Scientific Aromatherapy

In light of the most recent studies, we can see the definition of a new branch of Modern Aromatherapy, which could be defined as Scientific Aromatherapy – focused on the use of essential oils as incomparable coadjuvants to resolve many specific problems. We are increasingly seeing how 100% pure essential oils are a key linchpin for a targeted approach to common everyday problems, whether in humans or in animals. Because of this, it has become essential to approach Aromatherapy with a new scientific method, employing modern instruments to identify known phytocomplexes and chemotypes to enable an overall evaluation of the characteristics of each specific essential oil and its appropriate, rational usage in treatment. So we don’t just see “essential oils in food supplements and cosmetics”, but as a core part of our most common needs – creating a new type of medicine, no longer “alternative”, but integrated.

Dr Prof. Paolo Campagna

Surgeon, Lecturer on Improvements in Phytotherapy at the University of Tuscia in Viterbo, Chair of the SIROE

From holistic wellness to scientific aromatherapy

Modern studies have led to 100% pure essential oils being viewed as remedies belonging to a branch that could be defined as Aromatherapy or aromatic medicine, leading to more in-depth investigation into these chemical complexes, derived from herbal drugs and then processed by humans using a range of techniques. Essential oils are becoming a key linchpin for a rational, scientific approach to the practice of complementary and/or integrative medicine in both humans and animals, and for the formulation of products based on 360-degree, holistic well-being.

It is a clear fact 100% pure essential oils, which previously were often categorized as substances with pleasant fragrances and particular aromatic notes, are actually complex biochemical blends containing hundreds of different substances (monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, phenols, alcohols, aldehydes, oxides, ketones, ethers, esters etc.), with significant pharmacological properties, but also with a certain level of toxicity. They cannot and today must not, for any reason, be confused with those inexact “essences” which are, most probably, produced from isolated chemicals of natural or synthetic origin, where the only resemblance to the true 100% pure essential oil is in its smell.

The extraordinary ability of essential oils to penetrate and diffuse and their marked lipophilia, if used in appropriate pharmacological carriers, has for a long time reinforced their external use. This takes on its own distinct meaning, as it enables consumers to enjoy the not insignificant benefits of certain essential oils which may be hard to use internally (due to toxicity or causticity). The use of 100% pure essential oils from guaranteed organic production in modern medicine is a rational choice in so many situations, to the extent that essential oils may be effectively used:

  • to improve the function of the airways and the well-being of the nose and throat; they are also useful for the mucous membranes of the nose and throat and vocal tone
  • to make bronchial secretions easier to clear
  • to improve digestive function and gastrointestinal motility
  • to promote the elimination of intestinal gas
  • to regulate digestive transit
  • to speed up metabolism of carbohydrates
  • for relaxation (and sleep, in times of stress) and normal mood
  • to improve hepatobiliary function
  • to promote the drainage of bodily fluids

Essential Oils have been shown to be very effective thanks to their notable:

  • antioxidant action
  • balsam action
  • softening and soothing action

The use of precious 100% pure essential oils may also be suggested to be integrated into conventional medical treatment. In this context, certain “chemotyped” essential oils are often used. These are identified due to predominantly containing certain components which are considered more active in the phytocomplex, thanks to basic methods such as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry which may be able to guide a specific application.

Modern rational Scientific Aromatherapy also looks at parameters such as a qualitative-quantitative Aromatogram, which indicates in a laboratory setting the inhibition zones and precise sensitivity data. The possibility of patients having cutaneous or generalised hypersensitivity to an essential oil should also be taken into consideration, without ever overlooking their low therapeutic index (time between the beneficial effect and the toxic effect) which requires their use only after careful assessment and experimentation, especially if taken orally.

Dr Prof. Paolo Campagna

Surgeon, Lecturer in the Postgraduate Course in Phytotherapy at the University of Tuscia in Viterbo, Italy, and President of SIROE 

What is a chemotyped Essential Oil?

Not all 100% pure essential oils are alike, even if they come from the same plant grown in the same location. Depending on its biotype (climatic events, soil, altitude, irrigation and stress), the same plant can produce chemically different essential oils. It is essential that therapists have an in-depth knowledge of the chemical make-up of the phytocomplex and its prevalent constituents.

In a single botanical species, this chemical variation is what enables us to precisely define the nature of the species, the subspecies and the varieties of aromatic plants. This variation is what leads to the concept of chemotype or chemical race. This is an important concept for the application of Scientific Aromatherapy. It is important to remember that different chemotypes mean different properties.

Let’s look at the chemotypes of thyme, as an example. The following essential oils are all extracts from thyme (Thymus vulgaris) but they have different biochemical characteristics which correspond to different properties:

  • Thymus vulgaris thymol chemotype
  • Thymus vulgaris linalool chemotype
  • Thymus vulgaris thujanol chemotype
  • Thymus vulgaris cineole chemotype
  • Thymus vulgaris carvacrol chemotype
  • Thymus vulgaris paracymene chemotype
  • Thymus vulgaris geraniol chemotype
  • Thymus vulgaris terpineol chemotype
  • Thymus vulgaris terpineol chemotype

Dr. Prof. Paolo Campagna

Surgeon, Lecturer in the Postgraduate Course in Phytotherapy at the University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy, and President of SIROE

How to use essential oils and precautions for use

100% pure essential oils are highly active substances with innumerable properties but, as with any other natural substance, whether organically produced or not, they should be used sensibly and rationally, based on clinical and pharmacological experience, and employing maximum caution. These are highly concentrated oils and, if used inappropriately or ingested without a doctor’s prescription, they can cause problems, especially in pregnant or breast-feeding women, children and patients suffering from severe kidney, liver or neurological diseases.

What is an Essential Oil chemotype?

Not all essential oils coming from the same plant are the same. Depending on biotype (climate, soil, altitude, irrigation, stress) the same plant can produce chemically different essential oils. It is fundamental for a therapist to have an in-depth knowledge of the chemical constituents of the phytocomplex and the prevailing ones.
This chemical variation allows us define precisely the nature of the specie, the subspecie  and the variety of aromatic plants in the same botanic specie. This chemical variation creates the notion of: chemotype or chemical race. An important notion for the conscious implementation  of scientific Aromatherapy. It is important to remember that different chemotypes mean different properties.

Example of thyme chemotype: the following essential oils are all extracted from thyme (Thymus vulgaris) but present different biochemical characteristics that correspond to different properties.
•    Thymus vulgaris thymol chemotype better antinfective properties
•    Thymus vulgaris linalool chemotype antibacterial, antimycotic (dermatitis , herpes),  viricide, parasiticidal properties.
•    Thymus vulgaris thujanol chemotype neurotic and antimicrobial properties
•    Thymus vulgaris cineol chemotype decongestive, antiviral, bronchopulmonary properties
•    Thymus vulgaris carvacrol chemotype better antimicrobial properties (and anti- inflammatory)
•    Thymus vulgaris paracymen chemotype antalgic properties, to use in case of arthritis
•    Thymus vulgaris geraniol chemotype antibacterial, antimycotic, antiviral properties
•    Thymus vulgaris terpineol chemotype antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Dr. Professor Paolo Campagna
MD, Professor in the Course of Specialization in Phytotherapy at the Tuscia University in Viterbo, SIROE PRESIDENT

Use and precautions of essential oils

Essential oils are active substances with numerous properties but, as with any other natural or organic substance, they must be used with intelligence and rationality, clinical and pharmacological experience and extreme carefulness. They are indeed extremely concentered oils and, if used improperly or taken without a medical prescription, can cause problems especially during pregnancy, breastfeeding, with children and subjects suffering from kidney, hepatic or neurological diseases.

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