Aromatherapy Guide (Home)

Families of Essential Oils

The different groups and families of essential oils

There are several ways of classifying essential oils into groups or families. This site, uses a fairly common method of classification according to the type of plant (such as a herb) and the part of the plant from which the essential oil is derived (such as the flowers).

The classification of essential oils according to botanical family is less commonly used in practical lists, but nonetheless gives valuable insights into the quality of essential oils. These are not used exclusively in aromatherapy; the flavoring, perfumery and pharmaceutical industries also use essential oils. However, the oils used in these industries do not require the same level of purity and authenticity that essential oils for aromatherapeutic use must have.

A botanical overview

It is important that you must know that your essential oils are botanically pure for use in aromatherapy. Botanical purity and authenticity can usually be determined by the retailer supplying the plant's botanical name, and not just its common name. For example, the common name 'chamomile' could mean one of three different essential oils: roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), german chamomile (Matricario recutia) or moroccan chamomile (Ormenis mixta). Although in this instance all three belong to the same botanical family - Compositae (also called Asteraceae) - each of the three chamomiles has distinct properties and should not be confused with the others.

It is also important to know the part of the plant used. For instance, there are two different essential oils distilled from the juniper tree Juniperus communeris. The essential oil distilled from the berries is considerably finer than that distilled from the leaves and twigs, and this is the one you should use in aromatherapy.

Alongside knowing the true botanical name of the essential oil and which part of the plant it is derived from, it is useful to know the source and country of origin of the oil, as well as the extraction method used. In this way you can be confident that your essential oil is pure and authentic.


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