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Glossary of essential oil terms

Underneath we have short explanations of the terms used to explain the therapeutic properties of essential oils.

Abortifacient Capable of inducing abortion
Absolute The most concentrated form of fragrance obtained when distilling a concrete
Adulterate This is when unscrupulous companies mix pure essential oils with a base oil – thereby watering down the essential oil – but then still sell the ‘watered down’ oil as 100% pure essential oil. This is a huge problem in the essential oil market, as people are tempted to adulterate their oils for higher profit margins.
Acetylcholine Is a fluid used in the transmission of information from one nerve ending to another
Allergy Hypersensitivity caused by a foreign substance
Alopecia Baldness – can be temporary or permanent
Alterative Correcting disordered bodily functions
Amenorrhoea The absence of menstruation
Anaerobic Type of organism that does not require oxygen
Analgesic Relieving or deadening pain
Anaphrodisiac Lessening sexual desire
Anemia Deficiency of either quantity or quality of red corpuscles in the blood
Anesthetic Pain relieving by loss of sensation
Annual Plant that completes its life cycle in one year
Anodyne Stills pain and quieten disturbed feelings
Anosmic Loss of smell
Anthelmintic A vermifuge, destroying or expelling intestinal worms
Anti-acid Combats acid in the body
Anti-arthritic An agent which helps to combat arthritis
Anti-allergenic Reduces symptoms of allergies
Antibacterial Fights bacterial growth
Antibiotic Fights infection in the body by preventing the growth or destroying bacteria
Anti-convulsant Helps control convulsions
Anti-depressant Helps to counteract depression and lifts the mood
Anti-dontalgic Relieves toothache
Anti-emetic Reduces the severity or incidence of vomiting
Anti-fungal Prevents the growth of fungi
Anti-galactagogue Impedes or lessens the flow of milk
Anti-hemorrhagic A substance preventing or combating bleeding
Antihistamine Counteracts allergic reaction
Anti-infectious Prevents against infection
Anti-microbial A substance reducing or resisting microbes
Antioxidant A substance to prevent or delay oxidation
Anti-parasitic Acts against parasites
Anti-phlogistic Counteracts inflammation
Anti-pruritic Relieves or prevents sensation of itching
Anti-pyretic Reduces fever
Anti-rheumatic An agent which helps to combat rheumatism
Anti-sclerotic Helps to prevent hardening of arteries
Anti-seborrheic Helps control the oily secretion from sweat glands
Antiseptic A substance helping to control infection
Anti-spasmodic A substance to help prevent and ease spasms and relieve cramps
Anti-sudorific A substance to help lessen sweating
Anti-toxic Antidote or treatment to counteract the effects of poison
Anti-tussive Relieves coughing
Aperient Mild laxative
Aphonia Loss of voice
Aphrodisiac Increasing sexual desire and sexual functioning
Apoplexy Sudden loss of consciousness, a stroke or sudden hemorrhage
Aromatherapy The therapeutic use of essential oils
Arrhythmia Irregular or loss of heartbeat rhythm
Arteriosclerosis Hardening of the arteries
Astringent Causing contraction of organic tissue
Atherosclerosis Accumulation of fatty deposits on the inside walls of arteries
Atony Lack of muscle tone
Bactericidal An agent destroying bacteria
Balsam Water soluble, semi-solid or viscous resinous exudate similar to that of gum
Balsamic Soothing medicine or application having the qualities of balsam
Bechic Anything referring to coughing, or an agent relieving cough
Biennial A plant completing its life cycle in two years, without flowering the first year
Bilious A condition caused by an excessive secretion of bile
Blepharitis Inflammation of the eyelids
Calmative A sedative
Carcinogenic A substance that promotes cancer or cancerous growths
Cardiac Pertaining to the heart
Carminative Settles the digestive system and relieves flatulence
Carrier oil An oil which is used to dilute essential oils for the purpose of massage – see fixed oils
Cellulite An “orange peel” effect caused by local accumulation of fat and waste products
Cephalic A substance stimulating and clearing the mind
Chemotypes The same botanical species occurring in other forms due to different growth conditions
Chi / Qi Chinese term referring to the essential life force
Cholagogue Stimulating the secretion of bile into the duodenum
Cholecystokenetic Agent that stimulates the contraction of the gall bladder
Choleretic Helps the liver to excrete bile, leading to greater bile flow
Cholesterol Is a steroid alcohol found in red blood cells, bile, nervous tissue and animal fat
Cicatrisation Formation of scar tissue
Cicatrisant Agent promoting healing by scar tissue formation
Cirrhosis Chronic inflammation and degeneration of any organ (normally in the liver)
Clinical trial A controlled study to look at the effectiveness of a specific ingredient or application
Cohobation Is a process in the extraction method of especially rose essential oil, to ensure a “complete” oil
Cold pressed Refers to a method of extraction where no external heat is applied during the process
Colic Pain due to contraction of the muscle of the abdominal organs
Colitis Inflammation of the colon
Concrete A waxy concentrate semi-solid essential oil extract, made from plant material, and is used to make an absolute
Constipation A state where normal bowel functions are not present
Cutaneous Pertaining to the skin
Cystitis Bladder inflammation
Cytophylactic Action of increasing the leukocyte activity to defend the body against infection
Cytotoxic Toxic to all cells
Decoction A herbal preparation made by boiling the material and reducing it to a concentration
Decongestant A substance which helps to relieve congestion
Demulcent An agent protecting mucus membranes and helps stop irritation
Depurative Helps to detoxify and to combat impurities in the blood and body
Dermatitis Inflammation of the skin
Detoxifier Helps to detoxify and to combat impurities in the blood and body
Diaphoretic A substance which helps to promote perspiration
Diffuser A device which helps to release the fragrance molecules into the air
Distillation A method of extraction used in the manufacture of essential oils
Diuretic Helps to produce urine and remove water from the body
Dysmenorrhoea Painful menstruation
Dysuria Pain or difficulty in urinating
Edema Water retention
Emetic Inducing vomiting
Emmenagogue Inducing or assisting menstruation
Emollient Softening and soothing to the skin
Emphysema Degenerative disease of the lungs where the air sacs become enlarged
Endocrine Pertaining to the ductless glands
Engorgement Congestion or fullness of the tissue
Enteritis Inflammation of the mucus membranes of the intestine
Enuresis Involuntary urinating
Enzyme Protein produced by living cells which catalyze biochemical reactions
Erethism Abnormal state of irritation or excitement
Essential oil Volatile aromatic liquid constituting the odorous principles of botanical matter
Exocrine Pertaining to a gland with a duct, secreting directly onto outside surface of organism
Expectorant A substance that helps to expel mucus from the lungs
Expression Is an extraction method where essential oils are pressed to obtain the oil
Exudates Natural material secreted by plants – can be spontaneous or after damage to plant
Febrifuge Helps to combat fever
Fibrillation Rapid twitching of muscle fiber
Fixative Material that slows evaporation of volatile components in perfume
Fixed oils Vegetable oils obtained from plants that are fatty and non-volatile
Flower water The water resulting from the distillation of essential oils, which still contains some of the properties of the plant material used in the extraction
Fold Refers to the percentage of terpenes removed by re-distillation – single fold to fivefold
Fractionated oils Refers to oils that have been re-distilled, either to have terpenes removed or to remove other substances
Fungicide A substance which destroys fungal infections
Galactagogue Helps to increase milk secretion
Gemicidal An agent that destroys micro-organisms
Gingivitis Inflammation of the gums
Glossitis Inflammation of the tongue
Halitosis Bad breath
Hematuria / Haematuria Presence of blood in the urine
Hemorrhoids Piles which are dilated rectal veins
Hemostatic Helps to stop bleeding
Hepatic Pertaining to the liver
Hepatoxic An agent having a toxic or harmful effect on the liver
Herpes Inflammation of the skin or mucus membranes
Hormone A product from living cells that produces a specific activity of cells remote from its point of origin
Hybrid A plant created by fertilization of one species by another
Hydrodiffusion Is a distillation method of essential oil extraction where the steam is produced above the botanical material and then percolates down
Hydrosol Floral water
Hyperglycemia / Hyperglycaemia Excess of sugar in the blood
Hypertension High blood pressure
Hypocholesterolemia Lowering of the cholesterol content of the blood
Hypoglycemia Lowered blood sugar levels
Hypotension Abnormally low blood pressure
Hypoxia A shortage of oxygen
In vitro In a test tube
In vivo In a living body
Infused oil An oil produced by steeping the macerated botanical material in oil until the oil has taken on some of the material’s properties
Infusion Herbal remedy made by steeping the plant material in water
Laxative A substance that helps with bowel movements
Leukocyte White blood cells responsible for fighting disease
Leucocytosis Raises number of white blood cells in the blood
Leucorrhoea Whitish vaginal discharge
Lipolytic Causing lipolysis which is the chemical disintegration of fats
Macerate To soak until soft
Massage therapist A person qualified to perform therapeutic massage on people
Massage therapy The manipulation of soft tissue to enhance health and general well-being
Menopause The normal cessation of menstruation
Menorrhagia Excessive blood loss during menstruation
Metrorrhagia Uterine bleeding outside the normal menstrual cycle
Microbe Minute living organism such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses
Mucilage Substance containing demulcent gelatinous constituents
Mucolytic Breaking down mucus
Myelin Fatty material enveloping the majority of nerve cells
Narcotic Substance inducing sleep
Nephritis Inflammation of the kidneys
Nervine Substance that strengthens and tones the nerves and nervous system
Neuralgia Stabbing pain along a nerve pathway
Neurasthenia Nervous exhaustion
Neurotoxin A substance having a toxic or harmful effect on the nervous system
Oedema Water retention
Oleo gum resin Odoriferous exudation from botanical material consisting of essential oil, gum and resin
Oleoresin Natural resinous exudation from plants or aromatic liquid preparation extracted from botanical material
Olfaction Sense of smell
Olfactory bulb The center where the processing of smell is started and is then passed onto other areas of the brain
Oliguria Low volume of urine
Ophthalmia Inflammation of the eye
Ostitis Inflammation of the ear
Oxidation Related to the addition of oxygen to an organic molecule, or the removal of electrons or hydrogen from the molecule
Palpitations Undue awareness of heartbeat, or rapid heartbeat or abnormal rhythm of the heart
Parturient Assisting and helping childbirth
Pathogenic An agent causing or producing disease
Peptic Pertaining to gastric secretions as well as areas affected by them
Perennial A plant living for more than two years
Pharmacology Medical science pertaining to drugs
Pharmacopoeia Official book of drugs
Pheromone Chemical messenger used between people
Phytohormones Plant substances mimicking the actions of human hormones
Phytotherapy Treatment of disease with plant material, including herbal medicine
Polypus Non-malignant type of growth
Pomade Perfumed fat obtained during the enfleurage extraction method
Prophylactic Preventative of disease or infection
Prostatitis Inflammation of the prostate gland
Pruritis Itching
Psoriasis A chronic skin disease characterized by red patches and silver scaling
Psychosomatic Pertaining to the mind and body
Pulmonary Pertaining to the lungs
Pyelitis Inflammation of the kidneys
Pyorrhea / Pyorrhoea Discharge of puss from the gums
Pyrosis Heartburn
Rectification Process of re-distilling essential oils to rid them of certain constituents
Renal Pertaining to the kidneys
Resin Natural or prepared product – natural resins are exudations from trees, prepared resins are oleoresins from which the essential oil has been removed
Resinoids Perfumed material extracted from natural resinous material by solvent extraction
Resolvent An agent that helps disperse swelling, or that helps absorption of new growth
Rhizome Underground stem that lasts for more than one season
Rubefacient Substance causing redness and possible irritation to the skin
Sciatica Pain down the back of the legs in the area serviced by the sciatic nerve
Sclerosis Hardening of tissue due to inflammation
Scrofula Tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands
Seborrhea Increased secretion of sebum
Sialogogue An agent stimulating the secretion of saliva
Soporific A substance which helps to induce sleep
Spermatorrhoea Involuntary emission of sperm without orgasm
Splenic Pertaining to the spleen
Stomachic A substance which helps with the digestion and helps to improve appetite
Stomatitis Inflammation of the mucus membranes of the mouth
Styptic An agent that stops external bleeding
Sudorific An agent causing sweating
Synergy Agents working together and in harmony to produce an effect greater than the sum of the two separate agents
Synthetic Refers to anything not of organic source
Tachycardia Abnormally increased heartbeat
Tannin An astringent substance that helps seal tissues
Terpeneless Essential oil from which monoterpene hydrocarbons have been removed
Thrombosis The formation of a blood clot
Thrush A fungal infection in the mouth or vaginal area
Tic Repetitive twitching
Tincture Referring to either a herbal or perfume material prepared in an alcohol base
Tracheitis Inflammation of the windpipe
Tuber Swollen part of underground stem of one year’s duration and capable of new growth
Unguent A soothing or healing salve or balm
Urticaria Weal on the skin
Vasoconstrictor An agent causing the contraction of blood vessel walls
Vasodilator An agent causing the dilation of blood vessel walls
Vermifuge An agent expelling intestinal worms
Volatile Substance that is unstable and evaporates easily, like an essential oil
Vulnerary An agent applied externally which helps to heal wounds and sores and helps to prevent tissue degeneration

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