Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils
posted on July 22, 2018 | by Tessa Bowman
As you’ve probably noticed, essential oils are everywhere. As our culture shifts towards using more natural remedies to improve our health, they’re gaining huge popularity. And as an essential oils early-adopter, I’ve experienced the benefits of them first-hand. Let me just say, the hype is real!
If you haven’t been formally introduced to essential oils, diving into them on your own can be overwhelming. There are soooo many companies to choose from (all claiming they’re the best), countless oil blends, and so many potential uses. Here’s a quick guide breaking down how to use them, why you might want to, and how they can benefit you.
How are they used?
In a number of ways! Let me share a few ways:
Diffusing for Aromatherapy: We’ve all experienced the connection of scent to emotion, like when a perfume evokes a specific memory of someone or something. Aromatherapy plays on the connection to help influence and improve our emotional and physical state. For example, there are oils that help you focus, relax, feel more energized – basically everything under the sun.
Diffusing oils is simple. All you need is a diffuser (this one is my favorite) and the oils. Put water into the diffuser with a few drops of essential oil, or even mix a couple scents together. The diffuser carries the scent into the air and… viola!
We have diffusers in our bedroom and our son’s bedroom. I like to diffuse uplifting scents during the day like grapefruit or citrus, lavender to help me relax at night, and protective/air cleansing blends like Thieves or oregano when there’s a bug going around.
Topically: One of the most common ways to reap the benefits of essential oils is to put them on your skin. You only need 1-2 drops of an oil to have it be effective, and you always want to mix it with a carrier oil before application. A good carrier oil is any cold-pressed vegetable/fruit oil like coconut, olive, avocado or jojoba oil. Using a carrier oil helps dilute the oil and allows it to cover more real estate on your body.
I most commonly use Thieves on the bottoms of my feet if I feel a cold coming on. Stress Away on my neck is great when I’m feeling…you guessed it…stressed! When I need to concentrate on work, I like to use Envision on my neck and wrists. Digize works wonders when I eat something that doesn’t agree with me; I rub it on my stomach.
Cooking: Many people add oils like lemon, lime, basil and lemongrass into their recipes. I’m personally more of a fresh herb gal, but I did just buy lemongrass to use in stir-frys because that’s not something I stock fresh in the fridge.
If you love lemon or lime in your water but don’t want the acid to erode your enamel, using essential oils is a great option for you since the oil won’t have the same effect on your teeth. (TIP: never use oils in plastic bottles because the oils can eat away at the plastic.)
The last time I had a cold, I put one drop of lemon and one drop of peppermint in my tea each day to help kill bacteria and soothe my throat and really liked it.
DIY uses: Essential oils can be used in homemade cleaning products and personal care products. Most big essential oil companies have specific cleaning product lines but if you want to make your own, it’s an easy and cost-effective route. Lemon, eucalyptus and tea tree are widely incorporated into simple cleaning recipes with white vinegar. Again, always use glass bottles when using essential oils.
Many people also infuse oils into their DIY toothpaste, deodorant and beauty products. While I don’t do much DIY, I’ve used and really seen improvements with tea tree for face blemishes, frankincense for undereye bags, brightening and scars, and helichrysum for fine lines and wrinkles. I also use Thieves toothpaste which has clove, cinnamon, lemon and peppermint in it – all oils that are really effective at promoting dental health.
Does quality matter?
Oh, you betcha. Basically, try to avoid buying them at big health stores. A lot of companies will mix cheaper oils into the oils and not be forthcoming about the sourcing or quality of their oils. Some essential oil enthusiasts are very passionate about what brands are best…I am not one of those people.
Two of the most popular high quality brands are DoTerra and Young Living (I’m currently using and enjoying Young Living). I’ve also heard great things about Mountain Rose Herbs and Vibrant Blue Oils, but haven’t tried them.
What are the risks of essential oils?
Essential oils are therapeutic grade, highly concentrated oils which means they are really powerful. Just how potent are they? One drop of peppermint essential oil is the equivalent to 26 cups of peppermint tea! Because they are so powerful, it’s important to dilute them before putting them on the skin to help avoid irritation. Always test an area to make sure you don’t react, too.
I’ve read (and agree) that ingesting some oils, especially herbal oils like oregano, is not a good idea. (Unless in an extreme health scenario and under the care of medical professionals.) Why? Because certain oils have true antibiotic properties and with overuse they can negatively affect your liver and gut. So definitely do your reading or talk to your doc first.
Are they safe to use during pregnancy?
Some are! There are also a number of oils that should be avoided during pregnancy and nursing. For example, peppermint lowers your milk supply and certain oils can affect our hormones. Some oils to avoid include clary sage, sage, idaho tansy, hyssop, fennel and wintergreen. Talk to a doctor or medical professional like a midwife before using any essential oils when pregnant or nursing.
Are they safe for babies/kids?
There is some major conflicting information about this. Because of this, Id suggest talking to a doctor before using any oils on your baby or child. But one thing is for sure – essential oils should never been ingested by children and they also need to be diluted before topical use. As I mentioned above, essential oils are extremely potent, so it’s always important to exercise extreme caution before using an oil on your child. Some “warming” oils like oregano and cinnamon can badly burn eyes and irritate the skin. I started diffusing essential oils in my son’s room when he was eight months old. Then I waited until he was a year and a half to sparingly use a quality brand topically.
Phew, that was a lot! Hopefully the next time you see essential oils, you’ll feel more comfortable trying some out! If you use them, how have essential oils helped you?