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The surprising link between pesto and aromatherapy.

What does this plate of pasta with pesto have to do with aromatherapy?


There is a very interesting lesson in this bowl of spaghetti.


Some things you may not know about me, besides the fact that I am an aromatherapist.


I’m a gardener, I grow a lot of my own vegetables, fruit, and herbs. Including the basil and garlic that made up this pesto.


I’m a plant-based chef, flavours and aromas are so important when it comes to cooking. Maybe that is why I am drawn to both cooking and aromatherapy.

I’m a scientist, for real, I studied biology and earth science at the university level, I love research and I nerd out A LOT. Which is why when I tasted that pasta that I made last night, with pesto that I had frozen in the fall, with basil that I grew, I had a flash of inspiration.


You are probably wondering why the heck I am talking about pesto in an aromatherapy blog.

No, I do not cook with essential oils, I know people do, I am not sure why they do, I am about to get sidetracked but will come back to the reason for this post.


I don’t cook with essential oils for a couple of reasons. I see people posting that it adds nutrition as well as flavour to your food. No, it does not.


The nutrition is separated and or destroyed in the distillation process, no nutrition, no vitamins, no minerals in the essential oils.


Ok sure maybe adding essential oil adds flavour but the distillation process also removes the water-soluble components. The flavanols, phenolic acids and antioxidants are NOT in the essential oil.


There are flavours in the plant that are not in the essential oil, in fact I find the herb essential oils to be less flavourful and more bitter (yes, I have cooked with them, I am not going to rant if I have not tried it myself, it was a long time ago, before I knew what I know).

Aromatically the herb essential oils are wonderful, therapeutically they are wonderful, in the culinary sense, not so much.  


Just my opinion and I will agree to disagree, we all have different opinions and that’s OK.


It is also wasteful; it takes about 16 pounds of basil to make 15 ml of essential oil. Do you know how much basil that is?


Ok, rant over. 

As I was eating my pasta, I noticed that the pesto from this year tasted different from the pesto last year. This year there was a prominent taste of clove and mild licorice.


Our sense of smell is intrinsically linked with our sense of taste. I know that aroma/ flavour is eugenol and methyl chavicol. In the past, the sweet basil I grew has a more herbal smell / taste of linalool (think lavender).

Here is where I totally nerd out….


Sweet basil has several chemotypes. A chemotype is when it is the same genus and species so in this case Ocimum basilicum has variations in chemistry (“chemo” type) due to variability in growth conditions. Climatic conditions like temperature, amount of rainfall, soil conditions and more can result in the variability of the chemistry of the plant.

Ok, so who cares?


Aromatherapists do.


The reason why it is important for us to be able to see a GC/MS (gas chromatography mass spectrometry) report is because some of these changes in chemistry, which can occur from year to year or location to location can make a huge difference in the therapeutic properties and safety of the essential oil. A GC/MS report gives us the details of the chemistry of the essential oil.


I was reminded of this very important point while eating my dinner last night.


When you are purchasing and using essential oils, remember this.


IF there are chemotypes of the plant it should be ON the bottle.


So, basil essential oil that is rich in linalool should say Ocimum basilicum ct. linalool or if it is rich in methyl chavicol it should say ct. methyl chavicol.

FYI many of the essential oils that have chemotypes are herbs like thyme, basil, and rosemary.


They have different therapeutic properties and different safety concerns, so yes, it is important to know the chemotype.

I have courses in the works, these are meant for the casual user who want to use the oils they have at home and have no clue where to start. I want to make it easy for you to use your oils safely, effectively, and sustainably.


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190 views1 comment

1 comentario

Miembro desconocido
31 mar

Great post. Thnx a lot. Love your direct talk!

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We, as settlers, acknowledge that we practice our craft on the unceded and unsurrendered traditional territory of the Wolastoqiyik and Mi'kmaq. We are all treaty people under the Peace and friendship Treaties. We are committed to honouring their stewardship of the land in our work and our lives.

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