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;
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
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,
among other constituents.
Plants Containing Psychoactive Essential Oils
(from Albert-Puleo 1978; Bock 1994*; supplemented)
|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,
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.
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.
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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.
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
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:
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.