Ultimate Guide to Essential Oils
Diet & Nutrition

Ultimate Guide To Essential Oils

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.

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URPOWER 2nd Version Essential Oil Diffuser Aroma Essential Oil Cool Mist Humidifier with Adjustable Mist Mode,Waterless Auto Shut-Off and 7 Color LED Lights Changing for Home (White)
  • URPOWER New Version: The URPOWER Ultrasonic Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser is an upgraded version. The 2nd generation produces more mist than old version. An ideal way to add moist, comfortable air to small bedrooms, hotel rooms, tabletops and even workplace cubicles

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.

SaleBestseller No. 1
SaleBestseller No. 1
Essential Oil Diffuser Bracelet,Tree of Life Jewelry Aromatherapy Locket Bracelets Leather Band with 8 Color Felt Pads, Birthday Gifts for Women Daughter Girl Sister, Mother's Day Gift (Tree black)
  • Special Aromatherapy Diffuser Magnetic Bracelet and change different scent - A special locket style design essential oil diffuser locket bracelet, you can change your favorite different scent to make yourself charming everyday. It also can give you peace of mind and relieve your pressure.

Applying Topically

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

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.

Apricot Oil

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

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]

Avocado Oil

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]

Coconut Oil

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]

Flaxseed Oil

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

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]

Jojoba Oil

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

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.

Olive Oil

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 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.

Bergamot Oil

Used For: Relaxation, Nausea, and Pain Relief

Smells Like: Citrus

Chamomile Oil

Used For: Sleep, Anxiety, Digestive Help, and Skin Care

Smells Like: Flowers

Cinnamon Oil

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

Eucalyptus Oil

Used For: Congestion, Allergies, Pain Relief, Cleaning

Smells Like:Pine and Mint

Frankincense Oil

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

Jasmine Oil

Used For: Stress Relief, Mood Enhancement, Alertness

Smells Like: Warm and Exotic

Lavender Oil

Used For: Stress Relief, Anxiety, Sleep, Skin Care

Smells Like: Lavender

Lemon Oil

Used For: Concentration, Mood Enhancement, Cleaning

Smells Like: Citrus

Lemongrass Oil

Used For: Stress Relief, Insect Repellent, Anti-Inflammatory

Smells Like: Citrus

Orange Oil

Used For: Anxiety Relief, Relaxation, Improves Immune System

Smells Like: Citrus

Peppermint Oil

Used For: Reducing Fatigue, Irritable Bowl, Nausea, Diarrhea, Congestion

Smells Like: Mint

Rosemary Oil

Used For: Alertness, Pain Relief, Bug Repellent, Joint Pain

Smells Like: Camphor

Sandalwood Oil

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.

Quality Warning

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.

In Closing

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.

I am the managing editor and co-owner of OthFit.com. My goal is to motivate and inspire people to get healthy. I love to connect and make new friends online so feel free to say hi anytime.

11 Comments

  • Ethereal Empathy

    It has been a long time since I was using Essential Oils regularly. Back when I was in massage school I really enjoyed taking the Aromatherapy course and getting some basic information about how to properly and effectively use essential oils. This takes me back and there is so much great info here. Jasmine is my all time favorite, I find it very calming. It helps me concentrate and relax at the same time, great for my anxiety.

  • Unwanted Life

    If it wasn’t for the honest admission that their little scientific evidence on if essential oils works, I wouldn’t have carried on reading to be quite honest. I especially like the additional comment on how people should apply skepticism even when reading what you’ve wrote about in regards to the claims for the essential oils you listed. I applaud that

  • Bill

    Thanks. We tried to be very open and honest about the lack of scientific evidence. The evidence that is out there is often flawed due to study design. Enough people see benefits that we thought it was worth looking into more.

  • concealedvoices (@concealedvoices)

    This was an interesting read. I’m addicted (in a good way!) to lavender and use it every night to help me sleep. My mother bought a bottle when I was 7 years old and it’s pretty much a ritual for me every night otherwise I end up getting stressed. I also take it with me when I travel to calm my nerves 🙂

  • Navita Bhatia

    I have been using a few selected essential oils for quite a long time. Yeah, no doubt their benefits are not backed up by many researches but I found them useful in uplifting my mood in times of distress. Thanks to you for pointing out some more information about essential oils and recommending some new , I didn’t know about.

  • Kathleen Wonders

    I’ve always been skeptical about these companies claiming that essential oils are a cure for all. Also, I’ve been very careful about these oils since they are after all, very concentrated. You wouldn’t want them to touch your skin without diluting them. 🙂 I like using them with a diffuser for a quick mood boost or to calm me while doing yoga or just reading. Thanks for sharing this informative post!

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