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Essential oil essentials


Handbook of essential oils

K Husnu Can Baser, Gerhard Buchbauer (eds)

Boca Raton, US: CRC Press 2010 | 991pp | 151.00 (HB)

ISBN 9781420063158

Reviewed by Mike Milchard

Reviews
This book consists of a collection of 22 chapters on essential oils (EOs) written individually by well-known specialists in their field, leading inevitably to variations in presentation, readability and data. 

The chapter on trade gives a concise account of the opportunities and pitfalls in trading EOs from the primary producer, through to the end-user, though no mention is made of the important role that laboratory analysis plays in making purchasing decisions. Also, some of the trade data, eg on Brazilian Sassafras oil, needs to be treated with caution

The storage and transport chapter is based upon the Dangerous Substances Directive (DSD) and Risk and Safety phrases, and so gives a solid basis of the existing regulations. I particularly liked the explanation of the UN packaging specification references. Unfortunately, it does not interpret the current Global Harmonised System (GHS) regulations, which are not directly equivalent to the DSD Risk and Safety phrases in all cases.

The evaluation of the safety of EOs is very well explained by using component data, without having to test the oil toxicologically.

The effects of EOs on the central nervous system is well written, with a useful explanation of brain function during the process of olfaction, though there seems to be a lack of distinction between odour, fragrance and essential oil and a lack of compositional data. 

There is a huge amount of data on the evaluation of antimicrobial activities (thankfully summarised in one table). Interesting points are made as to why there are many apparent contradictions in the results. Reassuringly, the authors point towards considerable evidence of what is already a common belief, that EOs containing cinnamaldehyde or phenols such as thymol or eugenol are the ones with the most effective and wide ranging activities. A note of caution is made regarding selection of EOs according to their in vitro activity. It has long been known that in vivo activities may not be comparable.

There has been a recent revival of interest in EOs because of their use in aromatherapy; although this book has a useful review on EOs in aromatherapy it appears to have been written several years ago

Finally there are chapters on the industrial uses of essential oils, encapsulation and recent EU legislation.

Overall this book contains a wealth of information and constitutes a good reference work on all aspects of EOs.