What to Know Before You Start Using Essential Oils
I was skeptical when I first heard about essential oils. I didn’t know what they were or why I should use them. My first try with oils was with a blend my sister gave me meant to repel mosquitoes and other bugs. I thought it worked reasonably well and it smelled good so I looked up some other oils to try. I’d heard about a blend called Thieves and its reputation for keeping illness at bay, so that was my next choice.
My introduction to essential oils
My oldest son had just started daycare at the time (at 12 months old) so it was going to be our first sick season and in my mind the perfect opportunity to put oils to the test. Let me tell you, the germs were as bad as I thought they would be – sinus infections followed by croup followed by ear infections and the flu over Christmas (all 3 of us simultaneously!) – and it seemed one thing after the other. My husband was still skeptical about oils in general so while he refused I happily diffused and applied Thieves to the bottoms of my feet constantly. It no surprise to me when I started feeling better a full 2 days before him!
What I love about oils is they allow me to take control of my own health, in a way that people have been doing for hundreds of years. It’s freeing to think i don’t need to run to the doctor and be at the mercy of their schedules, available medications, side effects of medications and the cost of the entire visit. Plus antibiotic resistance is a very real thing! Oils are just tools in a natural toolbox to use as a first line of defense in preventing illness, and treating it before moving onto pharmaceuticals if needed.
Before I go on, I want to make a few things clear:
- I am no expert. I’m just sharing my conservative perspective on how I use oils and what works for our family. You’ll find many differing opinions on oils and there are few hard and fast rules on how to properly use them. LIke you, I’m still learning! It’s up to you to do your own research and use oils based on your findings and comfort level.
- To each their own on what brand you use. There are several good companies out there with high-quality oils available. I’ve used DoTerra, Young Living (I was a rep for a few short months) and ultimately landed on using Plant Therapy. At the end of this article I list several brands that I feel comfortable using with my research.
- Oils should be respected, but not glorified. My decision to start incorporating oils into my life was to support the body’s natural systems and to avoid using medications when possible. They are powerful therapies but I use them to support my body, not as an end-all be-all solution. I also don’t use them 24/7 and believe the body (and the liver) need a break from them every few days. If I don’t see improvement with using oils or any other holistic remedy, I don’t hesitate to use Western medicine when necessary.
Essential oils basics
Let’s see if you can identify with any of these:
- It’s 10am and you’re sitting at work when you think you might feel like your throat is a little sore or your lower back aches. “Am I getting sick?” you think. Any time I have that inner monologue it usually ends up I get sick later that day or the next. Now I keep a few compact roller blends in my purse so I can take steps to support my immune system when needed.
- You schedule a BBQ with friends in the backyard, but the thought of stepping outside in the humid sunshine leaves you feeling itchy. You don’t want to spritz toxic chemical repellents head to toe, so what are your options?
- You want to kick noxious household cleaners out of the household and use the power and versatility of oils instead. You like the idea of something that disinfects, freshens the smell of your house and is easy to make with a few simple ingredients.
These are all reasons why I have used essential oils in the past and I’m still finding out new ways to use them!
So what are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are a product made by distillation with either water or steam from botanicals like flowers, shrubs, trees, roots, bushes and seeds. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase (Source) Essential oils are used in aromatherapy, the practice of using essential oils for psychological and physical well-being (Source). They’re quickly becoming a staple in modern homes for their countless uses: topically or aromatically, in cleaning, as a fragrance, in massage, or even on animals!
Essential oils are the ultra concentrated “life” of the plant and do some amazing things. While still in the plant, they are constantly changing their chemical composition, helping the plant to adapt to the ever-changing internal and external environment (Source).
Plant essential oils also help the plant :
- Attract pollinators with its scent
- Prevent other competitive plants from growing nearby (by releasing a chemical)
- Defend against insects and other animals
- To prevent mold and fungus growth
It makes sense then that they would help support the body’s system in fighting off whatever it is invading it or causing it to be unbalanced.
How to use essential oils
Inhalation is the quickest way to get oils into the bloodstream. It’s a very effective method! You can drop a few drops of oil in a diffuser (not to be confused with a humidifier), Inhale aroma directly from the bottle, put a drop on a tissue, or dab onto a pillow case and inhale. To avoid headaches and olfactory fatigue, diffuse one hour on, one hour off in enclosed rooms. Studies have shown the benefits of diffusing wear off after an hour anyway so you’re wasting oils diffusing all night!
Apply directly to the skin once diluted with a carrier oil. Common areas are pulse points, back of neck, bottom of feet, front of neck or on trouble area (avoid eyes, in the ears, and mucus membranes.) I like to add carrier and essential oils to rollerballs so they’re handy and I can throw in my purse.
I personally do not ingest oils or recommend anyone ingests oils. This is a controversial topic that you can research on your own but for this blog post I won’t be covering it.
If using topically, you need a carrier oil.
Carrier oils are oils made from nuts, seeds or vegetables that act as the base for diluting and dispersing the essential oil it’s mixed with. They also help with forming textures like in making body butter or soap. Some of my favorites are fractionated coconut oil (fractionated means it will stay liquid), jojoba, sweet almond, olive and rosehip oils.
A carrier oil allows the oil to be “carried” to every part of your skin you apply it and keep it the same dilution. For example, if you want to create a body oil, you wouldn’t use straight essential oils all over your skin. 1) The amount of oil used would likely cause a negative reaction and 2) you would blow through a bottle of oil in no time!
* Note if you have a food allergy or sensitivity to a food product listed in the carrier or essential oil, then do not use that oil on your body or face. Your skin is your largest organ and will absorb those proteins just like when you eat.
Using the right dilution
Essential oils are extremely concentrated and so you only need the smallest amount to be effective. 1 drop of peppermint oil is equivalent to approximately 26-28 cups of peppermint tea! Nearly 1,500 lemons are needed to distill just over 1 pound of lemon essential oil. Therefore, you’ll want to dilute any oil for topical application. I always dilute oils. Every time. For their delicate skin and still-developing systems, essential oils should be much more diluted for use with babies and young children than with adults.
Adults: For normal use (daily or most days) a dilution 2% is a good rule of thumb. For acute situations, like an injury or temporary condition I bump it up to 5%-10% or until the issue is resolved for no more than 2 weeks.
Children 3mo – 2 years: A good rule of thumb is one tablespoon of carrier oil or for each drop of essential oil. Avoid applying to babies’ hands since they often put them in their mouth. Cover feet or any other area immediately after applying oil.
It’s helpful to know that 10ml is equal to 1 tall rollerball!
One reason I stopped using oils from a popular MLM is because of what I felt was a lack of safety education among the reps. This meant people purchasing the kits were often misinformed and then sharing that information with friends and family, creating a hazardous ripple effect. Here are a few things to keep in mind before getting started.
Safety usage for babies and children:
Essential oils brands I recommend
It’s important to trust the brand supplying your essential oils. With so many options on the market, it can be hard to find the best essential oil company to use. All the benefits of the oils can only be maximized when the oil is produced properly. However, there are no government regulations regarding the production and manufacturing of essential oils, no certification board whatsoever, and only minimal standards set within the essential oil industry itself. Terms like “pure” and “therapeutic” and “clinical grade” are typically found in higher quality oils but still are not regulated by anyone and have no true meaning in this context.
Treat essential oils as medicinal. You wouldn’t just pop a pill without knowing how to use it and its possible side effects, right?
In general, you should avoid:
- Essential oils from the drugstore or third-party sellers
- Cheap too-good-to-be-true prices (like anything, you get what you pay for)
- Oils referencing being a “fragrance oil” (often meaning low quality or adulterated)
- Oils from Amazon (Plant Therapy does sell on Amazon but I still prefer to buy directly from their site)
- Companies who don’t publish their GC/MS reports
- Companies who don’t include the botanical, Latin name of the plant
Other factors to consider that impact quality are where the plant was grown, the quality of the soil, how and when it was harvested, adulterants used for dilution, extraction methods, proper handling and storing of the oil.
I became an affiliate of Plant Therapy because they are my #1 favorite resource for buying oils! They are 100% pure, free of any additives, adulterants or dilutions. They are of the highest quality and are ideal for use in aromatherapy. To me, they represent quality, education, and safety. I also love they have a team of Certified Aromatherapists on staff available to answer questions and ensure customers are properly educated about how to use their oils.
I also appreciate their KidSafe line of oils and rollerballs formulated for children ages 2–10. It takes the worry out of essential oil usage! You can find their KidSafe oils for the little ones here.
Several other great reasons I chose them are:
- They offer a wide variety of oils and sets as well as accessories
- They work with world-renowned expert Robert Tisserand
- Plant Therapy is one of the few essential oil companies that offers batch specific GC/MS reports for our customers to review. You can find these reports under the “Test Reports” tab on the product page of the single essential oils.
- They offer organic oils
- No membership requirement – can buy directly from their site
- They are an Ebates retailer for additional savings
- Free and fast shipping and returns too!
Shop now (affiliate link) for high-quality essential oils and KidSafe products.
Mountain Rose Herbs
Organic, high-quality essential oils, accessories, herbs, spices and more! They offer the most extensive selection of organic herbs, spices and botanicals than anyone online. Plus they’re Fair Trade and offer sustainable packaging, which I feel good about. Everything they do is top-notch. I love ordering their teas. A good place to check for elderberries too!
DoTerra & Young Living
I’m sure you know several people who use or is a rep for either of these two companies. Between the two, they have cornered a large portion of the essential oil market. I’ve used oils from both and have been pleased with the quality, but again my difference of opinion on how to use the oils (especially surrounding usage with children and promoting ingestion) lead me to stop ordering from them. I feel confident they make quality products so don’t hesitate to use your oils from them! Just be sure you inform yourself on how to use them for yourself and your family just as you would buying from any oil company.
This one is newer to me but I saw recommended by an Aromatherapist. I’ve checked out their site but haven’t ordered yet. However, from what I saw they seem focused on purity, as all their oils are either certified organic, wildcrafted, or unsprayed.
Homemade blend ideas
So now that you’re feeling more confident, let’s look at a few ways to use them around the house and for your family! You can create these blends regardless of the essential oil brand you use. You can also find blends targeting a specific concern from the main essential oil companies. Unfortunately, it’s often not clear if the oils making up the blends are safe to use on kids. That’s why I’m a fan of Plant Therapy – they make it easy! If you have individual oils and want to make the recipes listed below, be sure to reference the chart above and dilute according to age and usage. If diffusing, run for 1 hour on, 1 hour off in a small room or up to several hours in an open area.
(A) indicates Adult use only. All other oils have minimum recommended age indicated for use.
Immune system support
Suggested blends: Young Living Thieves (A), DoTerra OnGuard (A), Plant Therapy Immune Boom (2yr+) or Germ Destroyer (2yr+)
Apply this diluted blend to the bottom of the feet and/or down the spine.
Suggested blend: Roman or German Chamomile (3mo+), Lavender (3mo+), Sweet Orange (3mo+)
Apply diluted blend along the outer jawline (upper and lower) as well as behind the ears. Or you can use Hydrosols which don’t need to be diluted! ** Please, do not use Clove or any oil on children’s gums.
Suggested blend: Roman or German Chamomile (3mo+), Lavender (3mo+)
Apply diluted blend by starting at the top of the ear, rubbing behind it and down the neck to encourage drainage. Massage behind the ear and down the neck.
Suggested oils: Eucalyptus (10yr+), Rosalina (2yr+), Cedarwood (6mo+)
Suggested blend: Eucalyptus (10yr+), Rosalina (2yr+), Cedarwood (6mo+), Frankincense (2yr+), Lemon (6mo+), Sweet Orange (6mo+)
Create a steam bath by pouring boiling water into a bowl. Add in 2-3 drops of essential oils. Lean over the bowl and drape a towel over your head, creating a tent. Close your eyes and deeply inhale the steam. Take a break for fresh air after 2-3 breaths. I do this until the water isn’t warm and repeat maybe 1-2 more times in a day. This method isn’t great for young kids since they usually don’t keep their eyes shut.
Suggested blend: Cedarwood (6mo+), Lavender (6mo+)
Diffuse by your bedside (preferably with the diffuser on a timer). Can also dilute and apply to the bottoms of feet and a drop to a pillowcase (may stain).
Suggested oils: Lavender (3mo+)
Dilute your oils according to the chart and mix into a handful of epsom salt. Doing this will prevent the oil from pooling on top of the water and coating the skin with straight oil. Avoid using “hot oils” in a bath or using in a bath with young children since they often splash and the mixture can end up in their eyes.
Focus and retention
Suggested oils: Rosemary (10yr+); Peppermint (10yr+); Vetiver (2yo+)
Suggested blend: Patchouli (2yo+), Ylang-ylang (2yo+), Cedarwood (6mo+), Frankincense (6mo+)
Diffuse a few drops or, inhale from the bottle (especially for Rosemary), or dilute and apply a blend of any to the temples and upper chest.
Suggested blend: Cypress (6mo+), Lavender (3mo+), Rosemary (10yr+), Black Pepper (2yr+), Ginger (2yr+)
Apply this blend to the affected area. These oils promote circulation and have a warming sensation.
Suggested blend (10yr+): Rosemary, Lemon, Lavender
Suggested blend (2yr+): Rosalina, Fir Needle, Lemon, Lavender
Diffuse a few drops or apply the diluted blend to chest, back of neck and temples.
Calming and grounding
Suggested blend (2yr+): Lavender, Cedarwood, Vetiver
Diffuse a few drops or apply the diluted blend to chest, back of neck and temples.
Suggested oils: Tea Tree (6mo+)
Add a few drops to your shampoo bottle!
I like using Now Foods brand from Amazon since they’re reliable quality and a good price. I’ve also bought from Plant Therapy’s website too.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Grape Seed Oil
Sweet Almond Oil
GreenAir Spa Diffuser
This one is good for a small room since it doesn’t emit much vapor.
Stadler Form Jasmine Aromatherapy Diffuser
Stylish and highly recommended.
Plant Therapy AromaFuse Diffuser
Features five timer settings, a dimmable LED light and a large water reservoir that allows up to 10 hours of continuous diffusion and covers an area of 500+ square feet. Also comes with a 1 year warranty.
Personal Aromatherapy Inhalers are great for when you want to avoid exposing children or anyone else to the oils you’re using.
I use rollerballs to create a blend and then pop it in a rollerball to keep in my bag. I also like to use labels and make a kid safe blend and an adult version (for immune support).
Diffuser bracelets are a perfect mix of style and function. Drop oils onto the lava beads and absorb the oil through your skin as you wear them!
Waterproof labels for your oil bottles and rollerballs
Trust me, you’ll make a lot! I have kid-safe rollerballs, adult versions of the same blend (just diluted less), some for the bedrooms, my purse. Labels will save your sanity from guessing the contents of identical rollerballs.
Here are a few resources which include links to studies or articles/books on usage! Note these are not written by anyone affiliated with a certain oil brand.
Complete Book of Essential OIls for Mama and Baby: Safe and Natural Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Children
I came across Christina’s Etsy shop, The Hippy Homemaker, and ordered a face oil blend that smelled amazing. I’ve since turned to her blog for essential oils guidance. This will be one of the easiest to use and reliable resources for aromatherapy during pregnancy, delivery, postpartum, and beyond.
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Revised and Expanded: Over 800 Natural, Nontoxic, and Fragrant Recipes to Create Health, Beauty, and Safe Home and Work Environments by Valerie Ann Worwood
A necessary resource for anyone interested in alternative approaches to healing and lifestyle, this book contains more than 800 easy-to-follow recipes for essential oil treatments.
The Heart of Aromatherapy: An Easy-to-Use Guide for Essential Oils
by Andrea Butje
Written by Aromahead Institute founder Andrea Butje. Includes over 100 recipes are included to support skin care, rest and relaxation, respiratory health, digestion, pain relief, meditation and contemplation, and even natural cleaning. Kid-friendly adjustments noted for each recipe.
The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness
by Nerys Purchon & Lora Cantele
This book features 109 oils and 450 remedies. The recipes are easy to follow, do not take a long time to make, and are inexpensive — the biggest cost is the oils. The oils are organized in an A to Z format, and each entry features the botanical name, a full description of how and why the oil is extracted as well as its therapeutic uses.
https://www.aromahead.com/courses/online/ Free online courses
A complete resource for diving deeper into essential oil knowledge and the science behind them.
http://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/ Go-to guide for looking up how to safely use a particular oil or for a certain segment of the population (pregnant, elderly, frail, etc).
Great for looking up oil profiles and their unique chemical composition.
If you’ve been thinking about trying essential oils for some time, I hope this helps you feel confident enough to finally start! Essential oils are a great tool to have in your natural medicine cabinet and are effective at preventing and treating minor illnesses and injuries.
If you already have oils, what are some of your favorite ways to use them? Please share in the comments below!