A chemical family refers to a set of chemicals that have specific traits in common in their molecular structure. This similarity in molecular structure means the chemicals will usually have similar therapeutic properties and precautions.
Molecules in the monoterpene chemical family contain only 10 carbon atoms and a varying number of hydrogen atoms. Chemicals within this family include (but are not limited to) alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, camphene, limonene, phellandrene, terpinene, and terpinolene.
Many essential oils with high levels of monoterpenes tend to be antibacterial and antiviral. As such, they are good for diffusing during cold and flu season and for using in soapmaking.
Monoterpenes in general are also anti-inflammatory. Some have a warming effect which can help soothe pain. This makes these appropriate choices for after-exercise topical blends.
Energetically, oils rich in monoterpenes can lift the spirit and encourage energy. Think about citrus oils like lemon, orange, and lime -- these are monoterpene-rich oils. How do they make you feel? Happy? Full of energy?
When using monoterpene-rich essential oils, it's important to store them properly (in a cool, dark space) as they oxidize (spoil) easily. When oxidized, they may irritate the skin or cause sensitization.
Did you know that all of the nature-made chemicals found in essential oils can be categorized in chemical families? These families are Monoterpenes, Monoterpenols, Sesquiterpenes, Sesquiterpenols, Esters, Oxides, Phenols, Aldehydes, Lactones, Ketones, Coumarins, and Ethers. The structure of the molecules of each chemical determines the family to which it belongs. The families may have certain, generalized, therapeutic property tendencies, and/or certain, generalized cautions.
An average oil may have around 100 chemicals. When we list those chemicals by family, we will usually see that the oil contains a higher percentage of one or two families. For example, an oil with 54% of monoterpenes would be considered monoterpene-rich, and its therapeutic properties would be consistent with those of the monoterpene family.
Saffron is the most expensive spice on the planet. It's made from the stigmata of the Crocus sativa flower, and it takes about 75,000 - 80,000 plants to make one pound of the spice. No wonder it's so expensive!
Before discussing its benefits, I'll give the cautions. Scientists believe that a maximum safe daily dose is 1.5 grams per day. They do know that 5 grams is toxic. It should not be used by those with a blood clotting disorder or by pregnant women.
The benefits of this spice include: helping with mild or moderate depression, treating age-related macular degeneration, and treating cancer. It also has anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties (it blocks pain sensitivity).
The second category of Essential Fatty Acids includes Linoleic Acid (LA), an Omega 6 Fatty Acid. This EFA supports inflammation in the inflammatory process. (Inflammation is the way our bodies protect and heal themselves.)
Too much Omega 6 FAs can lead to chronic inflammation, which can damage the body. In the US, we tend to eat foods with far more Omega 6 than Omega 3 Fatty Acids. We should be balancing them in about a 3 to 1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Cooking with Canola Oil or Olive Oil is one way to keep them in balance.
The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.