Composition of essential oils

The composition of essential oils is typically complicated and requires much understanding. Each essential oil is made up of numerous different organic molecules. What gives every essential oil its uniqueness is not just one of its constituents, but the whole, delicate and complex admixture. The individual perfume of each oil depends on this balance; the therapeutic value of each oil depends on it too. It is the number of constituents of an oil which make it almost impossible to reproduce exactly with synthetic ingredients. The reaction between these constituents and their component molecules gives the oil its therapeutic value, which is why man-made imitations never have the same power to heal as their natural counterparts.

This balance of and reaction between constituents is also what makes one oil more or less toxic than another. The proportion of a toxic constituent in one oil may be balanced by other constituents which make the potential toxin less significant and allow the oil to be useful in therapy.

In this way, aromatherapy is not unlike homeopathy which also treats ailments with substances that are poisonous (belladonna and arsenic, for instance). The proportions are tiny, though, and when administered in correct proportions, even a poison can have a beneficial and dynamizing effect.

An experienced aromatherapist will understand enough about the composition of essential oils to know how to combine them so that these further admixtures balance each other, with an alkaline constituent in one, say, being balanced by an acid constituent in another. This is chemistry in practice. There is no way in which knowledge like this can be gained in a short aromatherapy course.

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