By Kathy Sadoswski MS, LMT, RYT
Esters are oxygenated compounds that occurs during the “esterification process” when an acid combines with an alcohol, resulting in the formation of an ester along with a water molecule. This creates a typically gentle and strongly aromatic chemical found in essential oils. Esters are easily formed and broken down during the distillation process; an example of this is the combination of linalool with acetic acid, which forms the ester linalyl acetate plus water.1 Made from the combination of an alcohol and an acid, its name is derived from both parent molecule such that the combination of linalool and acetic acid is named the ester: linalyl acetate. Best known for its sweet floral aroma, an ester also has the following therapeutic properties: Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, calming, and skin vulnerary actions.2 These constituents make for an excellent inclusion in a topical blend with their therapeutic actions and very low skin sensitizing and toxicity levels.
Examples of esters in essential oils include:
Cautions: While most esters are considered gentle, two exceptions include methyl salicylate as found in wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) essential oil, and sabinyl acetate as found in Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia) essential oil.1 Furthermore, it is important to be aware of other constituents in an essential oil that can be toxic and/or sensitizing. For example, clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum) essential oil contains up to 10% of the ester eugenyl acetate, but it also can contain over 75% of the phenol eugenol, which can be a dermal irritant, toxic, and carcinogenic when used improperly and excessively.3
Benzyl acetate, as found in jasmine absolute and ylang ylang essential oils, has a sweet, fruity aroma often used in perfumery. It can make up to 25% of jasmine absolute.3
Benzyl benzoate has a faint, sweet, balsamic, floral aroma as found in balsam, benzoin resin, jasmine absolute, and ylang ylang essential oils. It is identified on the World Health Organization list of essential oils, and it has been used to treat scabies, lice, and used as an insecticide.4,5 In addition, benzyl benzoate may be helpful in reducing dust mites by applying it to carpets and adding it to the laundry.6.7
Bornyl acetate, with a woody, pine, herbal aroma, is found in tree species of essential oils like pine, spruce, and fir, as well as in rosemary, sage, and valerian. It has demonstrated the potential for improving bone density8 and it can also be used as a sedative, related to valerian root (Valeriana fauriei) and its constituents borneol, isoborneol, bornyl acetate, and isobornyl acetate, which has caused a sedative effect in mice.9
Citronellyl formate, also called tiglate, has a green, floral aroma and it can make up to 12% of geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oil.3 It was found to show potential anti-tumor activity in a 1988 study.10
Eugenyl acetate, which is found in both clove bud and clove leaf (Eugenia caryophyllata) essential oil, as well as cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) essential oil, has a fresh, woody, spicy aroma and it has demonstrated antioxidant activities in vitro comparable to those found in vitamin E.11
Geranyl acetate, with an aroma that is sweet, floral, fruity, and green, is found in sweet marjoram, thyme, palmarosa, carrot, neroli, coriander, citronella, ylang ylang, lemon balm, and lemongrass essential oils. It has shown to have antibacterial action.12,13
Linalyl acetate has a sweet, herbal, floral aroma as found in lavender, clary sage, bergamot, and petitgrain essential oils. This constituent has shown in research to have anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antibacterial, and anxiolytic actions.
Neryl acetate has a floral aroma as found in citrus oils, fenugreek, and helichrysum, and it has shown to have pain reducing, inflammatory reducing activity used with cosmetic surgery. In a 2007 study, helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) essential oil combined with a macerated oil of musk rose (Rosa moschata) was shown to reduce inflammation, edema, and bruising after cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, with the component of neryl acetate also contributing to pain relief.23 Furthermore, the a-terpinolene, trans-carlophyllene, and neryl acetate components of helichrysum (H. italicum) (Roth) Don essential oil showed antimicrobial activity against the Micococcus luterus bacteria, which commonly infects the human respiratory tract.24
Oil or Lotion Ingredients:
Instructions for Making: Mix the tincture ingredients from in a large glass jar. Shake three times a day for two weeks, setting in the sun during the day. Strain all plant parts from the alcohol using cheesecloth or a coffee filter. The remaining alcohol is the tincture.
The next step is to mix the oil or lotion ingredients together with the tincture you’ve made. Apply 1/4 teaspoon to the skin up to three times day. This recipe is great for burns, wounds, and dry skin. If you want to make a thick creamy lotion, add 1/2 cup of melted Shea butter to the mix and mix it with a blender on high for five minutes.
Instructions for Making: Mix together the essential oils with the carrier oil and add to the sea salt. Pour about half a cup of the blend into a warm bath and relax.
Instructions for Making: First, make the calendula infused jojoba oil (or you can also use jojoba oil on its own). To make the calendula infused jojoba oil: Add 16 oz. of clean, non-wet, organically grown blooms to 48 ounces of sweet almond and/or jojoba oil in a glass jar. Set on a window sill in the sun for up to one month. Strain all of the flower parts from the oil using a coffee filter or cheesecloth and funnel. Store the infused oil in an amber glass container, and use within six months.
Mix the rest of the ingredients and essential oils with the calendula infused jojoba oil and store in a dark glass container with a dropper. Apply a dime size of oil to the face up to two times a day. Discontinue use if irritation occurs.