Lemon Essential Oil: There was an old woman who lived in a shoe ……


Truth be told, the nursery rhyme “The Old Woman in the Shoe” scared me. I couldn’t have been the only kid. It made me scared to have kids and grateful for my patient mother.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

As an adult, I understand far more of the truth behind the rhyme. I know some days at 5:37 pm when: my children are bickering, I forgot to pick up X ingredient for dinner AND the tri-fold for the class project (due tomorrow), the laundry with “today’s” soccer practice jersey is still in the washer and hasn’t been dried (for 2 days and stinks), and lupus is kicking my derier – that my patience might be a wee bit less than that of a sane person. I am sure – if a couple of more kids came along and financial pressure mounted on top of life’s other chaos, that my ability to be a peaceful parent would diminish even more.

As a divergent learner, in order to try to grasp the chemistry and function of aromatherapy, I have begun to think of essential oils in terms of personalities and stories – I have a whole list of them. I have also tried to describe to “inquiring folks” the science behind essential oils in a manner that might make broader sense of course, not claiming that the oils do anything medically, heaven forbid. The FDA looks down upon that.

Lemon essential oil reminds me of the old lady who lived in a shoe. You see the chemistry of whole lemons and lemon oil are a tad different. The lemon essential oil, which is not water soluble (while lemon juice makes lemonade), is made up of a unique combination of chemical constituents that bring specific functions to the oil, hence the therapeutic value. Her complicated make up, gives the woman in the shoe her character. The main chemical components which are shown in gas chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis of lemon oil give it, show the each chemical component which is seen in the character as well:

  • She is pressed – pressed for money, pressed for time, pressed for patience. Lemon rinds are cold expeller pressed to make lemon essential oil.
  • Stuck in the house, she doesn’t go out in the sun much: Pressed lemon oil is phototoxic. Needs to be wiped off or used in small dose on skin before UV exposure.
  • She cooks. Limonene is the monoterpene primarily responsible for the fragrance of citrus fruits—specifically, the D-isomer. D-limonene smells strongly in its isolated form, and is in widespread use as a flavor additive in food production and an aroma compound in perfumery. It is also in used complementary medicine, due to its observed ability to reduce heartburn and gastric acid reflux.
  • … And cleans. α-Terpinen is used as a natural, renewable solvent in cleaning products, due to its ability to dissolve oils and other lipids; it is even capable of stripping paint and is considered an effective substitute for turpentine Terpinen/ turpentine) > think Lemon Pinesol or lemon furniture polish.
  • She helps when her kids have the flu, colds, and tummy bugs. Lemon oil contains a-pinene: In small doses, this chemical acts as a bronchodilator and exhibits anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antibiotic properties.
  • She listens to her kids talk about stresses after school and then helps them focus concentration to finish homework. linalool: Linalool’s main medicinal function is as an anxiolytic—anxiety-reducing.
  • She pats her kids forehead when they are in pain or anxious. Myrcene has been demonstrated to produce analgesic effects in laboratory testing on rats; myrcene and limonene, along with the terpenoid citral (found in many citrus fruits, lemon myrtle, lemongrass and lemon verbena) have also been found to exert sedative and motor relaxant effects in mice.

Not a perfect analogy, but a way to remember perhaps. What is needed to manage that shoe is a gentle yet efficient project manager and perhaps a wee splash of lemon essential oil.

And of course, this is just a story with no claims about what women who live in shoes can or cannot do. And even more it tells a story about some chemicals which just so happen to be found in lemon oil and does not give medical claims.


One thought on “Lemon Essential Oil: There was an old woman who lived in a shoe ……

  1. Sherrie St. Hilaire

    Very clever! It actually helped me understand…and can I say that I’m terribly impressed with your essential knowledge…and I never did like that rhyme either. lol


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