Glossary: Precious Oils & Natural Isolates

This page has been created to feature rare essential oils that are not typically used in commercial aromatherapy products. As well to describe Natural Isolates that are often use in natural perfumery.

Chemists are capable of isolating specific or single substances from an essential oil. Linalool is a good example, it actually occurs in hundreds of different aromatic plants such as clary sage, ho wood, lavender, neroli, nerolina, michelia alb, palmarosa and neroli.  Linalool has a sweet soapy floral aroma and is a common ingredient in fragrant products, such perfumes, soaps, deodorants and body care products.  Linalool can be extracted from natural sources and it can also be produced synthetically.

Alpha-Ionone & Beta-Ionone a natural isolate obtained from Litsea cubeba (Origin: France). In my mind it is reminiscent of the colour of mauve and baby pink, like the delicate powdery scent of violets and cotton candy.  It is an invaluable additive when creating light floral perfumes. Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Balsam peru (Myroxylon balsamum var. pereirae) (Origin: El Salvador). A steam distilled resin, Balsam peru is often used in both Aromatherapy products and in natural perfumes to provide an affordable alternative to vanilla.  I find that it imparts a warm sweet fruit like aroma similar to a cherry cola.

Benzyl Acetate a natural isolate obtained from Ylang Ylang (Origin: France)
This isolate enhances Jasmine and casts a gardenia and lily-of-the-valley like aroma making it a suitable additive to fruity and floral perfumes.  Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Black Currant Bud (Ribes nigrum L.) (Origin: France) A solvent absolute extracted from flowers and buds. A woody shrub that is native to northern distilled from berries before turning to flowers. Black current bud oil smells very earthy green, with a mint citrus wine undertone. Not used traditional Aromatherapy but extensively used by perfumers for its animal like notes that provoke an erotic effect on neural pathways.

Butyrum (butter) a Co2 extract of butter milk fat. (Origin: Belgium)
This creamy extract is used extensively in skin care products and in perfumes.  Yes, it smells like butter and adds depth to florals and character to base notes. Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume and skin care ingredient.

Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L) (Origin: Egypt) A solvent absolute extract from flowers. Carnation absolute is not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient providing a honey scent that is faint of spice.  It is often used as a modifier in flower perfumes due to its mint-like herbaceous base.

Champaca (Michelia champaca L.) (Origin: India) A Co2 extraction, Michelia champaca is a slender tree that bears fragrant flowers and is native to South Asia, Southeast Asia-Indochina and southern China. In the area where it is native, the flowers are often used during ceremonial worshipping.  Champaca possesses a floral tea like aroma that is slightly spicy with notes of apricot.  Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Cognac, Green (Vitis vinifera L.) (Origin: Romania) Distilled from wine sediment, this essential oil is not used in traditional Aromatherapy, however is vital to the natural perfumer as it possess a tenacity that is dry and tart with an oak finish and it helps to lift fruit and floral notes.

Davana (Artemisa pallens Wall) (Origin: India) Distilled from leaves and twigs, used in very minute concentrations this boozy aromatic is penetrating and possesses a sweet balsamic herbaceous aroma. Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Damascenone a natural isolate of Anise (Origin: France) This isolate possesses a tenacious fruity licorice aroma that exudes colourful rich tones of plum and grape.  It is extremely useful in the blending of fruits and florals within the same mixture. Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Ethyl Phenylacetate a natural isolate obtained from Neroli (Origin: USA) This isolate is an odoriferous constituent that occurs in many botanicals such as fruits and flowers.  Its aroma is floral and honey-like and is revered in the perfume industry as an ingredient that helps to sustain base notes. Ethyl Phenylacetate is also used extensively in the food and beverage industry to impart fruit and honey flavours.

Geraniol a natural isolate of Palmarosa (Origin: France). This isolate is a monoterpenoid and an alcohol that occurs naturally in many other essential oils such rose, geranium and citronella.  It is commonly used in floral perfumes to cast a rose like scent from the top to bottom of the mixture.  Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Heliotropin a natural isolate obtained from sassafras (Origin: USA) This isolate possesses a very light cherry candy aroma that softens fruity top notes.  Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Jasmine (Jasminum sambac L.) absolute is produced via a solvent extraction therefore it is not recommended for use in traditional aromatherapy.  However, in the perfume industry it is used extensively, its sweet tea like floral aroma is well known for its sex appeal.

Linalool a natural isolate that occurs in more than 200 aromatic plants (Origin: France) Classified as a middle note it is fresh and soft (soap like) reminiscent of lavender, rosewood, ho wood and blends well with just about every aromatic substance.  Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered ingredient in many aromatic products ranging from perfumes, body care products, soaps and detergents.

Linalyl Acetate a natural isolate that also occurs in many aromatic plants (Origin: France) This isolate is used as both a flavour and fragrance agent.  Its aroma is sweet and fruity with a hint of floral synonymous of bergamot and lavender. Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Linden Flower (Tilia Cordata) (Origin: France). An absolute that is rich with green notes of tea with an underlying floral heart that is warm and honey like. Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Liquidambar (Amber styraciflua L.) (Origin: Honduras). A natural oleoresin extracted with ethanol (no hexane). At first the aroma of Liquidambar is somewhat metallic, yet sweet, somewhat spicy and with balsamic earthy tones.  Amber is not used in traditional Aromatherapy, however is commonly used in the perfume industry as it acts as an odor fixative.

Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara L.) (Origin: Egypt). An extraordinary oil (and probably my very favourite) distilled from Orange blossoms.  True Neroli is used extensively in Aromatherapy, in high quality perfumes and skin care products. When you see Neroli being used in commercial products such as soaps, candles, linen sprays, and body care products – you can be guaranteed that an artificial version of Neroli is being used because it is very expensive.  True Neroli is also often adulterated with Petitgrain (its cousin) which is a distilled oil from the leaf of the orange tree.

Neroli possesses a light sweet floral tone with a faint green crispness while at the same time is rather dusty and tobacco like.  A number of studies have been conducted with Neroli pointing to its profound effect on stress, anxiety, fear and its ability to relax patients in hospital settings.

Neroli Research: There is a significant amount of research indicating that the scent of Neroli has positive effects on stress and anxiety. Neroli oil is relatively high in Linalool a highly fragrant constituent that occurs in many aromatic plants. Linalool is said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties,  however, there is no empirical evidence that Neroli oil possesses any skin care properties or protection. In my opinion the it is the carrier oils (cold pressed vegetable oils) that are used in skin care products that possess properties which help to soothe, hydrate and improve the texture and elasticity of the skin. The addition of Neroli oil due to it's delicate and sweet scent is clearly a lovely choice when skin care formulators want to add a natural aroma to a product.

Nerolidol a naturally occurring sesquiterpene alcohol found in many essential oils (Origin: Egypt) Nerolidol occurs specifically in Neroli (orange blossom), ginger, jasmine, cannabis sativa, lavender and lemongrass.  It possesses a fresh slightly green wood aroma that is barely noticeable. I like to use it as a fixative to extend citrus top notes in a mixture without changing the direction of the composition. Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Oak Moss (Evernia prunastri L.) absolute is produced via a solvent and alcohol process from lichen that grows predominately on oak trees. Oakmoss possesses a sweet damp earthy aroma that I find similar to petrichor.  Oakmoss absolute is used extensively in the perfume industry and is not used in traditional aromatherapy.  The oakmoss that I use in my natural perfumes is compliant under the International Fragrance Association as my particular supplier has secured a lot that is low in contact allergens.  I use oakmoss in a number of my perfumes and very low concentrations to anchor and sweeten base notes. 

Patchoulyl Acetate a natural isolate derived from patchouli leaf oil (Origin: Indonesia) This isolate possesses an utterly exquisite sweet, warm aroma that is less complex and cleaner than whole patchouli oil.  It is a versatile additive to assist with the blending of base notes.  It is especially useful in earthy rich and exotic mixtures. Not used in traditional Aromatherapy but is a revered perfume ingredient.

Petitgrain (Organic Citrus aurantium var. amara) (Origin: Egypt)

Distilled from bitter orange leaves, twigs.  This particular petitgrain is high in linalyl acetate and according to many Aromatherapy theorists has a calming and balancing effect on the nervous system. Its aroma is leafy green with a citrus twist and possesses a much stronger but similar scent to Neroli blossom which is also derived from the bitter orange tree.

Rose Just about every human on the planet has smelled a beautiful flower, but the aroma of a rose is known the world over.  There are distinctive aromatic variations between different species of roses. Some persons are capable of differentiating between a natural rose essence and one that is a synthetically contrived, and then there are those noses who are capable of distinguishing between a rose absolute and a rose otto. And to further complicate the novice nose regardless of whether the rose fragrance is a synthetic, or a natural – a rose that is still intact (growing on the bush) possesses natural aromatics notes that are earthy, muddy, mossy, and faint of spiced tea.

Rose (Rosa damscene absolute) obtained via solvent extraction. (Origin: Maldova) Typically rose absolutes possess rich and deep aromatic qualities that have a honey undertone, with a very faint indole, an aromatic compound that is responsible for the not-so-nice smell of certain bacteria, feces and coal tars.  Rose absolute is one of the most popular aromatics in the perfume industry. Other than the perfume industry there are many Aromatherapists and cosmetic companies who use Rose absolute essence in their products to encourage feelings of happiness and contentment.  In my opinion Rose absolute should not be used in skin care products, therefore you will only find Rose absolute in my natural perfumes.

Rose otto (Rosa x damascene Mill. Oil) obtained via Hydrodistillation and Cohobation (Origin: Bulgaria) Rose otto’s fragrance is extremely complex sweet, citrusy, like a peppery tea and dusty. The psychological effects of Rose otto are similar to Rose absolute.

Rose otto is much more suited to skin care products, as it is not processed with solvents. Beauty care chemists and indicate that the unique antioxidants of citronellol and geraniol which occur naturally in rose oil help to diminish the signs of aging and slows down free radical damage and may be beneficial in supporting broken capillaries, healing scars and soothing skin that is inflamed and dry.

Yuzu (Citrus junos Sieb. ex Tanaka) (Origin: Japan) Distilled from fruit peel. A hardy evergreen that is native to Tibet, Japan and Central China extract that bears a citrus fruit that possess a strong lemony aroma with characteristics of balsamic sweet notes which distinguishes it from other citrus fruits.

The fresh juice and zest from the fruit are used extensively in Japanese and Korean cuisine.

From a Japanese cultural perspective dating back to the early 18th century on the night of the winter solstice, the whole fruits are wrapped in cheesecloth and then submerged in a hot bath in order to release the strong aromatic properties. This cultural practice is said to help prepare the immune system against colds while warming the body and relaxing the mind.

Tonka Bean (Dipteryx odorata) absolute is created by pulverizing the dried bean found inside the fruit that occurs on a large tropical tree native to South America and in West Africa. The pulverized powder is further subjected to a solvent process followed by an alcohol wash.  The remaining substance is dense and crumbly and prior to being used by perfumers it needs to be dissolved in 200 proof denatured alcohol. The aroma of Tonka bean has a rich depth of sweetness that is likened to vanilla and in my opinion like sweetgrass and dried hay. Tonka bean is used extensively in the perfume industry and is not used in traditional aromatherapy – it is actually banned by the FDA and should NOT to be used herbology or food flavourings.

Vanilla absolute (vanilla planifolia) absolute for use in the perfume industry is created via a similar method as Tonka bean listed above, whereas Vanilla extract is produced via strict food substance guidelines which I am not familiar with. Vanilla is recognized around the world its aroma is sweet and balsamic.


The information and statements on this site are intended for educational purposes only and not intended to prescribe, cure, prevent, treat or diagnose any disease or condition. None of the information herein has been evaluated by Health Canada or by the Federal Drug Administration.

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