Inhalation is a means of administering essential oils.
Due to the concentration of the oils, they are usually mixed with
hot water or put on a non-synthetic material and the vapour
inhaled. When the aroma is inhaled, the oils are quickly absorbed
into the blood and transported around the body.
When essential oils are inhaled, less essential oil enters the blood
than when the oils are applied to the skin. Inhalation is not an
effective means of treating skin conditions, but it does have
As you would expect, inhalation is an effective means of
administering essential oils to treat nose, throat and lung
conditions. Whilst much of the aroma is exhaled by the lungs, an
increased bronchial secretion is produced which proves beneficial
for many respiratory ailments.
The inhalation of essential oils is also known to influence our
emotions and state of mind. There is a physiological reason for
this. The olfactory nerve (the nerve of smell) runs from the nose
to the part of the brain concerned with memory and emotion.
Aromas can therefore create immediate and powerful responses.
It is worth mentioning that whenever essential oils are
administered in a manner that permits their penetration through the
skin, there is also an element of inhalation involved. The
psychological effects, due to the stimulation of the olfactory nerve,
must therefore always be borne in mind.
Irrespective of how the essential oils are administered, the ways in
which they affect the recipient can be divided into 3 categories:
1. Pharmacological – the chemical changes which take place when
an oil enters the blood and reacts with the hormones and enzymes
2. Physiological – the way in which the oil affects individual organs
or the body systems, e.g. whether they are sedated or stimulated.
3. Psychological – the emotional reaction that takes place when the
oil is inhaled, often caused by the stimulation of the memory.
As well as treating existing disorders, the pharmacological,
physiological and psychological effects that essential oils induce
can play an enormous part in preventative medicine. For
example, some essential oils stimulate the immune system, others
1. True or False?
Inhalation is only used as a method of administering essential
oils if it is unsuitable to apply them to the skin.
2. What nerve, linked to the part of the brain concerned with
memory and emotion, is stimulated by aromas?
3. Who, as a result of burning his hand in his laboratory,
discovered that lavender could accelerate the healing process
and help prevent scarring?
4. Who published a book in 1964 entitled ‘Aromatherapie’
documenting how essential oils had been successfully used to
treat both medical and psychiatric disorders?
A. Cuthbert Hall
B. Professor Rene H. Gattefossé
C. Dr Jean Valnet
D. Madame Marguerite Maury
Properties of Essential Oils
Tiny glands in the flowers, leaves, seeds, fruit, heartwood, bark,
stalks, twigs, roots and rhizomes of many plants contain essences.
It is believed that these odoriferous chemicals are formed in the
plant by biosynthesis (the name given to the production of
chemicals by a living cell). A major part of this is photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis uses the chlorophyll (the green pigment produced
by the chloroplasts in the leaves of green plants) to trap light
energy. This light energy is used to split the water molecules
present in the plant into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is
either released into the atmosphere or used in other metabolic
reactions. The hydrogen combines with carbon dioxide (which is
naturally absorbed by the plant) and various sugars are formed.
Further cellular metabolism produces complex and variable
molecular structures from these sugars. The oils produced as a
result of these reactions depend upon the genetic characteristics of
Many possible reasons why plants produce these oils have been
put forward. It has been suggested that they may attract or repel
insects, defend against the invasion of parasites, regulate the
plants’ temperature, help to heal tissue wounds, promote
growth, act as an emergency food supply or they may simply be
In nature the essence is slowly released but when the plant
material is crushed or heated the glands burst and the strong
aroma is emitted.
The value of these essences was realised many hundreds of years
ago, and today a variety of methods are used to extract them.
Upon extraction, the essence is generally referred to as ‘essential
5. What is used to heat the plant material in the process of
6. True or False?
Heating the plant material causes the tiny, volatile molecules
that make up an essential oil to evaporate. These are then
transported in the steam to the condenser.
7. What name is given to the method of extraction that squeezes
out essences from the rind of citrus fruits?
9. True or False?
Essential oils evaporate, are flammable, non-greasy, non-
lubricating and are usually colourless or pale yellow.
10. What therapeutic property, shared to a degree by all essential
oils, offers some protection to external infection when an oil is
applied to the skin?
11. Which body system, which removes unwanted materials from
the tissues and is involved in the fight against disease, can be
stimulated by geranium and rosemary?
12. True or False?
Essential oils are unable to influence the production and
elimination of cells.
13. On what body system do nervine oils such as lavender,
marjoram (sweet) and rosemary exert a tonic action?
The diverse uses accredited to essential oils are largely due to
their highly complex chemical composition.
Oils can be composed of over 300 different chemicals, some of
which have been identified and others that are currently beyond
the powers of scientific analysis. Also, no research has yet
explained why, in isolation, an individual component can be contra-
indicated yet the same component, when in a ‘whole’ oil, is
perfectly safe. This concept of combined components having a
greater effect than any of the individual components can achieve is
There are 9 chemical compounds that you need to be familiar with:
6. Lactones (coumarins and furocoumarins)
9. Terpenes (mono-, sesqui- and di-)
For each of these chemical compounds there are literally
hundreds of specific chemicals included in the group. It would be
virtually impossible to learn them all, but you do need sufficient
knowledge to be able to appreciate the general impact of these
compounds within an essential oil.
14. Alcohols are antiseptic, anti-viral, bactericidal and stimulating.
What emotional effect do they also have?
15. Which of the following is an alcohol that can be found in
A. geranyl acetate
16.Are alcohols aliphatic or aromatic?
17.True or False?
Alcohols are generally very safe and effective.
18.Which of the following is an alcohol found in lavender?
B. linalyl acetate
19. Which of the following is an aldehyde that can be found in
melissa, lemongrass and grapefruit?
20. Which ester can be found in clary-sage, bergamot and
21. True or False?
Bergapten is a lactone found in bergamot and lemon.
22. Coumarins is one of the two groups of lactone of interest to the
Aromatherapist. What is the name of the other?
23. Which group of lactones is sedative yet uplifting and antispasmodic?
How many isoprene units are contained in monoterpenes?
24. Which type of terpene is the heaviest?
25. Which terpene with anti-viral properties can be found in 90% of
26. What atoms make up terpenes?
A. hydrogen and oxygen
B. carbon and oxygen
C. hydrogen and carbon
Essential oils are highly concentrated and so, with a few notable
exceptions (lavender on burns and insect bites, tea-tree on spots
and lemon on warts), need to be diluted before they can be used.
The medium used to dilute the essential oils and carry them into
the body is called a carrier or base.
Oils, lotions, creams, water and air are commonly used as carriers
but there are many others e.g. shampoos, bath gels, milk
27. What is the botanical name of the plant from which sweet
almond oil is derived?
A. Prunus armeniaca
B. Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis
C. Persea americana
D. Prunus persica
28. What colour is sweet almond oil?
C. pale yellow
D. dark green
29. True or False?
Sweet almond oil can only be used to make up to 10% of the
30. What method is used to extract sweet almond oil?
A. cold pressing
B. hot extraction
1. What is the family name for chamomile (Roman)?
2. True or False?
Unlike German chamomile, Roman chamomile is not contra-
indicated to the first three months of pregnancy.
3. What chemical group makes up 85% of chamomile (Roman)
4. True or False?
Chamomile (Roman) is analgesic and anti-neuralgic so it is
useful in cases of dull aches and pains, sprains, earache and
5. What part of the plant is used to extract chamomile (Roman)
A. flower heads
6. Clary-sage oil is extracted from the plant by distilling the
flowering tops and the leaves. What colour are the flowers on
7. What action of clary-sage makes it useful for hyperactivity?
8. What is contra-indicated to clary-sage?
C. abnormal blood pressure
9. One of the main constituents of clary-sage is linalyl acetate. To
which group of chemicals does it belong?
10. What part of the plant is distilled to extract frankincense oil?
11. What colour is frankincense oil?
A. pale yellow/green
12. Which of the following actions of frankincense is useful for
13. What group of chemicals largely constitutes frankincense?
14. True or False?
Frankincense has no major contra-indications.
15. What is the family name of geranium?
16. What group of chemicals largely constitutes geranium oil?
17. What is contra-indicated to geranium oil?
C. abnormal blood pressure
18. Geranium oil is extracted from the plant’s leaves, stalks and
flowers. What method of extraction is used?
19. Geranium oil may cause dermatitis in hypersensitive
individuals. From which region does the geranium originate
that is most likely to do this?
20. Fill in the missing word.
The Latin name for lavender is __________ angustifolia.
21. True or False?
All of the lavender plant is aromatic but the essential oil is
extracted from the fresh flowering tops by steam distillation.
22. The main constituents of lavender are linalyl acetate (an
ester) and linalool. To which chemical group does linalool
23. Is lavender a hypotensive or hypertensive oil?
24. True or False?
Lavender oil is very gentle with many uses but care must be
taken not to over use it.
25. What is the Latin name of lemon?
26. From which part of the fruit is lemon oil extracted by cold
27. What furocoumarin present in lemon oil causes
28. Is lemon oil hypotensive or hypertensive?
29. Lemon oil is a sensitiser and also an irritant. To what
percentage should lemon oil be diluted before use?
A. 5 %
30. What is the family name of sweet marjoram?
31. One of the main constituents of sweet marjoram is sabinene.
What type of terpene is sabinene?
Mrs Jones suffers from digestive problems and has
abnormally low blood pressure. Would sweet marjoram be a
suitable oil to use?
33. True or False?
Sweet marjoram is contra-indicated to just the first three
months of pregnancy.
34. Mr Stephenson is under a lot of stress at the moment as he
and his wife have been trying to have a baby for the last two
years but without success. He has caught a cold, which has
gone to his chest, giving him a cough and triggering his
asthma. Do you think that sweet marjoram would be a good
oil to use in this case?
35. What is the alternative common name for melissa?
36. What colour is melissa oil?
B. pale yellow
37. The main constituents of melissa are citral, geranial and
neral. To which chemical group do they belong?
39. Is melissa hypertensive or hypotensive?
40. True or False?
Melissa should be diluted to 1% or less as it is a possible skin
irritant and is often adulterated.
41. What is the Latin name of the plant from which neroli oil is
A. Citrus aurantium var. amara
B. Citrus limon
C. Citrus paradisi
D. Citrus sinensis
42. What colour is neroli oil?
B. pale yellow
D. deep brown
43. What part of the plant is distilled to extract neroli oil?
B. leaves and twigs
44. The main constituents of neroli oil are listed below. Which is
A. linalyl acetate
45. True or False?
Neroli has anti-depressant, stomachic, aphrodisiac,
cytophylactic and hypotensive actions.
46. What is the family name for petitgrain?
47. What colour is petitgrain oil?
A. milky white
B. pale yellow to amber
D. deep brown
48. What part of the plant is distilled to extract petitgrain oil?
D. leaves and twigs
49. Petitgrain can act to reduce the production of the oily
secretion produced by the sebaceous glands. What is this
50. Mrs West is pregnant. She is a little depressed and is
suffering from very oily skin and acne. Could petitgrain be
used as a part of her daily skin care program?
51. From which part of the plant is rose oil extracted?
A. fresh petals
B. flowering tops
52. Which statement best describes rose (cabbage) oil extracted
either using solvents or carbon dioxide?
A. pale with a deep floral aroma
B. reddish orange with a rich, sweet, slightly spicy, rosy
53. True or False?
Rose (cabbage) oil comprises mainly of alcohols.
54. The following are actions of rose (cabbage) oil. Which is likely
to be of most benefit in cases of liver congestion?
55. True or False?
Rose oil is contra-indicated to the full term of
56. Fill in the missing word.
The Latin name for sandalwood is ___________ album.
57. Sandalwood oil is extracted from the roots and heartwood that
is first powdered and dried. What method of extraction is
58. True or False?
Sandalwood can act as a urinary antiseptic and so it is useful
in cases of cystitis.
59. Which alcohol makes up 70-90% of sandalwood oil?
60. True or False?
Sandalwood is a friendly oil with no major contra-indications.
61. What part of the plant is distilled to produce ylang ylang oil?
62. True or False?
Ylang ylang oil has an intensely sweet aroma that can cause
headaches or nausea in some individuals.
63. Which of the following main constituents of ylang ylang is an
D. benzyl acetate
64. Is ylang ylang oil hypotensive or hypertensive?
65. True or False?
Ylang ylang is sedative, nervine and tonic and is useful in
cases of nervous tension, jealousy, anger, frustration and
1. Essential oils are usually diluted before use. As a general rule,
what percentage of the mix should be essential oil?
D. more than 6%
2. What is the maximum number of drops of essential oil that can
safely be used in one day?
3. Oils that have been ‘stretched’ are more likely to produce skin
irritations as they contain additional components. What term is
given to this stretching process?
4. What should a person who has consumed in excess of 5ml of
essential oil be given to drink?
5. What cannot be used to wash out essential oil from an eye?