humid than drying.  They tend to be good general tonics (providing a feeling of vigor or well being) and help provide overall support to the immune system. In contrast, negatively charged compounds tend to be more cooling, calming or sedative, and more dry than humid.  They tend to be good for “conditions of excess” (e.g., excess heat in the body) and help calm the nervous system.

 

My Interpretation of the Referential Chart

The Referential Chart

The Referential Chart is Franchomme and Pénoël’s graphical representation of The Ternary Concept and helps merge each of the three aspects addressed above into an easily understandable picture.  The chart can be divided several ways:

Top & Bottom: Those molecules that fall above the middle line in the top half of the graph are more negatively charged and tend to be calming to the body’s systems, somewhat sedative in nature, and grounding or relaxing.  Those molecules that fall below the middle line are more positively charged and tend to be stimulating to the body’s systems and good general tonics.

Left & Right: Those molecules that fall on the left half of the graph are more polar and tend to be humidifying and more soluble in water those on the right.  Those molecules that fall on the right half of the graph are nonpolar, tend to be more drying and are not as water-soluble, preferring instead to be drawn to the body’s lipids or fats.

Cathy Skipper and Jade Shutes added Hippocrates Four Temperaments and Yin & Yang of traditional Chinese Medicine to the graph (I overlaid the Yin & Yang for an easier visual representation of where the molecules would fall with regards to Yin and Yang energy).  So if you’re unfamiliar, here’s a crash course in what those mean:

Hippocrates Four Temperaments:

The Greek physician Hippocrates postulated that there were four main temperaments based on the medical model of humorism (that the four main bodily fluids – blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm – impact personality and behaviors).  He thought that certain emotions or moods were based on an excess, or lack of, bodily fluids and believed that there was a physiological basis for certain human behaviors.  Hippocrates classified these as either hot/cold or wet/dry based on the four elements. Ideally, there is a state of balance between each of these four temperaments.

Sanguine – Sanguine temperaments are associated with the element of Air and tend to be more social, lively, talkative, carefree, etc.  They tend to be imaginative, artistic and creative, make friends easily, and have lots of ideas.  Usually they tend to be somewhat flighty and may struggle with task completion and tend to run late or be forgetful.

Choleric – Choleric temperaments are associated with the element of Fire and tend to be extroverted and egocentric.  They may be impulsive, easily excitable, restless and energetic, passionate or even somewhat aggressive.  Usually they tend to be very task-oriented, like to plan, tend to be solution focused, and often take on leadership roles in order to get the job done.

Melancholic – Melancholic temperaments are associated with the element of Earth and tend to be more introverted, serious, cautious or even suspicious at times. They may be filled with angst and tend to dwell on tragedy and cruelty in the world.  These individuals are often moody and may be prone to depressive and anxious tendencies.  Usually they are more solitary and prefer to keep to themselves.

Phlegmatic – Phlegmatic temperaments are associated with the element of Water and tend to be calm, thoughtful, and caring in nature.  They often seek peace and contentment within themselves and tend to be reliable and consistent in their routine.

What to know what your temperament is? Check out this Personality Quiz to find out!

Yin & Yang in Chinese Medicine:

Yin – Yin is associated with female energy, is more passive, and a negative principle in nature.  It is affiliated with the moon, the direction North, and is the shaded portion of the Yin & Yang symbol.

Yang – Yang is associated with male energy, is more active, and a positive principle in nature.  It is affiliated with the sun, the direction South, and is the white portion of the Yin & Yang symbol

Four Aspects of the Yin and Yang Relationship:

1.  Yin & Yang are opposites but neither is fully positive or negative.  Their relationship is relative and must be understood on a continuum of energy.  So, for example, “water is Yin relative to steam but Yang relative to ice” and like water this state is fluid and an ever changing balance.

2. Yin & Yang are dependent upon one another and neither can exist without the other.  Nothing is totally Yin or totally Yang.  Just as there is no night without day.

3. Yin & Yang are in a constant state of flux, seeking balance.  When Yin and Yang are out of balance they affect one another.

4. Yin & Yang can change into the other but only when the time is right.  Just as spring can only come when winter is finished.

So, taking all this into account, the Referential Graph can also be viewed in terms of its quadrants:

Upper Right Quadrant: Molecules in this quadrant tend to be associated with the Melancholic temperament.  This quadrant represents the Earth element.  Earth is grounding, relaxing and calming.  Esters dominate the upper right quadrant and as such tend to be calming to the nervous system.  This quadrant is represented by the Fall/Autumn season and tends to be mostly Yin in energy.

Lower Right Quadrant: Molecules in the lower right quadrant tend to be associated with the Choleric temperament. This quadrant represents the element of Fire and is molecules that fall within it tend to be characterized by a dry, fiery heat.  Monoterpenes dominate the lower right quadrant which tend to be heating and stimulating.  This quadrant is represented by the Summer season and tends to be more Yang in energy.

Lower Left Quadrant: Molecules in the lower left quadrant tend to be associated with the Sanguine temperament.  This quadrant represents the element of Air and molecules that fall within it tend to be characterized by a more explosive heat, fire fueled by air.   Monoterpenols dominate this quadrant but share it with phenylpropanoids and phenols, all of which tend to be stimulating to the immune system.  This quadrant is represented by the Spring season and tends to be mostly Yang in energy.

Upper Left Quadrant: Molecules in the upper left quadrant tend to be associated with the Phlegmatic temperament.  This quadrant represents the element of Water and molecules that fall within it tend to be characterized by humidity or dampness.  Aldehydes and ketones share this quadrant and tend to be mucolytic, influencing and promoting movement within the body’s mucous.  This quadrant is represented by the season of Winter and tends to be more Yin than Yang.

The lines represent balance between the quadrants and molecules that fall along the lines tend to be balancing, harmonizing compounds.  For example, sesquiterpenes are dry and lipophilic molecules but can either be cooling and/or heating, stimulating and/or relaxing and as much Yin as Yang in energy. Sesquiterpenols and sesquiterpene lactones have similar properties but are more hydrophilic and water soluble than sesquiterpenes. In contrast, Oxides are balanced between wet and dry but tend to be more warming and stimulating.

Ultimately you want to achieve a state of homeostasis or balance, more of a neutral energy than either hot/cold or wet/dry.  Both Yin and Yang.  The Referential Chart is used to help determine what molecules would help bring balance to an individual when choosing essential oil remedies in French aromatic medicine. For example, if a person tended to be very hot, or dry, one might incorporate an oil(s) rich in aldehydes and/or ketones into the mixture to help bring a humid, cooling quality to the remedy.  I tend to be more of a Sanguine personality and equally balanced in Choleric and Phlegmatic characteristics so oils rich in Esters and Sesquiterpenes and/or those that are more cooling, relaxing/grounding, or dry would tend to be more balancing for my personality or temperament.   I find this interesting because I’ve always been drawn to the Earth element and oils rich in esters (like Black Spruce, Frankincense, Lavender, and Neroli) and sesquiterpenes (like Cedar, Myrrh, and Patchouli) have always really resonated with me.  In contrast, someone who tended to be more lymphatic, maybe pale or even clammy would fall within the upper left quadrant.  These individuals would tend to have slower constitutions and would be balanced by oils rich in monoterpenes, or those with a drier, warming effect.

Cathy Skipper points out that the Referential Chart is really just a basic outline and one that is flexible and can easily be looked at from different perspectives to help formulate essential oil remedies.  I’ve really enjoyed taking the time to really sit with this chart but have really only started to grasp these concepts.  I’m hoping that as I move forward with the different essential oils in the class I’ll gain a better understanding of how I can use this chart in my own practice.  So hopefully this helps you better understand what to do with all the information from my last post on essential oil chemistry and how it all relates to picking the best essential oils to help support your specific areas of need.  As I move forward with sharing profiles of the essential oils I’ll be studying I’ll relate these oils to the referential graph so you can see how they all start to fit in.

So, where does your temperament fall in the graph?  Which oils tend to resonate with you? Are they the ones that the graph suggests would be balancing for your temperament?  I’d love to hear how it relates to you!

 

Sources:

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor.  Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

French Aromatherapy: The Ternary Concept was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures

CHEMISTRY-OF-EOs


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French Aromatherapy: Chemistry of Essential Oils (for the non-Chemistry major)

 

Chemistry of Essential Oils (for the non-Chemistry major)

I am by no means a Chemistry major.  Chemical formulas and math make my head spin but as I’ve found myself falling more and more in love with the amazing benefits of essential oils I’ve started to wonder how, and why, a few tiny little drops can have such a profound impact on one’s health and well being.  If you’ve paid any attention when ordering your essential oils you’ve probably noticed a couple things: 1) they all have funny Latin names that you can barely pronounce (if they don’t you need to seriously reconsider your supplier) and 2) the descriptions of the oils often reference “constituents” or “compounds” like d-limonene, α-pinene, methol, camphor, etc.  But what does all this actually mean?

What’s in a name?

Can you guess what essential oil Lavandula angustifolia is? If you guessed Lavender, you’re correct! A reputable essential oil company will always list the Latin, or botanical, name of their essential oil because using common names can result in much confusion.  Do you know how many varieties there are of Lavender? There are at least 5 different kinds of Lavender that are common to find in essential oils: Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), Lavandula officianalis (French Lavender), Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender), Lavandula latifolia (Spike Lavender), Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin, a hybrid of Lavender and Spike Lavender).  And while they all sound the same they each have unique chemical makeups and are valuable for different therapeutic properties.  For example, you may have heard that Lavender essential oil is good to use to help soothe burns and promote healing.  And you’d be correct… if you used 100% pure Lavandula angustifolia.  However, pure essential oils take time and cost money to steam distill and many unscrupulous essential oil companies will use a hybrid called Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) which is a much cheaper alternative.  But Lavandin has a different chemical makeup than English Lavender and while beneficial for many things, like respiratory support and muscle aches and pains, Lavandin is not as good for your skin and due to different properties (a high camphor content) can actually make some burns worse.

If its been awhile since you’ve taken biology, then all these big long names probably read like Greek (well, Latin actually).  So here’s a breakdown of what these names actually mean:

The Latin binomial (e.g., Lavandula angustifolia) distinguishes a plant from all other plants by listing the genus and species.  The genus (e.g., Lavandula) refers to a group of plants that are all similar in botanical structure.  That’s why all five of the Lavender varieties listed above have the same first name.  The Genus is always italicized and capitalized. The species name (e.g., angustifolia) identifies the exact plant within the genus.  This distinguishes this plant from others based on the specific characteristics of the plant, which may include the leaf or flower structure, reproduction, or other identifiable characteristics.  Species names are always italicized and in lower case.

Some plants are actually hybrids, or cultivars.  Hybrids are plants that have been cross fertilized between two different varieties within a species (e.g., Lavandula x intermedia) whereas cultivars are plants that have been cultivated to have certain desirable characteristics, such as appearance, aroma, or even taste.  Both hybrids and cultivars are designated by the use of a multiplication sign (x) in the Latin name.

And to take this one step further, some plants actually produce different chemotypes.  A chemotype occurs when a specific genus and species of plant produces a chemical in a higher concentration than usual.  This may occur due to changes in geographical location, altitude, weather, pests, plant competition, or other environmental interactions.  A chemotype is not a different genus or species but rather an anomaly in the chemical composition of the plant.

The two most common chemotypes in essential oils are Rosemarinus offficinalis (Rosemary) and Thymus vulgaris (Thyme).  A chemotype is identified by the letters ct. Let’s discuss Rosemary in more detail to help you better understand.  Rosemary has three main chemotypes: camphor, cineole, and verbenone.  Rosemarinus officinalis ct camphor is higher in ketones and helps support the circulatory system and may aid in relief from muscle aches and pains, making it an ideal addition to massage oils and blends.  Rosemarinus officinalis ct 1,8-cineole is higher in oxides and helps support the respiratory system by breaking up mucous and helping to minimize swelling in the lungs and nasal passages.   Whereas Rosemarinus officinalis ct verbenone is high in both ketones and monoterpenes which helps support cell regeneration.  It is less stimulating that the other two varieties making it the best choice for skin and hair benefits.

However, not all essential oils have different chemotypes and not all chemotypes are always available from your essential oil supplier. Unfortunately Young Living does not list chemotypes on their oils.  Some chemotypes are well known, like Rosemary, which is  Rosemarinus officinalis ct 1,8-cineole, which is identified in the Essential Oils Pocket Reference (EOPR) guide published by Life Science Publishing (authored by Young Living’s founder Gary Young).  Others, like Thyme, are not identified.  When I reached out to Young Living to inquire about this it was explained to me that the Seed to Seal guarantee ensures the ideal growing conditions to produce the desired characteristics in the plants which the oils are distilled from.  However, the EOPR identifies the variety of Thyme used to distill Young Living’s Thyme essential oil as “Red Thyme.” Thus, the chemotype of Young Living’s Thyme is actually Thymus vulgaris ct thymol.  So with a little legwork, the chemotypes can still be identified.  I do wish, for the sake of aromatherapy students and those essential oil enthusiasts who are especially interested, that Young Living would consider including this information on their labels however.

Chemical Constituents

So, how do essential oils actually work?  To fully understand where they get their therapeutic and healing properties from you must first have a basic understanding of the underlying chemistry of essential oils.

100% pure essential oils are volatile compounds that are derived through either distillation or cold-pressed expression from plant material.  In this case, volatile means that the chemical compounds will evaporate quickly when exposed to air.  Some unscrupulous companies will use high heat and/or add chemical solvents to speed up this process and thus increase their profit margin which can impact the quantity, and quality, of the therapeutic constituents that come through the distillation or expression process.  That is why it is so important that you choose an essential oil company you can trust!

During the distillation process steam, or water, rises up through the plant material which breaks it down into its chemical constituents.  These volatile compounds rise upwards, as a vapor, through the distillation machine into a condenser which then cools the compounds back into a liquid form.  Here, the essential oils separate from the water and can be collected from the surface of the liquid mixture. During expression, the plant material is pressed between two plates and the juices and compounds are collected with a sponge or other device that is then used to separate the essential oils from the water. Expression, or cold-pressing, is used almost exclusively for citrus oils, but some carrier oils (like olive or coconut oil) are also collected via cold-pressing or expression.

So, what exactly are these volatile compounds in essential oils made of?

In general, the key components of pure essential oils can be broken down into 2 categories of volatile constituents: hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds. Hydrocarbons are simply organic compounds made entirely of hydrogen and carbon.  These hydrocarbons are made up almost exclusively of terpenes: monoterpenes, sequiterpenes, and diterpenes.  Oxygenated compounds, also called terpenoids, occur when oxygen molecules are added to these hydrocarbon units.  The oxygenated compounds found in essential oils are usually alcohols, esters, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, phenylpropanoids and ethers, oxides, lactones and coumarins.  I will discuss each of these in more detail below.

Disclaimer:

Before we begin discussing each of these compounds you must first understand that I will be discussing the benefits of these compounds at the cellular level that have been taught to me during my aromatherapy certification classes.  I will also be listing examples of essential oils that are rich in these compounds.  I am NOT implying that the essential oils listed will have the therapeutic uses of the compounds listed, I am merely giving examples.  At a later date I will be discussing many of the essential oils I’m learning about during my aromatherapy certification in their own profile blog posts where we will discuss their uses and how they can support various bodily systems and promote general health and wellness. 

Terpenes/Hydrocarbons

Terpenes are hydrocarbon molecules found in plants that play a role in protecting the plant from pests, pathogens, and competing plants.  There are over 40,000 known terpene compounds.  Terpenes are classified according to the number of isoprene units that their molecules contain.  An isoprene unit is merely a grouping of 5 carbon atoms.  Monoterpenes contain two isoprene units, sequiterpenes contain three isoprene units, and diterpenes contain four isoprene units.

Monoterpenes – “The Mamas”

Monoterpenes are the most abundant of the volatile compounds and are found in nearly all essential oils.   A friend and fellow aromatherapy student, Rosy Crescitelli, calls monoterpenes “the Mamas” because they tend to coordinate, organize, and unify the bodily systems.   Monoterpenes are highly volatile compounds, meaning they evaporate quickly and their aromas are considered “top notes” because they are the first to hit your nose when you smell a plant or essential oil.  Monoterpenes tend to be warming but not “hot,” stimulating but not overwhelming, and general tonics.  At the cellular level, monoterpenes can be antimicrobial (destroys or resists pathogens), antioxidants (help prevent cell damage from free radicals), analgesics (help relieves or reduce pain), expectorants (aids in the removal of phlegm), decongestants (reduces or relieves nasal congestion), dermal/skin penetration enhancers (getting in deep for sore muscles, tendons and ligaments) and are energizing/uplifting.  Monoterpenes help inhibit the accumulation of toxins, especially in the liver and kidneys. Overall, they help provide support to the lymphatic and respiratory systems.  Monoterpenes can have a drying or dehydrating effect on the skin and mucous membranes.

Monoterpenes tend to have names that end in “-ene.”  Examples of common monoterpenes found in essential oils include: d-limonene, mycrene, α-pinene, β-pinene, delta-3-carene, α-terpinene, etc.

Essential oils rich in monoterpenes include: citrus oils, conifers (e.g., black spruce, cedar, cypress, pine, etc.), angelica, black pepper, elemi, fennel, frankincense, juniper berry, myrtle, nutmeg, rosemary, tea tree, thyme, and valerian.

Safety concerns: α-pinene, β-pinene, and delta-3-carene may cause upper respiratory irritation.  Essential oils containing these constituents in high concentrations should only be used with caution with individuals who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions with airway resistance.  In addition, monoterpenes in general can be dehydrating to the skin.  It is recommended to avoid use on the face and heavily dilute when using monoterpene rich essential oils in any skincare products.

Sesquiterpenes – “The Grandparents”

Sesquiterpenes are heavier, thicker, and less volatile than monoterpenes and tend to appear towards the end of the distillation process.  Sesquiterpenes commonly occur in roots, resins, and woods and are more aromatic than monoterpenes. They are nicknamed “the Grandparents” because they tend to be wise, responsible chaperones that see a job through to the end.  Sesquiterpenes tend to be more balanced than monoterpenes and can be warming and/or cooling and stimulating and/or relaxing.  At the cellular level, sesquiterpenes can be anti-allergenic (reduces the symptoms of an allergy), anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation), antiseptic (destroys or prevents the growth of microbes), analgesic, and sedative in nature.  In general, sesquiterpenes stimulate the immune system, support the venous and lymphatic systems, lowers blood pressure, and may stimulate the liver and the pancreas.  They also are commonly referred to as amplifiers, magnifiers, or enhancers because they increase the half-life (how long the therapeutic properties of the essential oil affects the body) of other essential oils.

Like monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes tend to have names that end in “-ene.”  Examples of common sesquiterpenes found in essential oils include: chamazulene, bisabolene, guaiazulene, α-caryophyllene, β-caryophyllene, etc.

Essential oils rich in sesquiterpenes include: black pepper, cedar, German chamomile, clary sage, clove, copaiba, ginger, helichrysum, myrrh, spikenard, patchouli, and vetiver.

Safety concerns: Sesquiterpenes tend to be very gentle with no known safety concerns or contraindications.

Diterpenes – “The Few”

Diterpenes are much thicker and heavier than monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes making it more difficult for them to make it through the distillation process, thus they have earned the nickname “the Few.”  Because of their molecular weight they tend to have similar properties to sesquiterpines.  They are also considered expectorants and laxatives with some anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.  In general diterpenes help support the endocrine system (e.g., hormonal, thyroid, and adrenal support) as well as the liver and kidneys.

Diterpenes also tend to have names that end in “-ene.” Examples are α-camphorene, hishorene and cembrene.

There are only six essential oils in which diterpenes can be found. They are: clary sage (7%), white camphor (1-2%), pine, cistus, jasmine, and cypress (all <1%).

Terpenoids/Oxygenated Compounds – “The Stars”

As mentioned above, terpenoids are oxygenated compounds that occur when oxygen molecules combine with hydrocarbons or terpenes.  Terpenoids that occur in essential oils can be classified as alcohols, esters, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, phenylpropanoids and ethers, oxides, lactones and coumarins.  They are considered “the Stars” because they give the oil it’s characteristics and personality.

Alcohols

Alcohols in essential oils are  compounds that contain a hydroxyl (-OH) attached to one of the terpene groups (monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, or diterpenes).  Considered to be the most therapeutically beneficial compounds in essential oils.  Alcohol rich essential oils are generally considered to be nontoxic, safe for use with children and the elderly, and often used in skin care products.

Alcohols tend to have names that end in “-ol.”

Monoterpene Alcohols/Monoterpenols – tend to be warming, stimulating, and general tonics.  Monoterpenols are considered to be sedatives, calming to the nervous system, and support the immune system.  At the cellular level monoterpenols can be antifungal, antiviral, and anti-bacterial in nature.  They tend to bring balance and serenity to the individual, reduce stress, and help strengthen the individual’s terrain, making them good for longer treatments and chronic illnesses.

Examples of monoterpenols found in essential oils include: borneol, lavandulol, nerol, citronellol, linalol, terpinen-4-ol, geraniol, menthol, α-terpineol, etc.

Essential oils rich in monoterpenols include: bergamot, basil, citronella, clary sage, coriander, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, palmarosa, peppermint, petitgrain, rose, tea tree, thyme, and ylang ylang.

Safety concerns: Menthol rich essential oils (like Peppermint) should not be used internally or on or near the face of infants or small children as it can cause respiratory distress.  In addition, individuals with gastroesophageal reflux or hiatal hernias should be cautioned when using menthol rich essential oils internally as they may decrease esophageal sphincter pressure.  Sensitive individuals may experience heartburn when taking peppermint internally.

Sesquiterpene Alcohols/Sesquiterpenols – tend to be slightly warming, calming yet stimulating, and promote balance.  At the cellular level sesquiterpenols can be anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal.  In addition, they tend to have an estrogenic quality and can act as hormone system regulators as well as provide support for the respiratory, circulatory, and lymphatic systems.

Examples of sesquiterpenols found in essential oils include: α-bisabolol, daucol, α-santalol, β-santalol, carotol, farnesol, cedrol, patchoulol, zingiberol, etc.

Essential oils rich in sesquiterpenols include: carrot seed, cedar, clary sage, German chamomile, patchouli, sandalwood, and valerian.

Diterpene Alcohols/Diterpenols – rarely come through the distillation process.  They have a similar structure to human steroid hormones and tend to have a balancing, harmonizing effect on the endocrine system. The most common diterpenol is sclareol found in clary sage.   At the cellular level, sclareol can be anti-inflammatory and has shown some possibility at being anticarcinogenic in nature (may inhibit the development of cancer).

Esters

Esters are the product of chemical reactions between organic acids and alcohols.  Esters are characterized by intensely fruity aromas and are widely used by the perfume industry to create soft, floral fragrances.  They tend to be cooling and relaxing to the nervous system.  Esters regulate, balance and harmonize the individual organism.  At the cellular level, esters are great antispasmodics (relieves smooth/skeletal muscle spasms) and can also be anti-inflammatory, calming, analgesic, anxiolytic (relieves anxiety), and can help regulate cardiac rhythm and can have a hypotensive action (lowers blood pressure). Esters have been found to be helpful in treating depression, anxiety and can help dissolve fears when applied to the solar plexus.

Esters tend to have names that end in “-ate” or “-ester.”  Examples are methyl salicylate, bornyl acetate, geranyl acetate, linalyl acetate, isobutyl angelate, methyl benzoate, lavandulyl acetate, eugenyl acetate, etc.

Essential oils rich in esters include: bergamot, black spruce, Roman chamomile, cardamom, clary sage, coriander, frankincense, laurel, lavender, neroli, petitgrain, valerian, wintergreen, and ylang ylang.

Safety concerns: Methyl salicylate is an aspirin-like compound found in high concentrations in wintergreen essential oil.  Upon ingestion, methyl salicylate converts to salicylic acid. In small doses, salicylic acid is analgesic, fever reducing, and anti-inflammatory however used over time and in high concentrations can cause poisoning.   One tsp (which is the equivalent of drinking a 5 ml bottle) of wintergreen essential oil is approximately 7000 mg of salicylate or the equivalent of 21.7 adult aspirin. Ingestion of as little as 4 ml in a child can be fatal (this is why Young Living has childproof caps on Wintergreen and PanAway essential oils).  Because of its liquid, concentrated form and lipid soluability, methyl salicylate poses the threat of severe, rapid-onset salicylate poisoning and internal usage should be avoided.  Individuals taking blood thinners (e.g., warfarin) or salicylate-based medication should avoid using essential oils containing high concentrations of methyl salicylate.

Aldehydes

Aldehydes are closely related to ketones but differ slightly in their chemical structure.  Aldehydes have very powerful aromas, usually slightly fruity, and are widely used in the perfume industry (usually to create synthetic fragrances). Both aldehydes and ketones are used in industrial production as food, fragrance, medical, and agricultural chemicals.  They are perhaps most well known in the food industry to create artificial and/or natural additives to food (e.g., vanillin from vanilla).  Aldehydes tend to be cooling, calming and relaxing to the nervous system, have a sedative effect and can be helpful in reducing temperature.  At the cellular level, aldehydes can be anti-inflammatory, antiseptic when diffused into the air, antifungal, and antiviral.  Aldehydes are known to help support the lymphatic and nervous systems.  They can help calm fears and relieve emotional distress by activating the solar plexus. They are also known aphrodisiacs and may help with sleep related issues.

Aldehydes tend to have names that end in “-al.”  Examples are citronellal, citral, geranial, neral, etc.

Essential oils rich in aldehydes include: cassia, cinnamon bark, citronella, eucalyptus radiata, geranium, ginger, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, lime, melissa, orange and verbena.

Safety notes: Aldehydes oxidize easily and when combined with oxygen can form acids called carboxylic acids which are known skin irritants and sensitizers.   Many aldehydes can be skin and mucous membrane irritants and should be diluted for topical use or as airborne antiseptics.

Ketones

Ketones are similar to aldehydes in structure but less reactive and not prone to oxidation.  Ketones tend to be cooling, relaxing to the nervous system and are have powerful wound healing properties.  At the cellular level, ketones can be mucolytic (dissolves or breaks down mucous), lipolytic (breaks down fat), antiviral (especially on herpes and neurotropic viruses), and antiparasitic.  In general, ketones can help modulate the immune system in small doses.

Ketones tend to have names that end in “-one,” except for camphor.  Examples are camphor, cryptone, methone, thujone, verbenone, etc.

Essential oils rich in ketones include: dill, fennel, hyssop, peppermint, rosemary, sage, spearmint, and thyme.

Safety notes: Essential oils with high concentrations of camphor should be avoided with infants and small children.  Some ketones may be neurotoxic at high enough doses.  Essential oils with ketone toxicity that present safety concerns are rue, mugwort, wormwood, thuja, pennyroyal, and sage (which should never be ingested).  All of these oils are contraindicated during pregnancy or breastfeeding.  Young Living does not carry any of these oils, except sage.

 Phenols – “The Teenagers”

Phenols, like alcohols, have a hydroxyl (-OH) component.  Unlike alcohols it is attached to the carbon molecule of a benzene, or aromatic, ring.  Phenols are really strong constituents and can stimulate both the nervous and immune system.  In French aromatherapy, these compounds are understood to help support healthy intestinal flora.  However, they’ve earned the nickname “the Teenagers” because they can be irritating, especially to the skin and mucous membranes.  Phenols tend to be warming (“hot” oils), stimulating and act as general tonics.  At the cellular level phenols can be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, and airborne microbials. In general, phenols can help support the respiratory and digestive systems in addition to being immunostimulants.

Like alcohols, phenols tend to have names that end in “-ol.”  There are only 3 main phenols commonly found within essential oils: carvacrol, thymol, and eugenol.

Essential oils rich in phenols include: oregeno, mountain savory, marjoram, thyme, and clove

Safety notes: In general, phenols tend to be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes therefor any essential oils rich in phenols should only be used diluted with a carrier, for both internal and topical use. Internal use of carvacrol rich essential oils should be avoided in those on medication to manage blood glucose for diabetes.  Eugenol may contribute to liver toxicity and long-term use should be avoided.  In general individuals on anticoagulant drugs or with bleeding disorders should only use essential oils rich in phenols with caution.

Phenylpropanoids & Ethers

Phenylpropanoid compounds are rare in essential oils but noteworthy because they have strong antimicrobial action  and pleasing aromas and flavors.   Phenylpropanoids tend to be warming, stimulating and tonic in action.  At the cellular level, phenylpropanoids can be analgesic, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antihistamine in nature.  In general, they help support the immune system.

Phenylpropanoids tend to have names that end in “-ole” or “-ol,” with the exception of cinnamic aldehyde.  They can be separated into two main groups, the phenylpropanoids, which include cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol, and the ethers, which include anethole, methyl chavicol (estragole), and methyl eugenol.

Essential oils rich in phenylpropanoids include: fennel, basil, cinnamon bark, Laurus nobilis (also known as bay laurel), myrtle, clary sage, and melissa.

Safety notes: Internal consumption of cinnamic aldehyde should only be used with caution in individuals taking medications to control blood glucose for diabetes.  Eugenol can be irritating to those with sensitive skin and oral use is cautioned in those taking MAOIs, SSRI.s, pethidine, and indirect symnpathomimetics.  Use of both cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol is cautioned in individuals on anticoagulant medication or with bleeding disorders.  Methyl eugenol can contribute to liver toxicity through prolonged use.  Newborns are at a higher risk to the effects of methyl eugenol than adults, therefore use of essential oils high in methyl eugenol should be avoided with newborns and small children.

Oxides

Oxides are some of the strongest aromatic compounds found in essential oils. The main oxide compound found in essential oils is 1,8-cineole (also known as eucalyptol) which of often referred to as “the respiratory tract’s best friend” because of it’s ability to act as an expectorant and decongestant at the cellular level. Other potential benefits of oxides include analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties.

Oxides tend to have names that end in “-ole” or “-oxide.”  Examples of oxides include bisabolol oxide A, bisabolol oxide B, rose oxide and sclareol oxide.

Essential oils rich in oxides include: eucalyptus, tea tree, Laurus nobilis, rosmary, German chamomile, rose, and clary sage.

Safety notes: There has been great debate over the safety of eucalyptus essential oil with children and there are a lot of blogs and online sources that say you should never use it with children under 6, or 10, years old.  The debate stems from concerns that 1,8-cineole can interfere with respiration in infants and small children when used throughinstillation (which means direct introduction of the essential oil into the nose through the use of an atomizer, inhaler or drops).  Using essential oils rich in 1,8-cineole on or near the face of infants and small children is not recommended.  However, this does not mean that you should never use eucalpytus, or other 1,8-cineole rich oils, with your children.  Used cautiously and diluted on the VitaFlex points on the feet or diffused these oils can be used safely.

Lactones & Coumarins

Last but not least are the lactones and coumarins.  Lactones are a special kind of ester and tend to be found in expressed (e.g., citrus) or absolute (e.g., jasmine) oils but can also be found in small quantities in many other essential oils.  Lactones will never be the principle constituent in any oil but their strong properties will enhance the therapeutic effects of the oils they can be found in. They tend to have similar therapeutic properties to ketones and can act as decongestant and expectorant at the cellular level and help support the liver and immune system.  Examples of lactones include aesculetine (peppermint), bergaptene (fennel), bergamottin (lemon), butanolide (lavender), citropten (petitgrain), furanogermacrene (myrrh), herniarin (German chamomile), limettine (lime), psoralen (bergamot), and scopoletin (Roman chamomile).  There’s a specific kind of sesquiterpene lactone, called helenalin, that is found primarily in arnica oil and accounts for it’s renowned anti-inflammatory effects.

Coumarins, are a special kind of lactone which tend to have a grassy, “green” smell (like freshly cut grass or alfalfa hay) and are also reponsible for the flavor and aroma of coconut.  Coumarins have strong therapeutic properties and tend to be calming to the nervous system and help support the immune system. At the cellular level they can be great antispasmodics and anticonvulsants which can be helpful in those with nervous tics and disorders.

Safety notes: Furanocoumarins are a coumarin derivative that tend to be photosensitizers, meaning they can result in sunburn or serious blistering when exposed to UV light.  Furanocoumarin examples include angelicin, found in angelica essential oil, and bergapten, found in expressed citrus oils like bergamot, lime, lemon, grapefruit, and tangerine.

So, there you have it.  A crash course in the chemistry of essential oils in laymen’s terms.  Hopefully I did a good job explaining these concepts in terms that anyone can understand.  This should help lay the foundation as I move forward with my French Aromatherapy blog series and start introducing specific oil profiles. Keep in mind as I mentioned in my disclaimer above that just because I’ve listed examples of essential oils rich in these chemical constituents does NOT meant that these oils will affect an individual in these ways at the cellular level.  I will be discussing how specific essential oils help support various bodily systems  and can be used to promote general health and wellness in future blog pots. 

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear them!

Sources:

  • Reference material provided by East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies as part of their French Aromatherapy certification class
  • Rosy Garcia Crescitelli, a fellow aromatherapy student.  You can follow her on Periscope @Rosy_Cresy or on Vimeo. She is attending the Institute of Spiritual Healing for her certificate in clinical aromatherapy (as well as getting her French Aromatherapy certification from the same program I am) and some of the “nicknames” I listed are coined by her ISH instructors Barbara Salange and Linda Smith.  If you are looking for a trusted aromatherapy education that approaches the healing power of essential oils from a Christian perspective you may want to look into this program.  As I understand it, however, this program does not subscribe to the French model of aromatherapy (ingestion).
  • Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple by David Stewart – excerpts available online through Google Books 
  • More information on distillation and expression methods and processes from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I am an aromatherapy student but I am not a medical doctor.  Products and techniques mentioned here are to help support your specific areas of concern and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.

French Aromatherapy: Chemistry of Essential Oils (for the non-Chemistry major) was originally published on Naturally Oily Adventures

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