Essential Oils


The Fabric of Cells and Their Molecular Building Blocks

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The Fabric of Cells and Their Molecular Building Blocks

General Composition
Water 80-85%  -  Proteins 10-15%, functional components, enzymes, receptors, etc. lipids 2-5%, phospholipids, membranes - DNA 0.5%, genetic code - RNA 0.5% -1%, instrumental for protein synthesis - Polysaccharides 0.1-1%, linked chains, back bone of the double helix - Salt (Ions) 1.5%, vital for signaling.

Amino Acids and Proteins
The 10, 000 different proteins of the human body are built of 20 amino acids. - Essential amino acids are n ot produced by the human body. - Amino acids have a carboxylic acid (ac idic) and an amino group (alkaline) - The presence of amino acids results in an amphoteric character - Carboxyl can bond with the amino group and form a peptide bond, by repeating this process amino acids can build chains - Long amino acid chains twist, fold, and rotate to form three-dimensional proteins - hence proteins have the following type of structures: Primary-Secondary (a-Helix,b-Sheet) Tertiary - Quaternary

Phospholipids: The Skeleton of Biomembranes

Glycerin is a C3 molecule, where a hydroxyl (alcohol) group is attached to each carbon atom. - As alcohols react with acids to form esters, both fatty acids and phosphoric acid react with glycerin to form a triester. - Fatty acids are acidic because of their carboxyl group. Unsaturated fatty acids are a vital component of membrane phospholipids. - Phosphoric acid is H3PO4- Phosphoric acid + glycerin =  glycerin -3-phosphate (phosphoglycerin). Fatty acids can esterify with phosphoglycerin. - The phosphate residue can continue to esterify (e.g., with cholin = trimethylethanolamin).

Sugar and Carbohydrates
Sugars are polyalcohols with an aldehyde- or keto-group, called aldoses or ketoses. Sugars are named accordingly to the number of C-atoms, trioses, tetroses, pentoses, hextoses and so on. - Sugars easily forms rings: pyranoses, furanoses, in many different stereo-isomeric forms. - Sugar can bond with sugar; the elimination of water creates a glucosidic bond. - Several sugar molecules of the same or of a different kind can form chains.

Nucleic Acids
DNA and RNA are nucleic acids: multiple molecules of different categories. - Nucleic ac ids are natural polymers consisting of many nucleotide building blocks. - Nucleotides consist of phosphoric acid, sugar (pentose), and base (pyrimidin e and purine). - DNA: the sugar is D-Deoxyribose: the bases can be thymine, cystosine, adenine, and guanine. - RNA: the sugar is D-Ribose; the thymine base is replaced by uracyl.

Reference: The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils:Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D.

Plant Messengers-Advanced Aromatherapy

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Plant Messengers-Advanced Aromatherapy

Essential oils play very important and diverse roles in plant metabolism. They serve to attract beneficial insects and defend against harmful organisms. Moreover, essential oils allow plants to send and receive signals and to communicate with one another.

It is probable that the simultaneous evolution of plants and plant-eaters led to the development of a chemical system of communication. Nutritional elements attracted plant-eaters of both sexes, resulting in the meeting of potential sexual partners at feeding places. Animals imitate the attracting plant signals by releasing similar scents, to attract a mate, for example. This is a simple communication  system based on "borrowed" chemical messages.

Chemical communications require specific signals that can be clearly recognized and interpreted. They must be distinguish-able from "background scents" that are naturally present in the environment. Normally this is achieved through a unique, multifaceted mixture of less specified molecules. In nature, we often observe synergistic effects of multiple components in a "bouquet" of chemical messengers.

Nature prefers this solution to the complex synthesis of substances having specific, narrow functions. For example, the attracting pheromone for the bark beetle consists of an acetal and an ester. Pure acetal alone has very little activity, pure esters even less, but their combination is highly active. This specific acetal is not unique to the bark beetle. It has been identifies in the scents of various plants. The ester has been identifies in the secretions of another beetle and the scent of the Bartlett pear.

The effectiveness of chemical messengers hinges on another important factor , the symmetry of their molecular structure: organic molecules can consist of identical atoms  but have different configurations in space. Two molecules -which are mirror images of each other (something like a right and left glove-are called enantiomers. Bark beetles, for example, use terpenes for chemical communications and create predominantly  or exclusively one enantiomer. 

Bark beetles, for example, use terpenes for chemical communication and create predominantly or exclusively one enantiomer. They are able to create an enantiomer ratio specific to their species which would lose its effectiveness if altered even slightly: it would no longer br recognized by other bark beetles.

One example from the plant world is the terpene alcohol a-bisabolol, which can be found in two enantiomeric forms, (+) a-bisabolol and (-) a-bisabolol. In the essential oil of German Chamomile mainly the effective (-) a-bisabolol is encountered. The chemical synthesis of a-bisabolol however,  yields a 50:50 racemic mixture of (+) a-bisabolol and (-) a-bisabolol. Synthetic bisabolol, known as levomenol, is therefore not called bisabolol but racemic bisabolol.

It is interesting to note how much humans have been able to learn about insects, and how little of this knowledge we are willing to apply to the use of essential oils. Having examined how wonderfully precisely nature communications with the help of terpenes, and how the natural compositions guarantee uniqueness, we should realize that natural essential oils work more extensively and effectively than watered, down synthetic imitations from the kegs of the fragrance industry.

The reductionist style of treating essential oils as just another group of chemicals ignores the fact that not only beetles and plants have developed together, but also humans and plants. The interaction between humans and plants, and consequently between humans and natural essential oils, proved to be so successful and valuable that human cultivated specific plants, especially kitchen herbs, contributing to the survival of these species.

Analyses show that essential oils primarily consist of terpenes, terpene-related compounds, and phenylpropane derivates. We find among the terpenes all varieties of messengers, from sex attractants to highly effective defense signals. It helps to keep the information character of these aromatic molecules of the animal and plant world in mind as we look at the effects of essential oils on the healing process.

Reference: Advanced Aromatherapy-The Science of Essential Oil Therapy: Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph . D .

Aniseed oil

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Aniseed essential Oil

Pimpinella Anisum

Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)

Synonyms: Anisum Officinalis, A. vulgare, anise, sweet cumin.

General Description: An annual herb, less than a metre high, with delicate leaves and white flowers.
Distribution: Native to Greece and Egypt, now widely cultivated mainly in India and China and to a lesser extent in Mexico and Spain.

Other Species:
There are several different chemotypes of aniseed according to the country of origin. Not to be confused with star anise, which belongs to a different family altogether.

Herbal/Folk Tradition
Widely used as a domestic spice. The volatile oil content provides the basis for its medicinal applications: dry irritable coughs, bronchitis and whooping cough. The seed can be used in smoking mixtures. Aniseed tea is used for infant catarrh, also flatulence, colic and griping pains, also for painful periods and to promote breast milk. In turkey a popular alocholic drink, raki, is made from the seed.

Actions: Antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue, stimulant, stomachic. 

Extraction: Essential oil by steam distillation from the seeds.

Characteristics: Colourless to pale yellow liquid with a warm, spicy-sweet characteristic scent. like star anise, its a good masking agent.

Principal Constituents:Tran-anethole (75-90 per cent).

Safety Data: Its major component, anethole is known to cause dermatitis in some individuals-avoid in allergic and inflammatory skin conditions. In Large doses it is narcotic and slows down the circulation: can lead to cerebral disorders. Use in moderation only.

Aromatherapy/Home Use: See Star Anise

Other Uses:
By the pharmaceutical industry in cough mixtures and lozenges and to mask undesirable flavours in drugs. Also used in dentifrices and as a fragrance component in soaps, toothpaste, detergents,  cosmetics and perfumes, mostly of the industrial type. Employed in all major food categories.

Reference: The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils:Julia lawless

Arnica Essential Oil

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Arnica Essential Oil

FamilY: Asteraceae (Compositae)

Synonyms: A. fulgens, A. sororia, leopard's bane, wolf's bane.

General Description: A perennial alpine herb with a creeping underground stem, giving rise to a rosette of pale oval leaves. The flowering erect stem is up to 60cms high, bearing a single, bright yellow, daisy-like flower. The whole plant is very difficult to cultivate.

Distribution: Native to Northern and Central Europe; also found growing wild in the USSR, Scandinavia and northern India. The oil is produced mainly in France, Belgium and Germany.

Other Species: A related plant, A. cordifolia, and other species of Arnica are used in America, where it is known as 'mountain tobacco'.

Herbal/Folk Tradition
This herb stimulates the peripheral blood supply when applied externally, and is considered one of the best remedies for bruises and sprains. It helps relieve rheumatic pain and other painful or inflammatory skin conditions, so long as the skin is not broken! It is never used internally due to toxicity levels.

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, stimulant, vulnerary.

Extraction: Essential oil by steam distillation of, and 2. root. The yield of essential oil is small. An absolute, tincture and resinoid are also produced.

Characteristics: 1. A yellow-orange liquid with a greenish-blue hint and a strong bitter spicy scent reminiscent radish. 2. Dark yellow or butter-brown oil more viscous than the flower oil, with a strong bitter scent.

Principal Constituents:
Thymohydroquinone dimethyl ether (80 per cent approx.), isobutyric ester or phlorol (20 per cent approx.) and other minor traces.

Safety Data: The essential oil is highly toxic and should never be used internally or on broken skin. However, the tincture or arnica ointment are valuable additions to the home medicine cabinet.

Aromatherapy/Home Use. None

Other Uses:
The tincture is mainly employed in pharmaceutical skin products. The oil from the flowers finds occasional use in herbaceous type perfumes. It is also used to flavour certain liqueurs.

Reference: The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: Julia Lawless

The History of Aromatherapy

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The History of Aromatherapy

Originally, the oils were produced for the flavour and fragrance industries were the only ones available for the practice of aromatherapy. Such oils were routinely standardized, diluted , or otherwise treated with the goal of meeting the industrial user's needs, which is uniform quality at the lowest possible price. This "doctoring" of essential oils was not carried out with deceitful intentions but was a response to the needs of the fragrance industry.

Standardization is not only desirable for the fragrance industry, but it is actually required by certain pharmaceutical manuals which set standards for minimum concentrations of active ingredients, unfortunately, with no criteria for purity. The criteria established by the pharmaceutical manuals are misleading for the purposes of aromatherapy. How many of us have come to assume a certain standard of quality and purity when we see the abbreviation U.S.P (United States Pharmacopoeia)? Nevertheless, with pharmaceutical grade, quality is definitely not what we are getting.

These manuals only state the minimum concentrations required of certain substances; it makes no difference if these substances are of natural origin or not. Even worse, if these should happen to be synthetic materials, the pharmaceutical manual is ominously silent where impurities or by-products are concerned. Entries appearing under the heading of essential oils in the pharmacopoeias are from another age. When what was good for the manufacturer had to be good for the consumer.

In Rene-Maurice Gattefosses original work, a reductionist conviction was conveyed with no critical distance. Active ingredients in the oils should be enriched and less desirable components removed. To ensure the effects of the oils, minimum concentrations of active ingredients were proposed. For decades, Gattefosses book found few interested readers. Only in 1964,when Dr Jean Valnet published his book, did aromatherapy become more well known. Gattefosse made aromatherapy into a discipline whereas Valnet's work led to its increasing popularity.. But even Valnet still reflects the reductionist  spirit of his time is there is a clear emphasis  on the pharmacologically known components.

In 1978 Paul Belaiche published his three volumed study on clinical aromatherapy for treating a wide range of infectious and degenerative illnesses. As a result, aromatherapy began to achieve  a certain level of acceptance by conventional  doctors in France, and insurance companies even paid for treatments . As aromatherapy slowly gained acceptance by conventional medicine, Henri Viaud made new demands for the purity of essential oils. Viaud, a highly important pioneer of French aromatherapy, catalogued the conditions which essential oils had to fulfill to be fit for medicinal use.

He also introduced the basic terminology: Oils for medicinal purposes should be genuine(absolutely unchanged through any type of manipulation) and authentic( only the oil from a specific type of plant). In retrospect, it is clear that the greatest advance made in the development of aromatherapy was the return to genuine oils derived exclusively from one species of plant. Only then did some producers in France begin to manufacture oils according to these requirements. This was the birth of modern aromatherapy.

Reference:Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Oil Therapy:Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D. 

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