Essential Oil Chemistry: Oils High in 1,8 cineole

7 min to read
Andrea Butje

When we study how to use oils therapeutically, it's important to consider essential oil chemistry.

Essential oils are made up of hundreds of natural chemical components. These components are an important part of the essential oil's therapeutic action.

Understanding the chemical components helps us understand how essential oil might work therapeutically.

Essential oils offer us many incredible benefits--the aroma, the energy of the oil and plant, the plant part the oil comes from, the plant family...and the chemistry. Developing a more profound knowledge of essential oil chemistry is one way to expand our understanding of aromatherapy.

A great way to check the purity of each oil batch and more deeply understand the therapeutic properties and safety of essential oil is by buying essential oils tested with Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS).

Gas Chromatography (GC) separates the volatile compounds in essential oils into individual components, producing a linear graph that charts them.

Mass Spectrometry (MS) identifies each of these components and their percentages.

essential oil chemistry

GC/MS is used to identify everything in the oil. We can learn a lot about the oil's therapeutic properties and safety issues and see any crude adulteration (if an oil is cut with a synthetic chemical or cheaper oil for financial gain).

Adulterated oils and perfume oils don't offer therapeutic effects and may in fact cause allergies, headaches, and chemical sensitivities.

The precise breakdown of chemical components laid out by a GC/MS report is important, as essential oils' therapeutic benefits and safety issues are, in part, determined by essential oil chemistry. Testing every batch of oil purchased with GC/MS technology checks the purity and provides a breakdown of the chemical components in each oil. This process is helpful for medicinal blending and quality assurance.

essential oil chemistry

One component that has caught my attention over the years is 1,8-cineole.

These are a few essential oils high in 1,8-cineole:


Reading these reports is a powerful way to understand essential oils.

You learn this approach in the online Aromatherapy Certification Program at Aromahead Institute.

1,8-cineole is a remarkable chemical component offering strong therapeutic properties that have been well-researched. It has strong healing potential.

Listed below are the various properties of 1,8-cineole (and the oils with a significant percentage of 1,8-cineole in them). Next to the therapeutic property, I have a number referring to the referenced material from which this information comes.

These properties suggest using these oils during a cold or flu would help reduce pain, mucus, and headaches. They also help kill bacteria and viruses. They can reduce swelling (great for sinus infections), muscle spasms, and spastic coughing.

Therapeutic Properties of 1,8 cineole:

  • airborne antimicrobial 1

  • analgesic 2, 3

  • anti-inflammatory 2, 6, 7, 8

  • antibacterial 4, 5

  • antioxidant 21

  • antispasmodic 9, 10, 11

  • antiviral 18

  • hypotensive 13, 14

  • increases cerebral blood flow 22

  • mucolytic 15, 16


Oils high in 1,8-cineole are to be used for inhalation and on the skin diluted in a carrier oil, butter or cream. Use 1,8-cineole-high oils with caution for those with asthma (make sure the aroma relaxes their chest and does not cause any sense of restriction). 

For young children, be sure to diffuse 1,8-cineole rich oils away from their faces. I prefer to use a milder oil for them, such as Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana). (At Aromahead, our approach is not to use essential oils topically for children under 5 years old.)


Learn More About Essential Oil Chemistry

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