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,

Nyssa

 


 

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.

Be a Cool Nerd ~ Essential Oil Chemistry & Dr. Tim

Be a Cool Nerd ~ Essential Oil Chemistry & Dr. Tim

Last Sunday, Mom and I got to talking about why essential oil chemistry is something worth learning about. Even when Sylla began studying aromatherapy over 40 years ago, she felt resistant to learn this molecular science. However, once she did, the world of essential oils opened up to her in incredible ways. Though decades behind, I can attest to the same. We both agree there is great value in understanding the chemistry of essential oils.

Here are five reasons why we think every aromatherapist needs to learn essential oil chemistry:

  1. You’ll sound like a NERD … Yeah, we actually think it’s cool to be nerdy when it comes to chemistry. Knowing the chemistry makes you sound smart (who doesn’t want that?). You can pronounce words like cinnamaldehyde and alpha-bisabolol. More than that, you know what they mean and how they contribute to the therapeutic effect or safety concerns of the oil. Plus, being smart also means that research papers and conference presentations make a lot more sense.
  2. It is not as hard as you think. Unlike the organic chemistry class you had in college, essential oil chemistry is primarily concerned with only three elements: carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Just knowing that all the aromas we work with are virtually countless combinations of these three elements still blows our mind!
  3. When you think on the molecular level, you enter a whole new world. This can open doors to other fields of study, perhaps biochemistry or physiology. Then, you start to understand how your own body works, which gives you a deeper understanding of health and healing.
  4. Learning about essential oil chemistry means you’ll be more informed on how to read and understand the components of a new oil or product. You can look up the constituents (Need a resource? Our Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual has a Phytochemical Index) and what the known therapeutic properties of that component are. You’ll also learn how to not fall into the trap of determining effects based solely on major components. A study of essential oil chemistry quickly reveals the nuances of these “potent chemical cocktails,” as Dr. Tim likes to call them.
  5. You’ll learn that the magic of the oils comes from the chemistry. For us, this doesn’t break the spell. It’s just the opposite: understanding the science only enhances the magic.

So, you want to be a nerd? In October, we are hosting Dr. Timothy Miller for AromaChemistry, a fun-filled weekend of nerdalicious learning. Even though we both teach essential oil chemistry in our Beginner’s Course and Practitioner Training, we wanted to host Tim because he’s like no other teacher we’ve ever had.

You can see how Tim and I get along so well.

In Sylla’s words:

“I’ve studied a bit in my 40 years, and Tim Miller stands out as an exceptional teacher. Not only does he have a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience in his field as healer, but his personality shines through when he’s teaching. He brings a fresh new energy that is quite appealing.

When he teaches, I find myself fully engaged by his youthful presence. He has a way of recapping each lesson, relating the previous concepts to the next lesson, and making sure students understand before moving on. Tim is a refreshing new teacher with lots to share.”

Hear Tim speak for himself:

 

It’s Not Quackery, It’s Chemistry

It’s Not Quackery, It’s Chemistry

It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. Occasionally, there are people who undercut the research I’ve done along with the chemists and scientists I’ve worked with. They say, “You believe in alternative medicine? You must be a quack.” Unfortunately, it’s part of the package when you’re dealing with a relatively new and unregulated health industry. Thankfully, it doesn’t ruffle my feathers so much anymore.

However, this particular critic accused me of something much worse: promoting essential oils as a cure-all for cancer.

It’s true that I wrote a blog post on how essential oils helped me through one of the most trying times in my life—when I was diagnosed with Stage 1, non-aggressive breast cancer. But I never said that essential oils are a cure for cancer. In fact, I continually promote the idea of using essential oils as complementary treatment alongside conventional treatment. I myself underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatment. I used essential oils to mitigate scarring, improve my mood, and help ease the tenderness of my irradiated skin—all of which were the focus of that post.

Unfortunately, it seems my critic didn’t read the full blog post before taking her stance against me. I respect her eagerness to protect cancer patients from unhelpful and dangerous “cure-all” treatments. I’ve been in a similar battle of my own, trying to make sure essential oils are used safely and responsibly. This is a good reminder that we must always search for the truth, and not simply make assumptions based on our opinions and beliefs.

It’s not quackery. It’s real science.

As for the wider accusation of promoting “quackery” in general, I think this is a good time to explain that it’s not quackery. It’s real science, which I’ve had the pleasure of studying for 40 years and counting. For those of you interested in where I’ve studied and who I’ve studied with, see my Vintage Aromatherapist blog. You can also find a list of my aromatherapy accomplishments here. I’m always striving to accomplish more, but I think my achievements aren’t too shabby thus far!

During those 40 years, I worked with well-known and respected minds, including Martin Watt, Dr. Trevor Stokes, Dr. Robert Pappas, and Tony Burfield—to name a few. I wrote many papers and presentations, along with the personal blog mentioned above. I also wrote all of the courses, books, and classes we offer today. You can find my bio here.

I’m very passionate about illuminating the exciting and surprising truths of aromatherapy and essential oils, and about offering my hard-earned knowledge to my students.

So to those critics, I have one thing to say: it’s not quackery, it’s chemistry!