• Essential oils aren't actually oils because there are no fatty acids. Essential oils are natural aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. Stephanie Tourles describes them as "The life force or the soul of the plant.”
• Pure, unadulterated essential oils are translucent and range in color from crystal clear to deep blue.
• Not only do essential oils give plants their distinctive smells, they provide plants with protection against predators and disease and play a role in plant pollination
• Most essential oils are high in antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, making them a useful addition to your household cleaning products. Oils that are best for cleaning are: Lemon, grapefruit, eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, lavender, and rosemary.
• Due to their natural molecular composition, essential oils are easily absorbed by the skin and can be safely applied topically.
Application of essential oils can have immediate, localized benefit to the target area of application. They have restorative and calming properties and can be used effectively with massage and beauty therapy. They are also natural disinfectants. The chemical structure of essential oils also allows them to be absorbed into the bloodstream via the skin for internal benefit throughout the body. However, they do not accumulate in the body over time but instead provide healing then leave the body
• Fragrance oils and essential oils are NOT the same thing. As a rule of thumb, if you see the word “fragrance” or “fragrance oil” or even “perfume” on anything, you can assume this is synthetic and NOT natural. (Even if it says natural fragrance).
• Essential oils are wholly natural and cannot be patented; which means that you’ll never see an essential oil in a pharmaceutical drug. As such, you can expect that the vast majority of mainstream healthcare practitioners will never recommend essential oils as therapeutic alternatives to drugs. More importantly, because essential oils cannot be patented, drug companies will not waste money studying them. This limits our scientific knowledge of essential oils GREATLY, and the majority of what we know about them are things that have been passed down through thousands of years of personal use and experimentation.
• Enormous amounts of plants are needed to produce essential oil. In fact, on the extreme end, it takes 4000 pounds of Bulgarian roses to produce 1 pound of essential oil. Other plants like lavender only take 100 pounds of plant material to produce a pound of essential oil. While it takes 2000 lbs of jasmine flowers to produce 1 pound of oil.
• Most essential oils should never be used undiluted on the skin. Instead, they should be combined with carrier oils), waxes, butters, alcohols, or other diluting measures. Because they’re so concentrated, if you don’t dilute, you may have an adverse reaction to the oil.
• Lavender, German chamomile, tea tree, sandalwood, and rose geranium are considered oils safe to use without dilution. However they must still be used sparingly.
• Never use an undiluted essential oil on a baby or child. Children have much thinner, more delicate skin than adults have, and tend to be very sensitive to the potency of essential oils. In fact, even if you do use essential oil in a recipe for children, only use half of the essential oil recommended in the recipe. That’s all they’ll need, anyway. (Here is a list of 19 essential oils that are safe for babies and children).
• Avoid the following essential oils while pregnant or nursing (and skip EOs completely in your first trimester): Aniseed, cedarwood, chamomile, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, ginger, jasmine, lemon, nutmeg, rosemary, sage (this is only a partial list of some of the more common essential oils – view the full one here).
• To test if you’re sensitive to an essential oil (which is probably best to do before using it in a skincare preparation): Combine one drop of essential oil with 1/2 tsp carrier oil (like olive, jojoba, or sweet almond). Rub this on the inside, upper portion of your arm and wait a few hours. If no redness or itching develops, you’re most likely not sensitive to that essential oil.
• Keep all essential oils out of the reach of children – and avoid contact with your eyes. This is just standard safety precautions, but must be mentioned.
• Do not take essential oils internally, especially oils like wintergreen and eucalyptus. While some essential oils may be used well-diluted in something like toothpaste with safety, it’s generally recognized that there’s no need to take essential oils internally. In fact, there are several toxic essential oils that should be avoided even through skin contact. Luckily, these are NOT common essential oils, and most of them you’ll never find in the store.
•When using essential oils on babies and children, it is always best to dilute 1-2 drops of pure essential oils with 1/2-1 tsp. vegetable oil. If the oils are used in a bath, always use a bath gel base as a dispersing agent for the oils.
• Keep essential oils out of children's reach. If an oil is ever ingested, give the child an oil-soluble liquid such as milk, cream, or half & half. Then call your local poison control center or seek emergency medical attention. A few drops of pure essential oil shouldn't be life-threatening, but for your protection, it is best to take these precautions.
• Not all essential oils are created equally, nor does more expensive necessarily mean “better.” There are certain brands I will use in a less therapeutic fashion (like for cleaning), because they’re far less expensive than their counterparts. To test your essential oil to see how “pure” it is, put a single drop of it on a piece of construction paper. If it evaporates quickly and leaves no noticeable ring, it is pure. If you have a ring left, then it is likely diluted by the manufacturer with an oil of some sort (this test will not work for myrrh, patchouli, and absolutes).
• Essential oils will last for at least 5 years (if not 10), so one bottle could literally last you a decade. Hopefully that thought will help mitigate the cost involved in purchasing some essential oils. Because they are SO concentrated and only a tiny amount is needed in anything you do, they’ll last you a very, very long time. The only exception to this rule is citrus oils, which will see a reduction in potency after a year or two.
• Store your essential oils in dark glass bottles (which they were probably packaged in) and out of direct sunlight. This is simply to help preserve their potency.
• Remember that what you’re allergic to in food, you will be allergic to in essential oils. So if, for some reason, you can’t eat sage without breaking out in a rash, steer clear of sage essential oil (or any product containing it).
• USE ESSENTIAL OILS TO HELP YOUR MOOD. Lavender, peppermint, grapefruit, chamomile, lemon, ylang-ylang all help produce happy, joyous moods. Clary sage helps with PMS (although there have been reports that overuse of clary sage can lead to intoxication). Rosemary increases focus and concentration. Don’t forget the mood benefits of essential oils. Here’s an information packed aromatherapy reference chart to refer to.
Recommended Essential Oils to Get You Started
• Peppermint (good for lip balms, oily/acneic skin, and cleaning products)
• Rosemary (good for hair preparations, oily/acneic skin, and cleaning products)
• Sweet orange (good for all skin types and very soothing in room sprays for children)
• Rose geranium (good for all skin types, creating perfumes, and for use in homemade moisturizers)
• Tea tree (great for healing, getting rid of dandruff, oily/acneic skin, and cleaning products)
• Lavender (great for all skin types, for relaxation, hair preparations, and cleaning products)
• Lemon (great for lifting moods, cleaning preparations, and sparingly in toners and products for oily skin)
All of these essential oils also happen to be some of the least expensive and easiest to find. Bonus!
References for learning more about how to safely and effectively use essential oils in skincare, aromatherapy, and cleaning products.
• Aromaweb is the best source for all things aromatherapy on the internet
• Wavelengths Natural Health has an abundance of information on essential oil profiles and aromatherapy
• All of the essential oil profiles on Mountain Rose Herbs contain descriptions, usage, and precautions
• The book Aromatherapy: Soothing Remedies to Restore, Rejuvenate, and Heal contains an incredible amount of level-headed knowledge and recipes using essential oils
• The Essential Oils Book by Colleen K. Dodt is small, but chock full of great info
• And The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy