Okay, so you’ve heard all the hype about essential oils.
And now you’re ready to give them a try yourself at home. Should you just get started?
We’ve consulted some experts on the topic and have some tips for you.
Benefits of Essential Oils
You may be interested in using essential oils for the benefits that you’ve heard about. And yeah, that’s a great reason to start.
When used appropriately, essential oils can improve energy levels, offer relief from symptoms like anxiety and depression, ease muscle tension (causing a decrease in migraines and other similar conditions), reduce inflammation, and enhance sleep quality.
Some essential oils can help calm your senses and promote a restful nights sleep, says Rene Langer of Pick HVAC. The oils that I highly recommend for sleep are lavender, frankincense, cedar, and chamomile essential oils.
When doing meditation, I diffuse essential oils for help in focusing attention and calming the nervous system, says Tauras Sinkus of 21 Day Hero. When inhaled, essential oils target the limbic system of the brain through the olfactory bulb.
Think of how you feel smelling fresh flowers or fresh baked cookies. Smell impacts mood. It also encourages slow, deep breathing, which can restore homeostasis in the body.
The smell also keeps us in the present moment, which is helpful when the mind is running wild and future tripping.
How to safely use essential oils
Mix your essential oil of choice with a carrier oil by adding 15 drops of essential oil per 6 teaspoons of carrier oil. This offers a 2.5% dilution rate, which is a good starting point for most adults, says occupational therapist and certified psychiatric rehab provider Brittany Ferri, PhD, OTR/L, CPRP of Simplicity of Health.
If you would like to grade this up over time (as you know you can tolerate it), you can increase to a 5% dilution rate and double the essential oil drops (30 drops of essential oil per 6 teaspoons of carrier oil).
You can increase this to 10% dilution rate if you’d like, but any further is not recommended.
For the best experience, choose a carrier oil with minimal to no smell (as this can alter the scent of the essential oil), a high absorption rate for maximum efficacy, and one that you already know works well with your skin type.
Avoid placing this mixture too close to sensitive areas like the eyes, ears, nose, and lips. FYI, it is also important not to place any type of oil on open wounds or cracked and already irritated skin without consulting your doctor first.
The easiest way to use essential oils is to put a few drops on your hands, rub them together and cup your nose, says Grace Young of House Fragrance.
Breathe in, then open your hands to breathe out. Repeat several times.
Read the labels to learn which oils must be diluted and which ones can be taken internally. You can also use a special diffuser sold with the oils to create a healing atmosphere in your home.
Many essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin, says Anita Carroll of Very Create. They must be diluted in a carrier oil first. There are many different types of carrier oils to choose from including coconut oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, and argan oil.
Three ways to use – Aromatically via diffuser (easiest and safest), Topically on Skin, Internally (do NOT try the latter two without consulting with the company or expert in the field), says Kevin Jourdan of Dot Market.
If using on your skin (like tea tree oil): Try a small patch test, just as people are allergic to flowers and foods, they can be allergic to oils.
Dilute essential oils with a fatty oil (called carrier oils), like coconut oil, almond or jojoba. If something burns or feels too intense (or accidentally goes somewhere it shouldn’t, like an eye), treat it as you would something spicy – use milk or fatty oils, not water, to reduce its potency.
Never ingest or apply oils on skin unless the bottle says you can. Not all oils are created equal.
Do not apply citrus oils and go in the sun. If you’ve ever lightened your hair using a lemon, the reaction is due to citrus photosensitivity and can cause burns on skin.
Potential dangers of essential oils
Some people may demonstrate sensitivity to essential oils that are applied on the skin. This can result in itching, redness, and warmth to the area.
It’s always best to test essential oils on a thick part of skin (such as the heel of the foot) or on the inside of the forearm by placing a small amount on a band-aid.
These reactions most commonly occur when people use undiluted oils, because mixing essential oils with carrier oils (such as coconut, sweet almond, olive, argan, rosehip, grapeseed, avocado, sunflower, or jojoba oil) is how you can get the most out of your aromatherapy experience.
Keep this bandage or the oil itself on your skin for 24 hours to accurately determine your body’s reaction. If no issues are noted after this point, the oil is most likely safe for you to use.
If you do experience any sensitivity to oils, cover the area with milk to reduce irritation or redness that may occur. Some essential oils are also flammable so take caution around heat or warm objects.
These should also be kept away from pets and children to prevent toxicity.
Essential oils should not be used by women who are pregnant or nursing, says Kalliope Amorphous of Black Baccara. She highly recommends that women who are consult with their physicians prior to using them.
Do not ingest them, says Chanel Meekins of Pierre Michel Beauty. All oils should never be ingested, but especially oils like oregano and lemon, and peppermint which can be caustic.
Remember, oil and water do not mix, therefore when essential are put in a water glass, you are truly NOT mixing them, but ingesting them straight. This can cause esophageal issues as well as stomach problems.
One of the main risks of essential oil usage is exposure to pets, says Derrick from Simplycatcare.com. Of course, a pet can accidentally ingest oils if they are left in open spaces, but the inhalation of essential oils can also lead to health problems.
Tea tree oil can be toxic to cats and may lead to death with overexposure. Cats lack the liver enzymes required to detoxify oils, a process called glucuronidation.
For this reason, you should check with your vet when using any essential oil product and determine whether that product will be safe for use around cats.
Which oils are best?
This depends on the type of experience you are looking for.
Some people prefer scents like lavender, chamomile, or eucalyptus for a calming effect to assist with muscle tension, relaxation, and sleep.
Others may seek essential oils for a boost in energy and mood, in which case brighter, more powerful scents like lemon, orange, and spearmint are good to try.
Scents like rosemary have been known to assist in decreasing inflammation and killing bacteria for those looking to use essential oils alongside massage for muscle tension or for use in a diffuser to clear up a respiratory infection.
Essential oils are simply amazing, especially if you consider the fact that they contain pharmaceutical-grade properties yet they are gentle and come from plants, says Heather Hanks – M.S. Nutritionist at Instapot.life. It’s amazing stuff!
For first-time users, I would recommend using essential oils topically. You can add them to homemade skincare or beauty routines or treatments, such as natural cleansing products or moisturizers.
Many essential oils contain natural anti-bacterial properties, making them useful for acne treatments. Tea tree oil is a good oil to start with. It contains moisturizing and anti-bacterial properties and can be used to get rid of skin infections, fungus, acne, or other problem areas.
Make sure you’re getting the best oils
Not all essential oils are created equal. There are some extraordinary essential oils that have therapeutic power.
There are some cheap ones that are loaded with harmful chemicals.
I’ve been using essential oils for many, many years and through trial and error I found the best ones, says Milana Perepyolkina of Gypsy Energy Secrets. If a bottle of essential oils you’d like to buy does not say on the bottle 100% pure, therapeutic grade, don’t buy it.
Essential oils are made from the skin, bark or resin of fruits, plants and trees. They are concentrated and condensed. This makes them potent and powerful but also dangerous if used incorrectly, says Alexander Burgemeester of The Narcissistic Life.
Think of essential oils just like you would your food, you want the top quality to get the best benefit. If discount stores, electronic stores and the like aren’t where you would buy your fruit and vegetables, don’t buy your oils there either.
Therapeutic grade typically means that they are safe for skin and/or ingesting. Cheaply made oils are often cut with fillers and/or toxins like butane.