Essential Oils 101: All the Basics You Need to Know!

When I was a kid, every time I got sick or hurt, it seemed like I was sent to the doctor for medication.  Even now, I still see so many women turning to prescription drugs for things like anxiety, inflammation, and balance.  And I really want them to seek a more natural way back to better health because it will benefit them so much more now and in the long run.

Essential oils are mighty and strong.  They have hundreds of years of proven success and are so easy to use that I’m surprised they aren’t embraced more often.  I am happy to see that more and more women are turning to alternative forms of health remedies, one being essential oils.

What about you – have YOU made them part of your everyday life yet?

What’s so great about essential oils is that their molecular design makes them easier and quicker to penetrate the skin and start working their magic.  Chemically speaking, they are created to heal.

With the right essential oil, you can eliminate headaches, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and boost your energy and focus at work.  And so much more!

Let’s go over the basics of essential oils first so you can get on this amazing health bandwagon (if you’re not already).  While essential oils are gaining in popularity, they’ve actually been around for centuries.

In fact, ancient Egyptians were among the first to use aromatic essential oils for daily life, and pure EO’s were prized and saved for priests and royals. Other ancient societies, such as those in China, Greece and Rome used EO’s for aromatherapy, illness, and personal hygiene.

Where Essential Oils Are Found

Many essential oils are extracted from leaves of plants.  Others come from seeds. Now, imagine just how many leaves or seeds are needed to fill one of those tiny little essential oil bottles you’ve seen!  Crazy right?  It takes a LOT of natural resources to make our impressive essential oils.

The good news:  A little bit of essential oil goes a very long way.

“Essential” Terms to Know

AROMATIC

Essential oils are the natural aromatic compounds extracted from the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. One popular way to enjoy them is through diffusion – adding 10-12 drops to water in a diffuser.

For health concerns like headaches, the common cold or stress, diffusion of essential oils often works best.

CARRIER OIL

This refers to a lipid- or fat-based liquid used to dilute EO’s. Olive, coconut, almond, jojoba and argan oils are the most common ones.

One way to benefit from essential oils using carrier oils is for aches, skin conditions and relaxation.  If using essential oils in a bath, first mix 8-10 drops with a carrier oil before dumping into the bath water.

DISTILLATION

Distillation is the process of extracting essential oil from plant material through either steam or cold-pressed distillation.  Citrus oils are usually extracted through cold-pressed methods.

Get Started with Essential Oils

Walk into any essential oils store and you will be overwhelmed by all the different ones available.  It can be hard to know which ones to choose – even I have trouble because I’ll ask about a single health concern and be told to buy at least 4 essential oils.  Talk about pricey and confusing!

If you’re new to essential oils, there are 4 basics to start with.  You can practice using them to help improve health symptoms and get into this habit first, before heading out for more.

To be honest, these are always the 4 I turn to in any situation and they’ve never let me down.

TEA TREE OIL (Melaleuca): Soothing, cleansing & healing

Combine 1–2 drops with your preferred facial cleanser (or moisturizer) for added cleansing properties

  • Mix 1-2 drops with pure aloe vera gel and apply to skin after shaving
  • Use diluted with water and/or vinegar as a surface cleaner – see recipe at the end
  • Add a few drops to shampoo or conditioner and massage into the scalp
  • Add a drop to toothpaste or swish with water for a quick and easy mouth rinse – but do not swallow or ingest

LAVENDER: Soothing & calming

  • Add a few drops to your pillow or bottoms of your feet for a restful night’s sleep or use in a diffuser near your bed
  • Apply topically to help heal pimples, skin inflammation and irritation – be sure to test a drop on your skin to test for sensitivity; dilution may be required
  • Soak away stress – add a few drops to a carrier oil and then add to a warm bath before bedtime

LEMON: Cleansing, revitalizing & uplifting

  • Use to remove gum, glue, or any other sticky residues from surfaces
  • Use in a diffuser to purify the air, creating an uplifting & refreshing aroma
  • Add to a spray bottle full of water to clean tables, countertops, and other surfaces
  • Place 8-10 drops on a tissue and inhale at work when your energy starts to wane

PEPPERMINT: Cooling & energizing

  • Apply a few drops directly to the skin of the back of your neck to cool off
  • Feeling tense? Rub on head and neck for a soothing, calming sensation
  • Add to shampoo or conditioner for a stimulating & invigorating scalp massage
  • Use as a natural bug repellent

Some other popular essential oils are frankincense, clove, eucalyptus, clary sage, sweet orange, grapefruit, and rosemary.

A word of caution:  There has been some evidence that aromatic essential oils can be toxic to pets, so please be careful when using these around your furry family members.  Keep them out of the room and wash your hands thoroughly before playing with the pets.

How to Best Use Essential Oils

You can apply some oils directly to your skin while others are best applied after being mixed with carrier oils or other products.  Most essential oils will have usage instructions on their labels.

Here are a few categories of essential oils you may come across:

DILUTE — These should be mixed with a carrier oil to transport the essential oils onto the skin.

NEAT — Essential oils that can be applied without dilution.

INGESTION— Rarely will you come across essential oils that are safe to ingest, and we really don’t need such a heavy dose internally.  Speak with a health care professional or professional aromatherapist before ingesting any essential oils. 

How to Choose the Best Oils

For best results, you want to buy pure essential oils.  Unfortunately, there are a few brands that are not pure.  Always test the purity before buying – simply add a drop to a piece of white paper and wait for it to dry.  If there is any oily ring left behind, it’s not pure.  (Note that heavier oils like patchouli and sandalwood will leave an oily ring behind.)

Always ensure the label includes the essential oil’s Latin name too.  And the essential oils should be stored in dark glass bottles only – no plastic!  The dark glass helps prevent the oils from oil-degrading lights.

And, organic oils are always best so look for symbols or labels stating this.

Conclusion

Essential oils are incredibly powerful and can help you overcome a lot of health issues…naturally!  Plus, because you apply them to the area that’s bothering you, they tend to alleviate symptoms a lot faster than ingested medications.

Other benefits of essential oils include their ability to cleanse and refresh so make sure you use them in cleaning products too.  There are lots of recipes available online but I’ve included one below to help you get started.


RECIPE: Natural All-Purpose Household Cleaner

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup plain white vinegar
  • 2 Tb baking soda
  • 10-15 drops tea tree, lavender, lemon, eucalyptus &/or rosemary essential oil (or any combo of these) for their disinfectant properties

Preparation:

In a clean 12-ounce spray bottle (glass is best), mix the vinegar, essential oils and a splash of water before adding baking soda (important).

Then fill to top of bottle with water, and gently shake to mix ingredients. Then spray area, wipe with a clean cloth, and allow it to dry. Dirty areas are now clean and disinfected!

 

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Daina Gardiner
Daina Gardiner

Health & Wellness Contributor (C.H.N.), Owner at Mind Body Healthy Calgary