Using Latin Names for Essential Oils

In aromatherapy it is important to use the Latin name of the essential oil.  If common names are used, there can be confusion not only identifying different plants, but also different species of the botanical.

Some plants may share the same common name, such as anise.  However, Illicium verum is not used in aromatherapy: Pimpinella anisum is.  Another example is rose geranium.  Just by looking at the name, one would not know if it is rose oil, geranium oil, or a combination of the two.  We know from the Latin names that Pelargonium graveolens is Geranium, Cymbopogon martini (which is also called rose geranium) is palmarosa, and Rosa damascena is rose. Also, we need to know which species is being used.  There are many species of Lavender, but Lavandula angustifolia is the essential oil generally used in aromatherapy.  If we see this Latin name, we know what active constituents it will have as well as what the therapeutic actions are.  L. angustifolia is known to be relaxing, where spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) is actually stimulating.

Below are the more common essential oils and their Latin names

  • Anise Pimpinella anisum
  • Basil Ocimum basilicum
  • Bay Laurus nobilis
  • Benzoin Resinoid Styrax benzoin
  • Bergamot Citrus aurantium var. bergamia
  • Black Pepper Piper nigrum
  • Cajuput Melaleuca leucadendron
  • Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica
  • Clary sage Salvia sclarea
  • Clove bud Syzygium aromaticum (old name Eugenia caryophyllata)
  • Cypress Cupressus sempervirens
  • Elemi Canarium luzonicum
  • Eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus
  • Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
  • Garlic Allium sativum
  • Geranium Pelargonium graveolens
  • Ginger Zingiber officinale
  • Grapefruit Citrus paradisi
  • Immortelle Helichrysum angustifolium
  • Jasmine Absolute Jasminum officinale
  • Juniper berry Juniperus communis
  • Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
  • Lemon Citrus limonum
  • Marjoram Origanum majorana
  • Neroli Citrus aurantium var. amara
  • Nutmeg Myristica fragrans
  • Patchouli Pogostemon cablin
  • Peppermint Mentha piperita var. vulgaris
  • Pine Pinus sylvestris
  • Roman Chamomile Anthemis nobilis or Chamaemelum nobile
  • Rose attar Rosa damascena
  • Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Sandalwood Santalum album
  • Sweet orange Citrus sinensis
  • Tea Tree Australian Melaleuca alternifolia
  • New Zealand Tea Tree or Manuka Leptospermum scoparium
  • Thyme Thymus vulgaris
  • Vetiver Vetiveria zizanioides
  • Yarrow Achillea millefolium
  • Ylang ylang Cananga odorata