Essential oils are a highly concentrated form of aromatic compounds extracted from a medicinal plant or produced during the extraction process. Essential oils have a range of biological properties such as antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antiseptic.
Each essential oil is made up of a complex combination of chemical constituents. Most essential oils contain between 20 and 60 different natural compounds making their unique aroma and identity. Usually only 2 of 3 of these chemical constituents are present in a high concentration with the remaining constituents only found in a trace amount.
The chemical constituents of essential oils vary according to the plant species, geographic location, growth stage of the plant and the extraction method. The concentration of each chemical compound found in a particular essential oil is determined using GC/MS testing (Gas-Chromatography mass spectrometry). The results are shown in a graph where the concentration of each compound is measured.
Research has found many of the chemical constituents present in essential oils to be effective against a variety of pathogens. Thus, the antiviral and antibacterial properties of essential oils can be determined by the type of chemical constituents present in the essential oil.