Part 5: Oxygenated Compounds—Phenols


Phenols are a specialized variety of essential oil constituents that feature an alcohol group attached to an aromatic benzene ring. An aromatic benzene ring is a six-carbon ring structure with three double bonds. The electrons in this ring system are arranged in such a way that they are "shared" between all of the carbon atoms, giving benzene the unique characteristic of acting like it has an electron excess and resulting in its unique properties. This structure contributes to the powerful antioxidant properties of phenols as well as many other beneficial properties. Phenol constituents are very potent, which may cause irritation to the skin. Oils with high phenol content should be diluted before topical application. Common phenols found in essential oils are thymol, carvacrol, eugenol, and antheole.

Main Health Effects:

  • Protects against environmental threats1
  • Antioxidant2*
  • Repels insects3

Essential Oil Main Phenol Constituent(s) Amount
Oregano1,2* thymol, carvacrol Approximately 90%
Clove2*,3 eugenol Approximately 80%
Thyme1,3 thymol, carvacrol Approximately 50%

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