Other Names

Aroma, atherische ole, atherischal, essence, essenz,

etherisches aI, volatile oil

Essential oils are complex mixtures of carbohydrates,

alcohols, ketones, acids and esters, ethers,

aldehydes, and sulfur compounds that are volatile

and evaporate at low temperatures. Essential oils

can exhibit tremendous variation in their composition.

Each specific mixture produces its own

characteristic scent. For the most part, essential

oils are distilled from raw drugs or stock plants

through a variety of techniques. Essential oils are

used medicinally in what has become known as

aromatherapy. This healing system was founded by

Rene-Maurice Gattefosse (1881-1950) and is

gaining increasing recognition throughout the

world (Carle 1993; Henglein 1985; Kraus 1990;

Strassmann 1991).

Many psychoactive plants contain essential oils.

They are sometimes the only active constituents,

while sometimes they occur only in trace amounts.

Several components are present in the essential oils

of most plants that have unequivocal psychoactive



Eugenol is known to be stimulating, anesthetic,

and psychoactive (Sensch et al. 1993; Toda et al.

1994). High concentrations of eugenol occur in

the essential oil of clove (Syzygium aromaticum).


Myristicin is regarded as the hallucinogenic

component of many essential oils (Wulf et al.

1978,271). Myristicin is present in dill (Anethum),

lovage (Levisticum officinale), parsnips (Pastinaca

sp.), and parsley (Petroselinum crispum). The

essential oil of the Australian Zieria species

(Rutaceae) contains up to 23.40/0 myristicin. It is

thought that myristicin is metabolized into an

amphetamine derivative (MDA) (cf. Myristica



Safrole is found in cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)

and in the sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum).

Safrole is one of the most important precursors for

the synthesis of MDMA and other similar

substances (MMDA, MDE, MDA). The halogen

derivatives of safrole, the closely related piperonal

and isosafrole, are also suitable for this purpose

(Yourspigs 1995). In the body, safrole is thought to

be metabolized into amphetamine derivatives.


In nature, thujone exists in two forms: O'.-thujone

and p-thujone. The common tansy (Tanacetum

vulgare), whose name is derived from the Greek

word athanaton ("immortal"), is very rich in

thujone (= tanacetone; cf. Semmler 1900). According

to myth, Ganymede became immortal because

he had eaten tansy (Albert-Puleo 1978,65).

Clary sage (muscatel sage) (Salvia sclarea 1.)

has a high thujone content. During the nineteenth

century, this plant was used in England instead of

hops (Humulus lupulus) to produce a more potent

type of beer. Other plants that contain thujone

(Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia vulgaris) were

used for the same purpose (Albert-Puleo 1978,69).

Thujone kills the common roundworm Ascaris

lumbricoides (Albert-Puleo 1978, 65). The pharmacological

effects of thujone are very similar to

those ofTHC (cf. Artemisia absinthium).


It has often been reported that ud oil, the essential

oil in lignum aloe or aloe wood (Aquillaria

agallocha Roxb. [syn. Aquillaria malaccensis Lam.] ;

Thymeleaceae), can induce psychoactive effects:

As an incense or aromatic oil, it is used to treat

mental and psychological disturbances as well

as emotional instability, particularly in cases

when this has been produced by negative

mental energies. Our experience indicates that

aloe wood has unusually relaxing and moodenhancing

properties. It produces a state of

trance and introspection and lifts the mind to

higher plains of perception. It facilitates the

attainment of high levels in meditation. For

this reason, it should not necessarily be used

prior to a work-filled day in which concentration

and quick reactions are required.

(Ashisha and Mahahradanatha 1994, 10)

Sufis utilize the precious lignum aloe or

distilled ud oil (essence) for advanced. stages of

Islamic mysticism:

One could say that only those individuals

whose minds are more highly developed experience the benefits of ud. In fact, it is only

used to treat imbalances during the last three

states of mental development. (Moinuddin

Chishti 1991, 118*)

Aromatic lignum aloe (lignum aquillariae resinatum)

contains p-methoxycinnamic acid, agarotetrol,

and the sesquiterpenoids agarol, agarospilrole,

0:- and 13-agarofurane, dihydroagarofurane, 4-hydrodioxydihydroagarofurane,

and oxo-nor-agarofuran,

among other constituents.

Plants Containing Psychoactive Essential Oils

(from Albert-Puleo 1978; Bock 1994*; supplemented)

<tbody> </tbody>
Stock Plant Distribution
Cananga odorata (Lam.) Hook. f. et Thoms. safrole, eugenol
Anethum graveolens anethol, myristicin, and others
Coriandrum sativum L. coriandrol
Foeniculum vulgare Mill. ssp. vulgare trans-anethol
Levisticum officinale Koch myristicin and others
Pastinaca sativa L. myristicin and others
Petroselinum crispum apiollmyristicin
apiol race apiol (58-80% )
myristicin race myristicin (49-770/0)
ssp. tuberosum apiol
Acorus calamus safrole, asarone (not in all strains), eugenol
Acorus gramineus safrole, eugenol, and others
Asarum europaeum L. asarone
Commiphora spp. (myrrh) eugenol and others
Canella winterana (1.) Gaertn. eugenol
Humulus lupulus499  
Cistus ladaniferus 1. eugenol, ledol
Achillea millefolium 1. thujone and others
Artemisia absinthium f3-thujone
Artemisia mexicana f3-thujone
Artemisia tilesii Ledeb. thujone, isothujone
Artemisia tridentata ssp. vasyana (Rydb.) Beetle thujone, isothujone
Artemisia vulgaris 1. f3-thujone
Artemisia spp. f3-thujone and others
Salvia officinalis 1. a-thujone
Salvia sclarea 1. a-thujone
Tanacetum vulgare L. f3-thujone
Juniperus recurva limonene (23.6%), a-thujone
Juniperus sabina 1. thujone and others
Thuja occidentalis 1. a-thujone, thujone isomers, thujone acid
Thuja orientalis 1. a-thujone, thujone isomers, thujone acid
Thuja plicata D. Don a-thujone, thujone isomers, thujone acid
Monodora myristica myristicin, safrole, and others
Ledum groenlandicum Oed. ledol
Ledum palustre ledol
Illicium verum Hook. f. anethol, safrole
Crocus sativus ?
Hyssopus officinalis 1. thujone
Mentha aquatica 1. limonene, caryophyllene) a-thujone
Mentha pulegium pulegon (80-940/0)
Orthodon sp. myristicin
Thymusspp. thymol, thujone
Cinnamomum camphora safrole, eugenol
Cinnamomum glanduliferum myristicin
Cinnamomum verum Presl. eugenol, cinnamic aldehyde
Laurus nobilis eugenol and others
Ocotea cymbarum H.B.K. safrole (90-930/0)
Sassafras albidum safrole (80-900/0)
Umbellularia californica (H. et A.) Nutt. umbellulone, safrole
Magnolia virginiana safrole and others
Atherosperma moschatum methyleugenol (600/0) safrole (100/0)
Doryphora sassafras Endl. safrole
Eremophila longifolia (R. Br.) Muell. methyleugenol
Myristica fragrans myristicin) safrole
Backhousia myrtifolia Hook. methyleugenol
Pimenta dioica (1.) Men. eugenol and others
Syzygium aromaticum (1.) Men. et Perry eugenol) acetyleugenol
]asminum officinale 1. (cf. ]asminum spp.) eugenol and others
Cedrus atlantica (Endl.) Manetti thujone and others
Macropiper excelsum (Forster) Miq. myristicin) elemicine
Piper amalago 1. safrole
Piper auritum safrole (700/0)
Piper betle eugenol) isoeugenol
Piper elongatum apiol) asarone
Piper sanctum Schl. safrole
Piperspp. safrole and others
Zieria spp. myristicin
Tasmannia glancifolia Williams safrole (170/0), myristicin (5.30/0)
Alpinia officinarum Hance eugenol
Essential Oils as Aphrodisiacs

Some essential oils are attributed with aphrodisiac

effects. Perfume manufacturers consider the aroma

of the Mexican tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa L.;

Agavaceae) (cf. Dressler 1953, 144*) to be aphrodisiac.

The evergreen ylang-ylang tree (Cananga

odorata [Lam.] Hook. f. et Thoms. [f. genuina]

[syn. Canangium oderatum Baill.]), which thrives

only in tropical regions, is the source of the oil of

the same name. In India, ylang-ylang oil is regarded

as the favorite oil for tantric rituals because it is

believed to have potent aphrodisiac effects and to

stimulate and refine erotic sensations. Today,

individuals throughout the world use ylang-ylang

oil to ritualize their own eroticism (Huron 1994;

Kraus 1990; Strassmann 1991). The flowers contain

1.5 to 2.50/0 of an essential oil composed of linalool,

safrole, eugenol, geraniol, pinene, cadinene, and

sesquiterpenes. There have been frequent reports of

ylang-ylang having mind-altering powers. Pharmacologically,

this effect is probably due to the safrole

component of the essential oil (R~itsch 1996).

Above a certain concentration, safrole appears to

produce psychoactive effects that are quite similar

to those ofMDMA (see herbal ecstasy).


See also the entries for Artemisia absinthium,

Artemisia spp., Myristica fragrans, herbal ecstasy,

and incense.

Albert-Puleo, Michael. 1978. Mythobotany, pharmacology,

and chemistry of thujone-containing

plants and derivatives. Economic Botany 32:65-74.

Ashisha, Ma Deva, and Mahahradantha. 1994.

Duftkrauter und atherische Ole in der

ayurvedischen Heilkunst. Tostedt: Yogini Verlag.

Carle, Reinhold. 1993. Atherische Ole-Anspruch and

Wirklichkeit. Stuttgart: WVG.

Chandler, R. E, S. N. Hooper, and M. J. Harvey. 1982.

Ethnobotany and phytochemistry of yarrow,

Achillea millefolium, Compositae. Economic

Botany 36 (2): 203-23.

Cipolla, Carlo M. 1992. Allegro ma non troppo.

Frankfurt/M.: Fischer.

Dandiya, P. C., and M. K. Menon. 1963. Effects of

asarone and 13-asarone on conditioned responses,

fighting behaviour and convulsions. British

Journal ofPharmacology 20:436-42.

---. 1964. Actions of asarone on behaviour,

stress hyperpyrexia and its interaction with

central stimulants. Journal ofPharmacology and

Experimental Therapeutics 145:42-46.

Gattefosse, Rene-Maurice. 1994. Aromatherapie.

Aarau: AT Verlag.

Harnishfeger, Gatz. 1994. Thuja. In Hagers

Handbuch der pharmazeutischcn Praxis, 5th ed.,

6:955-66. Berlin: Springer.

Hengelein, Martin. 1985. Die heilende Kraft der

Wohlgeruche and Essenzen. Munich: Schanbergers.

Hurton, Andrea. 1994. Erotik des Parfums: Geschichte

und Praxis der schonen Dufte. Frankfurt/M.: Fischer.

Kraus, Michael. 1991. Atherische Ole fur Korper, Geist

and Seele. Gaimersheim: Simon und Wahl.

Kremer, Bruno P. 1988. Duft und Aromapjlanzen.

Stuttgart: Franckh-Kosmos.

Laatsch, Hartmut. 1991. Wirkung von Geruch und

Geschmack auf die Psyche. In Jahrbuch des

Europaischen Collegiums fur Bewufitseinsstudien

(1991), 119-33. Berlin: VWB.

Miller, Richard Alan, and Iona Miller. 1990. Das

magische Parfum. Braunschweig: Aurum.

Morwyn. 1995. Witch's brew: Secrets ofscents. Arglen,

Penn.: Whitford Press/Schiffer Publishing.

R~itsch, Christian. 1996. Ylang-Ylang, "die Blume der

Blumen." Dao 6:68.

Richter, Dieter. 1984. Schlaraffenland. Cologne:


Rimmel, Eugene. 1985. Das Buch des Parfums.

Dreieich: Hesse und Becker. (Orig. pub. 1864.)

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. 1983. Das Paradies, der

Geschmack und die Vernunft. Frankfurt/M.:


Semmler, E W. 1900. Dber Tanaceton und seine

Derivate. Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen

Gesellschaft 33:275-77

Sensch, 0., W. Vierling, W. Brandt, and M. Reiter.

1993. Calcium-channel blocking effect of

constituents of clove oil. Planta Medica 59 suppl.:


Strassmann, Rene A. 1991. Duftheilkunde. Aarau: AT


Toda, Shizuo, Motoyo Ohnishi, Michio Kimura, and

Tomoko Toda. 1994. Inhibitory effects of eugenol

and related compounds on lipid peroxidation

induced by reactive oxygen. Planta Medica


Wieshammner, Rainer-Maria. 1995. Der 5. Sinn:

Dufte als unheimliche Verfuhrer. Rott am Inn:

F/O/L/T/Y/S Edition.

Wulf, Larry W., Charles W. Nagel, and Larry Branen.

1978. High-pressure liquid chromatographic

separation of the naturally occurring toxicants

myristicin, related aromatic ethers and falcarinol.

Journal ofChromatography 161:271-78.

Yourspigs, U. P. 1995. The complete book ofecstasy.

2nd ed. N.p.: Synthesis Books.

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