Essential Oils 101
The power of essential oils (EO’s) is real. I’m going to lay out all of the basics so you can get on this one bandwagon that’s here for the long haul. And when you learn about the history of EO’s, you’ll know that they’re not even new. In fact, EO’s have been around for centuries!
Some essential oils come from seeds while many others are extracted from the leaves of the plant. Because EO’s are so highly concentrated, it takes a tremendous amount of plant to produce just one ounce of oil. Due to this level of concentration, essential oils are incredibly powerful, so a little bit goes a long way!
Some “essential” terms you should know:
Essential oils are basically the natural aromatic compounds extracted from seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. Diffusion is one of the most popular ways to enjoy the aromatic benefits of essential oils.
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.
The process of extracting essential oil from plant material. Steam distillation is the most common distillation method that uses low-heat pressurized steam to circulate through plant parts and extract oils. Cold press distillation uses a mechanical press to squeeze essential oils from plant parts, and is the most commonly used method for obtaining citrus oils – a classic ingredient in DIY household cleaning products.
Historic essential oils
Despite being suddenly catapulted into popularity, essential oils are not a new thing. The 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.
Essential oil starter kit: Are you a newbie to EO’s?
Here are 4 of the most popular ones to try first, and a few suggested uses. They make great staples in your medicine cabinet too!
Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca): Soothing, cleansing and 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!
Add a few drops to shampoo and massage into the scalp – use in your conditioner too.
Add a drop to toothpaste or swish with water for a quick and easy mouth rinse – but do not swallow or ingest.
Lavender: Soothing and 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 warm bath.
Lemon: Cleansing, revitalizing and uplifting
Use to remove gum, glue, or any other sticky residues from surfaces.
Use in a diffuser to purify the air, creating an uplifting and refreshing aroma.
Add to a spray bottle full of water to clean tables, countertops, and other surfaces – see recipe!
Peppermint: Cooling and energizing
Apply a few drops directly to the skin of the back of your neck to cool off.
For a refreshing aroma, diffuse at night by your bedside.
Feeling tense? Rub on head and neck for a soothing, calming sensation.
Add to shampoo or conditioner for a stimulating and invigorating scalp massage.
Use as a natural bug repellent.
Other popular ones for beginners are essentials oils of frankincense, clove, eucalyptus, clary sage, sweet orange, grapefruit, and rosemary.
Applications, skin sensitivity and ingestion
Essential oils can be used topically, which means you can apply them directly on the skin, mix them with carrier oils or mix with other personal care products.
A category of essential oils that should be mixed with a carrier oil. The carrier oil will help transport the EO’s onto the skin.
A category of essential oils that can be applied topically without dilution because of a chemistry that is considered mild.
While there may be indication for internal ingestion of EO’s for therapeutic purposes, many of the ailments that we experience do not need such a heavy dose internally and may be more effectively addressed through inhalation (diffusers, personal inhalers, etc.) or topical application (salves, massage oils, baths, etc.).
Be sure to consult a professional aromatherapist before ingesting essential oils. Always make informed choices and do your own research when choosing to use EO’s.
Essential oils are incredibly powerful and serve many purposes for the home, and in daily health routines. With some basic knowledge, and having a few high-quality oils on hand, you can DIY dozens of homemade products, and enjoy many therapeutic benefits.
Natural All-Purpose Household Cleaner
½ cup plain white vinegar
2 Tb baking soda
10-15 drops tea tree, lavender, lemon, eucalyptus and/or rosemary essential oil (or any combo of these) for their disinfectant properties.
In a clean 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!