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Chemistry

On average an essential oil is made up of over a hundred components. Some are ten times more complex than this. The main categories of compounds are terpenes, alcohols, esters, aldehydes, keytones and phenols. At the present time it is known that up to 50 per cent of the essential oil  of lavendula officinalis is made up of alcohols including lavandulol, borneol, terpineol, geraniol and linalol - in esterfied form. linaly acetate.

Between 48-52 per cent is comprimised of esters derived from the alcohols: lavandylyl acetate, linalyl acetate, bornyl acetate. Oxides account for between 2-3 per cent, like 1,8 cineole, linalyl oxide and caryophyllene oxide.

There are also minuscule but vital other components such as coumarin: herniarine, umbelliferone, santonine. Terpenes such as myrcene, limonene and ocimene can account for up to 5 per cent, while the sesquiterpene, caryophyllene, is about 3 per cent. There is also keytone camphor methyl heptyl ketone, lactones and aldehydes.

The trouble is, if you were to put together a stew of chemical ingredients, following the above formula, you would not get a lavender oil capable of healing burns. There are still as yet undiscovered compounds in essential oils, or perhaps other forces, which may one day explain their extraordinary healing powers.

It should also be said that current methods of analysis depend very much upon the sensitivity of the machine and the operator. Different chromatography machines give different readings so an operator needs to be familiar with his or her machine.The operator doesn't exactly read the data so much as interpret it. For this reason, accurate analysis of essential oils may have to wait until technology has built the tools which can interpret nature.

Reference: The Fragrant Pharmacy: V.A. Worwood

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