If you’re anything like I used to be, then you might think this whole “essential oil craze” is just another anti-pharma movement, peddled by hippies who only eat flax seed and think that deodorant is optional. But recently I’ve discovered the science behind how essential oils (EOs) actually work, and it’s pretty amazing. Prior to modern medicine, every culture in the world had to use natural resources for healing, and some of these home remedies did a pretty good job!
This post is a primer on how to use EOs for your health and how to pick the right EO for your needs. In a later post, I will discuss which oils I use on the regular and what I used them for. So, let’s dive in!
How do You Use Essential Oils?
In general, there are three classes of EOs:
Class 1: Oils that you use for aromatherapy
- These are usually placed in an electric diffuser which gently and evenly disperses the oil into the air
- Some of the most common oils for aromatherapy: lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and lemon.
- Aromatherapy can be used to calm anxiety, spark inspiration, sharpen cognition, ease asthma symptoms or simply used as a non-toxic way to make a room smell pleasant. These oils are very popular among those with anxiety as well as those who are chemically sensitive and cannot tolerate synthetic scents.
- Level of safety: Aromatherapy is very safe for children, pets, and the elderly. You would only have a problem if you were diffusing a particular oil that you were allergic to (which is unlikely).
Class 2: Oils used topically
- Topically, certain EOs can be used as natural anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal treatments, as well as to ease body pain and ward off migraines.
- Some oils used topically are: frankincense, tea tree, and oregano.
- Applying EOs to the skin can naturally treat minor health issues like plantar warts or a cold sore outbreak, and they can also be applied to the temples, feet, or thumbs to help ease a headache.
- Level of safety: There are very few health concerns about using EOs topically (besides a known oil allergy). However, some oils are very potent and should be diluted in a carrier oil (discussed below) before being applied or else it will burn and irritate the skin. Always be informed about how to use an oil before trying it out. Usually a simple google search can show you how to properly use them.
Class 3: Oils used internally
- Some EOs can also be used internally to fight off infections or as digestive aids.
- Common oils used internally: cinnamon , oregano, chamomile, eucalyptus, as well as “digestive blends” sold by doTerra and other high-quality brands.
- To ward off oral infections like strep you can swish with oregano or other antibacterial oils in your mouth. Some oils are safe to swallow and can help calm digestive upset, like chamomile.
- Level of safety: Using oils internally carries a greater risk than using them topically or for aromatherapy. I highly suggest never using an oil internally unless you have specific information from a valid source explaining how to use it. I recommend only using EOs internally when you are under the care of a naturopath or other practitioner who understands the implications of using EOs. These oils are often brushed off by the traditional medical community as weaker than pharmaceuticals, but don’t be fooled; some of these oils are powerful and can cause harm if used recklessly.
What is the difference in quality of Essential Oils?
Just to clarify, I am not sponsored by or in any way connected with any brand of EOs, so this is an unbiased summary of overall oil quality.
Highest quality: It is pretty common knowledge in the holistic medical community that one of the top brands for EOs is doTerra. This company has extremely high-quality, pure, potent oils. Other top, high-quality brands are Young Living oils and Edens Garden Essential Oils.
- Note: When it comes to using EOs topically or internally, I suggest only sticking to the highest rated brands. If you wouldn’t take a second-rate medication, then don’t gamble with a low-quality oil when it comes to internal use.
- Also check the label on the bottle to see that it has the correct Latin name (botanical name) for the oil. Some plants have several species that produce different oils, so you want to be sure that you’re getting exactly what you meant to. For example, the botanical name for Roman Chamomile’s is Anthemis nobilis, while German chamomile’s botanical name is Matricaria chamomilla.
Lower quality brands: There are so many brands out there that I can’t possible name them all, but as a rule, if the oil was very inexpensive, it probably isn’t of very high quality. For example, you can get a pack of very nice-smelling oils like lavender and lemon at T.J. Max or Target for under ten bucks; just be aware that these will be less pure and are not suitable for internal usage. These types of oils are for aromatherapy use only!
You can also take a look at the bottle and see if it says “100% pure” or gives some other indication that the oil is diluted and contains other fillers. The cheaper oils tend to have more fillers and less pure oil than the more expensive brands.
The takeaway: only use cheap, low-quality EOs for aromatherapy, and stick to the more costly, pure, organic brands for medical use.
What are “Carrier Oils?”
As I mentioned earlier, carrier oils are a neutral oil that will dilute an EO before using it internally or topically. Some EOs will cause irritation if they are placed directly on the skin or ingested without carrier oil.
Common carrier oils:
- Extra virgin coconut oil
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Olive oil
- Jojoba oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Peanut oil
- Rosehip oil
Virtually any plant-based oil can be used as a carrier oil, but as always, check with a valid source before using them in combination with EOs and be sure that you have no allergy or sensitivity to the carrier oil.
Now you know the basics of how to use EOs in your everyday life. Remember that these oils can be used as medicine but should never replace a trip to the emergency room or the doctor’s office if you are having severe physical symptoms.
Now, go forth, find yourself a diffuser, and make your house smell amazing!
Em the Silver Spoonie