Aromatic Chemistry and Hand Sanitizing
Updated: Mar 7
I have had a lot of requests for a hand sanitizer at Mountain Sage Wellness Shop lately. I haven't made a hand sanitizer before. Therefore, I went through my vast database on advanced aromatherapy looking for antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, immunostimulant essential oils. I made my list of EOs to formulate with.
But I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to make sure that their chemical makeup would support their healing actions.
After spending a couple of days searching pubmed, google scholar, and other search engines for research articles supporting my EO picks for an effective hand sanitizer, I came up short with several of them. I wish I could just magically pull up scientific data on all of my EOs! But unless someone funds the research, it's not available.
So I decided to dive into the individual aromatic chemical families and their most powerful properties. Here is what I (re)learned:
Monoterpenes: airborne antimicrobial, antimicrobial, antioxidant, dermal penetration enhancers, supports expansive breathing
The EOs in my hand sanitizer recipe specifically have limonene, α-pinene, and β-pinene monoterpenes. Limonene offers antifungal, antioxidant, immunomodulatory properties. α-pinene has antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, immunostimulant properties. β-pinene is antimicrobial.
These chemical components consist of more healing properties, I am listing the ones that are the most pertinent to the formulation of my hand sanitizer.
Monoterpene alcohols/Monoterpenols: antiseptic, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, excellent immune system supportive, antioxidant, strengthening to the terrain
The EOs in my recipe specifically have geraniol and linalol monoterpenols. Geraniol offers antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Linalol has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.
Oxides: known for their great expectorant qualities and their support of the respiratory system, oxides are also excellent antivirals
The EOs in my recipe specifically have 1,8 cineole oxide. 1,8 cineole or eucalyptol has antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Sesquiterpene alchols/Sesquiterpenols: antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, immunostimulant
The EOs in my recipe specifically have nerolidol sesquiterpenol. Nerolidol has antifungal, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties.
I have seen a lot of hand sanitizer recipes floating around the interwebs with the Coronavirus outbreak. First off, following a recipe on pinterest or doctor facebook is rarely formulated to be effective and safe. Secondly, most of these recipes do not have exact measurements! What the hell!! "Fill about halfway" "top your bottle off with" and the like are not proper measurements!
This really infuriates me! Many of us want to protect ourselves and our families, and blindly believe that these "wellness specialists" are educated and know what they are talking about. It's a risky game following a recipe online. Always check to make sure that your source is an educated professional. Or better yet, buy a precisely formulated hand sanitizer from an educated professional! We have put a lot of time and effort into our education so that we can provide safe and effective remedies for you!
Now let's look at some of the internet's most popular ingredients for DIY hand sanitizers: Cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum syn. verum leaf and bark essential oils: C. bark is high in cinnamaldehyde and C. leaf is high in eugenol. Clove bud Syzygium aromaticum syn. Eugenia caryophyllata essential oil is high in eugenol.
Cinnamaldehyde (cinnamic aldehyde) is antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal. It should be used with caution and is advised to not exceed 0.07% dilution ratio for topical applications. Eugenol is antiviral and antifungal. It is a dermal irritant and should not exceed 0.5% dilution ratio for topical applications.
According to Tisserand & Young, Cinnamon bark interacts with medications, may inhibit blood clotting, and is a skin sensitizer (high risk). It should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is embryotoxicity (the state of being toxic to embryos, Merriam-Webster). Cinnamon leaf has interactions with medications, may inhibit blood clotting, and is a skin sensitizer (moderate risk). Clove interacts with medications, may inhibit blood clotting, and is a skin sensitizer (moderate risk). It should not be used during pregnancy as it is embryotoxicity. Do not use around children under 2 years. Avoid long term use and do not use undiluted.
I am not a fan of these particular EOs with casual use. They are considered to be HOT essential oils as they create a warming/heating sensation. They should ALWAYS be diluted. Their chemical compounds can become so hot on your skin that they cause chemical burns and blisters. They irritate the mucus membranes in our noses. To me, they are just so irritating that I do not like to use them - on myself or my clients.
I prefer to use known antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, immunostimulating essential oils in my hand sanitizer than EOs that are so strong they bring in usage risks. I have chosen EOs that are powerful healers and gentle to our skin.
Washing your hands is still the best defense on spreading the Coronavirus. Using a hand sanitizer is helpful when you can't get to a sink to wash up. Just remember that a hand sanitizer is not a replacement for washing your hands with soap & water.
If you need to make your own hand sanitizer, look to EOs in the citrus family, conifers, and those rich in oxides (many EOs from Australia are rich in 1,8 cineole). If you choose to use rosemary or thyme, be sure to check your chemotype. I recommend a base of at least 60% alcohol (everclear not isopropyl). Or better yet, buy a hand sanitizer that is formulated by an educated professional! We are here to help!
Tisserand and Young (2013). Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, 2nd Edition. Churchill Livingstone.
Buckle, Jane (2015). Clinical Aromatherapy: Essential Oils in Healthcare, 3rd Edition. Churchill Livingstone.
I lot of my information comes from my advanced education at NYI of Aromatic Studies, here are a few articles that help support my information.