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What's in a Name? Using Stuff You Learned in High School.

Makrut lime (Citrus hystrix) and lime (Citrus aurantifolia) essential oils

I work with high school students and they often ask "why do I need to learn this"? Since I constantly use math, chemistry, science, and English in the classroom and as an aromatherapist and formulator I of course always have an answer. In particular I use math and chemistry a lot. But I also tell them that it's important to learn how to solve problems and how to think critically and abstractly. They must be able to learn new things and learn from mistakes. They will need to discern the overwhelming amount of information that comes at them from life experiences and from all sorts of social platforms and websites.

One example of seemingly inane learning is binomial nomenclature or scientific naming. As an aromatherapist and herbalist this is vital in knowing what essential oil or herb you actually need or have. Take chamomile or helichrysm for example. Chamomile could be Moroccan (Cladanthus mixtus), wild (often refers to Matricaria discoidea), Roman (Chamaemelum nobile), or German (Matricaria chamomilla). Although similar in that they tend to be calming, their chemistry can differ significantly. Only by noting the scientific name do we know for sure what we have.

Helichrysum is another example. Helichrysum italicum is quite popular for skin care and soothing aches and wounds and is noted for its neryl acetate (ester) and italidone (ketone) content. Helichrysum bracteiferum however is rich in oxides, monoterpenes, and sequiterpenes and is often used to support the respiratory system in addition to easing aches. And lets not forget about Helichrysum gymnocephalum or Helichrysum odoratissimum oils which also vary significantly from Helichrysum italicum.

And if you're using frankincense for its boswellic acid content you'll most likely want to stick with Boswellia serrata powder rather than Boswellia sacra or carterii due to its tendency to have higher boswellic acid concentration (or even better look for a standardized extract).

In the picture you'll see I have two bottles of "lime". Different species and very different aromas. Makrut lime (Citrus hystrix) and lime (Citrus aurantifolia) essential oils. I thought I could interchange the two -- but the fragrance profile was so different I could not.

So be sure thank your biology or life science teacher and rest easy knowing you'll be informed about the oils or herbs you are using by employing binomial nomenclature.

aromatic blessings,


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