How people are reaping the benefits of essential oils, aka plant magic
Use this handy guide to familiarize yourself with essential oils, what they are, ways to use them and how they can help you
Chances are, you’ve heard about essential oils. There’s a reason why they’re popping up in your local grocery store and your social media feeds, and it’s not just a fad. Essential oils have a ton of uses, and they’re great for all-natural skincare and wellness support.
What exactly are essential oils?
They’re a naturally occurring part of plants, barks and citrus peels that can be extracted through distillation in order to use them. There’s a lot more science involved, which you can dive into here. The therapeutic use of essential oils extracted from plants is called aromatherapy.
There’s been limited research on the health benefits associated with essential oils, but some studies show that aromatherapy might have benefits such as emotional support, better sleep, and general wellness support. When you inhale oils, smell receptors in your nose are stimulated. That sends a message through the nervous system to your limbic system, which is the part of your brain that controls emotion. So when you inhale an uplifting oil, like orange, you may feel more positive emotions. When you smell relaxing oils like lavender or chamomile, you may feel calmer.
Using essential oils is a great way to be kind to your body and skin, since many common household products contain harmful chemicals, and synthetic chemicals can irritate sensitive skin.
Two ways to use essential oils
There are multiple ways to use essential oils. The most common way is inhaling them through a diffuser. Diffusers are devices you fill with water and a few drops of oils that disperse essential oils into the air via water vapor. You can get good quality diffusers on Amazon or at many natural health stores. You can also inhale essential oils through steam inhalation; just fill a bowl with boiling water, add a drop or two of oils, cover your head with a towel and breath it all in. This is a very direct way of inhaling oils, so it’s best to approach it safely. Most essential oils are safe to diffuse, but some are stronger than others. Start slow with one or two drops and go from there while you’re finding a balance of what works best for you.
Many people choose to use oils topically as well, by applying them directly to their skin. Some oils, like lavender, are mild enough that they can be used on the skin, but most essential oils should not be used unless they have been diluted with a carrier oil. A carrier oil is another type of oil that’s mild and safe for the skin, like fractionated coconut oil or jojoba oil. You can find them many places, including Amazon and local health food stores. You can mix up your favorite oils with carrier oil in a roll-on bottle for easier application.
Keep in mind that many oils that are considered skin irritants, and should never be used topically (cinnamon bark is an example, as well as oregano). Here’s a good article to start with for essential oil safety; it includes a list of oils to avoid topically.
The best way to tell if an oil is safe to be used topically is to check the bottle—it should be labeled in a way that tells you how to use it, whether it’s safe to apply topically, and how to dilute it if you can use it on your skin.
Essential oil safety tips
Because essential oils are highly concentrated, it’s important to use them carefully. The best way to ensure you’re using oils appropriately is to work with a licensed aromatherapist and consult your doctor—especially if you are pregnant or nursing. Many oils should be avoided while pregnant due to risks they pose.
Keep your kids and pets safe by keeping essential oils out of their reach. Some essential oils may be safe to use around dogs, but cats have sensitive body systems and can’t process oils the same way as we can, so they shouldn’t be used around them.
One other important thing to keep in mind is that not every essential oil is created equal. Essential oils are not regulated by the FDA, which means companies can put labels like “100% pure” or “therapeutic grade” on their oils, and that only means whatever that company defines it as—there’s no set standard for these claims.
There are many well-known and established brands of essential oils with safety and quality information on their websites. This safety info will help you make sure that the oil is actually pure if it’s labeled as such. Most reputable essential oil brands will have the scientific name of the plant listed on the bottle, and the only ingredient in your bottle should be the oil that’s supposed to be in it. If anything is added (like alcohol, for example) it’s not pure. Additionally, safe brands will have many quality checks in place, including lab testing for consistency and quality. The best thing you can do is research to determine what brand of oils you’re most comfortable using. This article is a great resource for things to consider when looking for a good essential oil brand.
Other fun ways to use essential oils
Essential oils can be used for many different things. There are tons of DIY recipes for skincare products, body care products, homemade soaps and even laundry detergents! Pinterest is a great resource for everything from homemade lip balm to homemade laundry detergent.
You can start simply by adding a few drops to your favorite unscented lotion or body wash. Or, dive right in with a DIY recipe. Here are some favorites to get started with:
Bookmark this article to refer back to if you’d like to start your own journey with these concentrated wonders.