Molecular Chemistry of Essential Oils
There are several families of molecules in plants that are found in essential oils. We’ve talked about the group of hydrocarbons known as terpenes with abundant therapeutic benefits, but there are other families, some of which overlap with the terpene family, which each add to the potency and effectiveness of essential oils. These molecule families are the Phenols, Alcohols (not to be mistaken for a nice glass of Sauvignon!), Aldehydes, Ketones, Acids, Esters, Lactones, Coumarins and Oxides.
These molecule families have different therapeutic properties. For example, phenols can be antiseptic and antimicrobial, and can stimulate and boost the immune system. Aldehydes are extremely volatile molecules and have the most powerful aromas. Ketones are non-aromatic but are deeply calming and help to support a healthy respiratory and digestive system. Esters have very low toxicity and are often found in sports products to soothe and cool. Lactones and Coumarins both have heavy molecular weights and are often used in blends for uplifting and calming.