What are the origins of a plant’s unique essential oil? The answers lie in genetics. Genes function as a code, similar to the code that runs an app. If you know how to read an app’s code, you can construct in your mind the various functions, and the look and feel of the app. The same applies to genes. Scientists have made great strides in knowing how to read what a gene’s code will make.
DNA is a sequence of linked nucleotides, which are a form of small molecule. A gene is a cluster of these nucleotides. It used to cost billions of dollars and years of extremely hard work to sequence the genes of an organism. In the last 20 years, sequencing technology has improved dramatically, such that now sequencing genes is quick and relatively inexpensive. Scientists have found that most genes code for distinct proteins. Proteins perform almost all of the functions of a cell, including producing the various chemical components of an essential oil.
Scientists in India studied the genetic origins of Lemongrass essential oil, which is native to India. Lemongrass, Cymbopogon flexuosus, produces many secondary metabolites, including essential oils. Of the genes relating to secondary metabolites, 18 percent coded for terpenoid backbone biosynthesis, 1 percent for monoterpenoid biosynthesis, 1 percent for sesquiterpenoid and triterpenoid biosynthesis, and 5 percent for limonene and pinene degradation. That represents a significant investment by the Lemongrass plant in producing a diverse essential oil. The diversity of these genes correlates to the diversity of components in Lemongrass essential oil.
It is theorized that plants with more diverse essential oil component profiles also have a diverse profile of essential oil biosynthesis genes. The chemical component makeup of a plant’s essential oil isn’t created by chance, but is due to evolutionary pressures working on the genes of the plants over time. The essential oil of Lemongrass (and other plants) are therefore the product of thousands of years of evolutionary selection to give you the very best that nature has to offer.
doTERRA Science blog articles are based on a variety of scientific sources. Many of the referenced studies are preliminary, experimental studies and further research is needed to gain a greater understanding of the findings. Essential oils may have drug interactions, patient contraindications, or adverse effects that cannot be evaluated using experimental research results alone. If you are interested in using essential oils for any health concern, consult with your healthcare provider first.