Essential Oils and Their Uses

The best place to start for learning the various ways in which essential oils can be used.

Learning about essential oils and their uses can be fun as well as educational. If this is your first journey into the world of essential oils, welcome.

To answer essential oil related questions, we enlisted the help of Heather Boyt, our resident Certified Holistic Health Coach, Educator and Bastyr Trained Aromatherapist. She touches on the basics of essential oils and their uses.

  • Thyme Essential Oil

    Thyme essential oil has valuable cleansing and clarifying properties.

  • Tea Tree Essential Oil

    Widely known as "Tea Tree," Melaleuca essential oil has over 92 different compounds.

  • Oregano Essential Oil

    Oregano is one of the most potent and powerful essential oils and has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its cleansing and immune-boosting properties.

  • Myrrh Essential Oil

    Myrrh essential oil has powerful cleansing properties, especially for the mouth and throat.

What are Essential Oils?

"Essential oils are mostly plant extracts that are highly concentrated and volatile," explains Heather. "They will have the characteristic fragrance of their source and are obtained through different extraction methods. Depending on the plant,essential oils come from typically the most aromatic part. Citrus oils, to use as an example, come from the rind as where oil derived from flowers will come from the petal."

Just because they are all-natural, do not assume they are gentle.  Webster starts their definition of essential oils with - any class of 'volatile' oils. Essential oils are extremely potent. "On the average, oils can be up to 70 times more powerful than their dried herb counterparts," says Heather. That being the case, "one must handle essential oils with great care." Be it known that a few drops can go a long way. Thus, using a carrier oil to dilute them is a safe practice.

How are Essential Oils diluted?

When considering essential oils and their uses best practices, always dilute an oil when you first begin to use it. Especially if you are applying the oil to sensitive skin or using them on children. It is widely recommended, in the absence of competent advice, that you dilute one drop of essential oil to ten drops of carrier oil.

Carrier Oil Options

Carrier oils are interchangeable.  Choose your carrier oil based on your needs, ways in which you will be using the oil and your own skin type. I use fractionated coconut oil for my carrier. 

  • Almond Oil - Best for moisturizing, wrinkles, sun protection and discoloration
  • Argan Oil - Best for fine lines, dry skin, anti-aging and dry hair
  • Avocado Oil - Best for dry, sensitive, itchy, aging or irritated skin
  • Black Currant Oil - Best for traumatized skin such as sunburn or wind-burned
  • Fractionated Coconut Oil- Best for sensitive skin, moisturizer, eczema, age spots, stretch mark reduction, muscular tension or pain, shaving cream, deodorant and dry hair
  • Flax seed Oil - Best for irritated, sensitive skin
  • Glycerin - Best for moisturizing and psoriasis
  • Grape seed Oil - Best for oily skin
  • Honey - Best for coughs, wrinkles, aging skin, eczema, hydration and acne
  • Jojoba Oil - Best for general dry skin
  • Olive Oil - Best for very dry skin
  • Rose Hip Seed Oil - Best for uneven pigment, scars, fine lines, discoloration and acne
  • Safflower Oil - Best for dry, irritated skin

AVOID Baby Oil/Mineral Oil:  Baby oil contains mineral oil.  Mineral oil does not absorb into the skin and when evaporates, it will leave your skin feeling dryer than before. Also, mineral oil clogs your pores, making your skin look drab. 

Various Essential Oils and Their Uses

Essential Oil Safety

It is important to be a little cautious and understand the safety rules for essential oils and their uses.  The oils are natural, yes, but not as mild as one may think at first. Consider purchasing this book written for the healthcare professional, but it is very useful to all who use essential oils. 

Here is just one review of the book found on Amazon by Ann C. Wooledge. She gave it 5 out of 5 stars on June 1, 2014.

Don't use another essential oil without out this book!

I've had this book now for several months and I seriously pick it up at least once or twice a day. Yes, I am a professional aromatherapist and a registered nurse, but neither of these are necessary or required to find this huge book of information helpful and necessary. You absolutely DO NOT have to be even well versed in essential oils to NEED this book. If you use any essential oil for any reason - you need this book. If you don't understand some of the chemical constituent information, then take time to learn it - it isn't difficult and the author makes it really very easy. Is it an absolute necessity for anyone who sells, uses or advocates the use of essential oils - YES!! It is easily segmented into even just a particular essential oil and you can quickly see if there are cautions for pregnancy or any other health issue. It astounds me that so much research, documentation and time had to go into accumulating all of this information and the price of the book is very under priced in my opinion when I consider so many of the healthcare texts and college texts that give a smidgen of the information in this one book. Yes, it is big and yes it is heavy and yes it is worth every single cent you might spend on it.

Robert Tisserand is THE single most respected authority for so many things pertaining to aromatherapy and essential oils but particularly when it is a question of safety. He has been studying, researching and writing about this subject for very many years. This book sits beside my desk - and I have many aromatherapy books that aren't in this revered spot - so I can easily reach over and check, double check everything whether I am making up a blend, writing a blog, commenting on a social media site or just curious - the answers are always (yes, always) there and easily found. He has given the world of aromatherapy what no one else could - legitimacy and safety. I for one will be forever grateful.

Safety Tips to Review

Know the oil: The first thing you do with an essential oil is to read the label. Not all brands are created equal. Some can be used internally, others cannot. Look for warnings and follow manufacturers recommendations on usage.

Sensitive Areas: Do not put oils near any sensitive region of the body, such as in your eyes, nose, inner ears or on broken skin.

Dilute the oils: Essential oils can be diluted with a carrier oil. One of the best is fractionated coconut oil.

Strong oils: This is the short list of oils that should always be diluted before putting them on your skin. There may be others depending on brand and purity, but these 5 make the top f the list: Cassia, Cinnamon, Clove, Oregano and Thyme. 

Sun sensitivity: Prior to applying an essential oil topically, read the warning label to check for sun sensitivity issues. Avoid direct sunlight or UV rays (think tanning beds) for a minimum of 12 hours. Be aware that citrus oils pose the greatest risk. Some of these citrus oils include, but not limited to, bergamot, mandarin, grapefruit, lemon, lime, tangerine and orange.

Supervision of young children: The young naturally have more sensitivie skin. It is best to keep oils out of their reach. When using oils on children, start by applying the oil to the bottom of their feet before you try the oil in other locations. Always supervise the application of oils when with children.

Storage: Keep your oils away from heat and light. In excess, heat and light can alter the chemical properties of an essential oil significantly. Look to purchase oils that come in amber (or darker) colored bottles to help with proper storage.

Healthcare Professional: As with any product, check with your healthcare professional about essential oils and their uses in your particular case.

Other Related Essential Oil Articles

Want to learn about some specific essential oils and their uses? Check out a few more articles that target specific concerns.