Traditionally, when it comes to light, we associate blue with healing.
But when it comes to essential oils blue pigments deliver anti-inflammatory properties.
In this article, we will explore some of the most amazing blue essential oils and their azulene derivatives, as well as ways to use them in our skin and body treatments.
Azulene is a natural compound found in some plants and some invertebrates. Its name is derived from The Spanish ‘Azul’ meaning dark blue.
Two of its derivatives are found in essential oils commonly used in Aromatherapy.
The deep blue compound, Chamazulene has a long history of being an effective anti-inflammatory. Although it is not necessarily present to a very high degree in any of the essential oils, it so rich in colour that it transfers its dark blue tones as if it was dominating the whole chemical makeup of the plant.
It is present in German Chamomile, Yarrow, Wormwood, Blue Tansy, and to a lesser extent in Roman Chamomile.
Chamazulene does not exist in fresh plant materials. It is biosynthetised through the process of steam distillation from the sesquiterpene matricarin, which is crystalline in colour. Its properties were first discovered and studied by the Germans and in France by Caujolle in the 1950s as an effective anti-inflammatory agent.
Also known as chamomile recutita or matricaria chamomile. Compositae or Asteraceae family
Known for its incredible anti-inflammatory properties German Chamomile is one of the most useful oils for use in skin and body treatments when the objective is to create a calming, soothing, and cooling effect.
German Chamomile is native to Central and northern Europe and is now cultivated all over Europe.
The essential oil is steam-distilled from the flowering tops and is dark blue in colour. Its aroma is of an herbaceous nature with a softer honey like undertone.
The oil is typically made up Béta farnesène (15,00 à 55,00%) Alpha Bisabolol Oxyde (1,00 à 45,00%) Trans trans alpha farnesène (<= 18,00%) Alpha bisabolol (<= 12,00%) Béta bisabolol oxyde (1,00 à 10,00%) and chamazulene.
The oil is mostly known for its anti-inflammatory properties which were believed to be due until recently to its chamazulene content only.
The French “father of aromatherapy” Jean Valent describes the oil as being effective to treat inflamed conditions such as eczema, ulcers, but also infections of the digestive tract, colitis, cystitis, and even certain types of asthma. He also reports that azulene has been proven effective in the concentration of 1/2000 against aureus staphylococcus, streptococcus hemolyticus and proteus vulgaris.
More recent studies have demonstrated that another compound in the oil alpha-bisabolol, a monoterpenoid, also has effective anti-inflammatory properties. It would be the combination of alpha bisabolol and chamzaulene that gives German chamomile its healing and anti-inflammatory potency.
The oil has primarily been renowned throughout civilisations as a skin oil, able to heal and soothe any skin conditions, from deeply irritated, to sensitive and reactive skin types. It can be combined with lavender and geranium in a soothing balm. Useful in cases of eczema, dermatitis, and itchy and red skin. It is also a vaso-constrictor and can help reduce the appearance of enlarged capillaries in the cheeks, such as with rosacea.
CHAMOMILLA RECUTITA (Matricaria)
Another chamomile variety is Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) flower extract. Matricaria comes from the word matrix or womb and was known in the ancient civilisations as the herb to soothe painful periods. For PMS, use in combination with clary sage, lavender, geranium, cypress. It relieves heat and reduces inflammation in cases of gastritis, neuritis, cystitis (use with sandalwood and eucalyptus citriadora), rheumatoid arthritis.
Achille millefolium Compositae or Asteraceae family
Is a perennial herb that grows wild in Europe, Asia and the United States. The oil is steam-distilled from the flowers and is deep, greenish blue in colour. Its chemical make-up is completely different to that of German Chamomiile and is typically shows Chamazulène (4,00 à 28,00%) Sabinène (3,00 à 23,00%) Béta pinène (<= 18,00%) Trans cis alpha farnesène (4,00 à 17,00%) Béta caryophyllène (3,00 à 13,00%)
Yarrow has been renowned through civilisations as a great wound healing plant. This earned it its association with the great warrior Achilles who used it to heal his battle wounds who gave it its botanical name of Achillea millefolium. Yarrow is also known as the ‘Soldier’s wound wort’ and has been used for centuries to heal wounds and prevent infections.
The essential oil is effective to stop bleeding along with cistus. It is also valued to reduce inflamed and irritated skin in the presence of eczema, infections, and allergic skin reactions.
It is beneficial for treating varicose veins.
Along with German chamomile, it is useful for PMS and regulates hormonal imbalance during menopause.
Tanacetum annum Compositae or Asteraceae family
The oil is not to be confused with tansy essential oil – Tanacetum vulgare – which is a potential neurotoxic and should not be used in Aromatherapy. Tanacetum annum is also known as Blue Moroccan Chamomile.
The oil is steam-distilled from the flowering tops, is deep blue in colour, and has a strong herbaceous aroma, even more so than German Chamomile or Yarrow.
Its main constituents are as follows:
Sabinène (6,00 à 26,00%) Myrcène (4,00 à 16,00%) Camphre (7,00 à 15,00%) Chamazulène (2,00 à 11,00%) Béta pinène (<= 10,00%) Alpha phellandrène (4,00 à 10,00%)
It is recommended by Dr. Kurt Shnaubelt and other aromatherapy experts for its use as a powerful anti-inflammatory and for its antihistamine, anti-allergen and anti-fungal properties.
As an antihistamine, it can be useful along with frankincense, and bergamot to alleviate signs of asthma.
As an anti-inflammatory, use also for muscular ache, sciatic nerve along with cypress and marjoram.
Similarly, German Chamomile is a very good skin oil, useful in case of eczema, or inflamed and irritated skin. Use in combination with calendula, rosehip, camelia, and sea-buckthorn oil.
Australian blue cypress
Guaiazulene is another azulene derivative that is present in the essential oil obtained from distilling the wood and bark of Callistris intratropica, commonly known as the Australian blue cypress.
The oil is a beautiful sky blue and has a thick consistency. Its aroma is woody, resinous with a light smoky undertone.
Its chemical makeup is mostly sesquiterpene based and contains as well as guaiazulene, guaiol (20 to 30%) along with guanines, selinenes, eudesmols, beta elemene and several furanones.
The oil of Australian blue cypress has been a major ingredient in the indigenous people’s pharmacopeia. This oil appears to have limited research and the results seem to be based on anecdotal data. However, the oil has proven effective as an anti-inflammatory, an analgesic combined with anti-viral properties.
Blue cypress has traditionally has been used to repel insects and soothe their bites. It has proven effective to heal wounds caused by insects, accidents, or burns and relieve pain.
It is also useful in alleviating swelling and pain due to rheumatoid arthritis, general joint pain, and swelling. It has shown to have anti-viral properties and is useful in the treatment of warts, shingles, and cold sores such as herpes simplex.
Look out for these amazing oils in new-generation skincare formulations and if you have aromatherapy training, you can also add them to your massage oil, or add them to create a soothing, anti-inflammatory mask.