If there’s a “cool kid” in the social-media wellness world, it’s essential oils. In recent years, these plant-derived extracts have been celebrated on Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds for their ability to do just about everything, be it elevating mood, lowering anxiety, easing heartburn, or cleaning grimy floors.
Indeed, essential oils can play a powerful role in promoting wellness. And research suggests that they have some hard-hitting pharmacological functions.
Using oils safely and effectively requires basic knowledge about what they are, how they work, and how they can be safely incorporated into daily life. That’s because essential oils can be powerful medicine — and irresponsible use means risking overexposure, toxicity, and allergic reactions. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy while sidestepping potential dangers.
How to Use Essential Oils
To safely incorporate essential oils into your daily life, consider these tips:
- Dilute the oils. Never put undiluted essential oils on your skin. This can set you up for sensitization and allergic reactions. Essential oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil — not with water or a different non-oil-based liquid, because the two won’t mix. I use coconut oil for example;
- Don’t confuse “more” with “better.” The fact that essential oils come from nature doesn’t mean that they are safe. These compounds are highly concentrated extracts that are far more active (and potentially dangerous) than in their as-it-exists-in-nature counterparts. When using essential oils, dosage is critical. Don’t use too much, thinking it’s better;
- It pays to invest. Quality matters, and in the case of essential oils, price almost always reflects quality. Buy the 100% real essencial oils, not the fake ones;
- Test your oil’s purity. Paying more helps safeguard against purchasing an oil that’s been cut with cheaper ingredients, but you can also test the quality of an essential oil by placing a drop on a piece of white computer paper. If there is a grease stain on the paper after 24 hours, the oil has been cut with a carrier oil. If it is pure, it will evaporate. You might see the faintest ring, but nothing more;
- Choose organic — and look for third-party certification. Organic oils won’t expose you to the pesticides and herbicides used in the conventional growing process. If you still have concerns about the quality of an oil, look for independent lab assessments of the oils as noted on the label. Third parties certify that a specific oil contains the chemical constituents it says it does;
- Pick the right tools. Look for diffusers that are made specifically for essential oils. They are designed to break up the particles in a way that makes the vaporized oils easier for the body to process;
- Rotate your oils. Give your body a break from specific scents or blends by rotating the oils you use every two to four weeks. This helps prevent overexposure and sensitization;
- Don’t use essential oils for everything. When another intervention is appropriate, try that first. If you have a dehydration headache, no essential oils will help you – you need to drink some water;
- Remember that responses are different for different people. A scent that relaxes you and puts you straight to sleep might make another person agitated or restless. This is another reason to treat recipes you find online with caution, and to think small when using essential oils.
Uses and Benefits of Essential Oils
This is a must-have essential oil. The floral scent makes it one of the best smelling essential oils that is beloved by many. Although this oil is known for being mild and calming, a few people are allergic so it’s important to take care.
- Calming and relaxing
- Improves mood
- Aliviates anxiety and depression
- Helps improving your sleep
- Relieves headaches
- Anti-bacterial and fungal
- Anti-septic for Skin care
- Speeds healing
- Reduces inflammation
While most essential oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil, Lavender is safe to apply directly to the skin. For promoting healthy sleep, add a few drops to a diffuser and place in the bedroom before sleep. You can also diffuse it into a room for a calming scent that reaches the whole family.
One of the best smelling essential oils that almost everyone loves, Peppermint offers a myriad of health benefits as well as a boost of energy. Its minty scent is reminiscent of candy canes and fresh summer days.
- Uplifting and invigorating
- Alleviates headaches
- Relieving digestive issues
- Reduces feelings of stress and anxiety
- Kills germs (particularly in the mouth)
- Freshens air
- Cooling and refreshing
- Removes redness and irritating skin issues
- Helps with congestion
- Good as a muscle rub for back pain
Use in a cool mist humidifier during winter months for fighting colds and cleaning the air. Add a drop to a glass of water and use as a mouthwash. Place a few drops with a carrier oil and massage into sore or tired muscles.
Who doesn’t associate the smell of lemons with something fresh and clean?! It takes about 50 lemons to make a small 15ml bottle of essential oil.
- Theet whineting
- Improve skin
- Freshening air
- Killing germs in kitchens and bathrooms
- Aiding with digestion
- Reducing pain (arthritis, gout)
- Promoting immune system
- Increasing energy and uplifting the mood
- Promoting healthy circulation
Add a few drops of Lemon to water and white vinegar in a glass bottle to use as a disinfecting cleaning spray for kitchen counters and bathroom sinks. Apply directly to the skin for healing purposes (avoid exposure to the sun after use). Add a drop to a glass of water and drink it to give a boost to the immune system (of course you should only ingest oils that you know are 100% pure).
The bright and somewhat medicinal scent of eucalyptus is minty with a hint of pine and sweetness. Some people describe the scent as sharp and clean, with a hint of camphor.
- Natural insect repellent
- Relieves muscular pain
- Purifies the air
- Improves concentration
- Reducing congestion and stuffy noses
- Stimulating the mind and body
- Reducing fever
- Eliminating headaches
- Boost immune system
At the first sign of a cold or flu, place a few drops of Eucalyptus essential oil in a diffuser and breathe it in to ward off winter infections and fight sinus congestion. Or add to a pot of hot water, place a towel over your head and inhale the steam. Add a few drops to a carrier oil and massage into tired and sore muscles.
Known from ancient times as a precious commodity, Frankincense essential oil is extracted from the resin of a hardy tree. This oil is more expensive than many, and works well when blended with other oils to make it effective for a variety of reasons. The scent is woody and clean with a warm and spicy tone.
- Meditative and relaxing
- Calms anxiety & reduces stress
- Helps with asthma
- Aids with digestive disorders
- Relieves chronic stress
- Reduces pain and inflamation
- Boosts immune system
- Killing germs and bacteria
- Healing skin and preventing signs of aging
- Improving mental clarity and memory
- Balancing hormones
- Promoting healthy sleep patterns
- Reducing swelling, inflammation, and pain
Diffuse into the air in winter months to kill germs and boost your immune system. Apply directly to the skin on the face before going to bed to keep the skin healthy, prevent wrinkles and fade dark spots. Or apply to warts, moles, and other skin problems. Take a deep sniff of this oil after eating a heavy meal to aid with digestion, or prior to going to sleep to help calm and relax.
Another essential oil with a strong odor, tea tree oil is also commonly called ‘Melaleuca’. This scent is very medicinal and acrid with a camphorous odor.
- Acne and scars improvement
- Treating athlete’s foot and other fungal infections
- Reducing dandruff
- Treating bad breath and killing mouth germs
- Antiseptic and desinfectant
- Insect repellent
- Congestion and cough due to cold
Apply directly to cuts, scrapes, and acne in order to kill germs and promote healthy healing. Add a drop to a glass of water and gargle to kill germs in the mouth. Dilute with a carrier oil and apply topically to skin affected by athlete’s foot, nail fungus, or other infections.
This oil has a sweet, flowery scent that some people compare to apple blossoms. It’s an earthy, straw-like smell that many people find to be mild and enjoyable.
- Soothing and calming
- Reduces stress and anxiety and promotes relaxation
- Good for headaches
- Reduces insomnia
- Lifting mood and relieving depression
- Fights bacteria (sores, acne, mouth)
- Soothes digestive problems
- Promote youthful looking skin and hair
Add a few drops to a cool mist humidifier and place in the bedroom to help calm and relax. Or add a few drops to a water bottle to create a pillow spray or room spray. Add a drop to your favorite herbal tea or apply directly to the abdomen to soothe digestive problems. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.
This essential oil has a strongly herbal scent that has a mellow undertone reminiscent of camphor. If you don’t like the scent, blend it with Peppermint or a citrus oil to cut the smell.
- Indigestion and digestive complaints
- Revilatize thoughts and boost memory
- Increase focus and mental clarity
- Promote relax, calm breathing
- Reducing congestion and sinus problems
- Soothing headaches
- Alleviating muscle pain and cramps
- Healing skin problems
Add a few drops to a carrier oil and apply to the bottoms of the feet or abdomen to aid with digestion. Or apply to sore, achy muscles to help with pain. Place in a diffuser to bring a sense of peace and clarity to the room, reducing tension and fatigue. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.
This is one of those scents that many people have to get used to as it is very earthy and pungent. Notorious for being used by hippies in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the scent is not always appreciated by everyone and can be blended with other oils to make it less obvious.
- Alleviates tension
- Beneficial for meditation
- Relieves worry, anxiety and stress
- Promotes concentration and focus
- Helps with wrinkles and scars
- Helps prevent dry, rough skin
- Massage scalp for healthy hair and no dandruff
- Reducing bloating
- Reducing fatigue
- Balancing hormones
Add a couple of drops to a carrier oil and apply directly to the face to keep your skin looking fresh and healthy. For grounding emotions, place a drop in the hand, cup the hand over the nose and mouth and breathe in naturally for a few minutes to receive the emotional and hormonal benefits.
Popular and affordably priced, open a bottle of orange essential oil and the room will smell like you just peeled a fresh orange!
- Settles digestive distress
- Invigorating and energizing
- Encourages positve emotions
- Boosting immune system
Add a few drops of orange essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water to use as a room freshening spray, counter disinfectant, or bathroom cleaner. Place a few drops of orange oil into a cool mist humidifier and diffuse into the room to boost moods, improve blood flow, and reduce stress.
This oil made from the flowering marjoram plant has a slight ‘green’ scent that is similar to herbs such as thyme and cardamom, with a hint of peppery and camphor smells.
- Fighting fatigue
- Promoting healthy circulation
- Reducing constipation and cramps
- Uplifting the mood
- Reducing tension and related headaches
- Relieving insomnia
- Reducing asthma symptoms
- Helping with healthy digestion
Add to a carrier oil and apply to the back of the neck to reduce feelings of stress and tension. Or apply, diluted, to the bottoms of the feet to promote heart health and have a positive effect on the nervous system. Diffuse into the room to soothe fussy children or calm anxious students. Not recommended if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Another oil from the popular citrus family, Grapefruit has an attractive scent that is energizing and affordably priced. Blend with spicy oils such as cinnamon for a balanced, warming atmosphere.
- Fighting jet lag
- Disinfecting bathrooms and kitchens
- Giving an energy boost
- Aiding with appetite suppression and weight loss
- Stimulating the immune system
- Reducing inflammation
- Helps reduce depression
Diffuse into the room to help balance emotions, boost energy, and suppress sugar cravings when trying to lose weight. Dilute in a carrier oil and apply topically for fighting throat and respiratory infections. Add to a spray bottle filled with water and white vinegar for a germ-fighting counter spray or bathroom cleanser.
With a scent reminiscent of autumn, pumpkin pie spice, and warmth, cinnamon essential oil brings a cozy, comfortable atmosphere. The scent is especially enjoyable when blended with other spices (such as nutmeg and clove) or citrus oils like lemon and orange.
- Killing germs
- Treating headaches
- Calming negative thoughts
- Improving blood circulation
- Boosting brain function and clarity
- Maintaining a healthy immune system
- Relieving sore muscles and joints
Diffuse in the air to promote healthy blood flow to the brain and reduce headaches, as well as encouraging self-confidence and balancing emotions. Add a few drops to a carrier oil and apply directly to sore joints, or apply to the bottoms of the feet for pain relief throughout the body.
The scent of clove is strong and spicy, with a deep earthy tone that can be overpowering to some people. It is often blended with citrus or floral oils to tone down the scent.
- Reducing inflammation and swelling
- Relieving sore tooth or mouth pain
- Treating acne, cuts, or scrapes
- Reducing stress
- Treating headaches and sinus congestion
- Preventing or fighting infections
- Insect repellent
Add a drop to a glass of water and gargle for oral hygiene. Dilute with a carrier oil and apply topically to acne, boils, sores, rashes, or other skin problems. Apply, diluted, to the bottoms of the feet to promote good circulation, aid in digestion, eliminate toxins, and reduce inflammation or nausea.
This plant is not quite a well-known as some of the others, but its powerful benefits make it super popular as an essential oil. It does not smell like the commonly known cooking spice, called sage. The scent of this oil is earthy, herbal, balmy, and woody. Some people do not prefer the aroma and find it more tolerable when blended with lavender or other floral essential oils.
- Hormonal balance
- Fighting depression and reducing stress
- Relieving spasms and convulsions
- Preventing bacterial infections
- Promoting removal of free radicals and oxidants
- Reducing gas
- Caring for skin
- Regulating menstruation
- Lowering blood pressure
If you’re a woman dilute with a carrier oil and apply directly to the abdomen and bottoms of the feet to help promote and stimulate regular menstruation in younger women and hormone balance in menopausal women. This same application on the feet can be used to calm nerves, lower blood pressure, and relieve depression. Apply, diluted, directly to the abdomen to reduce stomach disorders and relieve trapped gas. Use, diluted, as an anti-stress massage oil.
Cedarwood essential oil has a woodsy scent. It’s extracted from many varieties of cedar and juniper trees. Cedarwood oil is relatively safe and has many potential uses, such as:
- Soothing and calming
- Antiseptic and fungicide
- Improves focus and wisdom
- Promotes hair growth
- Has anti-inflammatory agents and stimulates metabolism
- Relieves spasms
Diffuse it after a stressful day to relax the mind and body. Use with a carrier oil in massage therapy. Add 1–2 drops to facial toner or moisturizer for added clarifying properties. Inhale directly or diffuse to promote healthy respiratory function.
The canaga tree is native to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Hanging delicately from its branches are intricate star-shaped flowers that produce a unique element: Ylang Ylang Essential Oil.
- Helps with insomnia
- Beneficial for high blood pressure
- Helps calm rapid heartbeat
- Soothing and calming
- Good for nervous tension and anxiety
- Antiseptic and antiseborrhoeic
- Sedative substance
Apart from aromatherapy, it can be used in cosmetic applications, Ylang Ylang Essential Oil can be diluted and applied to the skin to maintain its health. To reduce the signs of aging, to soothe irritation, and to generally protect the skin, simply dilute 1-2 drops of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil in 1 Tbsp. Coconut Carrier Oil or Jojoba Carrier Oil, then gently massage it into the face 1-2 times daily.
Lemongrass essential oil is derived from the steam distillation of the plant and, true to its name, it possesses a mild, sweet, lemony-yet-herbal aroma.
- Helps prevent gastric ulcers and relieve nausea
- Helps to ease diarrhea
- Uplifting and refreshing
To use lemongrass in aromatherapy, add up to 12 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba oil. Mix into a warm bath or massage into your skin. You can also inhale lemongrass oil directly