Changes in the composition of aromatherapeutic citrus oils during evaporation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Department of Chemistry 
The composition of some commercial Citrus oils, lemon, sweet orange, and tangerine, designated for aromatherapy, was examined before and after partial evaporation in a stream of nitrogen. The intact oils contained the expected mixtures of mono- and sesquiterpenes, with hydrocarbons dominating and lesser amounts of oxygenated analogues making up the remainder. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was used to follow alterations in the relative amounts of the various components present as evaporation proceeded. Changes were marked, and in particular more volatile components present in the intact oils rapidly disappeared. Thus the balance of content was shifted away from monoterpene hydrocarbons towards the analogous alcohols and carbonyl compounds. The results of this differential evaporation are discussed and possible consequences for aromatherapy use are noted. The case of lemon oil was especially interesting as the relative amount of citral, a known sensitizer, remaining as time elapsed represented an increasing percentage of the total oil.