Don’t Be Afraid of Essential Oil Chemistry

Don’t Be Afraid of Essential Oil Chemistry

So, you’ve learned that essential oils are all about the chemistry … but chemistry wasn’t your favorite subject. 

I want you to know, you’re not alone. Many people discover that they have a passion for essential oils—only to find out that it means learning (or re-learning) one of the most feared sciences. 

But it’s also one of the most fascinating (IMHO).

In the early days, when I used to sit in nearly every aromatherapy class that my mom taught, I was relieved to find out that learning essential oil chemistry didn’t mean I had to learn all chemistry. 

She would often say, “Most essential oils are made up of different combinations of virtually only 3 different atomic elements.” 

Though this is a slight oversimplification, it isn’t so by much. 

As you study essential oil chemistry, you might find a component containing a molecule that has a nitrogen, and maybe one with a sulphur, but you’ll find those are few and far between. 

I remember thinking to myself, “I can handle three kinds of atoms.” 

That became the door that opened my mind to understanding as much as I could about these volatile aromatics … a.k.a. aromatherapy.

Here’s the deal: you can totally start to understand aromatherapy on a scientific level. It starts one layer at a time. 

Do you need an essential oil chemistry pep talk? 

Check out these words of encouragement from us:


If you’re just beginning to learn about essential oil chemistry, or you’ve got a background but want to go deeper, here are a handful of amazing resources that we highly recommend:

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to learning essential oil chemistry?

Let us know by leaving a comment below, and let’s see if we can tackle those so you can learn more.

Get to Know Rose

Get to Know Rose

Rose was one of the first essential oils that Sylla worked with in her aromatherapy practice. It is also one that holds deep emotional resonance for her, as it was a source of comfort during a time of grieving. 

Therapeutically, Rose is an oil that can be good for practically everything. It can be helpful for skin-care blends, balancing hormones, cardiovascular issues, stress, migraines, emotional disorders, and much more.

Rose is just one of the oils featured in the Inner Sanctum Library. Here, we’ve included a sneak peek, so you can get a sense of what it has to offer.

In this video, you will learn:

  • The difference between Rose Otto and Rose absolute.
  • How chemistry affects the oil.
  • How Sylla used Rose to treat emotional issues.
  • Why it’s good to vary oils during difficult times.


Below, we’ve also included an abbreviated profile of Rose (full video and profile available in the Inner Sanctum Library).

Rose Exploration

Common name: Rose
Botanical name: Rosa damascena

Part of the Rosaceae family, there are many variations of Rosa damascena. The biggest areas of production are Bulgaria and Turkey, and other names for it include Summer Rose, Bulgarian Rose, Turkish Rose, Otto of Rose, and Attar. Rose Otto is the oil, while the absolute is a thicker, richer-smelling extract. When you hear the name Rose Otto, you’ll know it’s the essential oil.

Rosa centifolia is another species that produces a much lighter oil. It comes from many different places. In the video, you’ll see that Sylla’s sample is from Russia.

In the Otto, stearoptene levels are up to 22%. These constituents are the more solid parts of the oil, which can cause the Otto to solidify at about room temperature. There are also monoterpenols in the Otto, along with geraniol and citronellol—up to 45%. The percent of phenylethyl alcohol is not as high in the Otto as it is in the absolute. The phenylethyl alcohol, or PEA, is what produces that very rosy, floral scent. A lot of people prefer the absolute for this reason.

Drawing these samples up in the pipette, you can see the beautiful color of the Damask Rose. It is clear, which is very similar to Rosa centifolia. The absolute is a little thicker, darker, and richer. More color may come through with the absolute because it’s solvent-extracted. Try blending the two together to get the best of both.

Now, we’d love to know:

  • Do you have a preference for steam-distilled Rose or the Rose Absolute? Why?
  • What are your favorite ways to use Rose?

Leave us a comment with your answers and let’s keep this conversation going!

You can enjoy this video and profile in full by joining us in the Inner Sanctum Library. Claim your seat now, and get ready to begin your learning journey with a collection of meditations, lessons, recipes, interviews, and more.

How to Fall In Love with Essential Oil Chemistry

How to Fall In Love with Essential Oil Chemistry

Are you struggling to understand essential oil chemistry?

Do monoterpenes and aldehydes go bump in the night, sending you into flashbacks of the classes you hated in high school? (They did for me!)

Do you yearn to speak of esters and phenols with fondness, the way some aroma-nerds do?

I previously had an experienced aromatherapy teacher ask me for advice on teaching essential oil chemistry. This person has been studying essential oils since before I graduated from high school, but they still find it difficult to teach something that many students find hard to grasp.

Chemistry Can Be Fun

Chemistry is one of those subjects, which for so many, fear takes their curiosity hostage. But no more, aroma friends!

The truth is, chemistry can be enlightening, empowering, and (even) fun. Today’s interview shows you how.

I recently sat down with my friend and colleague, Dr. Timothy Miller. Tim is a naturopathic physician, licensed acupuncturist, and registered aromatherapist whose passion is in teaching. In this arena, he wears his heart on his sleeve—making his love for aromatic chemistry known far and wide. But not only that, he also wants to spark that love in all of us.

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • How the love of chemistry (and the teaching of it) started for Dr. Tim.
  • What the biggest blocks are when studying chemistry—and how to break through them.
  • How aromatherapy sometimes gets chemistry wrong (or just not-quite-right).
  • How to study essential oil chemistry at home.
  • What makes trans-anethole unlike any other component.


We hope this interview can help clear up some misconceptions and allow you to approach chemistry in a new light. Once we start embracing this molecular science, we can enjoy a deeper understanding of the aromatic materials we’re working with. It can make us better students, better teachers, and better aromatherapists.

Did something in this interview spark a love for chemistry in your heart?

Leave us a comment and let us know what you learned. What fascinates you about essential oil chemistry? In what ways could essential oil chemistry still woo your heart? What larger questions do you still need answered?

Thank you for sharing in the love of chemistry and essential oils with us. We are grateful, as always, to be a part of your journey in aromatherapy.

Aromatically Yours,




Learn AromaChemistry with Dr. Tim

aromachemistry poem

Do you want more chemistry with Dr. Tim?  Learn more about his AromaChemistry online course here.

Want to learn more about aromatherapy, essential oils, and their chemistry with us? Check out the Inner Sanctum Library and our other course offerings.