Dreaming of Monoterpenes

Dreaming of Monoterpenes

A student writes about her experience learning essential oil chemistry. We love how she is using both educational materials and her own intuition to make chemistry as enlightening endeavor. 


Early this morning, I was aware that I was dreaming of hydrocarbons. Just the word, hydrocarbon, and then there was a line, and then I saw 5, 5, and then I woke up.

Hydrocarbons, two fives… what was I dreaming?

So, too sleepy to make my way to the kettle, I remained in bed and wondered. Yesterday’s revision came to mind. My memory is still hazy, I remember two isoprenes, and think of alkanes that have ten carbons, but are they two fives? And then I remember, two isoprenes make up a monoterpene, and they are C5H8. Five carbons. Two fives. Was I dreaming of monoterpenes?

I turned to my notes from Dr Pappas’ lecture series on the chemistry of essential oils. Yes, I have remembered correctly. Taking notes on the laptop is great. If I highlight a word and right click, I can press “look up” and the computer shows me a card with the meaning, and sometimes even a diagram, with a link to the wikipedia article. I’m taken to the one about isoprenes, and as I see the diagram of its skeletal structure I try to imagine how two of them would join and make a monoterpene. And now I have the Beatles song in my head, “Come Together” only instead of “over me” its saying “isoprene.” Wow. Have I officially become a geek? Well, if so, I’m okay with it. But I think I still have a lot of studying to do before the answer to that is yes.

I search to find out if there’s an animation of isoprenes joining, but to no avail. That’s okay because I’ve just opened my new chemistry kit flip book onto a diagram of an isoprene next to a monoterpene, and I can pretty much imagine how the two become one.

I love this chemistry kit. It arrived yesterday sealed up and packaged well. The package smelled of oranges. It’s got 24 samples of the main chemical constituents found in essential oils, and I’ve opened three of them so far, at random. One smelled like thyme (thymol, of course!), then there was one that reminded me a little of tea, maybe because of bergamot? It’s name is linalool. And then I opened one I didn’t recognise, it has a really long name and it’s an aldehyde. Well, that’s a lesson for another day.

I want to find out which monoterpenes have straight chains, because in my dreams I saw a straight-ish line. I find there are acyclic monoterpenes, and linalool is one of them. I decide that this is going to be the scent for the next few days. Looking in the flip book, I see that it has a huge variety of healing properties including antiseptic, fungicide, sedative… I think after the intense couple of days that just passed, new moon and all, it’s the perfect choice. Or I could go for citral, citronellal, or citronellol, which are also acyclic. I look in the flip book, hmm, it seems they’ve also got those healing properties. I’ll stick with linalool just because it sounds so funny.


This post written by our student, Mira Saad, who is currently enrolled in our Aromatherapy Practitioner Course


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Sharing Uncommon Scents

Sharing Uncommon Scents

One might think that aromatherapists share some of the same sensibilities. Most of us are in this field because we want to help other people. We believe that plants have the ability to help us heal. What’s even more, we’ve dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of learning the art and science of working with essential oils. However, many who have been in our field for some time may also notice great disparities in how we use our tools, what we teach, and how we practice. Thankfully, there is something brewing that has the potential to bring our community together even more, while also exposing us to a much wider audience.

At the Alliance of International Aromatherapists Conference in Denver last September, we met and befriended two passionate women who are spearheading the first documentary about our industry. Angela Ehmke and Kristina Bauer have begun the tremendous task of putting together Uncommon Scents. They debuted their intention at the conference last fall.

Mark Webb’s Class in Atlanta

Kristina also attended Mark Webb’s enlightening class on aromatic medicine last October. Mark Webb completely supported this project and ended up bringing the community together even more.

Before we met for this class in Atlanta, Kristina and Mark decided to take advantage of having several well-known aromatherapists in the same room. They arranged for a panel to take place featuring Mark, Gabriel Mojay, Marge Clark, and our very own Sylla Hanger. Kristina and Angela arranged for a film crew to come and video this discussion. Additionally, they conducted some individual interviews with the speakers.

Though many of the students had already gone through three days of intense learning with one more day ahead of them, practically the entire class returned for the panel that evening. So many of us were in awe, witnessing aromatherapy history in the making. We gained so much wisdom by hearing our industry leaders speak about the state of aromatherapy, as well as where we’re headed. There was a strong sense of solidarity and hope present, despite the “good fight” against the bad marketing claims, over simplification, and commercialization that we all constantly face.

Funding This Project

The thing is, to produce the film, these women are going to need to raise a lot of money. Luckily, in our digital world of crowdfunding and close social media circles, meeting their goal for production can become a reality. The intention for the panel discussion and the interviews was to have initial footage for the film. It will also be part of a crowdfunding video for their major fundraising campaign this year.

But we wanted to give them more than that. 

Mark suggested that we also have a silent auction to help pay for the cost of the film crew. He donated several essential oil kits to the auction, and Marge Clark offered several of her oils. We were inspired to offer several books as well. Everyone got so excited, and bids went through the roof! By the end of the weekend, we gave Kristina and Angela enough to cover the costs for this part of production. They were humbled by their gratitude, not expecting such a flood of support. They thought our gift was the opportunity for the panel. We showed them how much we believed in them. We weren’t going to wait for their campaign to start to help fund them.

It felt so good to support them that we just couldn’t stop.

Bringing Us Together

The following weekend, we hosted Gabriel Mojay in Tampa for a workshop called “Harmonizing the Spirit.” Kristina attended as well, and we couldn’t help but prepare a silent auction for this class, too. Gabriel Mojay donated three of his aromatic sonnets along with original photographs of the plants. He also contacted Rhiannon Lewis. Together, they donated a complete set of back issues of the International Journal for Clinical Aromatherapy, along with recordings from the Botanical Conferences. With these and several other donations, we were able to raise another several thousand dollars.

Upon first meeting both Angie and Kristina, we knew they were our kind of people. We have a special place in our hearts for those who have a vision and pursue it—especially when that vision could help bring our sometimes-disjointed aromatherapy community together. 

As someone who’s grown up with a finger on the pulse of this industry through my mom, Sylla, I’m aware of how passion builds walls in this small community. However, last fall, I felt the presence a new generation emerging in our field. All due respect to those who’ve come before us, but it seems we’re learning to come together like never before. This film is just one example of that. Let it be known that our “elders” are leading by example.

Through these experiences, I see that we all share the common sense of coming together to support one another. It looks like this sentiment is not so uncommon after all.

Make a Donation

It doesn’t stop here, either. We’ve decided that we’re going to hold another silent auction at our Chemistry of Essential Oils class with Robert Pappas next February in New Jersey. Bontoux will be adding to our list of auction items. Robert Pappas has also agreed to donate something special from his personal collection.

More importantly, we urge all of you to consider supporting this movie. Click here to learn more and find their crowdfunding page.


This post was written by Nyssa Hanger, Assistant Director of the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy.

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