This review is a comprehensive introduction to pertinent aspects of the extraction methodology, chemistry, analysis and pharmacology of essential oils, whilst providing a background of general organic chemistry concepts to readers from non-chemistry oriented backgrounds. Furthermore, it describes the historical aspects of essential oil research whilst exploring contentious issues of terminology. This follows with an examination of essential oil producing plants in the Australian context with particular attention to Aboriginal custom use, historical successes and contemporary commercial prospects. Due to the harsh dry environment of the Australian landmass, particularly to the cyclical climatic variation attendant upon repeated glaciation/post-glaciation cycles, the arid regions have evolved a rich assortment of unique endemic essential oil yielding plants. Though some of these aromatic plants (particularly myrtaceous species) have given birth to commercially valuable industries, much remains to be discovered. Given the market potential, it is likely that recent discoveries in our laboratory and elsewhere will lead to new product development. This review concludes with an emphasis on the use of chemotaxonomy in selection of commercially viable cultivar chemotypes from the Australian continent. Finally, drawing largely from our own results we propose a list of Australian endemic species with novel commercial potential.
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