Chemistry of Essential Oils
Chemical Family Monoterenes Part II
Monoterpene oils are loved, relished, and used so much by so many. The oils that have a significant percentage of Monoterpenes includes Bergamot Citrus bergamia, Black Pepper Piper nigrum, Cypress Cupressus sempervirens, Frankincense Boswellia carterii, Grapefruit Citrus paradisi,, Juniper Berry Juniperus communis, Laurel Leaf Laurus nobilis, Lemon Citrus limon, Neroli Citrus aurantium var. amara, Nutmeg Mysticia fragrants, Opopnax Commiphora guidotti, Orange Citrus sinesis, Ravintsara Cinnamomum camphora ct. 1,8 cineole, Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis ct camphor/1,8 cineole, Siberian Fir Abies sibirica, Sweet Marjoram Origanum majorana, Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia, ThymeThymus vulgaris ct. linalol.
We have three concerns with the effects on the skin with oils that are high in Monoterpenes. Oxidation, phototoxicity and the last is whether the oils are considered “hot and spicy”. A chart is available in Part I of the Monoterpenes articles. Details about monoterpenes and the constituents within monoterpenes is also available in Part I as well as the complete introduction. This will benefit you greatly to read Part I before beginning Part II. In Part I you will also find Bergamot and Grapefruit descriptions, components, i.e.; as well as a-pinene and d-limonene descriptions and actions, emotional and energetic qualities, therapeutic actions, clinical properties, and safety.
We will look at Black Pepper first. Black pepper is steam distilled and the plant part used is the dried fruit. Fresh, dry, warm, spicy, and woody. When a scent is described as ‘dry’ it means the opposite of ‘sweet.’ You might also detect a Clove-like note, contributed by β-caryophyllene. Black Pepper adds warmth to blends, and not just from the olfactory perspective. It complements intense florals (such as Rose, Jasmine, and Ylang Ylang), and blends well with herbal oils (especially Basil), citrus oils (notably Bergamot), spicy oils (such as Clove Bud and Nutmeg), and the resinous Frankincense and Myrrh (Rhind 2014). Cypress is steam distilled from leaves, cones and twigs. Cypress is woodsy, resinous, and balsamic with smoky notes. Cypress has good depth. The monoterpenes α-pinene, δ-3-carene, and even the small percentage of the sesquiterpenol cedrol are significant in its scent. It blends well with other conifers and other woodsy oils, herbal oils, and floral oils. It was often used as incense in ancient Greece and Egypt, and is currently used as a purification incense in Tibet. Frankincense, Juniper berry and Laurel leaf. Juniper Berry essential oil has a fresh, terpenic, coniferous (pine-like), resinous, and woody aroma. The aroma is unique and blends well with all conifers and citrus oils. You can diffuse Juniper Berry to create a fresh, clean, positive atmosphere, activate the senses, and enhance energy levels. The chemistry of Juniper Berry is considered more complex than the oil extracted from the leaves and twigs, and is suggested for aromatherapy use. Juniper Berry is rich in monoterpenes and some sesquiterpenes. The monoterpenes easily penetrate the skin and contribute to Juniper Berry’s especially useful effects in massage oils.
Emotional/Energetic Qualities: Black Pepperreduces fear and motivate change, protection from negative energy. It helps to release blocked energy and reduces fatigue, depression, low energy. Cypresscalms excessive thinking and talking and soothes us when feeling overwhelmed. It eases major life transitions and assists us with grief and trauma. Juniper Berry cleanses and protects and rives out negative forces. It’s useful when feeling burdened and overwhelmed and helps to release worry and negative thinking.
Analgesic: Based on its dominant components, notably β-caryophyllene, d-limonene, and α- and β-pinene, Black Pepper is likely to have analgesic and antinociceptive actions. Ou et al. (2014) Cypress is traditionally used to treat pain and inflammation. Akkol et al (2009) showed that Juniper Berry oil has remarkable analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antinonciceptive activities.
Anti-inflammatory: Some of the main components of Black Pepper essential oil, including d-limonene and β-caryophyllene, show good anti-inflammatory activity (Baylac and Racine 2003). Cypressanti-inflammatory actions may be due in part to the fact that it can scavenge nitric oxide, a toxic radical, which contributes to edema, nociception, and pain by stimulating the release of pro-inflammatory mediators (Aazara et al. 2014). See analgesic for Juniper Berry
Antiemetic: Traditionally, Black Pepper was used as a digestive stimulant, and it may help to reduce vomiting and nausea, especially if related to overindulgence.
Antibacterial: Black Pepper is active against pathogenic bacteria such as the Gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Streptococcus faecalis, and Gram-negative Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Salmonella typhi. (Karsha and Lakshmi 2010, Zarrinhhalam et al. 2013). Cypresshas good activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, possibly due to the presence of α-pinene and cedrol (Selim et al. 2014).
Anti-fungal: Because of the dominant components like a-pinene in Juniper Berry, it has good anti-fungal (anti-yeast) actions.
Antimicrobial: Juniper Berry has weak antimicrobial activity. However, fractions with a high α-pinene content, or high α-pinene plus sabinene, displayed good antimicrobial actions, especially antifungal activity.
Antioxidant: Cypress has antioxidant activity (Aazara et al. 2014), and a potential role in the prevention of degenerative conditions (Asgary et al. 2013). Per Shaaban, El-Ghorab and Shibmato, 2012, Juniper Berry has good antioxidant actions.
Antispasmodic: Although there is no direct evidence to support this, Cypress is well known for its ability to alleviate spasmodic coughs. This may be due to the presence of α-pinene, which is anti-inflammatory and analgesic (Guimarães et al. 2013) and the mucolytic actions of constituents such as δ-3-carene. Likely due to the a-pinene, Juniper Berry has good antispasmodic activity.
Astringent: Cypress has astringent qualities. In traditional medicine, it was used to stop excessive loss of fluid. Essential oils that are high in monoterpenes like Juniper Berryoften show astringent and skin penetration enhancing actions.
Circulatory stimulant: Black Pepper is valued as a rubefacient and vasodilator—it stimulates local blood circulation, creating a feeling of warmth and pain relief. Monoterpenes in oils like Juniper berry can behave like counterirritants, promote vasodilation, and stimulate local circulation when applied dermally.
Decongestant: In traditional medicine, Cypress was well regarded for its decongestant actions—eliminating mucus in the respiratory system, and alleviating venous congestion. Experience with Juniper Berry suggests that it has good decongestant and expectorant actions. Its astringent, diuretic action means that it’s also useful for soft tissue congestion.
Digestive stimulant: Black Pepper is valued as a digestive stimulant in Chinese and traditional Greek medicine.
Diuretic: Related to its decongestant and astringent activities, Cypress has been used for millennia to aid reduction of accumulated fluids in the tissues.
Expectorant: Black Peppers’stimulating qualities may irritate goblet cells and increase mucus production, enhancing expectoration.
Febrifuge: Black Pepper is used to reduce fever in many systems of traditional medicine.
Rubefacient, Vasodilator, Warming: Black Pepper-See circulatory stimulant.
Skincare: Juniper Berry is remarkable for treating acne. It’s very astringent, and due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and skin healing qualities, it helps to cleanse and heal the infected areas.
Circulation: Black Pepper is warming and has vasodilatory actions, and so is one of the best oils for stimulating peripheral circulation. For this, it blends well with Lemongrass, Clove Bud, and Spike Lavender in massage oils and creams for local application. Cypress is great or improvement of circulation, relief of swelling and pain caused by varicose veins, and reduction of inflammation and edema in the limbs, Cypress can be blended in a massage oil with Juniper Berry, Rosemary (any chemotype), Lemon, Grapefruit, and Black Pepper.
Congestion and fluid retention: Juniper Berry is widely used for edema, lymph congestion, bloating, varicose veins, and fluid retention. It can be used in blends to counteract tissue congestion along with oils like Grapefruit, Fennel, Cedarwood, Cypress, and Geranium.
Digestion: Black Pepper can be inhaled to reduce nausea. Just put a drop or two on a tissue and inhale for a few minutes. Add to a cream and massage into the belly for constipation, gas and to support digestion. Use at a 1% dilution. Black Pepper works well with Cardamom for digestive support.
Diuretic: In traditional medicine, Juniper berry oil was used as a diuretic and digestive aid.
Immune: Black Pepper is great for cold and flu season. Try adding a drop to a chest rub or foot massage oil to warm up the body and stimulate the immune system.
Menstruation: Cypress is often used in massage blends to alleviate cramping. It works well with German Chamomile and Geranium.
Musculoskeletal: Due to its analgesic, warming, and anti-inflammatory qualities, Black Pepper is great in sports massage oils for sore muscles, pain, and stiffness. It’s also useful for rheumatic pain. Black Pepper works well with a variety of oils to alleviate aches and pains, including Lavender, Basil, Clary Sage, Sweet Marjoram, Rosemary, Geranium, and Juniper Berry. Cypress has anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions, and is very useful for rheumatic conditions. Its antispasmodic activity can help with restless leg syndrome. If you do extensive physical activity, a Juniper Berry and Lavender bath with sea salts is just the thing. Juniper Berry is also excellent in massage blends for aches and pains, and rheumatic conditions.
Respiratory: Black Pepperwould be good in a chest rub or massage oil to alleviate bronchial congestion (perhaps combined with Eucalyptus and Lavender). Cypresscan be inhaled or incorporated into a massage blend for prevention of infection and alleviating inflammation. It combines well with Thyme ct. linalol, Rosemary (any chemotype), Eucalyptus, and Lemon. It can also be used to relieve spasmodic coughs.
Skin: For prevention of infection, inflammation, and wound healing, Cypress can be used with oils such as Geranium, Rose, Lavender, and Helichrysum. Smoking cessation:There is some evidence that supports the use of Black Pepper in smoking cessation. A randomized controlled trial evaluated the effects of inhaled Black Pepper essential oil, and it was found that it significantly reduced the craving for cigarettes (Kitikannakorn et al. 2013).
The chemistry of Black Pepper can vary considerably based on the source. The hot and spicy nature of the oil may cause skin irritation. Use in 1% dilution when applying to the skin in massage oils. Not recommended for use in baths. Store well, as the limonene, alpha-pinene, delta-3-carene content leaves it vulnerable to oxidizing. Once oxidized, it is even more likely to cause serious skin irritation or sensitization. Cypress is non-toxic, non-irritating. If oxidized, it may cause skin irritation or sensitization. Some sources recommend avoiding Cypress essential oil during pregnancy, but there is no research to support this statement. Juniper berry is non-toxic but if it gets oxidized it may cause skin irritation or sensitization. It should be used in low dilution when applying to the skin, such as in bath or massage oils.
Happy Oiling, Rehne!