Just getting started with essential oils? This FAQ gives the answers to the questions I asked when I was learning about them.
Unless you live under a rock, you know about what an essential oil is. They are everywhere and recommended for just about everything that could ail you. But unless you have taken the time to really research them, you also have a lot of questions!
Certainly, I did, and I’m really, really good at asking questions and digging for the answers. (I’ve got in trouble for that ability more than once!)
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Can I use essential oils to ward off cold and flu germs?
Yes, essential oils have powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. While some oils might have more of a rep for germ killing than others, nearly all of them contain powerful anti-oxidants that heal while warding off nasty things like mold, bacteria and viruses.
The most well-known oils for killing germs include lemon oil, clove oil, rosemary oil, cinnamon bark oil, and eucalyptus oil. Thyme oil and oregano oil are also credited with the same ability to destroy viruses and bacteria on contact – but they stink. Given a choice, most of us will pick the more pleasant scent!
You can make up your own essential oil blends, for both personal use and for cleaning up around the house, or you can buy them from a company that specializes in them.
What is the Thieves oil that so many people talk about?
The name “thieves oil” comes from a story that was passed down from the time of the plague. As the legend goes, the thieves who broke into the homes of the people who were dying of the plague did not contract the deadly illness because they had mixed up a secret potion that protected them.
At the time, it was considered magical. Today we know that the ‘magic’ was simply the power of naturally powerful antibacterial essential oils. There are various versions of Thieves Oil, but they usually contain varying amounts of lemon oil, clove oil, rosemary oil, cinnamon leaf oil, and eucalyptus oil.
Thieves Oil is great mixed with water in a spray bottle – just spritz around the house and chase away germs. You can also add it to an essential oils diffuser, which is simpler than the spray bottle! Not only are you killing possible pathogens in the air and on your furnishings, but your house will smell wonderfully fresh and clean.
Young Living, one of the most popular brands of organic essential oils on the market, has its own Thieves Oil mix, and this is what I use in my house.
Are non organic essential oils harmful?
The simple answer is no.
The longer answer is that chemical-free is always going to be your best option for anything that is being ingested, breathed into your lungs or applied to your skin.
And truthfully, the best, highest quality essential oils are going to come from companies like Young Living or DoTerra which are committed to sourcing organic herbs.
Luckily, you can easily access these high-quality oils online at affordable prices.
It’s important to note, though – unless your essential oil bottle clearly states that it’s safe to ingest, please do not. Natural does not necessarily mean you want to eat or drink it. Some oils are made for therapeutic external use and have ingredients that you don’t want to ingest.
Can I make my own essential oils at home using garden herbs?
Yes! You can make your own essential oils.
Some herbs take longer to make then others, though, and you are never going to be as precise with the dosage if you are making an oil for internal use. Over the years, I have made a number of oils at home, from calendula to feverfew, but I generally limit myself to ones that cannot be easily found from reputable companies.
If you’re wanting some chickweed salve for bug bites and such, you will likely have to make your own chickweed essential oil first. It’s up to you how much time and ‘infusing’ space you have available.
But what if you just want to make up a batch of thyme oil for cleaning and disinfecting that nasty garage?
Combine 1/2 cup fresh thyme from your garden with 1 cup olive oil in a small pot. Bring it a simmer over medium heat and then let it gently cook for about five minutes. Let it cool and then strain into your spray bottle. Add water, shake well, and you can attack that garage.
Can I mix my own essential oil blends on the cheap?
There are a number of money-saving tricks to creating essential oil mixes at home.
Buy your carrier oil in bulk
If you know that you plan to make a lot of essential oil blends at home, then stock up on carrier oil such as coconut, olive or jojoba oil. A few drops of essential oil goes a long way, but a carrier oil, because it acts as a product base, depletes much faster.
Leave the vegetable or lard shortening, butter and margarine in the kitchen, please. And definitely don’t use mineral oils and petroleum jelly. Please.
Save dark glass bottles
Save the bottles that your purchased essential oils arrive in. The little plastic stoppers are easily removable, so you can clean out and refill the dark colored glass bottles.
Save plastic spray pump bottles
If you buy essential oil based colognes, then each time you finish a spray bottle’s worth, you have a handy reusable cologne dispenser to fill up with your own, homemade cologne blend.
Save aluminum oil bottles
You can also save the aluminum bottles that hold body and massage oils, to be used again and again when you mix up your own essential oil blends.
Stash extra supplies
Keep labels and a permanent marker on hand. Each time you mix up a new blend, you can label the bottle so that later on you’ll know what’s in it. For example, try blending a combo of citronella oil, clove oil, and peppermint oil to help ward off bugs in the summer time.
Can I put essential oils directly on my body?
I would not want to apply pure cinnamon, thyme, lemongrass oregano or clove oil directly to my skin. They need a carrier oil or they have a good chance of burning you. It’s important to note that Thieves Oil, and other blends containing these oils, will have the same issue.
And if you apply citrus oils to your skin and then go out in the sun, you might not have a fun experience. They increase the photo-sensitivity of your skin, which means a much higher risk of burns and skin cancer. I’ll speak for all cancer survivors and tell you that there’s no benefit from an essential oil that can outweigh increased chance of cancer.
Some people will insist that lavender and tea tree are both safe to use directly on your skin. I have been looking into this and decided that I’m not comfortable with what I see, especially as I start to understand my own chemical sensitivities. There is a serious danger of accidentally using the essential oil on broken skin where it gets into your bloodstream. We sometimes have tiny cracks in our skin that we’re not aware of until something gets inside. Once there, your immune system may (rightfully) recognize it as an intruder, setting you up for serious sensitivities in the future.
Diluted, though, most essential oils are safe on your skin.
Add a mixture of geranium and lavender to a carrier oil and rub into your skin after an evening bath or shower. Gerananium balances, lavender calms – it makes a great night time rub or massage oil. You could even add some rose, which smells lovely and promotes deep, regular breathing.
I’ve heard that some people drink water infused with lemon oil, for its health benefits. Is this true?
So my first thought when I came across this is … some people drink Watkins/Raleighs Liniment for the purported health benefits, too. (No, really – I knew someone who swore by a teaspoon of liniment every morning before breakfast.)
There are a lot of strange ideas in the world.
There are a LOT of people who are ingesting essential oils, especially ones that seem pretty harmless (and are definitely tasty) like lemon oil.
And it’s a big, big but …
The Alliance of International Aromatherapists says to not ingest any essential oil unless you are under the care of a professional who has been properly trained.
Dr. Google does not count.
Your local DoTerra or Young Living rep is well-meaning and may sound confident, but they are likely not properly trained as an aromatherapist.
The simple truth is that we do NOT know what effect EOs have on our gut flora – those all-important good bacteria that form the entire basis of a healthy body. When we ingest oils, they go through our stomach and are digested and changed before they reach our blood stream.
Hippocrates’ rule still holds true – First, Do No Harm.
What’s a great, essential-oil based recipe for a cleaning spray?
Here’s a recipe for an invigorating cleaning spray that you can use to wipe down surfaces, as well as spritz into the air to get rid of cooking, pet and other unpleasant odors.
20 drops lemon oil
20 drops peppermint oil
10 drops tea tree oil
1/4 cup witch hazel
3 cups water (or enough to fill an 18-oz spray bottle 3/4 of the way)
Goodbye chemical cleaners! It continually amazes me that I have breathing problems around even ‘unscented’ chemical cleaners, but I can use a blend like this one, with multiple essential oils, and feel invigorated and well.
Can essential oils help with insomnia?
Sorry – was that supposed to be a full sentence?
As a teen, I discovered lavender-infused drawer papers.
A love affair with lavender was born. Of course, over the years it become clear that there was real lavender and then there was that fake chemical-lavender (kind of like the fake grape that children’s stuff is flavoured with). One makes me feel calm and relaxed while the other gives me a pounding headache.
Lavender oil in an essential oil diffuser, or drops of it on your mattress, helps to impart a wonderful sense of calm while you settle down for sleep.
When I change my bedsheets, I mix up 1 cup baking soda and 10 drops lavender. After stripping the sheets, I sprinkle this over the mattress, then vacuum it up before remaking the bed.
You could use a blend of oils with the lavender – geranium balances the body systems, clary sage can help settle hormonal fluctuations and tea tree oil will deter bed bugs. For two years I lived in a city where bed bugs are common. Although I’ve never had an infestation, I shall be forever cautious!
Should I add peppermint oil to my bath water for a sunburn?
Well, um … just how cool do you want to be?
Peppermint oil is extremely cooling. It’s great as a toothpaste ingredient, mouth rinse or chewing gum flavour, and everyone loves candy canes. But as a bath?
Add a few drops to your bath water and you’ll feel cooled like you’ve never been before. I don’t care how hot the day is or how sunburned you are, an all-over body soak in a peppermint bath would be kind of like doing the Polar Bear Plunge without the ability to warm up after.
A peppermint rinse on a hot day would be very refreshing, there’s no doubt of that!
You will feel tingly and cool when even the slightest breeze touches your skin. You can test it out by putting some peppermint essential oil in a dish of water, dipping your hand in and then rinsing it off. It will be cool and tingly for hours.
And you knew this was coming …
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy lists peppermint oil as a mucus membrane irritant. That means you really don’t to get it in your nose, near your eyes …. our on your genitals … unless you first dilute it in milk or a carrier oil.
Fill the bath, get in and then very, very slowly, add your diluted oil, a drop at a time.
A little will go a long way.
So yes, you can have your peppermint bath, but dilute the oil in something other than water and don’t use very much.
Can essential oils harm or burn my skin?
They certainly can!
Skin sensitivity varies from person to person, and from body part to body part as well. You may end up with a literal burn of the skin if, for example, you apply lemon oil to a sensitive area. If you’re not sure, test a small spot on the inside of your wrist, to see if you react to a certain type of oil.
What is a carrier oil?
A: A carrier oil acts as a base for your essential oil mixes. Without it, many essential oils will evaporate rather quickly. Carrier oils also dilute the potency of the oils so that you can safely apply them to your skin. To test this in action, dab a bit of an essential oil mix on your pulse points and see how long it lasts. Next, first mix your essential oil blend with a carrier oil and test the oil for its “cling” again. Carrier oils can work as a base for massage oils, body oils, and bath oils.
My friend says to put oils on the soles of my feet. Is that weird?
Yea, that’s really weird!
No, actually, it’s not weird at all, and it’s nothing new. Check with your mom.
Or my mom – she’s been doing that since I was a child, although she used Vicks Vapor Rub. That, by the way, has eucalyptus and camphor in it, which is good, but petroleum oil, which is bad. Yes, you’ve probably been using essential oils all your life.
Doctors are going to think you’re insane, but many people believe that the soles of your feet readily absorb substances. Rubbing the topical treatment on your feet before going to bed is a pretty common recommendation for dealing with colds, flus and other germs. Just make sure to put on a warm pair of socks so that you don’t rub it all over your bed sheets.
What can I use essential oils for?
Lots. It’s going to stagger your mind how many different purposes that you can come up with, even with a small collection of oils.
Wipe down and disinfect the surfaces of your home with essential oils – I love Tea Tree and Orange.
Mix up a non-toxic essential oil blend to wash the floor – Tea Tree and Lemon
Create your own perfume and cologne blends using oils – lavender is my favourite, but Rose is nice, too
Disinfect your kitchen trash can by spraying with an essential oil based cleaning solution – Young Living’s RC blend is amazing for this.
Apply a mix of peppermint oil, citronella oil, and clove oil to your dog or cat’s neck and back to repel fleas and ticks
Kill fleas on contact using an essential oil spray
Add your favorite blend to a diffuser, and freshen/disinfect the air in your home or office
Create your own essential oils blend to use as an all-over body oil
Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your bath water
Purchase an electric oil warmer and enjoy it as plain old aromatherapy
Rub oils like peppermint and orange, mixed with a carrier oil, to your pulse points for a mood inducer
Ward off cold and flu germs by massaging essential oils like eucalyptus into your feet, neck, chest and behind your ears
Get rid of an ear infection by placing a cotton ball soaked in lavender and lemon oil at the opening of your ear.
Rub clove oil onto your gums to ease the pain of a toothache (then call your dentist)
Add a few drops of lemon oil and tea tree oil when washing dishes with an unscented castille soap.