Gas chromatography: an investigative tool in multiple allergies to essential oils

Contact Dermatitis. 2002 Nov;47(5):288-92. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0536.2002.470506.x.


Essential or fragrant oils are volatile odourous mixtures of organic chemical compounds that are widely used in aromatherapy and in the perfume industry. Because of their frequent use, allergy to essential oils is being increasingly recognized. We report 2 cases of multiple allergies to essential oils in professional aromatherapists. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry was used to analyse the oils in order to identify a common allergen responsible for the contact dermatitis. In both the cases, alpha- and beta-pinene were found to be the most common constituent in the oils and thus appeared to be key allergens. alpha-pinene was confirmed as an allergen on repeat patch testing with pure alpha-pinene in both cases. 12 controls tested were negative for the same. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was found to be an extremely useful tool that could be utilized in investigating multiple allergies to essential oils.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Allergens / chemistry
  • Aromatherapy
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / pathology
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Monoterpenes
  • Oils, Volatile / adverse effects
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Patch Tests
  • Plant Oils / adverse effects*
  • Plant Oils / chemistry
  • Tea Tree Oil / adverse effects
  • Tea Tree Oil / chemistry


  • Allergens
  • Drug Combinations
  • Monoterpenes
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • ingalipt