The Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils
If you’re new to essential oils, then you’re in for a treat. These oils have been used for thousands of years for health, relaxation, as well as ceremonies.
It’s no wonder that essential oils are more popular than they’ve ever been.
In this beginner guide to essential oils, I’ll show you the scientific reason why essential oils could be beneficial to your health – as well as 19 easy ways to use essential oils in your daily life.
Plus! If you click the button below, you can grab an awesome essential oil starter set for a big discount…
What are essential oils?
Here are a few basic facts about essential oils to help you get started.
- Basically, pure essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts that contain the parts of the plant that provide its characteristic fragrance.
- Essential oils are typically sold in small dark-colored bottles (to ensure they don’t oxidize) with a dropper or a dripper-top so you can drip the essential oil out one drop at a time.
- Most essential oils are colorless or pale yellow in color and are liquid at room temperature.
- Unlike cooking oils (such as olive oil, coconut oil, butter, seed oils, etc.), essential oils don’t feel greasy or oily. They evaporate very quickly and behave almost like an alcohol.
- Generally, they’re less dense than water. They’re also not water-soluble, so if you add a few drops to water, you’ll see them float on top. However, if you add essential oils to other oils (like olive oil), they’ll mix together very well. That’s why many people dilute essential oils in another oil (known as a carrier oil – they carry the essential oil).
- According to Robert Tisserand in Essential Oil Safety, “the word “essential” [in essential oils] is used to reflect the intrinsic nature or essence of the plant.”
A Brief History Of Essential Oils
As I mentioned above, essential oils are incredibly popular right now.
They’re used for a bunch of different purposes (making perfumes, freshening your rooms, creating natural cleaning products and scented candles, etc.). Below, I’ve included a big list of possible uses.
In addition, it looks like people have been using plants for medicinal purposes for a really long time. Cave paintings in France depict people using plants for medicinal purposes around 20,000 years ago. And of course in more “recent” times, cultures like the Egyptians and Indians have used aromatic oils for various uses (from religious ceremonies to healing illnesses).
Stories about the 15th century bubonic plague suggest that thieves stealing from the dead would inhale a blend of essential oils to help prevent them from catching the plague. A 1997 study showed that certain blends of essential oils likely to be similar to that used by the thieves were very effective at killing airborne bacteria.
Why are Essential Oils So Popular?
Essential oils have always been popular as a natural method of healing various health issues and have been used in aromatherapy for centuries. In recent times, with the surge in interest in more natural methods of cleaning, freshening air, healing simple illnesses, essential oils have made a huge comeback.
Of course, as we’ve mentioned in other articles before, just because something is naturally occurring doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy or safe to use. Luckily, in the case of essential oils, they have very little downside if used properly – in fact, they likely have some very beneficial properties.
What are the Health Benefits of Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts of plants. Not surprisingly, then, they contain complex mixes of different chemical compounds.
When you hear about the health benefits of an essential oil like eucalyptus essential oil, what people mean is that there’s one or more chemical compounds in eucalyptus essential oil that has been shown to help with certain health conditions (or to provide certain health benefits).
The following are 3 of the chemical compounds found in essential oils that have been found to have beneficial health properties:
- 1,8 cineole (which is a colorless liquid with a camphor-like odor found in eucalyptus essential oil and which has been shown to relieve coughs)
- d-limonene (found in lemon and sweet orange and other citrus essential oils and found to have significant antioxidant effects)
- terpinen-4-ol (the main component in tea tree essential oil and found to have antimicrobial properties)
Just remember – as with most health studies, it’s difficult to completely isolate the effect of a specific chemical compound or essential oil.
Are Essential Oils Paleo?
Yes, they have very little toxic effects if used properly and likely have many health benefits. They’re also natural and have been used for thousands of years. This is probably why many natural health and paleo bloggers recommend essential oils.
Should I Use Essential Oils?
As always, this is a personal choice.
However, if you enjoy natural scents that could offer health benefits for your body, then essential oils are perfect for you. Of course, in order to derive the full benefits from essential oils, you should make sure to buy pure essential oils without other ingredients added and ensure that the pure essential oils are stored in dark bottles.
How do I get started with essential oils?
Start with some basic essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, and lemon so that you can explore their uses and see how much you enjoy them.
There are a bunch of different sets you can start with. This essential oils starter kit on Amazon.com is the one that I recommend to get started easily and inexpensively. Plus, if you then you can get a 16% off coupon for this set, making it just $3.50 per bottle!
The set above is pure, high quality, and cheaper than any other reputable brand. (There are a many non-reputable brands that I wouldn’t suggest trying.)
Apart from a starter set, you might also need a carrier oil and potentially a diffuser. Below, I’ll show you all the possible ways to use essential oils, and you can decide if you need anything more than the starter set.
Are Essential Oils Safe to Use?
Yes, if you use them safely.
Generally, you want to dilute essential oils because they are concentrated plant extracts. Easy ways to dilute them is in water (e.g., if you’re taking a bath, you can add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil into some carrier oil and then pour into your bath water) or just in a good carrier oil (e.g., you can dilute a few drops of lavender essential oil into 0.5 oz of avocado or almond oil and use it as a moisturizer or massage oil).
While some people recommend ingestion of essential oils, it’s generally suggested that you should only ingest essential oils for medicinal purposes under the guidance of a licensed and very reputable aromatherapist.
There are very few cases of problems resulting from using essential oils, but the majority of the reported cases arise from the ingestion of essential oils (usually in very large doses).
Occasionally, some people have adverse skin reactions to essential oils. In particular, you should be aware that certain citrus essential oils (including bergamot, lemon, and lime) are sensitive to sunlight so you should not expose your skin in direct sunlight after applying those oils to your skin.
So, treat essential oils like any other cosmetic, medicine, or chemical – learn how to use them safely, don’t drink them and keep them away from children!
What is a “Pure Therapeutic Grade” Essential Oil?
As I stated above, I recommended that you buy only pure essential oils.
Unfortunately, there is currently no central governing body regulating different grades/classes of essential oils. “Therapeutic grade” is a term that arose out of a marketing campaign by certain essential oil companies in the 1990s to make it seem like their oils are better quality.
These days, therapeutic grade has come to mean pure essential oils and companies still label it such to convey that meaning.
Because essential oils naturally contain aromatic compounds that make them smell so fragrant, they are often desired for fragrances, scented candles, sweets, cosmetics, cleaning products. However, for many of these uses, companies will often use cheaper synthetic scents. And unfortunately, those cheaper versions can sometimes also be sold as essential oils – hence why when you see really cheap oils, you should be somewhat careful as they may not be what they claim to be.
19 Easy Uses of Essential Oils
Please pin and share this infographic if you find it useful!
There are tons of ways to use essential oils – here’s just a selection of our favorite uses of essential oils.
1. Use them in a diffuser
Traditional cheap diffusers often use a candle to heat the essential oils like the one pictured below, and it’s been suggested that such high heat can destroy the beneficial compounds in essential oils and change the aromas. So look for diffusers that don’t heat up the essential oils very much. Some humidifiers are able to take essential oils (but some brands are not so please read your device’s instructions carefully).
2. As a perfume
This is a great option when you’re traveling and can’t fit your perfume bottle in your luggage. Just dab a bit of essential oil on your sleeves or collar (make sure that it won’t stain your clothes first).
Or mix essential oils with a carrier oil like avocado oil or jojoba oil and fill small roll-on bottles like these.
Or you can make your own spray perfume using this recipe here.
3. As a car freshener
You can use a bit of felt, dab a few drops of essential oils on the felt and hang the felt from your rear-view mirror. Check out this DIY article for more specific information.
4. As an odor remover
5. To make a massage oil
Add a few drops to your favorite massage oil (we like avocaodo, coconut, jojoba, or sweet almond oil). This article suggests 1% dilution for making massage oils – this means 1 drop of essential oil in 1 teaspoon of massage oil.
6. To make an insect repellant
Essential oils like citronella have potential bug repellent uses. Take a look at this article to learn about making your own all-natural bug repellant.
7. To make an insect bite soother
8. To scent laundry
Add a few drops to your laundry detergent to make your clothes smell better. You can also make naturally scented dryer sheets by adding a few drops of essential oil to a damp washcloth and then placing the washcloth into the dryer with your clothes.
9. To fragrance soaps
You can make a simple soap scented with whichever essential oil you enjoy. Try this recipe for a coconut soap.
10. To make linen spray
11. To fragrance candles
Add a few drops of essential oils to the melted wax part of the candle when it’s burning. You can also make your own scented candles but note that when the candle is burned, beneficial components of the essential oils may be destroyed.
12. To make natural cleaning products
Vinegar and essential oils (especially lemon essential oil) are often used to make natural cleaning products like this granite cleaner here or check out this article for a variety of cleaning recipes.
13. To make a natural shampoo
Try this simple recipe to make an easy shampoo. Lavender, tea tree, and lemon are all excellent for making shampoo.
14. To make window cleaning spray
An easy window cleaning spray can be made using water, vinegar, and essential oils mixed together and placed into a spray bottle. Check out this recipe if you’re looking to make one yourself.
15. To make body scrubs
16. To make moisturizers
Shea butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter are all excellent choices for natural moisturizers. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to the mix. Check out this article for information on how to make a natural facial moisturizer.
17. To create special blends
You can either be adventurous and create your own unique blends, or if you do just a bit of searching online, then you can find a lot of blend recipes.
18. To make face washes
Surprisingly, oil makes for a great face wash. Check out this recipe to make a simple olive oil and lavender face wash.
19. To make an inhalant
An aromatherapy inhaler is easy to make (just a few drops of essential oils on a cotton ball), and it can help with breathing when you’re feeling sick or anxious.
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