When secondary alcohols oxidize (pick up an oxygen atom) they can become ketones. Ketones are similar to aldehydes in form and tend to be stable, meaning they're not likely to oxidize any further. One ketone you may be familiar with is Camphor, and if you've ever experienced camphor, you'll have an idea of the strength of ketones.
Ketones are powerful and their therapeutic properties differ from one to the other as do their precautions.
The primary ketones found in essential oils are camphor,
fenchone, isopinocamphone, jasmone, menthone, pinocamphone, pulegone, thujone, tumerone, valeranone, verbenone, and vetivone. (You'll notice that most of the ketones take the -one suffix.) Because of their differences, we'll explore camphor since it's so widely known and used.
Camphor's therapeutic properties include relieving pain, being antibacterial and antifungal, reducing mucus and coughing, stimulating the central nervous system, and possibly helping maintain bone density. As with many strong constituents, camphor needs to be used with care. It should not be used near the faces of infants or young children as it can slow their breathing or even cause respiratory collapse. Babies and young children should not ingest camphor. Even for older children and adults, too much camphor can depress the CNS and be toxic, so it needs to be limited to 4.8 % at the most in topical blends. There are cautions for ingestion as well, which is why cough drops containing camphor limit use to a few hours apart.
While there are some ketones that are considered safe, others, like isopinocamphone, pinocamphone, pulegone, and thujone are either toxic to the liver, toxic to the brain, or both. These should be used in small amounts for short-term and should not be used if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have liver disease, or have a seizure disorder.
The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.