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Essential Oils in Nepal (A Practical Guide to Essential Oils and Aromatherapy)

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Item Code: NAN363
Author: Khilendra Gurung
Publisher: Himalaya Bio Trade Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9789937218726
Pages: 157 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 310 gm
Book Description
Back of the Book

Himalayan Bio Trade Private Limited (HBTL), founded in 2000 is a natural products processing and marketing company, owned by a consortium of community enterprises whose shareholders are the community enterprises whose shareholders are the community members who sustainably manage the forests. The products, which HBTL markets, can be traced back to the forests that produced them and the women and men who harvested and processed the responsible harvested natural products.

HBTL and its community enterprises have received FSC, organic and Wildlife Friendly certifications. HBTL’s product range includes Nepali handmade paper products, essential oils, Himalayan nettle products, raw herbs and vegetable oils from wild species.

Wild crafted essential oils: The fragrance of the Himalayas HBTL and its village cooperatives lead the way in producing and marketing the only FSC, Organic and Wildlife Friendly certified essential oils in the world. The wild plants are harvested from responsible managed forests by villagers, distilled by local communities and quality controlled and packed by HBTL for sale to national and International markets.

HBTL’s wild crafted essential oils include: Anthopogon, Artemisia, calamus, Himalayan silver fir, Jatamansi, Juniper berry, Juniper needle, Wintergreen, Valaerian, and Zanthoxylum oils.


About the Author

Khilendra Gurung was born on May 2, 1975 in Ambung-1, Tehrathum, Nepal. He received Master of Science degree in Botany from Tribhuvan University, Nepal in 1999. His career has been focused on working on the research, development and marketing of essential oils and other natural products since 2001. Since then he took the responsibility for the formulation of natural products using essential oils for several herbal products manufactures in Nepal.

Mr. Gurung has conduct several nationally and internationally founded research works on non timber forest products’ identification, utilization and marketing across the Himalayan regions and mid hills of Nepal. His major fields of interest are essential oils, aromatheraphy, herbalism, ethnobotany, biodiversity conservation and non timber forest products’ utilization, certification and marketing.

Mr. Gurung has attended several national and international workshops, seminars and symposia and has published a dozen of research articles on essential oils, ethnobotany and plant ecology to his credit in scientific journals.



Nepal is endowed with the vast resources of aromatic plants, which have been used by the communities for centuries as food, health care products, flavors and fragrances. Nepal is also a developing economy that lacks the information on how to optimally derive social and economic benefits from the industrial utilization of these aromatic plants. This has been a major impediment in the development of an aromatic industry and its related business. Nevertheless, the high potential for growth in this sector is yet to be capitalized on by the government and the entrepreneurs within the country.

Small scale processing of aromatic plants in rural areas, where the resources are abundant and other income generating activities are nominal, are still ignored due to the lack of knowledge on marketing, entrepreneurs' capabilities and financing. This sector is also overlooked by the government and placed on a lower priority in development plans. Furthermore, marketing of aromatic plants and essential oils operates within the constraints of limited market information, limited access and domination by large scale traders. The prices of aromatic plants and essential oils are usually dictated by the large scale traders. Small producers have been suffering from this dilemma and in certain cases have had to abandon their businesses.

Processing of aromatic plants could contribute significantly to the national economy and assist in raising the livelihood of rural communities if these resources would be utilized on a sustainable basis.

There is reason for optimism, as the last two decades have seen a growing interest in complementary healing methods and the use of naturally derived products such as essential oils. This interest has continued to flourish throughout the world.

Aromatherapy, once considered a fringe practice, has become so generally accepted and respected that it is increasingly on offer to hospital patients as part of their treatment. More and more manufacturers of health products, cosmetics and perfumes are recognizing the value of essential oils in enhancing the quality and appeal of their products. At the same time, the home use of essential oils has risen dramatically as people discover for themselves the therapeutic benefits and unique aesthetic enjoyments of oils.

Current scientific research into the chemistry and medicinal use of certain essential oils has helped confirm and clarify their precise healing potential.

I sincerely hope that the knowledge contained within this book will assist those who read it. Whether you are a general reader, a student, teacher, herbal product manufacturer, trader or specialist, I hope that this book adds to your current knowledge of essential oils and furthers your interest in the vast potential of aromatic plants.

In this respect, it is my hope that this book will be a definitive reference and an indispensable guide to aromatherapists in their healing work, and for those who are in quest of knowledge on the use and potential of essential oils.



Essential oils are chemical compounds with an odoriferous nature, highly volatile, insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents and obtained by the steam distillation or expression process. They are found in the herb, flower, fruit, seed, leaf, wood, root, rhizome, resin or gum of plants.

Out of 400,000 flowering plant species including 295 families of the world, about 2,000 species from about 60 families possess essential oils. The families Cupressaceae and Pinaceae among the Gymnosperms; Cannabaceae, Compositae, Ericaceae, Geraniaceae, Labiatae, Lauraceae, Leguminosae, Myristicaceae, Myrtaceae, Oleaceae, Piperaceae, Rosaceae, Rutaceae, Santalaceae, Umbelliferae, Valerianaceae, Verbenaceae (dicots) and Arnarylidaceae, Araceae, Gramineae and Zingiberaceae (monocots) among the Angiosperms, account for a large number of essential oils yielding aromatic plants of commercial importance.

Essential oils occur in various plant parts; while in some cases they are found throughout the plant; in others they are restricted to one special portion of the plant. In Pine, essential oil occurs in all organs, whereas in Rose, the oil is confined to the petal. Similarly, in Cinnamon, the oil is found in the bark and leaf; in Citrus family essential oil is found in the flower and the peel of the fruit; in aromatic grasses and Mint in the leaf; in Cumin and Fennel in the seed and in Vetiver, Valerian and Spikenard in the root. Sometimes it occurs in more than one part of a particular plant. The Orange tree produces three different essences with varying therapeutic properties-Neroli (blossom), Petitgrain (leaf) and Orange (rind).

Essential oils are of both agricultural and forest origins. Some essential oils of agricultural origin are Cornmint, Peppermint, Lemongrass, Citronella, Palmarosa and Chamomile. The common essential oils of forest origin are Spikenard, Valerian and Wintergreen. Some essential oils sources have agricultural as well as forest origin, such as Valerian and Cinnamon.

Essential oils are produced in specialized glandular cells of plants. In leaf and petal, the essential oils are present in the innermost membrane of the cell wall in the parenchymatous tissue. In other parts, they accumulate as floating drops in the protoplasm (terpenes in Orange peel) or in separate cell cavities.

A plant produces essential oil for its own survival; to influence its growth and production, to attract pollinating insects, to repel predators and to protect it from diseases. Essential oils play an important part in the transpiration and life processes of the plant itself and are often described as the hormone or life blood of plant.

The quality of essential oils depend on number of factors such as soil conditions, climate, altitude, time of harvesting and the distillation unit equipment used for the extraction. The concentration of essential oil in a plant is highest during summer and thus regarded as the best time for harvesting and extraction. The more oil glands present in the plant, the higher is the yield percentage of essential oils.

Essential oils are generally high value and low volume commodities. This makes them attractive crops to grow and process for small holder farmers and remote communities where transport facilities prevent them from marketing high volume cash crops.

Essential oil from a particular species of plant may vary depending on where it has been grown and how it has been processed. New producers should be prepared to meet with some resistance when attempting to market oils from new sources. They may be offered lower prices than expected and initially sales may be slow. In order to be successful, a new supplier must satisfy the buyers' requirements as uniform good quality, stable price and continuity of supply. Building up buyers' confidence is a necessity and may take some time and new producers of essential oils are encouraged to take this into account when beginning to distill essential oils commercially.

World's total annual production of essential oils ranges from 100,000-110,000 tons. Major producers of essential oils are Brazil, China, USA, Egypt, India, Mexico, Guatemala and Indonesia. By comparison, Nepal produces only a negligible volume. Essential oils are intermediary raw materials for soaps and detergents (34%), cosmetics and toiletries (25%), fine fragrances (21%), household products (15%) and pharmaceuticals and others (5%). The world market for essential oils has been estimated between US$ 13.2 to US$ 18 billions annually. The International Trade Center (ITC) has identified the essential oils export market at US$ 15 billions annually with a growth rate of 11% per annum. The largest consumer for essential oils currently is the USA with an estimated 40% of the consumption with Western Europe at 30% and Japan at 7%. Nepal exports about 55 tons of essential oils under Harmonized System (HS) code 3301(essential oils, resinoids, terpenic by-products etc.) representing 2% of global trade, positioning the country 72 in the list of exporters category. Similarly, Nepal exports about 34 tons of essential oils under HS code 330129 of which 29 tons (85%) are exported to India. Other countries to which essential oils are exported under HS code 330129 include Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Spain and Germany.

2. History

2.1 Ancient civilizations

Aromatic herbs have been in use for centuries as incense, perfumers and cosmetics as well as for medicinal and culinary purposes. Ritual use of aromatic herbs constituted an integral part of the tradition in most early cultures. Such practice is still in use today, for example, Juniper and Anthopogon leaves are burnt in Buddhists' Stupas as a form of purification. Similarly, Frankincense is used during the Roman Catholic mass in the west.

In India, the Vedic literature dates back to approximately 2000 BC, with a list of over 700 herbs including: Cinnamon, Spikenard, Ginger, Myrrh, Coriander and Sandalwood. The 'Rig Veda' reflects a spiritual and philosophical outlook, in which humanity is seen as a part of nature and the handling of herbs as a sacred task.

The Chinese also have an ancient herbal tradition that accompanies the practice of acupuncture, recorded in the 'Yellow Emperor's Book of Internal Medicine' dating back to 2000 Be. Several aromatics such as Opium and Ginger, used in therapeutic applications, are known to have been utilized for religious purposes since the earliest times as in the 'L-Ki' and 'Tcheou Li' ceremonies.

In the ancient Egyptian civilization, 'Papyrus' manuscripts dating back to around 2800 BC, recorded the use of many medicinal herbs; whereas another 'Papyrus' written about 2000 BC documented the 'Fine Oils and Choice Perfumes and the Incense of Temples'. Aromatic gums and oils such as Cedar and Myrrh were employed in the embalming process and the Egyptians were also experts in cosmetology and renowned for their herbal preparations and ointments.

The Phoenician merchant exported the scented oils and gums to the Arabian Peninsula and gradually throughout the Mediterranean region to Greece and Rome. They brought Camphor from China, Cinnamon from India, Gums from Arabia and Rose from Syria. The Greek learned a great deal from Egyptian tradition through Herodotus and Democrates, who visited Egypt during the fifth century BC and transmitted what they had learnt about perfumery and natural therapeutics. In 425 BC, Herodotus first recorded the method of distillation of Turpentine and furnished the first information about perfumes and numerous other details of odorous materials. Later, Dioscorides studied in detail about the sources and uses of plants and aromatics employed by Greeks and Romans and compiled into a five volume 'Materia Medica', known as the 'Herbarius',

Hippocrates universally referred to as the 'Father of Medicine', prescribed perfumed fumigations and fomentations as a part of his medical treatments. The Romans, like the Greeks and Egyptians, used fragrant oils in ceremonies and rituals, but they were particularly extravagant in their use of oils in baths, massage, scenting clothes and beds and as a scent for hair and body.

2.2 History of aromatherapy

Our ancestors, most probably discerned useful plants by scents, sights and intuition. After seeking edible and medicinal plants, they might have discovered that certain aromatic plants when burnt gave rise to altered states of consciousness. Some plants made people feel drowsy, while others made them feel euphoric. Some plants even gave rise to psychic experiences.

These plants were highly prized and burnt by the priests during magical rites, worshipping gods and for healing purposes. For instance, Juniper was a special plant associated with purification around the symbolic time of death and rebirth of the Sun at the Winter Solstice.

Fumigation with aromatic substances is still used in certain parts of the world to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. French hospitals burnt Juniper, Thyme and Rosemary in the wards as a disinfectant.

Similarly, Juniper and Anthopogon, the most commonly used incense in Buddhist shrines, could help deepening breathing. Deep breathing calms the mind and relaxes the body, creating a sound environment for prayers and meditation.

2.2.1 Ancient Egypt

In the history of mankind it seems that the Egyptians were the first people to extensively make use of aromatics and herbs and included their use in religion, cosmetics as well as medicinal purposes.

Aromatic essence and resins were also extensively used in the embalming process. Although it was thought that most essential oils were produced in Egypt by means of a type of enfleurage extraction method, the Egyptians in fact did have access to the distillation method through the Mesopotamians as distillation pots have been found at Tepe Gawra dating back to about 3,500 Be.

2.2.2 Ancient China

The ancient Chinese used herbs as an acupuncture and massage for healing ailments holistically. The alchemist would burn incense and douse himself in specially prepared perfumes. He believed that the perfumes held magical forces and plants spirits whose power would help him concoct the elixir of life.

The wealthy ancient Chinese had a special room for child birth, where Mugwort was burnt to attract kindred spirits and to bring about a state of tranquility in mother and child.

2.2.3 Ancient Greeks

The ancient Greeks burnt incense in temples, city squares and during state ceremonies. In many Greek homes incense was burnt to appease gods. Greeks were not satisfied with perfuming their clothes and bodies, but also scented food and wine as well. Perfume, particularly Rose was believed to quell the intoxicating effects of alcohol.

The medicinal wisdom of the Egyptians were taken over and absorbed by the ancient Greeks and the most well known physician of that time-Hippocrates (460-377 BC) was also a firm believer in treating the patient holistically and included massage as a treatment.

2.2.4 Ancient Romans

The Romans spent vast sums on aromatics and on their elaborate public baths. Most wealthy families would massage their body with aromatic oils.

The Romans adopted the medicinal wisdom of the Greeks and were great believers in hygiene to promote health and also took great stock in aromatics and the power of fragrances.

2.2.S Ancient Arabs

The Arabs traveled by sea and by land to distant countries in search of aromatics and artifacts.

They bought back many potent aromatics from the Far East, including Sandalwood, Cassia, Camphor, Nutmeg, Myrrh and Cloves. These aromatics were used in both medicine and perfumery.

The Arab physicians harnessed powerful germicidal properties of essential oils by disinfecting their bodies and clothes with a pleasing mixture of Sandalwood, Camphor and Rose water.

By the eleventh century, the well known Arabian physician Abu Ibn Sina (Avicenna) had perfected the art of distillation to capture the volatile essences from plants.

2.2.6 Ancient Europe

In the twelfth century, knights returning from crusades in the Middle East brought back exotic and costly perfumes, and Arabian perfumes were soon famous throughout Europe. Medieval herbals contain references to Lavender water and various methods of using oils.

British women became skilled in making herbal medicine, and some wealthy homes even installed their own still for extracting essential oils from plants for use in medicine and perfumery.

During the fifteenth century, it became common practice to strew floors with aromatic plants. These plants gave off wonderful scent and their insecticidal and bactericidal properties helped ward off disease by killing air-borne bacteria and deterring fleas and lice.

By the nineteenth century, chemists intended on removing the impurities of plants in order to isolate their active constituents. However, it was felt that impurities are a necessary part of the whole because they work in harmony with the active constituent preventing side effects.

2.2.7 Alchemy

Avicenna (980-1037 AD) has been credited for the invention of the refrigerated coil, which he used to produce pure essential oils and aromatic water from Rose. Rose water became one of the most popular scents and was introduced to the West at the time of crusades with other exotic essences and the distillation method. By the thirteenth century, the 'Perfumes of Arabia' were famous throughout Europe.

During the middle ages, floors were strewn with aromatic plants and little herbal bouquets were carried as a protection against plague and other infectious diseases. In the meantime, the Europeans began to experiment with their own native herbs as Lavender and Rosemary.

During the sixteenth century, Lavender water and essential oils known as 'Chymical Oils' could be brought from an apothecary, resulting in the publication of many herbals such as the 'Grete Herbal!' published in 1526, some included illustrations of the retorts which is still used for the extraction of aromatic oils.

2.2.8 Scientific revolution

Since the Renaissance period, aromatic materials were used for the main protection against epidemics for the next few centuries. During that period, the medicinal properties and application of increasing numbers of new essential oils were analyzed and recorded by pharmacists. The list included well established aromatic oils such as: Artemisia, Cajeput, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Juniper, Lavender, Orange flower, Pine, Rose, Rosemary and Valerian.

In the seventeenth century, commercial perfumery and distillation enterprises sprang up in Northern Europe, particularly in France.

By the end of the seventeenth century, the profession of perfumery broke away and a distinction was made between perfumes and aromatics. With the scientific revolution of the early nineteenth century, chemists were able to identify various active constituents of oils for the first time and gave them scientific names such as citral, geraniol, citronellol, etc. Since then, further research laid the ground for the development of synthetic counterpart of essential oils which led to growth of the modern pharmaceutical industry. Herbal medicine and aromatic remedies lost their credibility as the methods of treatment went from the hands of the individual to professionals. By the middle of the twentieth century, the role of essential oils had been reduced almost entirely to their uses in perfumes, cosmetics and foodstuffs.

2.2.9 Twentieth century pioneers

The term aromatherapy was first coined in 1937 by the French chemist and perfumer Rene Maurice Gattefosse. He was not a believer of the natural health movement but was interested in the properties that essential oils exhibited.

In 1910, he burnt his hand badly in his laboratory and being the first available compound handy, treated his badly burnt hand with pure undiluted Lavender oil. The Lavender oil not only immediately eased the pain, but helped heal the hand without any sign of infection or scar. He also found that minute amounts of essential oils are absorbed by the body and interact with the body chemistry.

This led Gattefosse to undertake a great deal of research into the medicinal properties of essential oils.

In 1937, he published a book entitled 'Aromatherapie', thus coining the word that has been in use still today. He also found that many essential oils were more effective in their totality than their isolated active ingredients.

Paolo Rovesti in Milan, Italy used the oils of Bergamot, Orange and Lemon to relieve anxiety and depression in his patients. He soaked cotton wool in essential oils and passed them under the nose of his patients. This helped to evoke and release the suppressed memories and emotions that were causing a detrimental effect on the health of his patients.

During the Second World War, as a result of Gattefosse's experiments, Jean Valnet a French medical doctor used essential oils to treat injured soldiers with great success. The fragrances of the essences helped cover up the putrid smells of gangrenous wounds and suppressed them by retarding putrefaction. He mentioned in his book entitled 'The Practice of Aramatherapy' how he successfully treated several psychiatric patients with essential oils.

Robert Tisserand, a British aromatherapist published the first book in English The Art af Aramatherapy'. In his book, Tisserand discussed the history and the therapeutic properties and applications of a number of essences. After the publication of this book, interest in the healing art of aromatherapy was generated worldwide.

In the 1950's Marguerite Maury, an Austrian biochemist started diluting essential oils in vegetable carrier oil and massaging it onto the skin using a Tibetan technique where the oil was applied along nerve endings of the spinal column. She was also the first person to start the use of individually prescribed combinations of essential oils to suit the need of the person being massaged. Her clients reported dramatic improvement in their skin condition as a result of the treatment. To their amazement, they experienced relief from rheumatic pain, deeper sleep and a generally improved mental state.




  Part One  
1 Introduction 1
2 History 2
2.1.1 Ancient civilizations 2
2.2.2 History of aromatherapy 3
3 Medical herbalism 6
3.1. Properties 6
3.2 Mode of action 6
3.3 Therapeutic guidelines 7
3.4 Safety guidelines 7
4 Action and applications 8
4.1 How does essential oil work 8
5 Use of essential oil at home 12
5.1 Application methods 12
6 Blending 14
6.1 Correct proportion 14
6.2 Synergy 14
6.3 Fragrant haemony 15
7 Chemistry of essential oils 16
7.1 Alcohols 16
7.2 Aldehydes 16
7.3 Esters 16
7.4 Ethers 17
7.5 Ketones 17
7.6 Oxides 17
7.7 Phenols 17
7.8 Terpene hydrocarbons 17
  Part Two  
1 Extraction methods of essential oils 19
1.1 Expression 19
1.2 Distillation 19
1.3 Distillery design 21
1.4 Production process of essential oils in Nepal 24
1.5 Extraction methods of other aromatics 25
  Part Three  
1 Quality control of essential oils 26
2 Analysis and quality assessment 26
3 Quantitative determination 26
4 Quality assessment techniques 27
4.1 Sensory evaluations 27
4.2 Physical tests 27
4.3 Chemical tests 28
5 Instrumental techniques 28
5.1 Chromatographic techniques 28
5.2 Spectrophotometric techniques 28
5.3 Spectroscopic techniques 29
5.4 Combined techniques 29
6 GC-MS libraries 31
7 Retention index 32
8 Gas chromatography/Chemical ionization-Mass spectrometry 32
9 Fourier-transform infrared spectrophotometer 32
10 Conformity to specifications 32
  Part Four  
1 Caring for essential oils 34
2 Packaging of essential oils 34
3 Storage of essential oils 34
4 Uses of essential oils 35
  Part Five  
1 Therapeutic index 38
1.1 Skin care 38
1.2 Circulation, muscles and joints 40
1.3 Respiratory system 40
1.4 Digestive system 41
1.5 Endocrine system 42
1.6 Immune system 42
1.7 Nervous system 43
  Part Six  
1 Profiles of traded essential oils in Nepal 44
2 Essential oils with potential for trade in Nepal 69
  Part Seven  
1 Legal provisions for production and export of essential oils in Nepal 108
1.1 Registration of cottage industry 108
1.2 Collection, transport permit and verification 108
1.3 Value added tax 109
1.4 Processing permit 109
2 Legal provisions for export of essential oils from Nepal 110
2.1 Documents required for export 110
2.2 Recommendation and export permit 111
  Part Eight  
1 Total quality management of essential oils 112
2 Certification of essential oils 113
2.1 Improving access to market through product certification" 113
2.2 Need for certification 116
2.3 Organically produced essential oils 116
3 Essential oils manufacturers and traders of Nepal 118
4 Agencies/organizations promoting the essential oil sector in Nepal 121
5 Some health care products based on essential oils in Nepal 123
5.1 Soothing products 123
5.2 Massage oil/Pain relief products 123
5.3 Other products 123
  Glossary 124
1 Glossary of medical terms 124
2 Glossary of aromatherapeutic terms 130
3 Glossary of botanical terms 131
4 Glossary of other terms 134
  Bibliography 135
  Index 144
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