The Importance of Latin Names in Identifying an Essential Oil

Posted on: August 20th, 2009 by
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Cranesbill is not where geranium essential oil comes from
There are many species of lavender

There is often confusion between the the identification of some essential oils and their uses for therapeutic purposes in aromatherapy. The misunderstanding often arises because people often use the common english name of a plant and not the botanical latin name. The following plants are often confused:
Reading these individual articles will give you some idea of the confusion between these various plants. These common misunderstandings should remind us that when identifying an essential oil for a particular purpose, we should learn the latin name (ie the botanical name) of the plant. Not only do plants/essential oils get mistaken for other species/varieties by using english names but there are many different varieties of a plant species.
Lavender is probably one of the most well known and popular essential oils – but there are many species of lavender. Not only that, but depending on the growing season and region, the same lavender species may produce a slightly different chemical composition than the previous year. Lavender essential oils include the following varieties:
Lavandula angustifolia/officinalis - common/true lavender
Lavendula x intermedia - lavandin
Lavendula latifolia - spike lavender
Lavandula stoechas -different to the above 3 lavender varieties in that it is high in ketones and not in common usage in aromatherapy.
With the exception of Lavendula stoechas , all of these lavender plants look similar but their chemical composition varies slightly – they have common aromatherapy uses but this may not be the case with every species of plant. In addition, you often see lavender essential oils marketed as Bulgarian or French or English lavender; this gives you a clue as to which country the distilled lavender essential oil came from but you still need to check the chemical composition to make sure it is typical of -
a) other lavender essential oils
b) will work therapeutically for what you intend to use it for.
This is just an example of the complexities surrounding english and latin botanical names for plants and essential oils; there are also some essential oils which should never be used for aromatherapy purposes. That’s coming up next….


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