ESSENTIAL OIL: THEIR ROLE IN HEALTH – A REVIEWAbstract
The therapeutic potential of essential oil bearing plants have been realised. Like herbal remedies, essential oils and their constituents cover wide field of performance. These include antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. The field of aroma and smell is so attracting that Nobel Prize (2004) in physiology and Medicine was awarded to unlock the secrets of smell. Thanks to Prof. Richard Alex of Columbia University, and Linda B. Buck, who unlocked the secrets of olfactory system at molecular level. These odour bearing substances pass through nasal passage are detected by particular neurons called olfactory cells present in the upper part of nasal epithelium which contains five (5) million neurons. Essential oils are chemically a mixture of organic compounds belonging to different chemical entities such as terpenes, phenols, aliphatic compounds, benzoyl compounds and heterocyclic compounds. Terpenes are classified as mono, sesquiterpenes and diterpenes based on isoprene units. Oxygenated terpenes are the chief odour transporters of the essential oils. They include the alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids, esters, ethers etc.