You’ve probably heard about essential oils and may be wondering: Could a natural means of supporting your health actually work? Are essential oils safe? If so, how are essential oils used?
Perhaps your friend swears they help to calm down her kids when they’re wound up, or a co-worker tells everyone how much they have improved her sleep. Maybe your first thought is, “That sounds weird” or “Seems like an old wives tale” or “It’s probably just a placebo effect.”
I hear you. I’ve had all of those thoughts. I used to think they smelled a little funny, were only used by “all-natural, hippie types”, and I assumed they weren’t nearly as effective as all the chemical-laden cleaners and medicinal products on my shelves. If you’re like me, you may be open to the idea of trying essential oils but don’t really understand them. The skeptic in you would also like to see some science behind the claims.
By the end of this blog, I hope to provide you some answers for your questions and help you feel better equipped to decide on using them as part of your daily healthy habits.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this blog:
- What are essential oils?
- What are essential oils used for?
- Are essential oils safe?
- Guidelines for using oils safely and effectively
- How are essential oils used?
- Common essential oils and benefits
- Ways to use oils in daily life
- What are the best essential oil brands?
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated oils that go through a distillation process to be extracted from flowers, fruits, stems, barks, needles, seeds, and various plants. Each oil has its own unique fragrance, often what gives the plant its aroma. Beyond giving it a nice smell, however, the oil plays a key role in reproduction, pollination and protection. In some ways, you can think of using essential oils like borrowing from the immune system of the plant to help support our own immune system!
Each essential oil has a fascinating and complex chemical makeup that offers numerous benefits. They are considered volatile compounds because they change from a liquid to a gas when they reach room temperature, which is why their smell is so powerful.
Because most oils have various chemical compounds, they usually work in a variety of ways to support us, from physical, to emotional, to mental health.
Take lemon essential oil, for example: Its main therapeutic compounds are alpha-pinenes, beta-pinenes and D-limonene, which contribute to like improving your mood, helping to clear mucus, boosting the immune system, reducing allergy symptoms, and cleaning the house! Not to mention that lemon always smells great and can freshen up any room.
What Are Essential Oils Used For?
From stress relief to pain management, essential oils have endless uses and benefits that have science to back them up.
For instance, did you know that lavender essential oil has over 100 uses? Some of its key therapeutic compounds are alpha-terpineol, beta-ocimene, linalool, and linalyl acetate whose key benefits include improving sleep, aiding in reducing anxiety and depression, improving skin and reducing acne, first aid, head tension relief, and lowering blood pressure.
I personally use peppermint oil for everything from headaches to upset stomach, to repelling ants, to boosting energy and clearing sinuses. It works like a charm, and those are only a small example of the ways I use just that one oil.
Which also means that when paying for such a small bottle seems like an issue, you realize that you actually get so much out of that one bottle. Plus, it will often last for several months to a year, depending on frequency of use. And since they multitask, you can cut down on some of your other toxin-carrying items like household cleaners, over-the-counter drugs, candles, dryer sheets and more.
Are Essential Oils Safe?
Yes, they are safe! Essential oils are God-given, natural resource that help us care for our health. But they do need to be used with care and precautions because they are so potent.
When used correctly and with proper safety protocols, oils can provide wellness benefits without the harmful side effects of over-the-counter options. Many people are quick to trust products on drug store shelves or whatever their doctor prescribes, but these almost always have harmful side effects. (Did you know even things like Tylenol and Advil are not safe for regular use?). On the other hand, essential oils rarely have any side effects and actually benefit various aspects of your health.
However, essential oils are not regulated by the FDA, so always do your research before buying and trying. Companies can label anything 100% pure and organic and it could be the exact opposite and even have synthetics and additives.
So don’t just buy the cheapest thing you see on Amazon or eBay (where people can also tamper with/dilute ingredients and re-seal it to make it look brand new). Only purchase from reputable companies with high quality oils (see more on essential oil companies below).
Guidelines for Using Essential Oils Safely & Effectively
To safely get the results you want, follow these basic guidelines:
- Essential oils are a supplement, not a cure.
Oils should be used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, or at least alongside an attempt to live healthier. For example, if you eat junk food regularly and expect peppermint or ginger to solve all your digestion issues, they won’t. Oils should be used for those occurrences when you ate something that just doesn’t agree with you, or if you already eat healthy but need a little extra gut support. They won’t solve major GI issues that are a result of poor eating and lifestyle habits.
Similarly, many oils can be used for muscle pain, but if you sit all the time and don’t exercise (or exercise too hard and don’t stretch or work on mobility) and expect it to fix your low back, knee, or neck pain, they won’t. They can relieve temporary soreness, aches and pains, but the root issue still needs to be dealt with.
- High quality matters!
For a true therapeutic effect, essential oils should not contain any pesticides, fillers, toxins or synthentic fragrances, not use poor harvesting practices (which can drastically reduce the potency), and they should be able to pass rigorous testing for purity. Do not trust a label. Look for tests that show purity and for companies that source responsibly. No matter what it says, a dirt-cheap bottle is not 100% pure. In other words, skip the $5 bottle on Amazon. If you use cheap oils and see no results, don’t be surprised. You get what you pay for when it comes to oils.
- Test your oils
Try a small amount first in case to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions. Put just 1-2 drops into a diffuser, or use just one drop diluted with carrier oil on skin. If you have no adverse reactions, you can use more liberally. If you do have any allergic reaction, skin rash, etc, contact your doctor.
- Dilute with carrier oil when used topically.
Many oils can be used “neat” (undiluted) on skin, but the majority need to be diluted in a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, etc, or in a lotion or cream. This will create a protective barrier for your skin and actually help them to penetrate the skin and cells better. It also makes them last longer because you can spread them around targeted areas more easily. Follow dilution standards of 5% for adults and no more than 2% for children.
- Use in moderation.
Less is always more with essential oils because they’re SO concentrated. One drop of peppermint oil is equal to about 28 bags of peppermint tea! 1-3 drops will typically serve you well, even in smaller diffusers. You can always add a few more drops to achieve the desired effect, but don’t go overboard. If three drops work for you, then don’t try seven drops thinking it will work even better! And if 5-6 drops aren’t getting results, then seek out another option since many oils serve similar purposes. For instance, if lavender isn’t helping you relax, then try vetiver, Serenity®, Balance®, ylang ylang or Roman chamomile. Always use the lowest effective dose.
- Use diffusers in a well-ventilated space.
Don’t leave your diffuser running all day, either. For most oils to work, you only need a bit at a time. Try running a diffuser for one hour, then give it a break for an hour before turning back on. The molecules can stay in the air for up to six hours. Alternatively, many diffusers will have settings that automatically turn off after 1-2 hours, or pump air & stop at intervals (such as 5 minutes of run time, 5 minute break). You can experiment with timing to see what works best for you.
- Use internally with caution.
Some, but very few brands of essential oils, can be ingested internally. If the company does not state that they are safe to consume, then DON’T! The majority of brands on the market are not made with high quality and can even contain toxins and synthetics that could cause vomiting or other bad reactions. Only ingest oils from reputable companies that follow compliance laws for supplements. The only brands that I know of that are considered safe to ingest are DoTerra essential oils and YoungLiving. Even then, some people still feel that ingesting oils does not have enough research, so only use this method if you feel comfortable with it.
- Do your research
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have pets, are prone to allergies or are being treated for certain health conditions always research a particular oil before using and check with your doctor/veterinarian. Quite often, if one oil shouldn’t be used in certain health conditions or stages of life, another one with similar benefits may be used instead without any adverse effects.
- Not all results will be the same.
Most people will find lavender to be relaxing, but some actually find it more energizing. You might get a great energizing boost from wild orange or lemon, while others might find that peppermint is more effective. You may have to try a variety of oils and blends to find what works best for you.
- Discuss with your doctor.
As with any supplement, it’s best to talk to your doctor before adding essential oils into your health routine. Do also be aware that while essential oils are actually used in many hospitals, some doctors may not yet recognize their benefit.
How Are Essential Oils Used?
Three main ways oils are used are aromatically, topically, and internally. Here are some ways of using them to support your mind and body to positively affect your health and well-being.
|Main Use||Applications||Examples of Benefits|
|Aromatic/Inhalation||Diffuser, smelling directly from the bottle, aroma sticks, aromatherapy necklace/bracelet, facial steam||Relief from the common cold, nausea or seasonal irritants; respiratory support & opening sinuses, relaxation, stress relief, sleep support, emotional support|
|Topical||Apply oils to the skin or mix essential oils into lotions/carrier oils for: Massage therapy, bath, putting on affected areas of body (i.e temples for headaches, abdomen for stomach pain), inhaling from cupped hands, reflexology, personal fragrance in place of perfume.||Minor and temporary pain relief, digestive support, stress relief, calming, energizing, targeted support, reducing inflammation, sleep support, emotional support, physical activity|
|Internal (Note: not every oil is safe for internal use, some are ONLY intended for external use. Also, very few brands are safe for consumption. Make sure your oils say they are safe for internal use and rigorously tested)||Take in veggie capsules, supplements, mix in with water/food, apply under the tongue or on roof of mouth.||Immune support, pain support, reducing inflammation, gastrointestinal support, promoting healthy cell function|
Common Essential Oils and Benefits
Here are some common genres and uses of oils:
|Type||Common Use||Examples of Oils|
|Citrus||Boost energy or use for cleaning||Lemon, citronella, wild orange|
|Floral||Relax and/or reduce anxiety||Lavender, jasmine, rose|
|Herbaceous||Calming or grounding effect||Frankincense, tea tree, chamomile|
|Camphoraceous||Clear congestion, help with respiration||Camphor, eucalyptus, laurel leaf|
|Minty||Energizing effect||Peppermint, spearmint, wintergreen,|
|Spicy||To increase energy and focus||Basil, cinnamon, ginger, lime|
Ways to Use Essential Oils in Daily Life
The charts above should help you better understand how to use oils. But practically, what might this look like to use throughout your week?
Examples of how to use essential oils:
- You wake up feeling congested –> put some peppermint or eucalyptus in a diffuser, or put one drop into your hands, rub them together, then inhale from cupped hands.
- You feel nauseous or have a stomachache –> put a drop of DigestZen® or ginger in your water, or combine peppermint oil with a carrier oil and rub on your stomach.
- Natural household cleaners –> Swap out your toxic home cleaning products for lemon oil, OnGuard®, or tea tree as a natural alternative. Many essential oils can actually help fight fungi, bacteria, and viruses!
- When you can’t settle down or fall asleep –> diffuse lavender, Roman chamomile cedarwood, or vetiver in your bedroom.
What Are the Best Essential Oil Brands?
doTerra is my top choice for oils and home cleaning products, and I recommend them for others. Not only are they safe, but their Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Tested (CPTG) process for ensuring quality oils is unmet in the industry. You can even look up the number on the bottom of each bottle on SourcetoYou.com to see the quality report for your oil! Additionally, doTerra goes above and beyond with tons of scientific research and a Co-Impact model for sustainability, job creation, care for workers and the environment, fair wages, and best harvesting practices. They also do a lot of non-profit work to support the communities who provide your oils for you! Personally, I always prefer to support companies that are doing good for more than themselves. doTerra is also used in hospitals around the country, and if they’re trusted in such precarious environments, I figure they are safe for my home.
Young Living is another big oil company who states that their oils are safe to ingest and that are known for good quality. I have tried their oils and liked them, but the prices are higher and I found the smells of most of them to be less appealing than doTerra. I have read and heard some reports of some oils not consistently being 100% pure (I can’t speak to the validity of those claims), and I personally don’t love that they grow most of their own oils on land in Utah where the plants don’t naturally grow. To me, this means lower quality and less accountability in practices, and does not help others in poor countries to earn a living providing these oils for us.
While there are many other companies on the market, I won’t go into them in this blog since I don’t personally feel that the quality is as high.
Ready to Try Essential Oils?
I hope you now have a better understanding of what essential oils are, how they work, and feel much better equipped to go online and purchase some to try out!
If you’re ready to get started with some oils, contact me! I’d be happy to do a free consult to help you find the right oils and/or starter kit to meet your health and wellness needs.
If you decide to shop/purchase on your own, then head to mydoterra.com/renewalfitcoach and use enroller #10726227 at checkout. Using my enroller number will give you access to:
- A welcome consult and membership overview call with me
- A free custom roller bottle blend from me as a thank you when you purchase any enrollment kit.
- Ongoing essential oil education and classes
- A free and supportive Facebook community with other oil users and teachers.
This post contains affiliate links
“Diluting Essential Oils,” NOW Foods, June 14, 2019.