Fundamental Chemistry

What exactly makes up an essential oil? Which atoms and molecules are most important to understand the chemistry of essential oils? Come join us for this beginner-friendly exploration of the chemistry of essential oils. 

This three-part online course will help you understand the building blocks of essential oils.

With her signature enthusiasm, Dr. Joy Bowles will introduce you to the world of organic chemistry.

As both a scientist and an experienced aromatherapist, she has a unique insight into how essential oils interact with our body on the cellular level, and will help you gain that insight through the amazing language of chemistry.

Understanding the molecular makeup of essential oils will help you make better therapeutic decisions, as well as accurate safety assessments. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to learn fundamental chemistry from the expert, and join us on our dedicated Tisserand Institute learning platform!

What You Get in the Course

Three 60-minute recorded lessons.

Questions asked and answered in previous classes.

Downloadable handouts and course notes with links to additional resources.

Online forum for your questions and interaction with Petra, the TI team and classmates.

A signed Certificate of Completion from the Tisserand Institute.

Ongoing access to recorded sessions for four weeks after course completion.

Plus, Get This Extra Bonus

A useful and concise reference for the most ubiquitous and useful essential oil constituents. 

Dr. Joy Bowles; PhD, BSc Hons

Aromatherapist and International Speaker

In 1991, Dr. Joy Bowles wrote the first course in essential oil chemistry in Australia. Her book The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils, published in 2003, is a standard text for aromatherapy courses around the world. This work moves step-by-step at the molecular level through 89 essential oils, along with techniques for applying the benefits of aromatherapy to the various body systems.

For her PhD, awarded in 2007, Dr. Joy investigated the effects of essential oils on cognitive function in dementia. After several years in primary healthcare, she’s returned to the field of essential oil chemistry, training practitioners on the evidence-based therapeutic effects of essential oils. Helping people understand the chemistry and pharmacology of essential oils is one of her life’s passions.

Course Breakdown

Lesson 1 - Chemical Structure & Analysis
  • GC-MS analysis and examples of whole essential oils and their constituents
  • Acids, lactones, furans, furanocoumarins, diterpenes, diketones, peroxides and sulfur compounds
  • Differences in composition of steam-distilled essential oils, solvent-extracted absolutes, super- and sub-critical C02 extracts
  • Effects of constituent concentration on essential oil properties
  • Constituent profiles: bergapten and coumarin
Lesson 2 - Chemical Relationships
  • Chemical names that sound similar but have different endings
  • Close relationships that are not obvious from their common names, such as limonene and perillyl alcohol
  • Why isomers matter, and molecules that have (and don’t have) optical isomers
  • Constituent profiles: carvone isomers, carvacrol, and thymol
Lesson 3 - Chemical Changes
  • Overview of chemical changes that occur over the lifecycle of an essential oil: within the plant, on distillation, through storage, and on application to the body
  • Explanation of degradation and catalysis
  • Processes involved in chemical changes, including hydrolysis, reduction, and oxidation
  • Constituent profiles: menthol, citral, and citronellal
Lesson 4 - Chemical Messages
  • Molecular features that might influence biological effect
  • Synergy versus antagonism, and the challenges of predicting effect
  • The risks of extrapolation from constituent to whole essential oil, and the need for good clinical studies
  • Constituent profiles: eugenol and methyl salicylate

When You Complete the Course

Fundamental Chemistry Certification

Essential oils are powerful health and wellness tools, and as such need to be treated with the respect they deserve. Your Certificate of Completion will be evidence that you understand the fundamental principles of essential oil chemistry.

What previous students say about our courses:

This was the first time I felt I could grasp any part of chemistry, so many, many thanks! 3D models were crucial for understanding concepts. Really helpful to apply to EO deeper understanding and chemical constituents I see again and again. Only thing I’d like is to see a 3D tinker toy demo of a chemical reaction in action between molecules, to see exactly how electrons are exchanged, shared, lost, double bonds are broken, etc. (maybe two people needed for the interactive exercise!)
It’s packed with very important and trustworthy information, and it is presented in a very nice and appealing way!! Makes me want to learn more, plus: never ever ever I would have imagined to smile so much during chemistry lessons! 🙂
Thoroughly enjoying the course. Absolutely love chemistry and Joy Bowles is a great pleasure to have as an instructor.
I’ve been staring at these words for years trying to make sense of them and this is the first time I’m able to. Thank you! I have Joy’s book but have gotten MUCH more out of the course, especially being a visual learner. Everything is very well organized and easy to navigate, a big plus. You are both charming and knowledgeable which makes it more fun and less intimidating. I’d highly recommend this course!
Dr. Joy is very clear and organizes the material in a way that’s understandable for someone with absolutely no previous knowledge of chemistry.

Ready to get started?


Will there be notes for me to review?
Yes. Each lesson comes with printable handouts of the slides used in the lesson, and additional lesson notes. These are sent to you before each lesson and are for you to keep and refer to at any time.
I am a certified aromatherapist. Will I learn anything new?
Many of our students have commented that our courses helped them grasp what they learned elsewhere in more detail, or complemented their previous education. Some of our students are lifelong learners, and some are teachers.
I am new to essential oils. Is this course for me?
We will let one of our previous students answer this one:

“The information presented is appropriate for all levels, and although I am just beginning my aromatherapy journey it all makes sense.”

Will there be assessments or exams? What kind?

Each weekly lesson is followed by a multiple choice quiz, and there is a summary test at the end of each course. Passing both the weekly quizzes and the final tests is a requirement for certification.

You will be given enough time to prepare for the test as well as three attempts to pass. 

Will I be able to ask questions?

Absolutely! In addition to the live Q&A sessions, you can post your questions in the dedicated student forums where the tutor and the TI team will address them. 

What if I cannot participate on a live session?

All of our live sessions are recorded and are posted on the learning platform within 24 hours so you can watch them, or rewatch as needed during the course. 

How long will I have access to the recordings?

You will have access to all the videos for at least four weeks weeks after the last lesson. All the printable materials (notes, handouts, charts, etc.) are of course yours to keep for reference forever.

Do you offer continuing education credits?

Because we have students from all over the world and of many professions we are not able to offer credits for specific organizations – there are simply too many. However, we issue a confirmation of CE hours gained on the course that you can apply with your professional organization and will be happy to assist with any additional documentation.

At the moment, we are an Approved Continuing Education Provider with NAHA. 

What if I fall behind or cannot attend classes?
We have found that running classes on specific dates works best to help you finish a program. You join a class of students, and learn along with them. Many students help each other with queries, and of course our tutors are there too. That said, if you miss a few classes you should be still able to comfortably jump right back in and if you do fall behind you can request extra time. Of course this cannot be indefinite, but we do our best to help you get your certificate.