How to Use Essential Oils | The Complete Guide
You’ve heard about them everywhere. Celebrities, Magazines, and Facebook Groups have spoken about the wondrous effects of essential oils.
The reports are that Essential Oils are the new vaccine, they’re a miracle drug, any ailment can be cured by them. But what are they really, and what can they actually be used for?
This ultimate guide will go into what essential oils are, what they can do, and how they can help us.
Let's first start with...
Table of contents
- What are essential oils?
- What are the benefits of essential oils?
- What are the most popular essential oils?
- How do you use essential oils?
- What is aromatherapy?
- How safe are essential oils?
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are what we call extracted plant compounds, which have been combined with a carrier oil.
They are concentrated, and contain the smells of their source. The base plant is either distilled or cold-pressed, to obtain the aromatic ‘essence’ of the plant, which is then combined with the carrier oil to produce the ready-for-use product.
There are many plants which can be used to produce essential oils, and many of them have differing effects. Some of these overlap, and they can be combined to make specialised mixes.
While the oils can be extracted by chemical processes, these aren’t thought of as ‘true’ essential oils.
What are the benefits of essential oils?
While not the miracle cure-all that some make it out to be, essential oils are capable of providing many benefits, both physical and psychological.
The most popular oil is Lavender, which is primarily used to calm and aid in providing a more restful sleep. Lavender can also result in pain relief.
Alternatively, Peppermint is used to awaken and invigorate which will be highly useful to anyone who may need a little mental pick-me-up at around that 3pm lull.
There are a multitude of benefits offered by different essential oils.
Which are the most popular?
You may be wondering which scents are better than others, or just looking for alternatives to try. Some of the most popular and commonly bought oils are:
Lavender is the most popular essential oil. Walk into any shop, and you will always find the essence of lavender, but what does it do? Lavender is a calming and relaxing scent, and is commonly used to promote more restful sleep, or to help both the mind and body relax.
Giving off a menthol aroma, the scent of Peppermint brings with it the feeling of invigoration. If you’re feeling tired and achy, a little peppermint oil could be the perfect temporary fix. Help your mind and muscles to quickly recover with Peppermint Oil.
Providing a more uplifting and cleansing scent, Lemongrass is the type of oil best diffused around the house. It exudes a sense of freshness and is the ideal scent to come home to.
A sweet and fruity scent, Ylang Ylang is commonly used in quality perfumes, such as Chanel Number Five. Some of the benefits include improved mood, and a decreased heart rate. If you want an oil that can double as a perfume, ylang ylang is an excellent choice.
A combination of citrus and spice, Bergamot Oil is popular for its body care applications. It is typically used in homemade deodorants and body creams, due to the energising properties it exhibits. Applying a little Bergamot at the start of the day is the perfect way to begin.
Primarily used in meditation and yoga, Frankincense is the optimal choice to help you find your inner chi. Smelling this oil usually causes a sense of calm to wash over the inhaler, helping to ground them.
You may want to dab a few drops on your yoga mat prior to using it, or use a diffuser to create a mist around you while you exercise.
How do you use essential oils?
To scent a room
Many people prefer to use natural methods of scenting a room, rather than relying on mixtures of electrical and chemically developed methods.
These methods can be toxic if inhaled directly, and the aroma typically doesn’t last as long as continuous, natural methods.
Using essential oils to scent a room is a much better option environmentally and since it doesn’t use a mixture of chemicals, it is far safer when inhaled.
The easiest and best method of scenting a room is to use a diffuser.
Depending on which diffuser you choose though, these can be expensive, noisy or both. To figure out which method of using oils is best for you, read below.
With a diffuser
If you want to use your oils with a diffuser, you should first know what types of diffuser there are:
- Nebulizing Diffusers create a vacuum effect to project a mist around the room
- Ultrasonic Diffusers contain a vibrating disc to break up and evaporate the oils
- Reed Diffusers use capillary action to draw the oils up and allow them to evaporate that way
- Heat Diffusers work by using a candle or lightbulb to slowly evaporate the oils into the air
The type of diffuser you use wholly depends on your living space. A Nebulizing Diffuser would be better at spreading across a larger room, whereas a Heat Diffuser would be more suited to a smaller room.
Think about where you want to diffuse the oils, and look into each type of diffuser. Only you can decide which diffuser is right for you.
Without a diffuser
Diffusers can be expensive, and not everyone owns or wants to own one. They really aren’t necessary though, and there are loads of ways to use essential oils without one. Some of these methods do involve a little DIY if you want to use them, but don't worry - it’s nothing too complex.
Just the bottle
If you’re after a little sniff on the go, then with this easy method you don’t even need anything else. Just take the bottle with you, pop the lid off and have a whiff whenever you need it.
Make a spray
You could always combine the oil with water and a carrier oil, put it in a spray bottle and take it with you. This way you get a little spritz whenever you like without having to carry a diffuser of some sort.
On the stove
If you want to use your essential oils at home, but you don't want to fork out for a diffuser you can make one at home with this nifty little trick. Get a pot, add some water and some essential oils of your choosing, turn the heat very low and give the mixture a stir to break up all the oils. This way the oils will evaporate with the water spreading around your room and acting like an expensive diffuser without having to spend a lot of money on one.
In the bath
One clever way to use essential oils without a diffuser is in the bath. The best way to do this is to fill the bath with hot water, and when it's about half full add some essential oils. When the oils combine with the hot running water they will begin to diffuse naturally into the air. If you keep the bathroom door shut this will turn your entire bathroom into an aromatic paradise.
Scented candles are always so expensive. With this tip you can avoid that cost and have your candle smelling exactly as you want. You can either make your own candles and mix essential oils throughout the wax, or you can burn a normal, unscented candle and drip some oils around the wick while it is burning. There should already be some melted wax for the oils to merge with and this will help spread the wonderful scent around your room.
Jewellery (necklaces and bracelets)
You could always buy special wearable diffusers. These typically come in either necklaces or bracelets, and have a locket attached.The inside of this locket has a disc to soak in your chosen oils, and then enclose, so that you can wear it and be surrounded by your favourite scent throughout the day.
With wool dryer balls
Dryer balls are designed to absorb moisture whilst your clothes are in the dryer, helping them to dry faster.
You may not have considered using oils alongside dryer balls, but one potential use is to apply some drops of your preferred scent onto each ball, before adding them to your dryer.
If you tend to find your clothes eaten by moths, I would recommend using Lavender - since this is a natural moth repellent. If that isn’t a concern for you, then choose whichever scent is most preferable to you, such as a Bergamot to promote positive mental well-being and inspiration.
When it comes to using essential oils on the skin, there can be several different ways to apply it.
If you happen to be suffering from headaches, a little peppermint oil rubbed onto the temple can begin to relieve symptoms. Alternatively, you can add a Sweet Orange Oil alongside an unscented hand cream, in order to keep your hands soft while promoting joy and inner warmth.
Before you apply any essential oil to your skin, make sure that it is as diluted as it needs to be. Some oils may cause reactions if used neat and applied directly to the skin.
Some essential oils may have the ability to improve the health of your hair. Several scientists and researchers have conducted experiments on animals such as mice, to see if these claims could be substantiated.
Speeding hair growth
One study carried out was able to determine that Lavender Oil is capable of promoting the speed of hair growth in mice. This hasn’t yet been scientifically proven to work in humans, but the results are promising. If you would like to use lavender oil to increase the rate in which your hair grows, you can use this simple recipe: mix 5 drops of lavender oil with 3 drops of coconut oil, and work into your scalp. Leave for 10 minutes, before washing and shampooing it out. It’s recommended to do this 3 times a week, though you can do it more or less as necessary.
Increasing hair growth
Using essential oils in the shower or bath
Showers and baths aren’t just to keep yourself clean. They’re also a fantastic time to completely relax and just let go of all the tension trapped in your muscles.
You can easily use oils during this time to further enhance your relaxation, turning an ordinary shower into your own personal Spa.
To use in your shower, I’d recommend adding roughly 15 drops to a washcloth or other carrying material. Place this on the floor of your shower, just outside of where the water lands, and turn the heat to maximum.
The hot water should build up steam and diffuse your chosen oils into the air, creating an ideal atmosphere for you to experience pure relaxation.
Don’t forget to turn the water temperature down prior to getting in, you don’t want to burn yourself.
If you’re looking to add a little extra relaxation to your baths, you may want to consider Peppermint Oil. This type of oil is extremely useful in helping to reinvigorate tired muscles after a long day at work.
If you suffer from any clinically diagnosed form of anxiety, please be aware that essential oils are not a valid treatment.
Certain scents can be used to alleviate some immediate symptoms, but should never be used in place of prescribed medication.
Certain oils, like lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile and frankincense are able to exhibit a calming effect, and so may reduce the severity of certain symptoms of anxiety.
It may be beneficial to carry one of these around with you, to smell whenever you feel any symptoms beginning to flare up.
If you wish to experiment with essential oils alongside your medication, research each of the oils you plan to use. It is also preferable that you contact your doctor in case any of the oils would interfere with your medication.
One of the most common uses for oils is to promote better sleeping. If that’s your goal too, then you can’t go wrong with some lavender oil.
Lavender is fantastic at easing the mind, whether it’s alleviating feelings of anxiety or helping you to drift off into a peaceful slumber.
You can experience the effects for yourself by either inhaling it, for a quick burst of calm, or you can spray a few drops on your pillow, allowing you to feel the benefits, even in an unconscious state.
For bed bugs
Begs bugs are pests. They bite and can cause rashes, all while hiding in your bed and sofas.
There do exist chemical killers which work extremely quickly, but these are unsafe for people to be around and it isn’t recommended that you or your children sleep on a bed after using chemical bed bug killers.
A safer alternative for you to use several types of essential oils, although it can take time to become fully effective.
The oils work by interfering with the bugs nervous system, but not every type of oil does this. The oils you’ll want to use are:
- Carvacrol (Oregano and Thyme)
- Thymol (Thyme)
- Eugenol (Cloves)
- Citronellic Acid (Lemongrass)
You’ll want to spray the infected areas once a week, though for added security you should combine this with other methods like washing infested sheets daily.
The heat from a tumble drier is effective at killing bed bugs, so don’t be afraid to use it before and after washing, since the little critters can survive the wash.
Using essential oils cannot cure your arthritis, but researchers have reported that it can alleviate some of the pain caused by the condition.
This happens because the smells of the oils activate certain receptors in your nose, triggering a reaction from your nervous system.
Your brain releases dopamine in response, which makes you feel better and reduces the pain you feel. Essential oils have varying degrees of effect, and while it can dramatically reduce one individuals’ pain, it can have no effect at all on others.
If you’re tempted to test the pain-relief oils for yourself, you can try
- a bergamot and lavender blend
- or green apple
The most effective method is to dilute it with carrier oils, and then rub directly into the affected areas.
In a massage
There are several different applications of essential oils during massages. They can either be combined with the massage oils and then applied directly to the skin or diffused and misted into the air (as aromatherapy).
Since undiluted oils can be reactive with skin, it is extremely unlikely that your masseuse would use neat oils.
The majority of massage therapists have premixed blends of essential and massage oils, though it is not uncommon to find the masseuse mix a special blend specifically for you depending on your health conditions and desires.
Diffusing the oils into the air, so that they are inhaled while receiving your massage is the most common practice.
It allows your mind to quickly react to the aromas, and allow your physiological state to reflect the desired effect from the massage.
Each spa has their own practises, so even if you’ve had aromatic massage treatments before a new clinic may do things differently.
The type of oil used in the massage will vary depending on the massage you’re going to receive. A more relaxing massage may call for chamomile oil, whereas an energizing one would call for rosemary.
You should receive options regarding the type of massage you would like when making your booking, or when arriving at the spa.
It is always good practice to arrive early to a spa, in case there are forms that need to be filled out prior to your treatment.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the application of scents and smells, to aid the psychological state of the inhaler.
It is a form of using the fragrant aspects of essential oils, instead of applying it topically or using it in a bath.
It is better used for relaxation and meditation, since you can use the aromas to fill the air, surrounding you while you meditate.
You also commonly find aromatherapy in use at spa centres, since this is an effective but subtle way of helping to induce a greater dopamine release and instill a complete sense of tranquility.
How safe are essential oils?
Essential oils are relatively safe, if used properly. If they’re abused, however, then they can be dangerous.
Essential oils of all kinds are safest and most effective when either: directly applied to the skin (after diluting), or combined with other materials allowing them to diffuse into the air for inhalation.
It is extremely unsafe to consume some types of essential oil. Any type of internal application of essential oils is discouraged, since they are made of natural ingredients you may experience allergic reactions to their use.
Even if you do not, the oils may make any potential issues worse rather than better.
Always find out what is in the oil you are going to use before getting one, and consult your doctor first.
It's also imperative that you do not swallow essential oils as you can become seriously ill from doing so.