Essential Oils – A Beginner’s Guide

Whilst we are at home during the COVID-19 crisis, our access to pharmacies and healthcare may be more limited than usual. For minor ailments or to help manage stress and aid relaxation, essential oils may be able to offer some relief.

In this post, I cover everything you need to know, from the types of essential oils to the best ones to use for specific purposes such as anxiety.

As ever, bear in mind that I am not medically qualified and any alternative treatment should not be a complete substitute for proper medical advice.

Different Types of Essential Oils

Essential oils are concentrated oils that have been extracted from plant matter like peelings, leaves, roots, and the whole plant. The oils are separated from the plant by one of three methods: distillation, extraction, or expression. The method used depends on the type of plant matter, with creators choosing to use the method that least damages the plant but gives the most results.

There are hundreds of different types of essential oils available to treat everything from everyday illnesses, to allergies, and more. They work by being inhaled or absorbed through the skin after proper dilution. You can use essential oils for treating all kinds of issues, from skin conditions to reducing muscle pain, and more.

The most common types of essential oils that people use are:

Eucalyptus

Can be used for congestion and colds. Usually, you can add this to a steam inhalation or just smell it from the jar. It also makes a good tick repellent when diluted and rubbed on the skin in strategic spots.

Lavender

A great oil to use before bed to help you relax and get to sleep faster. It also works for skin and scalp inflammation. Diluting it and then applying directly to the skin is the best way to treat skin issues.

Lemon

Boosts energy. It’s common to add this to cleaners for the house and the body due to the energy boost and happy feelings associated with the smell of lemon. It works great for athlete’s foot and warts, and can even alleviate pain and help promote weight loss with a few inhales a day.

Peppermint

This essential oil is perfect for helping you get rid of headaches. A tiny diluted bit placed on your temples will do the trick. You can even drop some on your tongue to give you fresh breath.

Rose

Used for many years for menstrual cramps, but also as a topical treatment for acne, eczema, and rosacea. Some people swear by it mixed with coconut oil and rubbed on scars as a treatment to reduce scars.

Rosemary

Want to be more focused? Try smelling rosemary essential oils. It’ll perk you up, reduce inflammation and stress and even reduce pain. It doesn’t hurt that it can repel bugs too.

Tea Tree

A long known common treatment for scalp issues, fungus, and acne. It’s been used for lice, scabies, and ringworm too.

This is just barely scratching the surface. However, these are the most commonly used essential oils and is a good place to start learning about essential oils. These are also the easiest to find in local health food shops and pharmacies.

However, the quality of what you buy is heavily dependent upon who makes them, so make sure you do your research so that you’re buying essential oils that meet third-party testing requirements. Don’t forget that you can also make your own if you want to be extra sure about what’s in that little bottle.

Risks of Essential Oils

One of the biggest problems with essential oils is that most people think they are harmless. And it’s true that for the most part, they are safe and effective. However, this is only if they are used correctly. The problem is, there are a lot of disagreements about what constitutes safe use of essential oils. Let’s delve into how you can be safe by looking at the risks of essential oils and who should avoid them.

Photosensitivity

If you are already very sensitive to the sun, there are some essential oils you should avoid when you’re going to be outdoors. They can make you more sensitive and causes sunburn. Some people who aren’t sensitive can also become sensitive using these essential oils. The oils to avoid are anything in the citrus family.

Pregnancy and Nursing

If you’re pregnant, you will want to check with your doctor before using any essential oils. The oils on record as being something you should avoid are wintergreen, sage, mugwort, tarragon, birch, aniseed, camphor, hyssop, parsley, pennyroyal, tansy, thuja, and wormwood. When nursing you may want to avoid peppermint oil as it can decrease your milk supply.

Medication

If you’re taking any medications, you will need to double-check about any interactions with your meds. If you take a lot of meds, you may need just to skip using essential oils due to the problem with taking multiple things that interact with each other. A certified essential oil expert along with your physician can better help you make the decision.

Children

While a lot of people are proponents of using essential oils with their kids, the problem is they cannot be tested on children. Most experts suggest first talking to a doctor and then trying them extra diluted in a diffuser instead of applying directly on the skin. The oils that come from fruits are usually okay, but watch out for wintergreen, eucalyptus, rosemary or peppermint as they can affect breathing.

Pets

Again, many people do use essential oils with their pets. But don’t assume that anything you use for yourself can be used for them. One that is a big problem is tea tree oil, which can cause pets to have vomiting, tremors and other dangerous symptoms that can be life-threatening. It’s not worth it to even try.

Using essential oils is a good alternative for most people. However, for some – especially children, pregnant and nursing women, and animals – it may not be the safest choice despite the marketing claiming the contrary.

Do check with your doctor or veterinarian before you use anything on your children or pets. Just because it’s safe for you to use doesn’t mean that it’s safe for them. And just because something is natural doesn’t make it perfectly safe in all circumstances.

Essential Oils to Keep in Your Medical Cabinet

Like most people, you likely have a medicine cabinet full of things to help you get over bug bites, headaches, and other issues. But did you know that you can also replace almost everything with natural remedies from essential oils? These are the most important ones to put in your medicine cabinet. However, if you have any particular condition you want to treat, you may find more oils that you’d like to get too.

Lavender

This calming fragrant flower can take the place of many medications in your medicine cabinet such as anti-inflammatories, anti-itch lotions, sleeping pills, and even allergy medicine. Used in the right ways, it can reduce skin issues, sinus problems, and help you sleep better.

Peppermint

This oil smells so delicious to most people. It can give almost instant relief for headaches, cramps, and other menstrual issues. Not only that; it can also help reduce heartburn, curb tummy issues, and help with pain.

Tea Tree

Extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia, this oil is very potent and powerful. It’s been used for thousands of years as a treatment for coughs and colds. Plus, it is often used to treat skin issues as it kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Lemon

Almost everything we use to clean comes in a lemon scent. That’s because citrus smells so fresh and clean. It’s invigorating to smell it, and yes you can clean with it, but it also works for many other things such as treating acne, disinfecting wounds, and can help improve urinary tract infections when added to water.

Eucalyptus

This awesome smelling oil can help cure a blocked nose, treat ulcers, cold sores, and fever. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s good for any disease that causes inflammation such as arthritis. Some people also believe regular use of eucalyptus oil can help treat diabetes and lower blood sugar.

Frankincense

The health benefits of frankincense have been known for thousands of years. You can use it to reduce stress and anxiety. Plus, it helps with pain and inflammation as well as works as a strong immunity booster. Some people have even used it to help with cancer treatments.

Rosemary

This deliciously fragrant oil comes from the same rosemary leaves you cook with. You will recognize the scent immediately. It helps improve memory, stimulates hair growth, and repels bugs. Some people report a reduction in pain and joint inflammation too.

Clove

Both antibacterial and anaesthetic, clove oil helps kill germs and reduce swelling. It’s great for a toothache when put right on the area that hurts. It will numb the area and make it feel better. It can be quite strong, so you may need to dilute it before putting it in your mouth.

These essential oils to keep in your medicine cabinet have been used successfully for thousands of years. Try them yourself if you haven’t already – they might work for your needs too.

The Best Essential Oils for Anxiety

Treating anxiety with essential oils is not only effective according to multiple studies, but often more effective than prescription medications. That doesn’t mean you should set out to treat your anxiety yourself, but it does mean there may be an alternative or addition to your treatment that will make a difference.

Let’s look at the various oils that people use to treat anxiety.

Lavender

This is likely the most well-known aromatic for treating anxiety. You can find the scent included in many products that promote relaxation and stress reduction. However, those products will not work as well as the real thing. To use lavender as an anxiety treatment, you can use it topically or in your bath.

Bergamot

This essential oil comes from a special type of orange called a bergamot orange. Studies show that it helps relieve anxiety. It can also improve blood flow and offer an energy boost, like other types of citrus do. You can use it by adding a drop to a cotton ball and inhaling it deeply two or three times a day.

Chamomile

You might have had chamomile tea if you had an upset tummy. This essential oil brings calm to your body and mind and increases your ability to sleep. Many people report that it also reduces pain and cramps. An effective way to use it is to dilute with a carrier oil and massage into the skin. You can also put it into your bath.

Rose

This is one of the very best ways to lower stress in pregnant labouring women. Rose oil is made with rose petals and has a very light non-perfume smelling scent. Most people can tolerate it well as it is mild. Taking a nice warm bath with rose oil, or getting a pedicure with rose oil, can help reduce anxiety well.

Orange

This fresh-smelling essential oil can wake you up, give you more energy, and lower your stress, thus helping reduce anxiety. One of the best ways to use it is by diffusing it with a diffuser so that your whole room has a scent of orange and makes you feel better.

Sandalwood

This warm, woody aroma can balance your emotions and reduce anxiety while helping you relax for a nice night of sleep. You can inhale this oil right from the bottle. Try three deep inhales every couple of hours after dinner until bedtime.

Ylang Ylang

If you need fast relief, put a little of this florally scented aromatic on a cotton ball and inhale. You can also rub it directly on your feet, neck, and wrists. This is a good one to mix with other fragrances because it is so light.

Jasmine

Used for centuries to treat insomnia, this flower’s oil can help you sleep better and reduce anxiety. They say that it’s also good for your sex drive. If you overcome your anxiety enough to sleep, you’re going to feel so much better. This one is a good one for your bath.

Boswellia Oil

Also known as frankincense, this essential oil comes from the Boswellia tree in Africa. The musky aroma reduces stress and anxiety. It’s a spiritual oil that has been used in religious ceremonies for centuries and is very effective. You can diffuse it and put it in your bath.

Many of these essential oils can be combined to create brand-new fragrances to help treat your anxiety. The main thing about anxiety is prevention. Be proactive by treating it before you feel anxious when you can, and then acting fast to stop it when you are already anxious.

The Best Essential Oils for Massage Therapy

One of the best things about essential oils is using them for massage therapy. Almost any of the oils can be used for massage therapy, but you should be aware of how much you’re using as your skin does absorb the oil and your blood transfers it throughout your body.

Lavender

You may have guessed that lavender would be a great oil for massage. Its light scent is relaxing in nature, and it’s gentle to the skin too. You can buy already made lavender massage oil, but you can make your own too. Four drops lavender oil to one tablespoon coconut oil works amazingly well.

Citrus

If you’d like a little wake-up with your massage, you may want to try something citrus. Citrus relaxes you while also waking you up, so it’s especially good if you’re going for a morning massage. Try some mandarin oil mixed with olive oil for a great skin-softening massage.

Frankincense

This is really from an African tree called Boswellia. It has a sweet, clean, fresh smell with a little spice too. This works great with four or five drops to a tablespoon of coconut oil for massaging on your skin.

Vanilla

While vanilla itself doesn’t really have many medicinal properties, the scent is something you’ll want to add to other scents to help make the massage more relaxing. Vanilla works great mixed with some of the other oils mentioned here due to the smell being so relaxing to most people.

Sandalwood

This essential oil is sweet and woodsy. It helps with relaxation and can help with tummy issues. Start with five to ten drops in one ounce of jojoba oil, add more if you want more of the scent. This is great for a foot massage.

Eucalyptus

Most people are very familiar with the scent of eucalyptus. Massage oil with this added to it will help relax your muscles, relieve cramping, and relax your mind. This is great for an after-workout massage. Add four drops to one tablespoon coconut oil. If it’s too strong, you can add more oil and even some vanilla to help dilute it.

Peppermint

Another after-workout option is peppermint oil. This can be quite strong so test out different amounts. Any carrier oil that you like can work with this essential oil. It can be harsh on the skin, though, so you may want to make it extra diluted.

If you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to test these oils out in a small area first. Also, be aware if you’re going to get sun because some essential oils can cause photosensitivity. With these precautions in mind, these oils can be great for enhancing the massage experience.

The Best Essential Oils for Skin Care

You can use essential oils for a variety of issues like helping reduce anxiety, getting more sleep, controlling hunger and so forth. But did you know that you can also use essential oils for skincare?

The biggest tip to do this is to make sure you dilute your oils with a carrier oil. You don’t want more than 5% essential oils in your solution, as anything stronger may cause more problems.

Shrink Your Pores

If you have large pores or clogged pores, you’ll want to do something to shrink them and avoid clogging them. You can deal with both problems with tea tree oil. After diluting you’ll want to massage it into your face for about five minutes. Rinse well and pat dry.

Tighten Your Skin

You have many choices of oils to try for tightening your skin. Everyone gets loose skin; it’s just a normal part of ageing. But you can slow it down with frankincense and/or lavender essential oil.

Slow Down Ageing

You can also help slow ageing and keep your skin healthy and brighter with the right essential oils. You might want to try something new you’ve never tried before like carrot seed oil, which is great for reversing skin damage caused by the sun.

Balance Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, you probably also have blemishes. First, understand that having oily skin is not really a bad thing. Your skin will age more slowly. The trick is to keep your pores clean. Try using tea tree oil, ylang-ylang, and if you have sensitive skin, chamomile essential oil.

Soothe Dry Skin

Dry skin can be prone to being itchy and rashy. If you want to soothe dry skin, essential oils are the answer. Try blends with frankincense, sandalwood, sage, and rose in jojoba oil.

Fight Acne

Anything that has a smell like mint, peppermint, eucalyptus, and so forth is going to be good for fighting acne, as are citrus oils.

Reduce Scarring

If your skin scars easily or has old scars from acne, you may want to try carrot seed oil, citrus oils, and add vitamin E oil to whatever you use.

Improve Eczema

If you have this condition, you know that it’s something you are always fighting, and you can’t always identify what happened to cause a flare. Depending on the cause of your problem, you may want to try tea tree, lavender, frankincense, and chamomile essential oils.

When you start using essential oils for your skincare issues, start slow. Try working on one condition at a time until you get it straightened out. Then try to improve another issue. That way you will avoid additional problems by using too much essential oil directly on your skin, or not realizing which essential oil worked best for you.

The Best Essential Oils for Sleep Problems

If you have sleep problems such as insomnia, inability to stay asleep, or other issues like anxiety that cause you to be unable to quieten your mind of circular thoughts that you cannot do anything about right now, try using some of these calming essential oils for sleep problems to help you improve your sleep.

Lavender

One of the most widespread essential oils used for sleep and anxiety reduction, this subtle oil helps reduce anxiety, reduces pain, and helps get more sleep.

Chamomile

You may be used to having this in a tea, and that is still a great way to enjoy it. However, chamomile oil used in your bath will also help you sleep.

Vanilla

This scent is not totally an oil; it’s more of an absolute. However, adding a drop or two of vanilla to any of the other essential oils will improve the overall effect. The vanilla scent on its own will soothe and relax you too.

Rose

This familiar floral scent works great to help relax and induce sleep for most people. If you prefer flowery scents that aren’t overwhelming, try rose.

Sandalwood

This woody and earthy essential oil is a no-brainer for anxiety, which is often the cause of sleep problems. Note that for some people sandalwood invokes wakefulness, so you may want to try it alone before adding it to anything else.

Once you decide what kind of essential oil or combination of oils you want to try, you may want ideas on how to use them. Let’s look at a few.

Tips on How to Use These Essential Oils for Sleep

Use an Air Diffuser

You can purchase an air diffuser that puts the essential oil into the air around you. They are often called aromatherapy diffusers. You can get them in all price points, from under $20 and on up. Check out Target and discount department stores for the best deals. (https://www.target.com/p/scentifier-fan-driven-color-changing-portable-diffuser-white-sparoom/-/A-51082852)

Massage Some into Your Forehead

You can simply add a drop or two to some of your favourite lotions and rub it on your forehead. It can also be diluted in some oil you may have around the house, like coconut oil or olive oil, before rubbing it on your forehead.

Massage Your Feet

Use the same dilution method as you would use to put the oil on your forehead, but rub it on your feet. When you put it on your feet, the smell still travels up, but through the pressure points on your feet that match to the rest of your body, you’ll get a lot more relaxation so you can go to sleep.

Mix with Epsom Salts for a Soak

Try taking a bath with your essential oil. Add several drops of water with a cup of Epsom salt into your bath at night. You’ll feel so relaxed when you use this idea.

Use Some in Massage Oil

This is a great way to get to sleep, especially if you have a partner to help apply the massage oil. Try mixing your chosen oil with some jojoba or sweet almond oil for your massage.

Spray Some on Your Pillow

A fast way to get the essential oils into your system so that they can work is to mix some distilled water and drops of your oil to the right strength for your use, then spray on your pillow.

Use Some in a Humidifier

Some humidifiers are made to add essential oils. Find the right type and then use it in the evening when conditions are right.

Using essential oil to help you get to sleep at night is preferable to using prescription or over-the-counter meds that come with many side effects and even potential addiction issues. Essential oils have been used for sleep problems for hundreds of years, and they work.

Making Your Own Perfume with Essential Oils

Today most perfumers don’t use essential oils in their fragrances because of the expense.

However, you can easily make your own perfumes that are high quality at home and that do use this important ingredient. You’ll be less likely to get a headache, the fragrance is lighter so you won’t bother others, and it’s just better for you.

Rollerball Perfume

One fun way to make perfume is to use a rollerball. You don’t need much to make it. Just get a dark amber or blue roller bottle, your essential oil of choice, and some no-scent carrier oil. Some good choices for the carrier oil are jojoba oil, almond oil, or coconut oil. The important thing is not to choose something that has a scent that will take away from the scent you’re working toward.

It’s Easy

All you do now is put a couple of drops of essential oil into the bottle, then add some of the carrier oil to dilute. Start with five to six drops essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. Add more as needed to get the fragrance you prefer. It can take some experimentation to get it right, but it is a fun way to spend some time.

Make Small Batches

You want to make smaller batches over bigger batches. Essential oils break down very easily, especially once they’ve been put into a carrier oil. Making smaller amounts and then using them up before making more is the best way to ensure quality.

Consider More Than Fragrance

Perfume making with essential oils is a great way to smell good, but there is more to it than that. When you add in the fact that using essential oils will help you with different issues, you’ll be able to try new oils that you never thought of before based on what they treat.

Try Different Carriers and Different Oils

Carrier oils and essential oils both have healing properties. While some do overlap, you may want to focus on your own symptoms and the therapeutic effect you’re hoping for as you pick your oils. Fragrance should be pleasant, so make sure you smell each thing before adding it. You may also want to try mixing the essential oils before adding to the carrier oil to make sure you have the right fragrance.

Making your own perfume with essential oils is not just fun, but it can also be beneficial to your health. Pick the oils that treat something you have, the carrier oils that also have benefits, and not only will you smell good but you’ll be healthier too.

Making your own perfume can also be a fun way to provide gifts to your family with high-quality health ingredients that you know won’t be a problem for them. Plus, you can incorporate the oils that you know are best for their health and needs.

Can I Make My Own Essential Oil?

Essential oils have gone mainstream. People are using essential oils to treat everything from depression to hunger pangs. There are even direct sales companies that only deal in essential oils. You can’t get on Facebook without seeing someone talk about using essential oils for everyday issues like headaches and rashes.

The problem is that when something gets popular, it gets expensive. When that happens, it’s natural to want to save money and make your own. Since the industry is not very well regulated, you’ll know that you’re getting what you think you’re getting when you’re the one who makes it. Making your own can ensure that you use the right techniques too.

There are three methods for making your own essential oils: extraction, distillation, and expression.

Extraction

This method uses a solvent to let the aromatics release. The solvents used can be petroleum, ethanol, or even carbon dioxide-based, depending on the type of plant involved. Essential oil makers who want USDA organic proof often use the newer carbon dioxide-based method. Note that most experts say this is not the best way to make essential oils because these are really absolutes and not oils.

Distillation

This process uses heat, usually in the form of steam and pressure, to force open the pockets of aromatics. The oils are released into the steam and as the steam cools the liquid turns into a mix of oil and water. The oil, since it’s lighter than water, will float to the top and can then be parted from the floral water.

Expression

Another way to get the oils out of the plants is to use a cold-press method to extract them. This method is used on plants that don’t respond well to heat, such as fresh citrus peeling. You can pretty much press any plant and get oils from it using the right amount of pressure, but it’s not always the best method.

You can buy various kits to use at home or make your own for home extraction. You can also try several methods to find out what works best for your needs and for the types of oils you want to make. For example, if you want lavender oil, you’ll need to use a different method than if you want to make orange oil.

The method you choose to use to make your own essential oils will depend on what you want to use the oil for, what type of plant matter it is, and the equipment you have available. You can even buy kits to help you so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to making your own essential oils.

Nine Essential Oil Buying Tips

When you decide to buy essential oils, it’s imperative to understand what you should buy. Due to the lack of regulation in the essential oils industry, you’ll want to know what to look for, what questions to ask, and why these things are important.

1. Research the Manufacturer

Knowing where the manufacturer is located, and the local laws surrounding the standards of the place is a good way to ensure that your product is made properly. Does the company use safe practices, pay a fair wage, and use the right techniques for extraction to create a high-quality product?

2. Avoid Therapeutic Grade

Because there is no government oversight for essential oils yet, the term “therapeutic grade” essential oils really don’t exist. The term has no legal meaning, so anyone can say it. Some other claims that use words like “grade” or “certified” in their description are potentially misleading.

3. Look for Third-Party Testing

Most people in this unregulated industry like to see testing over several months from a third party that does a blind test of the oils to ensure quality. Even if sometimes the testing comes out poor, they take responsibility for it and if the company works to improve it that’s what’s important.

4. Check for Proper Packaging

Essential oils must be contained in dark glass. Most good companies use dark amber glass or blue glass for their essential oils. Note that even in this type of packaging they normally do not last more than a year.

5. Ensure Labels Are Accurate

One way to ensure that the manufacturer knows what they’re doing is with proper labelling. They should use both the Latin names and the country of origin. This can help you know whether you want to use that one or not. The information is vital because you can then look up the growing practices of that country.

6. Understand Their Extraction Method

You also want to know how the company extracts the essential oils. When you’re using oils for a treatment, you want to ensure they use the purest, least potentially contaminating way of creating them.

7. Know How to Sample Essential Oils Best

One thing you need to know when you’re trying to figure out which oils to buy is how to sample them the best way. It depends on the kind of oil and how it was extracted, but most of the time you can just inhale it from the bottle, then drop it on a cotton ball or put a couple of drops in a diffuser.

8. Avoid Certain Additives

When you buy pure essential oils, they should not have any additives. It’s okay to buy creams and potions made with essential oils, of course, but that is not the same thing. Once there is an additive such as vegetable oil, it’s no longer really an essential oil and not suitable for treatment.

9. Buy Smaller Quantities

Because essential oils do not last a long time, and because you use so little at a time, always buy it in smaller quantities over larger quantities. The oil you buy will be better quality, and you can be surer of its purity.

Buying the right type of essential oils, and then using them the right way, is the only way you can ensure that treatment with essential oils will work the way they’re supposed to work. Following these tips will help you get it right.

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