Essential oils are all over the news, social media, and they have been in use for thousands of years. There is a lot of information out there about them, but much of it is incorrect or misleading. That is why we have decided to put together this comprehensive guide to essential oils.
Our goal is to arm you with everything you need to know about essential oils so that you can make informed choices. We will be covering basic information about what essential oils are, how effective they are, how to use them safely, and which essential oils are best for different uses.
We will be keeping this guide up to date so don’t worry about getting old information. Also, we will be linking to other resources, scientific studies, and blog posts so that this guide remains the best source of information on everything to do with essential oils.
What Are Essential Oils
Essential oils are concentrated extracts from the leaves, bark, roots, and stems of many plants. These oils retain their smell and are often used for health and emotional well-being. The use of essential oils goes back for thousands of years.
Essential oils are claimed to have powerful healing, purifying, and calming abilities. There are claims that they can help with everything from acne and anxiety to boosting your immune system and killing fungus.
One common misunderstanding around essential oils is the meaning of the name. The essential part of their name does not mean that the oils are essential or necessary. it means that the oil contains the essence of the plant’s fragrance.
Do Essential Oils Work
Before we get into what the science says, let’s acknowledge that for many people essential oils are very helpful for minor first aid and mental health. If you are one of those people please don’t think that we are dismissing your experience.
There is an amazing number of anecdotal stories about the effectiveness of essential oils. Many people absolutely swear by them. Sadly, there is a lack of scientific studies backing this up. I will say that many of the essential oils and carrier oils have positive properties and are probably effective at skincare, basic first aid, and minor mental state alterations.
The honest fact is that right now there is simply too little research to definitively say that essential oils are everything they claim to be. For this reason, we recommend a healthy level of skepticism towards any claims made about essential oils. Even the ones in this guide, although we do link to scientific studies where possible.
Remember, if something seems too good to be true it probably is. While doing research for this guide we found many “authoritative” health sites making really bold claims about the effectiveness of essential oils.
I want to be very clear, there is no scientific evidence that essential oils can cure or prevent any disease. Please seek care and treatment with a qualified medical professional.
Essential Oil Safety Warnings
We hear about the wonderful benefits of essential oils so often that it is easy to forget that there are possible dangers. Most of these dangers are small. If you purchase from a reputable source and follow the instructions on the label you are probably safe.
There is always the risk of an allergic reaction when using essential oils. If you have any known allergies take a moment to research the source of the oil. Many oils are named after the plant, but some are not. It is also a good idea to try anything new on a small patch of skin first. That way if you are allergic it will limit your exposure.
You should never ingest essential oils. Many of them are safe to use topically or with a diffuser but are highly toxic when eaten. It is very possible to accidentally poison yourself. Essential oils should be kept out of the reach of pets and children for the same reason.
Some essential oils are photo-toxic, meaning they cause negative reactions under UV light. If you are going to be outside or in UV light avoid using those oils. If you do use them allow at least 24 hours before exposing yourself.
If you have any existing health conditions, including pregnancy and breastfeeding, be sure to research what essential oils are safe to use. As always we highly recommend that you speak with a medical provider before using any new health product.
How To Use Essential Oils Safely
Hopefully, I haven’t scared you away. Let’s talk about how you can actually use essential oils. The most common methods are applying them to the skin or diffusing them into the air. You can also smell them straight from the bottle. You should not eat or drink most essential oils.
Diffusing Essential Oils
One of the best ways to use essential oils is through diffusion. This is the practice of distributing the oil molecules through the air. This allows the oil to have contact with your skin and be inhaled into the lungs. Aromatherapy typically works in this manner.
The molecules in essential oils are very small which allows them to be absorbed into the skin very easily when diffused. If you are using an oil that has anti-fungal or anti-bacterial properties it may also help to keep the air cleaner as well.
Using a Diffuser
There are many different ways to diffuse essential oils but my favorite (because it’s easy) is with a store-bought diffuser. If you are just getting started then this is a very accessible way to get started. Most diffusers are affordable and they come in many styles. The one below is the best seller but click through and find one that matches you.
Using Diffuser Jewelry
Another popular way of diffusing essential oils is with specially made diffuser jewelry. By wearing diffusing necklaces, bracelets, or rings you can take your essential oils with you. The best part is that they are very attractive and will look good with whatever your wearing.
Just like the diffusers, these come in a huge assortment. I wanted to share a couple of my favorites with you to give you an idea of what is out there. I highly recommend clicking through and finding something that speaks to you.
Essential oils can be absorbed into your bloodstream through your skin making topical applications very viable. To do this safely you will need to dilute the oil with a thicker carrier oil. The amount you need to dilute the oil depends on the type of oil used. For most essential oil you will be looking for a 1%-2% mixture.
Besides diluting the essential oil to make it safe to apply carrier oils provide their own properties. They also allow you to spread the essential oil over a larger area and slow down the absorption. This will extend the lifetime of the essential oil and allow you to gain the most benefit.
As always read the label or check the manufacturer’s website for product details. When using an oil for the first time it is recommended that you dilute it more. This can help prevent negative reactions.
Common Carrier Oils
There are many different carrier oils that you can choose to use. Typically these are lightly scented and made from plants. If you use any plant-based cooking oils you probably already have some in your kitchen pantry.
Many carrier oils come in both refined and unrefined varieties. Whenever possible choose the unrefined oil. The refined versions have been treated with chemicals and other manufacturing processes. This processing greatly reduces the natural properties of the oil.
Each carrier oil has different properties so it makes a difference which carrier oil you choose. I have listed some of the best ones down below and made a couple notes to help you choose the right carrier oil for your needs. Where possible I have also listed any scientific papers that back up the claims.
Almond oil is made from sweet almonds and has a nice nutty smell. Almond oil has several health-positive benefits and is known to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system and is a strong antioxidant. This oil is absorbed easily and is high in protein and vitamin E. This makes it excellent for skin treatments, especially if you have dry skin or poor complexion. [reference]
Note: If you use a diffuser that requires carrier oils this is one of the best options.
As you might expect apricot oil has a pleasant fruity scent that makes it good for use in a diffuser. It also has a lot of vitamin E so it is very good for making creams and lotions. This is why it is used in so many cosmetics. [reference]
Argon oil has a pleasant nutty smell and is used in many cosmetics and skin-care products. It contains many fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins making it excellent for skin and hair treatments. It is absorbed easily and makes an excellent carrier oil. [reference]
This oil is thicker and heavier than most of the other carrier oils. It has many fatty acids making it great for skin care but it can clog pores. For this reason, it is often used for face masks. Avocado oil is high in healthy fats and can help reduce inflammation and speed up healing for minor wounds.
*If you have oily skin or acne you might want to avoid using avocado oil. If you do use it you might want to follow up with a good face wash to prevent your pores from clogging. [reference]
Unrefined virgin coconut oil is very popular in cosmetics and skincare products. This is because it is absorbed into the skin easily and is full of healthy unsaturated fats. It is also known to have antiseptic properties. Because of this, it is perfect for helping with acne and other skin conditions.
There are two varieties, one that is solid at room temperature and one that is liquid. The kind that is solid at room temperature has a mild unmistakable scent and is great for skincare. The liquid variety has practically no scent. [reference]
You are probably familiar with flaxseed oil because it is used in many healthy recipes. Well, not only is it very good for you when eaten, it has many topical applications as well. The oil has lots of healthy fatty acids and is a very gentle oil. This makes it excellent for skin and hair treatment. [reference]
Grapeseed oil has almost no natural scent so it allows the essential oil to really shine. It is high in vitamin E and absorbs easily into the skin. This makes it an excellent choice for skincare. [reference]
Despite its name jojoba oil isn’t an oil, it is actually a wax. It’s a very common carrier oil because it closely resembles the natural oils your skin secretes. It contains vitamins E and B and fatty acids. This makes it very mild for all skin types. The nutty scent ranges from very mild to odorless so it won’t overpower the essential oil. [reference]
Neem oil is pretty unique among carrier oils because it is a natural insecticide. If you live somewhere with mosquitoes or are planning on spending some time outside this is a great carrier oil to choose. It is also full of fatty acids and vitamins so it is very good for your skin.
If you cook at home you might already have some of this in your pantry. It isn’t just for cooking though. Olive oil is a very good carrier oil because it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and a lot of fatty acids. Olive oil isn’t very greasy and can be applied to the skin or hair without clogging your pores. [reference]
*Be careful when buying olive oil, many of the brands you find at the grocery store are very low quality and some contain no actual olive oil.
Rosehip is a very popular carrier oil because it is absorbed quickly without leaving an oily feeling. It is high in fatty acids and vitamin C making it popular for treating sun-damaged skin and age spots. There is some indication that using rosehip oil can help to speed up recovery from skin infections and wounds. [reference]
And Many More
These are only a few of the most common carrier oils. There are many more that I didn’t list. I included links to several studies but if you are wanting more general studies into the effects of different oils here are 3 more.
Top 18 Essential Oils and Their Primary Use
By now you should know everything you need to know about essential oils. Below is a list of the top 18 essential oils and what they are often used for. In addition to the reason listed below many of the essential oils will have more than one claimed effect.
Used For: Relaxation, Nausea, and Pain Relief
Smells Like: Citrus
Used For: Sleep, Anxiety, Digestive Help, and Skin Care
Smells Like: Flowers
Used For: Concentration, Mood Enhancement, Disinfectant, Oral Health
Smells Like: Cinnamon
Clary Sage Oil
Used For: Stress Relief, Concentration, Aphrodisiac, Skin Care
Smells Like: Herbs and Flowers
Used For: Congestion, Allergies, Pain Relief, Cleaning
Smells Like:Pine and Mint
Used For: Relaxation, Stress Relief, Skin Care
Smells Like: Pine and Lemon
Grapefruit Seed Oil
Used For: Relaxation, Candida Infection, Anti-Fungal
Smells Like: Fruit
Used For: Stress Relief, Mood Enhancement, Alertness
Smells Like: Warm and Exotic
Used For: Stress Relief, Anxiety, Sleep, Skin Care
Smells Like: Lavender
Used For: Concentration, Mood Enhancement, Cleaning
Smells Like: Citrus
Used For: Stress Relief, Insect Repellent, Anti-Inflammatory
Smells Like: Citrus
Used For: Anxiety Relief, Relaxation, Improves Immune System
Smells Like: Citrus
Used For: Reducing Fatigue, Irritable Bowl, Nausea, Diarrhea, Congestion
Smells Like: Mint
Used For: Alertness, Pain Relief, Bug Repellent, Joint Pain
Smells Like: Camphor
Used For: Mood Enhancement, Memory, Disinfectant, Skin Care
Smells Like: Sweet Wood
Tea Tree Oil
Used For: Antibacterial, Insect Repellent, Antiseptic
Smells Like: Herbs and Pine
Ylang Ylang Oil
Used For: Relaxation, Room Freshener, Aphrodisiac
Smells Like: Floral and Clean
Where to Buy Essential Oils
Buying essential oils can be a bit difficult because so many vendors aren’t trustworthy. I would suggest only buying from one of these three places. Amazon, a vendors website, a local small business that specializes in this type of product. There are countless bargain places to buy essential oils but you should avoid these.
Please note I recommend Amazon because there are open reviews that are difficult to fake by the supplier. They are unable to delete unflattering reviews and you can look for products that have had several hundred or thousands of customers/reviews. You do need to be careful about only purchasing from vendors that have high ratings and a high number of sales.
OthFit also strongly recommends against purchasing essential oils, or any products from Multilevel Marketing companies. There are a couple of large essential oil MLM companies that prey on their reps and customers, they make claims that are completely unsupported by evidence, they charge exorbitant prices, and the MLM model is predatory in nature. You can find high-quality essential oils without supporting one of these companies.
Essential oils are not regulated by the FDA and many of the products are diluted with fake oils and fragrances. Some are completely synthetic (fake). The key to avoiding this is to always purchase from reputable vendors and to always check the label. You want to make sure the oil is 100% pure.
I know that this was a really long article and I hope that it answered every question you have about essential oils. If I left anything out please feel free to ask in the comments below. I’ll be keeping this updated over time so you might consider bookmarking it.
Thank you for taking the time to come here and read the whole thing. We have put in a lot of work making this guide as thorough as possible. If you found this guide helpful I would greatly appreciate it if you could help share it with your friends.