Tia L Kennard

Technical writing and graphics professional

What Are Key Constituents

An excerpt from one of my articles published by the online magazine Essential Health.

The graphic that headlined this article was created by myself. All links were current at time of posting this article.


What are Key Constituents?

To many, Key Constituents look like some fancy words with a bunch of pretty percentages. Here’s a quick look at why knowing the key constituents of an oil can help you.

What are they?

Key constituents are chemical compounds that are found in the essential oil. These are a measurable means to understand what gives the essential oils their therapeutic value. All plants have chemical compounds, but a few have been shown to be highly beneficial for us to use. The properties can be found in many parts of a plant — stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, and roots. They help the plant during its life cycle and continue to help us after being extracted.

Most know the plants used as herbs, and when used properly they can help and assist the human body. Oils can be extracted from these plants, allowing the chemical compounds to be in a highly concentrated form. Some oils may be thousands of times stronger than the dried herb. This is why only a small amount is needed when using essential oils.

Difference Between Chemical Compounds?

There are key constituents that have special symbols at the beginning of their names. All this means is that a single isomer bond is in a different location on the chemical compound. α-Ocimene and β-Ocimene are the same compound, have the same base elements, but each one has a double bond of molecules in a different location.

Some key constituents look like they are the same compound with a different letter in front of them. For example, take (Z)-β-Ocimene and (E)-β-Ocimene which are found in lavender oil. β-Ocimene is the chemical compound for each. In this case, they have a different three dimensional orientation. Like a house with a garden on the right side of the backyard instead of having the garden on the left side of the backyard.

Both of these are very small changes, and the main chemical compound stays true. But it can have effects on the use and various chemical reactions. For the everyday use, most of these small differences won’t make a big difference.

A synthetic version of the chemical compound isn’t exactly the same as one found in nature. However, a natural and synthetic version of the compound are similar enough that a scientific study done on either one will generally hold true for the other. For the scientific community to accept the results as fact, a high number of studies must be done and all must have the same results. Very few key constituents have been researched to this extent, but the studies that have been conduct are interesting to learn from. There will be more articles like “Lavender Oil: A Scientific View“, where findings for specific key constituents will be discussed.

Does percentage matter?

The quantity, or percentage, of each chemical compound matters a great deal. The chemical properties that make up most of an oil are the ones that are the most active when using the oil.

Linalool makes up more than a quarter of Lavender oil, but 10% or less in Geranium oil. Linalool is known as a stress-reducer. Lavender is well known for relaxation. If the percentage rate was higher in Geranium oil, it might also be called a sedative. Instead Geranium oil is better known to balance moods. In that case, 10% can help lower agitation in angry times, but doesn’t work as effectively as a higher percentage.

Why is it important to know? Well, if you don’t like the smell of Lavender oil, knowing that Linalyl Acetate and Linalool makes up more than 75% of the oil can help you find an alternative that has similar properties. You’ll want to look for another oil that has high amounts of those two key constituents. It will not be an exact match, but can provide a similar affect.

If you ever have a rare allergic reaction to more than one oil, take a look at the key constituents. More often than not, you’ll find a similar key constituent in each one. Chances are that this is the one that is causing your troubles. If you check the key constituents on new oils in the future, you can avoid a lot of trial and error by avoiding the ones that have that key constituent

Not all the chemical compounds found in each oil have been identified. True therapeutic grade rose oil has over 300 different compounds and more than half of them have not been identified. This field of study regarding the key constituents will continue on for years to come. Most scientific discoveries seem to confirm the trial and error work generations of essential oil users have learned.


  1. The Aromatherapy Bible: The Definitive Guide to Using Essential Oils, by Gill Farrer-Halls
  2. Aromatherapy: An A-Z: The Most Comprehensive Guide to Aromatherapy Ever Published, by Patricia Davis
  3. Dean, Paul H. “Understanding Quality.” E-mail interview. 24 Mar. 2014.
  4. http://www.fspublishers.org/published_papers/18864_..pdf
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ester

For the full article go to: http://essentialhealth.com/2014/04/what-are-key-constituents/


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This entry was posted on April 1, 2014 by in Graphic.
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