Nature derives ethers from phenols. Because of this, you may hear the terms 'phenolic ethers' or 'phenolic methyl ether'. All three terms are referring to the same chemical family. Like phenols, ethers have powerful therapeutic properties and are very harsh on the skin. They also come with significant toxicity warnings. You might ask "If they're so rough on our skin, why use them?".
We use them because, therapeutically, ethers tend to be strongly antibacterial, antifungal, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and carminative. They can also provide a local anesthetic effect. Oils rich in ethers include Anise, Fennel, Nutmeg, and Tarragon. They can be used to calm the stomach, relieve gas and bloating, calm muscle spasms, calm cramping, aid the lungs, calm a spastic cough, and promote relaxation so you can sleep.
Ether-rich oils are an example of why knowing and understanding the chemistry of essential oils is critical. While they can be highly effective in blends, they must be used in very small quantities and for very short periods of time.
Ethers can burn the skin and/or cause skin cell damage.
There are specific warnings for different ethers listed below.
(E)-anethole - Avoid during pregnancy. Do not use if on blood-thinners or if you have a bleeding disorder, or before or after surgery. It has possible estrogenic activity, so do not use if you have or have had estrogen related conditions like endometriosis or estrogen-related cancers.
Elemicin: Some studies on male mice indicated a weak possibility of being carcinogenic, but there is not enough evidence to make an actual determination of this.
Estragole (aka: methyl chavicol): Do not use if you are taking blood-thinners or if you have a bleeding disorder, before or after surgery, or if you have a peptic ulcer.
Myristicin: no warnings when used properly in aromatherapy,
There are so many essential oils available that I find I rarely see the need to use ether-rich oils. Often, I will use the herb instead of the oil -- and that for limited time too.
Datasheets for these essential oils will be coming soon in the membership section.
The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.