Have you heard about essential oils or perhaps received a set as a gift, but you’re not sure what they are and how to use them? Essential oils are extracted from the flowers, leaves, roots, barks, and fruits of certain plants. Within each drop of pure essential oil, there can be hundreds of phytochemicals (plant-based chemicals). Essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Each type of oil has a variety of properties and benefits, and you don’t need a degree in chemistry or pharmacology to use them.
Essential oils are often used in holistic health care as natural remedies to improve health and reduce stress. They are typically used topically (applied to the skin) or aromatically (inhaled). Essential oils can be toxic if ingested, so to be safe don’t take any internally without the guidance of a certified health practitioner. Note that some essential oils are more expensive than others due to how easily they can be harvested and extracted. Beware of cheap synthetic imitations that lack therapeutic qualities by only buying certified USDA organic, 100 percent pure, therapeutic grade.
For topical applications, essential oils are absorbed through the skin. They can be dabbed on your wrist, neck, or temples; rubbed in as a massage for sore muscles or tired feet; or added to bath water. Don’t put essential oils inside your mouth, nose, ears or eyes – or on cuts or other sensitive areas – because they are highly concentrated and will sting, and may make you ill if ingested. Bergamot and citrus oils can cause photosensitivity, so you should avoid sun exposure after application. Also, if you’re prone to allergies it’s best to test a little bit on a small area and see how your skin responds.
Inhaling the vapors of essential oils is the most effective, safest, and easiest way to reap their benefits, and doesn’t even require any special diffusing devices. Whenever the aroma of an essential oil is used therapeutically to enhance or restore the health of body, mind and spirit, it’s called aromatherapy. Scientists think these aromas work by sending chemical messages to parts of the brain that affect mood and emotion. There are many ways in which essential oils can be used aromatically.
21 Ways to Enjoy the Aroma of Essential Oils
- A quick whiff of essential oil can be sniffed right out of the bottle, or take your time and inhale deeply to breathe in the aroma.
- Apply three drops of essential oil to a tissue or handkerchief and hold it up to your nose to breathe in the fragrance whenever you like.
- To prevent or get relief from nausea due to seasickness or motion sickness, put a few drops of ginger, peppermint, lemon or clove oil on a napkin and inhale.
- If you don’t have a tissue, diffuser, or nasal inhaler handy, you can just put a drop of essential oil in the palm of your hand. Rub your palms together and then cup your hands over your nose and mouth while breathing deeply for fast relief.
- Add a few drops of your favorite scent to a cotton ball and place it in your gym bag or stick it in the air vent of your car.
- Sprinkle essential oil on your pillow, and enjoy the aroma every time you lay your head down.
- Put a drop or two of essential oil on a terracotta pendant, fasten it around your neck, and enjoy your favorite aroma as you go about your day.
- Rather than using artificial perfumes, combine your favorite essential oils and wear them on your pulse points, behind your ears, on your collarbone, and both sides of your neck. A little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it. A dilution of 3-5 drops of essential oil to a teaspoon of water is ideal. Or for a whole body spray, use one drop of essential oil for every teaspoon of water.
- Essential oils can be mixed with water and witch hazel in a spray bottle to make your own room spray. Fill a small spray bottle with 2 ounces of distilled water and 2 ounces of witch hazel. Then add 30-40 drops of your favorite essential oil (or a blend of two or more oils) and shake well. Spray it in the air and over furniture, carpeting, and linens to make your home smell nice.
- Make an essential oil cleaning spray for kitchen and bathroom surfaces. In a spray bottle, combine ½ cup of witch hazel or white vinegar, ½ cup of water, and 15-20 drops of essential oil. (Lemongrass, citrus, clove, rosemary, peppermint, and tea tree oil are all good choices because they also have antibacterial properties.)
- Make your own essential oil dryer sheet out of an old handkerchief, mismatched cotton sock, or cut up an old cotton t-shirt into 5” squares. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your homemade dryer sheet. Then toss it into the dryer with your wet clothes and run the dryer as usual.
- Add a few drops of essential oil to a new vacuum cleaner bag when you replace the old one. As you vacuum your house, the oil will disperse through the suction and make your home smell nice.
- Boil 2 cups of water in a small pot on the stove, and then add 2-3 drops of essential oil. The steam will waft the aroma around the kitchen. Citrus and vanilla smell clean and fresh; cinnamon and peppermint are good for adding holiday cheer; or if you have a cold, use eucalyptus oil and breathe it in.
- A wet compress allows essential oils to penetrate a particular area of the body to soothe insect bites, sunburn, headaches, fevers, muscle aches, etc. All you need is a soft washcloth and these tips.
- Make your own aromatherapy candle by lighting an ordinary candle and waiting a minute or two until a small amount of wax melts. Blow out the flame and add a couple drops of essential oil to the melted wax. Take care not to get any oil on the wick as essential oils are highly flammable. Then carefully relight the candle.
- Reed diffusers soak up essential oils and then disperse the scent into the air. The aroma lasts until all the oil evaporates. Any narrow-opening container, like a bottle or vase, can be turned into a reed diffuser. Glass, ceramic, earthenware, wood, or stainless steel all work great. You can buy the reed sticks at Amazon for using with a variety of aromatherapy diffuser oil recipes.
- An ultrasonic diffuser uses air, water, and ultrasonic vibrations to diffuse a fine mist into the air, so it doubles as a humidifier. Available in cool mist and warm mist diffusers, they combine water and a few drops of essential oils into a fragrant mist that can fill your room with relaxing or rejuvenating aromas. This method allows the oil molecules to remain air-bound for several hours. With an elegantly designed ultrasonic diffuser, you can create a spa-like experience at home.
- Unlike other diffusers that require water and heat, a nebulizing diffuser like the Raindrop 2.0 diffuser uses only pure essential oil to function. You don’t need to add water, which can dilute the fragrance and also attract mold if the diffuser is not maintained properly. Furthermore, the diffuser doesn’t use heat, which can change the therapeutic properties of certain oils. Instead, it uses a quiet air pump to atomize essential oil into millions of tiny particles, and the result is a concentrated fragrance that can quickly spread across a large room. Plus, it’s made entirely of hardwood and hand-blown glass, so you don’t have to worry about any plastic-releasing toxic chemicals.
- A lava rock stone diffuser is a great desk accessory that lets you smell your favorite aroma while you work. Add 3-4 drops of essential oil, and let it soak into the porous stones (you can use one oil per color). It’s just the right size and gives off a subtle amount of scent that lasts a long time.
- Aromatherapy inhalers are shaped just like Vicks nasal inhalers. They enclose a concentrated amount of essential oil and are a portable and convenient way to use essential oils when a diffuser isn’t convenient or appropriate. To use an aromatherapy inhaler, you simply unscrew the cap and raise the tip of the inhaler to your nose. They’re easy to fit in your pocket, purse, briefcase, or backpack for use in the workplace, while traveling, or in other public settings.
- A great way to finish off a bottle of essential oil that just has a few drops left in it, is to empty the entire bottle into your bath and take a soak. Not only are you absorbing the oils through your skin, but also inhaling them at the same time. Add 1-2 cups of Epsom salts for additional soothing benefits.
Top Ten Essential Oils: Their Health Benefits and How to Use Them
When buying essential oils, stick with a name you can trust. Plant Therapy is a quality brand that offers a great value for your money, especially if you’re just getting started, and their essential oils are easily ordered on Amazon. Plant Therapy oils come in boxed sets, convenient blends, and kid-safe roll-ons. If you want to gather your own collection of essential oils, start with these:
Lavender is the number one essential oil to have on hand. This is an amazingly helpful and versatile oil. Lavender heals burns and cuts, soothes skin irritations and itchy areas, relieves insomnia, is a powerful antihistamine, treats insect bites, and helps with inflammation, sunburn, and lice. If that isn’t enough to convince you, lavender also reduces stress, treats depression, and calms you into a peaceful night’s sleep.
Cedarwood is mentioned regularly in the Bible and it is thought to be one of the first essential oils extracted from nature. Cedarwood has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and astringent properties. It is used for arthritis and pain, to relieve respiratory conditions, as well as for hair and scalp. It is well known as an insect repellent and its ability to treat acne and eczema. It also has sedative properties that can combat stress and ease tension, and even improve focus in people with ADD.
Eucalyptus oil can fight migraines, fevers, respiratory issues, and bacterial infections. Many people use eucalyptus oil to help combat congestion associated with the common cold and allergies. Eucalyptus oil helps open up the sinuses, cool the nasal passages, and subdue coughs. Apply a small amount of eucalyptus oil under your nose, rub some into your chest, and add a few drops to your vaporizier or fragrance diffuser as well.
Peppermint is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory stimulant that can sharpen your focus, enhance your mental alertness, and boost your energy. Peppermint is often lauded as the most effective essential oil for treating nausea, dizziness and vertigo. Peppermint oil is also effective for headaches, muscle aches, heartburn/upset stomach, allergies, and colds. Peppermint oil not only helps you breathe better by clearing congestion, it increases oxygen absorption.
Bergamot is used to treat stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, skin infections, and acne. Bergamot oil can help speed up the healing process of wounds and is also connected to boosting the immune system and protecting it from infections. Bergamot is one of the best essential oils for weight loss because the scent can help to relax and lift your spirits, thus preventing emotional eating when you are not truly hungry.
Helichrysum is a precious essential oil that’s excellent for wound care, bruises, sprains, and swelling as it speeds healing and reduces pain. It can be used for treating shock and sunburn, and is beneficial against bacterial infections and viruses. Helichrysum oil is also known for the endless applications it holds for improving the skin, reducing blemishes, combating acne, and rejuvenating the complexion.
Vetiver is a prized essential oil that’s great to diffuse in workplaces, libraries and study areas. Its earthy, woodsy aroma helps create an uplifting environment without being too sweet or flowery. Traditionally, vetiver oil has been used in aromatherapy for relaxation and alleviating emotional stress, panic attacks, trauma, anxiety, insomnia, hysteria and depression. In addition, a two-year study found that vetiver oil is highly effective in combating ADHD and ADD symptoms.
Clove oil has antiseptic, antibiotic, anesthetic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It helps relieve toothaches, headaches, and other pain. Clove oil helps relieve nausea and aid in digestion. Clove oil also boosts the immune system to fight off, or even prevent, the common cold and flu. Medieval doctors actually used to breathe through clove-filled leather beaks to keep from getting the bubonic plague!
Frankincense was one of the gifts that the Three Wise Men brought to baby Jesus, and it was a component of the holy incense ritually burned in Jerusalem’s sacred temples during ancient times. Frankincense has antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and restorative properties, which make it an important oil in all types of emergencies. It reduces inflammation, relieves headaches, supports skin tissue recovery, soothes hyperactivity and restlessness, facilitates mental clarity and focus, and helps relieve stress with its comforting, woodsy aroma.
Citrus Oils, such as sweet orange and lemon, are energizing and stimulating, so they can invigorate you when you are feeling fatigued or mentally tired. Orange oil is extensively utilized in aromatherapy as it helps soothe depression by promoting a feeling of happiness. Lemon oil boosts mood with a cheery scent that’s zesty and clean, while it’s also a powerful antibacterial, astringent, and antiseptic agent. Grapefruit oil helps in weight loss by boosting metabolism, reducing cravings, and staving off hunger pangs.
These essential oils are not a complete list of all that may be helpful to you, but they are some of the most useful ones to have around the house. You can even mix several different oils together to make unique aromas for special purposes. For example, if you want to improve your focus and cognitive performance, use 2 drops sweet orange, 2 drops frankincense, and 2 drops peppermint. The aroma will help to clear any brain fog. If you want your room to smell like the California coast, use 2 drops frankincense, 2 drops cedarwood, 2 drops sweet orange, and 1 drop rosemary.
Have fun experimenting with essential oils, and don’t worry about wasting them, because they’ll do you no good at all if you just keep them in the bottle! Essential oils lose their potency after a few years anyway, so be sure to use them up while they’re still fresh. Essential oils will degrade more quickly when exposed to light and heat, so make sure the ones you buy are packaged in a dark (usually brown) glass container that is well sealed, and store them in a cool dark place.
How do you use essential oils and which are your favorites? Let us know in the comment section below!