I love using essential oils. I use them almost every day and in a large variety of ways. However, I do not claim to be an essential oil or aromatherapy expert by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just a regular busy mom who has found a lot of ways that essential oils can improve our lives.
It can be quite intimidating to get started with essential oils. There is a lot of information out there, a lot of misinformation and conflicting ideas. And there are a whole lot of people trying to make a quick buck by selling essential oils to you.
My goal today is to give you some basic information about getting started with essential oils. I will share information regarding their usage, benefits, dangers, and some quick tips to get you started. Once you’ve got the basics down you can begin trying things out and confidently find ways to incorporate essential oils into your everyday life.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant compounds that are distilled into an extremely potent liquid. The name comes from the original word quintessence which means “spirit” or “life force”. Many people have said that to create an essential oil you are taking the “life force” out of the plant and bottling it up.
Essential oils are completely natural and should be pure, unadulterated, and come with no additives. Be sure not to confuse essential oils with fragrance oils which are most definitely not the same thing. Most fragrance oils are a mix of unnatural chemical smells that are anything but pure and natural.
Another important thing to note about essential oils is that because they are all natural they cannot be patented. This means that major research companies have little to no reason to study essential oils because they cannot turn a profit from the studies. You’ll never see essential oils in any pharmaceutical medications and they are not likely to be prescribed by mainstream physicians. This, of course, doesn’t mean that they aren’t safe or useful, they just aren’t profitable in our current medical system.
Essential oils have been used throughout much of our world’s history. The earliest recorded uses were found in 18,000 BC. Oils were, and still are used, for medicinal purposes, beauty products, and even food preparation.
How are Essential Oils made and regulated?
Most essential oils are created through distillation, some are created through expression or pressing, and a few, known as “absolutes”, are created through the use of chemical solvents. It takes a large amount of the original plant material to create the oils. For example, in order to make a pound of lavender essential oil, it takes 100 pounds of lavender. Other oils require even more of the original plant.
It is important to note that there is no specific regulating body in regards to the purity and quality of oils. You will see oils labeled as “therapeutic grade” or even “food grade”, but there are no industry-wide regulators to certify these claims for all oil companies. Essentially, these are just marketing words that may or may not mean much.
It is always a good idea to use high-quality oils from a reputable oil company. Some representatives for certain oil companies will try to convince you that their oils are the only safe, reputable, and quality oils.
I personally think these types of claims are ridiculous. That’s like saying there is only one brand of running shoes that make good quality shoes. I have my personal preference, and there are some bargain brands that most people would agree are not the best quality, but there are still a wide number of other reputable and quality brands that just aren’t my personal favorite. Same thing with oils. There are low-quality oil companies out there (often the ones you find on the drugstore shelf), but there are many companies producing good quality oils. There is not one company that has a monopoly on quality or safety.
Take some time to do a little research before choosing a brand of oils to make sure that the company you choose can be trusted. I personally prefer Plant Therapy oils. They prioritize quality and provide a lot of information regarding their oils, their sources, and they regularly test the purity of the oils they sell. But the biggest thing I love about Plant Therapy is that they take safety very seriously. They provide a ton of education on their website regarding safe oil usage and they have an entire “KidSafe” line so that you can easily tell what oils are safe to use around children.
What are the benefits or reasons to use essential oils?
Each essential oil has unique properties and benefits, and some of the benefits vary based on how you use the specific oil. Many essential oils are highly antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. There are a number of oils that can be used to help promote relaxation and a sense of calm, some that help with mental focus and mood, others that help with muscle or joint pain and soreness. And that is just scratching the surface regarding the types of things essential oils can help with. Not to mention that many of them just smell good!
As I’ve said before, there has been very limited scientific research into the benefits of essential oils, but their uses and effects have been passed down for generations. There is a ton of anecdotal evidence regarding the benefits of essential oils. Essential oils are able to have an effect on our emotions, our body chemistry, and our body functions and processes.
Are essential oils dangerous?
When used correctly, essential oils are very safe and beneficial. However, there are some important risks associated with essential oils and following safe use practices is very important.
Ingesting essential oils should always only be done under the direct supervision of a certified aromatherapist or specially trained medical doctor. You may find some oil companies and representatives who encourage the use of essential oils for internal use (a few drops in your water, rubbing teething baby’s gums, etc). This, to me, is a giant red flag. Essential oils are extremely concentrated and even just one drop can cause major issues in the sensitive areas of your mouth and digestive tract. There are lots of ways to enjoy the benefits of essential oils, you don’t need to eat them, ever.
When using essential oils topically (on your skin), it is important to dilute them, typically with a “carrier oil” such as coconut oil, olive oil, or the like. Because of the potency of oils, if you put many of them directly on your skin you can have a major reaction that hurts a lot and can cause other issues. Always dilute your oils before putting them on. There are some oils that technically can be used “neat” (meaning applying without a carrier oil), but I have chosen to play it safe and always dilute.
There are also some oils that can cause physical and respiratory distress in children. Some people have sensitivities and allergies to some essential oils (if you’re allergic to the plant then you’ll also be allergic to the oil). And some oils can be dangerous to use on or around animals. This is one of the reasons I stick with Plant Therapy oils because they clearly label the oils that are safe around kids. Additionally, they include caution information for additional concerns such as not safe to use while pregnant and breastfeeding.
Always do a little reading about your oils before using them so you understand the safe and effective dilution rates to use as well as any specific populations that the oils should not be used around. It’s also important to be careful when using oils in public places since you don’t always know the sensitivities and allergies of the people around you.
What are some basic ways to use oils?
One of the simplest and most popular ways to use essential oils is to diffuse them into the air. There are a whole lot of options when it comes to diffusing oils. Not only does diffusing essential oils make the air smell good, but they can also clean the air, energize or relax you, help relieve congestion or any number of other uses.
When most people think about diffusing oils they think of a nebulizer or fine mist diffuser. These diffusers either use air or water to expel the oil into the air where it is then inhaled into the bodies of the people in the vicinity. This is the room diffuser I have (I actually have two of them, one upstairs and one downstairs).
You may have also seen reed diffusers that are great for small spaces. While there are many commercial reed diffusers on store shelves, you can easily make your own reed diffuser.
You can also replace the chemical-laden air fresheners in your car with a car vent essential oil diffuser locket. I love mine and they look prettier than most regular car air fresheners.
If you are in a public place and desire to inhale essential oils you can get personal aromatherapy inhalers to carry with you. I love to keep a personal inhaler with Tension Relief essential oil blend in my purse as it works great to relieve headaches when I’m on the go or in a meeting.
Another popular way to use essential oils is to use them topically. As I said in the safety section, it is very important to always dilute your oils with a carrier oil. You can use a large variety of oils as carrier oils, the ones I use the most are fractionated coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil.
The dilution rate to use will vary based on the oil you are using. Some companies, like Plant Therapy, will list the range of dilution recommended for each oil right on the bottle which is very helpful. You can check out this article to learn more about how to dilute your oils and view their handy dilution chart. The general rule of thumb is to use one drop of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil for each percent of dilution. (So to make one teaspoon at 5% dilution you would add 5 drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil.)
An easy way to use and apply essential oils topically is by using roller balls. You can create your own roll-on blends or purchase them ready to use. I have a Germ Fighter Essential Oil Roll-On that works great to fight off germs and build immunity (this blend is very similar to the popular Thieves blend). Any time someone starts complaining of feeling sick in our household I use this roll on either on the back of their neck, their feet, or even their belly.
Another great roll on option is Nature Shield which helps to ward off bugs in the summer. I also love to use Rapid Relief blend which is similar to a Bengay or Icy Hot, but it smells a lot better and of course, is all natural!
One of my favorite uses for essential oils is to use them for their cleaning abilities! Since so many of them are antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral they work great to help clean your house without all the toxic chemicals found in store-bought cleaners.
You can create your own surface cleaners using oils like Tea Tree and Lemon to freshen and kill germs. This post can get you started with some DIY cleaning recipes.
I also use essential oils in my laundry. Because I run every single day that also means I sweat a whole lot, every day, which tends to create some really smelly laundry. I have struggled for years to find a solution to my stinky running clothes problem. The best thing I have found to work is adding essential oils to the wash!
In case you didn’t know, it is bacteria that causes stinky clothes, so the best solution is to kill the bacteria to get rid of the odor. Tea Tree oil is one of the best antibacterial oils available so I usually add a few drops of Tea Tree oil to the rinse cycle (just added in the fabric softener tray) when I wash my running clothes. I’ll also sometimes add a few drops of oils to the wool dryer balls I use to give extra stinky loads just a little more freshening power. Oregano essential oil is actually a bit more powerful when it comes to killing bacteria, but I couldn’t handle smelling like an Italian restaurant when I went for my runs so I stick with Tea Tree.
Beauty and Skin Care
Another fantastic way to use essential oils is in your beauty and skin care routines. Technically this would be considered topically, but it’s different enough that I thought it could use its own category.
You can use essential oils in countless ways when it comes to your beauty products. I’ve heard of people adding a few drops of essential oils to their shampoo bottles to help with dandruff and other scalp issues. You can create a simple face toner of witch hazel and your essential oil of choice to help clear or balance your skin.
I’ve made a variety of body lotions, creams, bars, and oils using coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax, or coconut butter and essential oils. It can be really fun to experiment and try new recipes to create your own skin care products. And by using these natural, healthy ingredients you can get rid of the store bought toxic products that are likely filling your bathroom.
Don’t fear getting started with essential oils
While you do want to do some research and be safe when using essential oils there is no need to fear or be intimidated. If you have an ailment or a struggle you are dealing with then do a quick google search to determine what oils are available that can help with that and start there. Or if there is simply a smell you really enjoy then grab a room diffuser and just start enjoying essential oils for their delicious scents.
There is no wrong way to start with essential oils, so take the leap and give them a try. Let me know in the comments what your favorite ways to use essential oils are.