To many, Key Constituents look like some fancy words with a bunch of pretty percentages. Here’s a quick look at why knowing the key constituents of an oil can help you.
What are they?
Key constituents are chemical compounds that are found in the essential oil. These are a measurable means to part of what gives the essential oils their therapeutic value. All plants have some of these, but a few have enough to be highly beneficial for us to use. The properties can be found in many parts of the plant — stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, and roots. They help the plant during it’s life cycle and continue to help us after being extracted.
Most know these plants as herbs, and when used properly they can help and assist the human body. Oil can be extracted from these plants, allowing the therapeutic properties to be in a highly concentrated form. Some oils may be thousands of times stronger than the dried herb. This is why only a small amount is needed when using the oils.
The source of an essential oil is critical. Location plays a large part in it due to different climates, ecosystems, and altitude. If you want more of the key constituent Cavacrol, studies are showing that a lower altitude is better. And yet on one of the tests for Cavacrol, they found that the percentage rate for Thymol was higher when raised in higher altitudes.
If you were thinking of raising and distilling your own essential oils, researching the key constituents will tell you if it’s a good idea for your location. Look at the percentage rates of well known locations for producing high quality oil. If these locations are all a different type of climate or altitude, you’re unlikely to get as good results. If there is an established farm in an area that is similar to your location, find out what percentage rates it has received. Are they close to the numbers from the well known locations?
Each batch of oil, even from the same location, will have slightly different percentages. Weather patterns, soil conditions, the way they are raised, and how the oil extracted can all effect the percentage number. A dry and hot summer will increase the amount of esters compared to a dull summer. Esters are an acidic chemical compound and some oils you want more of these and others you want less. This is a factor in raising Lavender. Many believe the best Lavender is sourced from high altitude locations. Plants grown in higher altitudes have a higher amount of esters.
Fun fact, all of these things that effect the key constituents also effect the scent of the essential oil. True essential oil will vary in scent on every batch. Sometimes the difference is so slight it’s not noticeable. Other times you start to wonder if it’s the same oil as before. Synthetically produced perfume is the only way to get the exact same scent every time.
Difference Between Chemical Compounds?
There are key constituents that have special symbols at the beginning of their names. All this means is that a single isomer bond is in a different location on the chemical compound. α-Ocimene and β-Ocimene are the same compound, have the same base elements, but each one has a double bond of molecules in a different location.
Some key constituents look like they are the same compound with a different letter in front of them. For example, take (Z)-β-Ocimene and (E)-β-Ocimene which are found in lavender oil. β-Ocimene is the chemical compound for each. In this case, they have a different three dimensional orientation. Like a house with a garden on the right side of the backyard instead of having the garden on the left side of the backyard.
Both of these are very small changes, and the main chemical compound stays true. But it can have effects on the use and various chemical reactions. For the everyday use, most of these small differences won’t make a big difference.
A synthetic version of the chemical compound isn’t exactly the same as one found in nature. A natural and synthetic version are similar enough that a scientific study done on either one will generally hold true for the other. For the scientific community to accept the results as fact, a great deal of studies must be done and all must have the same results. Very few key constituents have been researched to this extent, but the studies that have been conduct are interesting to learn from. There will be more articles like “Lavender Oil: A Scientific View“, where findings for specific key constituents will be discussed.
Does percentage matter?
The quantity, or percentage, can matter a great deal. The chemical properties that make up most of the oil are the ones that are the most effective when using the oil.
Linalool makes up more than a quarter of Lavender oil, but 10% or less in Geranium oil. Linalool is known as a stress-reducer. Lavender is well known for relaxation. If the percentage rate was higher in Geranium oil, it might also be called a sedative. Instead Geranium oil is better known to balance moods. In that case, 10% can help lower agitation in angry times, but doesn’t work as effectively as a higher percentage.
Why is it important to know? Well, if you don’t like the smell of Lavender oil, knowing that Linalyl Acetate and Linalool makes up more than 75% of the oil can help you find an alternative that has similar properties. You’ll want to look for another oil that has high amounts of those two key constituents.
If you ever have a rare allergic reaction to more than one oil, take a look at the key constituents. More often than not, you’ll find a similar key constituent in each one. Chances are that this is the one that is causing your troubles. If you check the key constituents on new oils in the future, you can avoid a lot of trial and error by avoiding the ones that have that key constituent
Not all the chemical compounds found in oil have been identified. True therapeutic grade rose oil has over 300 different compounds and more than half of them have not been identified. This field of study regarding the key constituents will continue on for years to come. Each new scientific discovery just seems to confirm the trial and error work generations of oil users have learned.
“Life Force Energy” is also associated with essential oils. There is a unique healing energy signature formed by the environment for every essential oil. All those little things that can change the key constituents and the scent, also effect the energy of a plant. Quantum Physics actually involves the study of how energy can effect many things in the known universe. A lot more attention has been drawn to the new field of “Energy Medicine.”
Paul H. Dean of Native American Nutritionals shared an example of scientific study of energy. “If you have not already discovered Dr. Masaru Emoto’s wonderful research that involves how energies affect water, you may want to review his research to obtain a better understanding about the Life Force Energy. Simply put, his research was on water crystals and how “negative” and “positive” words would affect those crystals. Words associated to negative energies produced dark, ugly crystals whereas positive energy words produced light beautiful crystals. “
He states that “Plants and oils that are treated with love are charged with a greater Life Force Energy and therefore the overall healing properties are greatly enhanced.”
- The Aromatherapy Bible: The Definitive Guide to Using Essential Oils, by Gill Farrer-Halls
- Aromatherapy: An A-Z: The Most Comprehensive Guide to Aromatherapy Ever Published, by Patricia Davis
- Dean, Paul H. “Understanding Quality.” E-mail interview. 24 Mar. 2014.