Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel


Aromatherapy IS chemistry.  Every essential oil is composed of numerous chemicals or constituents.  These constituents give each essential oil it basic properties.  It is easiest if you organize these individual chemicals (constituents) into groups.  That way, if you know a little bit about the actions of these groups, you know a little bit about the individual oil and can make your own blends based upon your current needs.

Here is a very simplified reference for Aromatherapy Chemistry 101.

The MONOTERPENE group is probably the most commonly occurring group found in essential oils.


  • reduce odors – deodorize
  • antiseptic – may help fight bacteria & viruses
  • decongest – reduce nasal mucus & swelling all over the body
  • some increase local blood circulation
  • tend to be uplifting


  • Citrus
    • bergamot
    • Photo by Dawn Armfield


    • lime
    • sweet orange
  • Evergreen
    • cypress
    • juniper berry
    • rosemary
    • siberian fir
  • Misc
    • black pepper
    • frankincense
    • tea tree


  • these oils have a shorter shelf life (1-3 years) so it is important to keep them sealed and stored in a cool, dark area
  • they can be irritating to the skin so make sure to use proper dilutions and take care when using in a bath blend
  • possibly photosensitive – irritation when sunbathing

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Photo by Katherine Hanlon

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This is just basic information regarding the chemistry of essential oils.  It is important to learn the specifics of each essential oil constituent and not just look at the major groups.