Aromatherapy blending – Going Under the Bonnet with Organic chemistry

Essential oil properties by chemical composition
Essential oil Chemistry handout

The Rule of Threes.  Essential oils are mixes of naturally occuring organic chemicals.  Plants have evolved to create visually and chemically pleasing and useful displays for animals.  Man in particular appreciates the power of scent.

According to their chemistry essential oils are categorised as relaxing, balancing or stimulating.  With our Chemistry knowledge we can prepare the following table of the oils commonly used by aromatherapists.  We can see Helichrysum, Chamomile, Eucalyptus citriadora are relaxing oil oils useful after trauma.  Melissa with its balancing qualities and low content of stimulating components might be expected to be good for agitation. Lavender is both a relaxing and stimulating oil, Bergamot similarly.

Cypress, Cedarwood Atlas balancing.  Vetiver another very valuable oil for sleep both balancing and stimulating. From its uses in sedation you may think Marjoram sweet is quite a relaxing oil but it is stimulating. Basil another nervous tonic is stimulating.  I have noticed it is always the most stimulating stories which put children to sleep!  Patchouli, Frankincense balancing and stimulating.

The florals Jasmine though relaxing and balancing is stimulating, Neroli, Rose Otto are stimulating.Ylang naturally extends Jasmine, Rose Otto is extended by Geranium in a blend.

Peppermint, Rosemary, Geranium, Sandalwood are stimulating.  No suprises there. Geranium is very useful for aggressive teenagers.  The Citrus oils Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange naturally straightforwardly refreshing and stimulating and following research these oils are commonly used for environmental enhancement, in shower products and of course as juices. 

Oils for antimicrobial use like thyme, tea tree, eucalyptus globulus and savory are straightforwardly stimulating.  Be aware increased bloodflow to the brain as a result of using antiseptic oils in the workspace environment or in a treatment can result in headaches.

An appreciation of organic chemistry, oil testing and analysis is part of accredited aromatherapy training.The next Shirley Price Aromatherapy Diploma Module One is 24-28th February 2014.
Meet the Tutor Jan Benham

Table of Essential oils by properties

relaxing balancing stimulating
Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) 90% 10% 0%
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) 83% 4% 13%
Chamomile Roman (Chamaemelum nobile) 80% 5% 15%
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) 80% 3% 17%
Benzoin Resinoid (Styrax benzoin) 70% 15% 15%
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) 70% 7% 23%
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) 59% 5% 36%
Melissa (Melissa officinalis) 58% 32% 10%
Jasmine absolute (Jasminum officinale) 57% 17% 27%
Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var amara)  55% 6% 40%
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) 50% 7% 43%
May Chang (Litsea Cubeba citrata) 50% 0% 50%
Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) 48% 50% 2%
Cardomon (Eletaria Cardamomon) 45% 0% 55%
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) 41% 8% 51%
Lavandin (Lavendula Burnati) 40% 4% 56%
Thyme sweet (Thymus vulgaris ct linalool) 40% 15% 45%
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) 36% 9% 55%
Spruce, Black (Picea mariana) 36% 6% 58%
Geranium Egyptian (Pelargonium graveolens) 27% 6% 67%
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Cineole) 26% 11% 63%
Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) 20% 4% 76%
Cedarwood Atlas (Cedrus atlantica) 19% 52% 29%
Neroli (Citrus aurantium var amara) 17% 8% 75%
Niaouli (Melaleuca viridiflora) 15% 8% 77%
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) 15% 45% 40%
Ylang Ylang extra (Cananga odorata) 15% 54% 30%
Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) 12% 3% 85%
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) 9% 60% 31%
Marjoram Spanish (Thymus mastichina) 9% 3% 88%
Myrhh (Commiphora myrrha) 8% 49% 43%
Fir Balsam (Abies alba) 7% 3% 90%
Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) 5% 9% 86%
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) 5% 3% 92%
Myrtle (Myrtus communis) 5% 0% 95%
Pine, Scotch (Pinus sylvestris) 5% 20% 75%
Rose otto (Rosa damascena) 5% 13% 82%
Pepper Black (Piper nigrum) 4% 32% 64%
Lemon (Citrus limon) 4% 7% 89%
Orange Sweet (Citrus aurantium var sinensis) 4% 6% 90%
Basil a linalool (Ocimum basilicum) 3% 7% 90%
Carrotseed (Daucus carota) 3% 49% 22%
Citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus) 3% 27% 70%
Marjoram Sweet (Origanum majorana) 3% 7% 90%
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) 2% 6% 92%
Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) 2% 2% 97%
Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) 2% 3% 95%
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) 2% 58% 40%
Tangerine (Citrus reticulata) 1% 0% 99%
Bay (Pimenta racemosa) 0% 0% 100%
Cajeput (Melaleuca leucadendron) 0% 6% 94%
Cedarwood Virginian (Juniperus virginiana) 0% 70% 30%
Chamomile German (Chamomilla recutita) 0% 44% 56%
Cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) 0% 7% 93%
Clove Bud (Syzgium aromaticum) 0% 9% 91%
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Radiata) 0% 0% 80%
Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) 0% 60% 40%
Juniperberry (Juniperus communis) 0% 15% 85%
Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) 0% 11% 89%
Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) 0% 18% 82%
Sandalwood (Santalum austrocaledonicum vieill) 0% 17% 83%
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) 0% 7% 93%

Further reading
1.  Caddy, R, “Essential Oils in COlour: Caddy Classic Profiles,” Amberwood Publishing Ltd, Rochester, (2005)
2. 
Recommended weblinks
Shirley Price Aromatherapy Workbook
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Aromatherapy-Workbook-Understanding-Essential-Bottle-ebook/dp/B008QS79GG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385030537&sr=1-1&keywords=shirley+price+aromatherapy+workbook
Chemical families
http://www.aromaticsinternational.com/index.php?route=product/shopby&path=36&menu=true&q=chem_fam
Essential oil chemistry
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Chemistry-Aromatherapy-Sue-Clarke/dp/0443104034/ref=dp_ob_title_bk/278-9710529-4528025

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