What is Aromacology?
While at first glance essential oils appear to be only about scents and mood, they’re actually part of a unique area of study in organic chemistry. Chemistry and aromatherapy have gone hand-in-hand throughout history, forming Aromacology, which refers to the scientific studies of essential oils in health, mood and emotions.
The quest to extract and study plant volatiles led, in part, to the progression and development of chemistry, from improvements in distillation equipment and techniques, to mapping the first structures of organic compounds. However, scientists did not begin to study aromacology until 1989, but because of modern research, it has a basis in neurology. Today, biochemistry, essential oils, and aromatherapy are still closely intertwined. It is important to understand the role of biochemistry and neurology in the field of aromatherapy and essential oils.
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are organic compounds derived from plant sources such as roots, bark, flowers and seeds. Essential oils are mixtures of complex, volatile compounds, usually non-polar and fat soluble, which are produced in plants. Each plant essential oil is composed of a combination of many biochemical constituents, sometimes even over 100 different compounds in a single essential oil. They are extracted using a variety of methods to capture the scented particles, leaving many of the other chemical constituents of the plant behind. Even though they are called oils, they are not technically oil, hence the way they feel.
How are Essential Oils Made?
Oils can be extracted by different methods, including Steam Distillation, Expression and CO2 Extraction.
Steam Distillation: In this method, steam is directed through the plant material. The steam vaporizes the lighter chemicals contained within the plant material. The steam is then condensed through a cooling process. This process generates two products: the essential oil, which contains oil-soluble molecules, and a hydrolat or hydrosol, which contains water-soluble molecules.
Expression: This method is used to extract essential oils from citrus fruits. Expression is the process of grating or scraping the peel of a citrus fruit to release the oils. In this process, care is taken to capture the oil, it does not involve heating, making the chemistry of citrus essential oils unchanged and ensuring that citrus oils smell very similar to the fruits from which they come.
CO2 Extraction: In this method, carbon dioxide is used as a solvent. It is added and eliminated to produce a high-grade extract that is very close to the composition of the natural raw material. C02 extracts are different from distilled oils, since they contain a wider range of the chemical molecules found in the plant material.
How do we use Essential Oils?
There are three ways to use essential oils, by skin absorption, inhalation and ingestion. At anatomē our therapeutic blends are designed to be inhaled and used topically.
Skin absorption: Most of the biochemical constituents of essential oils have a molecular weight of less than 1000m (m = weight of molecule). Theoretically, any substance with a molecular weight below 1000m should be absorbed by the skin. Some studies suggest that parts of an essential oil can be absorbed into the skin, reaching the bloodstream. However, more studies need to be carried to clarify underlying mechanisms.
Inhalation: There is strong evidence that essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream when inhaled. The many blood vessels in the lungs absorb the oils and circulate them throughout the body.
Ingestion: We ingest oils in many foods or products where essential oils are used as the flavour, such as, toothpaste, gum, and ice cream. It is unwise to drink essential oils unless prescribed by a medical herbalist.
Anatomē is committed to combining science + nature to integrate physical and mental wellbeing. In having botanical extracts at the core of our products, we believe that we can achieve greater mental and physical health through nature.