Posts Tagged ‘ essential oils ’

Is This Chamomile, Really Chamomile?

I’ve mentioned the importance of specifying the plant source of an essential oil before [link to eucalyptus post]. Each essential oil has its own therapeutic effect according to its chemical makeup. The functional groups (e.g. alcohols, ketones, aldehydes) in its chemistry, dictates the function the essential oil will serve for the body (e.g. anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, mucolytic). Chamomile is of no exception to this rule.

Chamomile is the name given to several oils but, unbelievably, only some of these are distilled from genuine chamomile leaves! Sold under the name of ‘chamomile’, some oils are actually made from a relative of wormwood but are passed as chamomile due to a compound that gives them a colour similar to chamomile. Chamomile is also the name given to some oils of the mugwort family of plants which are actually toxic and may result in damage to the central nervous system, seizures or even liver damage.

There are two main types of genuine chamomile, each with their unique function:

  • German chamomile – anti-inflammatory
  • Roman chamomile – anti-spasmodic

German chamomile

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Are We Talking About The Same Eucalyptus?

There are a number of oils that are not clearly identified by their common names such as eucalyptus and chamomile. A little trackback to some secondary school (high school) biology should ring a little bell reminding us that in the plant kingdom, there are many species and subspecies of a particular plant. Saying ‘eucalyptus’ alone doesn’t help to identify the specific plant source.

For eucalyptus alone, there are hundreds of its varieties in existence around the world. Each variety has its own chemical composition which, when produced, creates hundreds of unique essential oils with different composition and therefore, different pharmacological effects. They would, of course, be used for various ailments. Here are a few examples:

  • Eucalyptus radiata – known for its high terpene alcohol content – great antiviral agent.
  • Eucalyptus dives – known for its ketone content – great mucolytic (especially in combination with Eucalyptus radiata).
  • Eucalyptus citriodora – known for its aldehyde content – reliable sedative.

When speaking of essential oils, correct terminology and specification of the plant source is extremely important in understanding its correct aromatherapeutic use.

Eucalyptus globulus