Book Review: Advanced Aromatherapy - The Science of Essential Oil Therapy

This week the Kitchen Cupboard Underground reviews another book on aromatherapy and herbology. The goal of these book reviews is to provide you insight if a book would be a good addition to your library. Enjoy!


Advanced Aromatherapy - The Science of Essential Oil Therapy, Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D.
Healing Arts Press, 1998, 138 pages

Schnaubelt’s book is written for readers with an advanced understanding of aromatherapy and is intended to expand their knowledge on a technical, chemistry laden level. This book is sectioned in to seven chapters:

  1. Aromatherapy: A Challenge to Conventional Medicine;
  2. Essential Oils – Definition and Distillation;
  3. The Effects of Essential Oils;
  4. Self-Treatment with Essential Oils;
  5. Choosing Essential Oils;
  6. Application of Essential Oils;
  7. Aromatherapy: Mediating between the Immune System, Emotions, and the Body. 

Although it’s an advanced book, Schnaubelt covers what advanced practitioners should already know about aromatherapy and essential oils. For example, the benefits of natural medicines over conventional pharmaceuticals, as well as what distillation is and the process. However, those beginner pages would have been better utilized in a foreword stating that the book requires a basic understanding of chemistry.  Those readers who are not yet familiar with chemistry may struggle to understand the finer points of the book. 

One very interesting construction that Schnaubelt illustrates is a structure-effect diagram for essential oils and where they sit on the diagram in terms of their properties:

  • Nucleophilic (A reactant that provides a pair of electrons to form a new covalent bond)
  • Electrophilic (A species that accepts a pair of electrons to form a new covalent bond)
  • Hydrophilic (The ability to mix with, dissolve in or be wetted by water)
  • Lipophilic (The ability to combine with or dissolve in lipids or fats)

The composition of an essential oil is further broken down to identify if it has aldehydes, ketones, lactones, sesquiterpene, alcohols, phenylpropanes, phenols, monoterpene alcohols, esters, sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, phenylpropanes, oxides or monoterpene hydrocarbons present. This is a useful diagram when creating personalized aromatherapy products for an individual.  It helps the aromatherapist ensure that an essential oil being used for relaxation doesn’t also possess stimulating properties.

This book is great for a well versed aromatherapist; especially in regards to the structure-effect diagram. There are a few recipes included; however if you are looking for a book specifically about recipes, I would opt for something else. Schnaubelt’s Advanced Aromatherapy - The Science of Essential Oil Therapy is available through online retailers for around $12. Consider calling your local book store to see if they can order it for you; support local, buy local.

Until next time, discover the power of learning something new.

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