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Some of the Science of Essential Oils

Parts of this were taken with permission from Essential Oils Overview and Reference Guide
published by: The Family Tree, 2008

There are many anecdotal stories of essential oils having very positive results for a variety of wellness situations and health concerns.  Because they have been in use for literally thousands of years, consider their continued use over time as research that is more substantial rather than anecdotal.  That is, time has a way of being a natural filter: good things continue to be used while ineffective things fade into forgetfulness. 

Beyond this, what does modern science have to say?  Now that we have tools to analyze and dissect everything so well, is there research and evidence to suggest why and how effectively essential oils work?  The answer is, Yes, and more evidence is being gathered each day.

Kurt Schnaubelt, in his classical work, “Medical Aromatherapy, Healing with Essential Oils” gives an excellent synopsis of earlier researcher’s studies and findings covering the period from the 1800’s through the 1990’s.  He puts in perspective the scientific works of Gattefossé, Valnet, Tisserand, Belaiche and Franchomme, and Pénoël.  Their laboratory testing identified the major properties of essential oils.  That is, that essential oils are antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, etc. They also did testing to show the actual levels of effectiveness of various oils against different pathogens. 

Franchomme and Pénoël did some of the serious modern research that classified essential oils according to the chemical constituents.  Schnaubelt then continued this and in his book, “Advanced Aromatherpy” used charts for each oil to describe the variety of their chemical nature.  This research established two interesting things.  One, there is a clear scientific basis for why essential oils exhibit healing properties.  This usually comes from their dominant components and documents that oils with similar major constituents will have similar properties.  But two, each oil also has minor constituents and Franchomme and Pénoël and then Schnaubelt found these gave rise to additional interesting and helpful properties.

This is important and explains why making a synthetic copy of the major constituents of an oil may duplicate some of its properties but the synthetic version is not as effective or has unwanted side effects.  The observation by these researchers suggested that there was much more work that needed to be done.

Elsewhere on the Internet quite a few sites report a list of a number of people interested in essential oils research.  They reference a list of 94 medical and scientific research articles written in the 1990’s.  Authored by a variety of researchers from a number of counties, the studies cover a broad range of essential oils and/or health concerns.  Most articles are very interesting and demonstrate that there is a serious scientific interest in essential oils. Here is a sample of selected titles:

Bassett IB, et al. "A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne." Med J Aust. 1990; 153(8): 455-8.

Buchbauer G, et al. "Aromatherapy: evidence for sedative effects of the essential oil of Lavender after inhalation." Z Naturforsch [C]. 1991; 46(11-12): 1067-72.

Diego MA, et al. "Aromatherapy positively affects mood, EEG patterns of alertness and math computations." Int J Neurosci. 1998 Dec; 96(3-4): 217-24.

Gobel H, et al. "Effect of Peppermint and Eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters." Cephalalgia. 1994; 14(3): 228-34.

Some articles sited are related to health but only of ‘interesting’ value:

Lis-Balchin, M., et al. "Antimicrobial activity of Pelargonium essential oils added to a quiche filling as a model food system." Lett Appl Microbiol. 1998; 27(4): 207-10.

Modgil R, et al. "Efficacy of mint and Eucalyptus leaves on the physicochemical characteristics of stored wheat against insect infestation." Nahrung. 1998; 42(5): 304-8.

And one article was so loosely related it is  humorous:

Bradshaw RH, et al. "Effects of Lavender straw on stress and travel sickness in pigs." J Altern Complement Med. 1998; 4(3): 271-5.


The above samples were from the 1990s and the pace of research has even quickened since.  For example, categorized in the acclaimed internet medical directory,, during the First quarter of 2008 fully 68 articles were written containing ‘essential oils’ as a keyword.   Some of those titles were:

”The Effect of Essential Oils on Work-related Stress in Intensive Care Nurses” by E. Pemberton and P.G. Turpin in Holistic Nurse Practioner. 2008 Mar-Apr; 22(2): 97-102.

“Essential Oils for Management of Symptoms in Critically Ill Patients” by M.A. Halm in the American Journal of Critical Care, 2008 Mar; 17(2): 160-3.

In the past 20 years the development and availability of the gas chromatograph and the mass spectrometer has allowed researchers to consistently and accurately conFirm the constituents in the oils being tested.  .  Further, these instruments with their precision can identify pollutants or impurities in oils that are grown, processed or even diluted improperly.  This then allows dōTerra Company to apply this sophisticated testing to oils they source and give the highest guarantee of purity, Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade oil.

Dr. David Hill, author of “Nature’s Living Energy: A Personal Guide to Using Essential Oils” (2007) and one of the founders of dōTerra asserts, “There are currently over 4,000 papers published on the effects of essential oils housed in the National Library of Medicine. Perusing only a few will help you understand a key principle.  It is the complexity of essential oils that governs such profound effects physiologically and it is also their mystery yet to be fully discovered.” That interest and discovery will lead to many more refined uses and more dramatic results. 

With Dr. Hill’s lead DōTerra  has an aggressive research collaboration with major universities and other institutions to further the studies of essential oils and their beneficial properties.   We will continue to see the results of this research in conFirmation of past applications and more uses of essential oils and related products for health and wellness.