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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