Therapeutic Properties of Essential Oils
According to Jennifer Rhind in the book entitled, Essential Oils; A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice (2012), the most referenced therapeutic properties highly supported with scientific research are; analgesic, anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, digestive, diuretic, immuno-stimulant, sedative and antispasmodic properties. Rhind (2012) goes on her to describe a molecular approach to prescribing essential oils. This means looking at the functional groups and their properties to prescribe essential oils. I am all about this method of prescribing oils.
Most of the following essential oil properties and therapeutic uses were taken from a literature Review of Essential Oil Properties by Karuppayil and Raut, (2015). Others are taken from Jennifer Rhind in the book entitled, Essential Oil, A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice or American College of Healthcare Science textbook Materia Medica, Monographs of essential oils.
Analgesic Properties: used to treat pain.
According to Rhind (2012), eucalyptus, bay, vetiver, black pepper and pine are used to treat arthritis. She states that analgesics oils to support dental pain are peppermint and clove (Rhind 2012). Also, bergamot is used for sciatica pain as well as insect bites, while, black pepper is used to treat pain from arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, stiffness, and even hangovers and headaches. Niaouli is also good at relieving pain from headaches (Materia Medica 2016). Rhind, talks about roman chamomile as a good all-purpose good pain reliever and clary sage as a good alternative to help with pain from menstrual cramps. Lavender has been used in post-operative patients to reduce the amount of opioid ingestion. Geranium and rose is an effective topical analgesic while, ginger and vetiver are also good for muscular aches and spasms (Rhind 2012).
Anticancer: prevents or inhibits the growth of cancer.
Karuppayil and Raut (2015) discuss in their Essential Oil Review that terpenoids, as well as polyphenol constituents prevent tumor growth. They wrote that palmarosa oil interferes with cell membrane function and cell signaling in cancer cells. The referenced a chinese herb called Cang Zhu, has shown to prevent malignant tumors. Furthermore, citral a chemical in lemongrass has shown promising signs of preventing liver cancer. Garlic, lemon balm and tea tree are also known for anticancer properties. (Karuppayil and Raut, 2015).
Antifungal: that resists and stops mold and fungus growth.
In general oils high in phenyl propanoids like eugenol and hemonocyclics sesquiterpene alcohols such as, bisabolol inhibit fungus growth. Coriander, anise, and fennel, work against yeasts while, cinnamon, lemongrass, Japanese mint, ginger grass, geranium and clove oils were the best a working against C. albicans bacteria. Lemongrass was effective against filamentous fungi, and orange, lemon, mandarin and grapefruit oil stop the growth of Aspergillus niger, A. flavus, Penicillium verrucosum and P. chrysogenum. In general, different oils work for different fungus growth (Karuppayil and Raut, 2015).
Antibacterial: means it prevents infection and bacteria growth.
Generally, essential oils with phenolics and aldehydes exhibit antibacterial properties. Manuka, vetiver and sandalwood work against gram positive bacteria. Studies support black caraway, rose geranium and oregano, bay, clove, lemongrass, oregano and thyme inhibit growth of Escherichia coli. While, Rosemary, Thyme, peppermint, lemongrass, clove bay prevents Staphylococcus aureus. Garlic, lemon myrtle and tea-tree oil work against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. In general, cinnamon, lemongrass, bay, lemon myrtle, clove, rosewood, are effective in preventing all bacteria growth. Like fungus growth, certain oils are effective at inhibiting different types of bacteria growth (Karuppayil and Raut, 2015).
Anti-inflammatory: reduces and prevents swelling and inflammation.
Bowles (2004) describes, some acids, esters, lactones, oxides sesquiterpenes and sequesterpenols as antimilitary. Camwood, lavender angustifolia and officinalis, mint, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, pine, clove and myrrh, as well as aloe-vera, anise star, bergamot, cinnamon leaf, juniper berry, thyme, and ylang-ylang all have anti-inflammatory properties. (Karuppayil and Raut, 2015).
Antiviral: prevents virus growth.
In general, essential oils high in is monoterpenes, sesquiterpene and phenylpropanoid are antiviral. (Karuppayil et al 2015). Melaleuca oil, German chamomile, pine, clove, tea tree and lemon balm are said to treat the herpes virus. (Karuppayil et al 2015). Oregano oil is said to work against yellow fever (Karuppayil and Raut, 2015). According to Materia Medica (2016), rosemary, patchouli sandalwood and basil are known to treat herpes. While patchouli, Cinnamon, pine, immortelle, garlic, clove juniper, bergamot and black pepper, rosemary and yarrow to treat viral cold infections. Jasmine and Ravensara has been used for hepatitis support. Niaouli has been used to treat shingles. Patchouli has showing promising effective in treating influenza. (Materia Medica 2016).
Antioxidant: prevents oxidative stress of free radicals that cause damage to cells.
In general, flavonoids, terpenoids and phenolic constituents of essential of exhibit significant antioxidant effects. Oil that are good antioxidants are marjoram, turmeric, arrowroot, lemon balm, melaleuca, white turmeric, basil, peppermint, cumin, thyme, sage, and S. multicaulis a low growing shrub common to Turkey (Karuppayil and Raut, 2015). Anise, bergamot, clove, cinnamon, neroli, bay rosemary, rose are also good antioxidants (Materia Medica 2016).
Digestive: this aids the digestion of food and helps with indigestion
Oil from apiacea family such as angelica, anise, carrot, celery, coriander, cumin, dill fennel, parsley, parsnip, are used to increase gastric secretions from gallbladder and improve liver function. (Rhind 2012). A digestant aids the digestive process and an indigestant helps when there are issues with digestion such as flatulence and muscle spasms from the digestive process. Chamomile, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, garlic, ginger, grapefruit, lavender, and lemon neroli, nutmeg, peppermint, rose, spearmint, spikenard are good digestants. Clove, fennel, caraway, coriander, garlic, ginger, juniper, lavender, patchouli, peppermint, thyme are all good for indigestion (Materia Medica 2016).
Immunostimulant: stimulate the immune system.
Many monoterpenes are known to be immune system boosters. Lemon oil boosts immune system by supporting regeneration of white blood cells. Pine, basil, elemi, rose, German chamomile, Ravensara, geranium, niaouli, neroli and clove and atlas cedarwood have shown to boost immune system. Antibacterial essential oils may support the lymphatic and immune systems which in return are good immune system stimulants (Materia Medica 20160.
Sedative: calming properties
Roman Chamomile and Lavender angustifolia are high in esters and said to have calming effects. (Bowles 2004). Bay, bergamot, cinnamon, clary sage, geranium, cardamom, cypress, neroli sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver ylang, ylang are oils that have sedative properties (Materia Medica 2016)
Joy Bowles. (2004). The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils, Allen & Unwin Academic, 2004 (3rd Edition)
Petersen, D. (2015). Aromatherapy materiamedica essential oil monographs: Part 1. Portland, OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences,
Rhind, J.P. (2012). Essential Oils: A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice (2nd ed.). London, UK: Singing Dragon.
Sankunny Mohan Karuppayil, Jayant Shankar Raut, (2015) A status Review on the Medicinal Properties of Essential Oils Sponsored School of Life Sciences, University, Nanded, 431606MS, India