Phenols are very powerful chemicals! In essential oils, structurally, they seem similar to alcohols, but have a phenyl or benzene ring and have one or more hydrogen atom(s) that get swapped out with another group of atoms. The phenols we find in essential oils are carvacrol, cresol, eugenol, and thymol. You'll notice that they all have the -ol- suffix like the alcohols (monoterpenols and sesquiterpenols).
These chemicals are strongly antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, germicidal, bactericidal, and immune-system boosters. When you're sick, they're great in a diffuser to help knock germs out of the air and to help your immune system fight off illnesses. They are also CNS stimulants and can be of assistance with certain types of depression. Eugenol, in small amounts, can be beneficial to the liver; however, in larger amounts it becomes toxic to the liver.
Essential oils that have significant levels of phenols include Aniseed, Tulsi Basil, Cinnamon, Clove, Oregano, Tarragon, and Thyme ct. thymol. The phenols in these oils are highly reactive and will irritate (possibly damage) the skin and mucous membranes. If you use any of these oils topically, it's important to dilute them very well in a carrier oil that is skin healing. A 0.5% maximum dilution is recommended -- that's 3 drops EO per 1 ounce of carrier oil. When diffusing, limit the total phenol content to a maximum of 10% of the diffuser blend. i.e. for a 5 mL diffuser blend, phenol content should be 1/2 mL or less. Additionally, such blends should be used short-term -- for only two or three days.
Other precautions to follow when using oils high in phenols include:
* Do not use if you have a blood-clotting disorder or are taking blood thinners.
* Do not use before surgery.
* Do not use in a bath.
* Do not use on babies or children.
* Do not use if you have 'hot' skin conditions (i.e. dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis)
* Do not use on broken or irritated skin.
* Be sure to look at your GC/MS reports and calculate out your phenol percentages when blending essential oils.
Below are samples of a couple of spreadsheets I made when I first started using essential oils (and before I got certified as an aromatherapist). The first is for a single oil -- Tulsi Basil. The second is part of a blend where I calculated percentages of chemicals within the blend and compared them to make sure I didn't use too many harsh constituents. Making these charts helps me visualize my blends as a whole and ensure I keep them safe.
The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.