The Essentials of Essential Oils
By Mary Ewing
My mom was crunchy-a real granola head as some would say. Throughout my childhood and young adult years, I resented her ways. I remember thinking often that there was no way I would ever live like she did. My children were going to eat out, have dessert after every meal, and there would be NO essential oils in our house, for sure!
I’m not sure exactly why I disliked essential oils, other than I do tend to be sensitive to smells, and some fragrances give me a headache. Yet, now I am the “overly crunchy with a bit of crunchy on the side” mom! I have a whole shelf dedicated to essential oils and use them daily. From waking until bedtime, I incorporate essential oils into my life and am excited to share the use with my children, hoping they will pass the value of essential oils on to future generations. Hopefully my example will help because, as I discovered, proper use of essential oils has a learning curve.
Now That I Have It, What Do I Do with It?
I remember the day I purchased my first oils. I had read about the uses and was excited about incorporating essential oils into my life. I wanted peppermint, tea tree, and lavender oils to start with (it helped that they cost the least and fit in my budget).
Eager to start using my oils, I brought them home, tenderly removed them from the bag, and set them on the counter. I opened the packages, savoring the aroma. It brought back fond memories I didn’t know I had of Mom using tea tree oil. But the big problem was that I didn’t have the foggiest idea what to do with these wonderful substances.
In case you’ve ever felt like that, I hope to pass on a few things I’ve learned in studying essential oils. And hopefully you will be saved from some of my goofs! So arm yourself with your favorite oils and let’s get mixing!
Essential oils are made from herbs and other plants that have been steam-distilled, cold-pressed, or solvent-extracted. Often maceration (separating the components) is used as well, but it does not result in a pure essential oil.
Producing oil requires a large amount of the herb, flower, or plant and is therefore very costly. For example, it takes 110 pounds of eucalyptus leaves and stems to produce just two pounds of oil! The advantage of the process is that it harnesses the power of the plant in an easy-to-use form, eliminating the storage and preparation of the actual plants-a great way to have a wide range of plant remedies on hand.
Oils vary significantly in the ways they should be used. Some are safe to use topically without mixing with a carrier oil. Others are great to diffuse and some may burn skin while others heal it.
Unlocking the World of Oils
NOTE: Each oil requires its own special usage pattern, so please be sure to study the specific uses when you start using a new oil. All oils should be used with care.
Many oils are good for use in salves, massage oils, or even in a carrier oil as a ointment. The reason you should use a carrier oil to mix with the essential oil is that undiluted oils are generally caustic to the skin. There are very few essential oils that can be applied directly to the skin: lavender being one of them. Even with lavender oil, though, you should apply only a very small amount and check for a reaction before extensive use. Be sure to discontinue using it-or any oil-if irritation develops.
Some excellent carrier oils are: grapeseed, jojoba, sweet almond, coconut, and olive oil. I have used all of these options, and my favorite is sweet almond oil, with jojoba a close second. They are my favorites because of their fantastic all-over use. Sweet almond and jojoba are light enough to use on the face, as well as the entire body. As a result, I have been especially excited to find out Beeyoutiful now carries these two oils.
For most applications, you can take 1 teaspoon of the carrier oil and add 2-3 drops of your choice of essential oil. Due to the breakdown of the essential oil in sunlight, it is necessary to store any unused mixed oil in a dark glass container. My practice is to only make enough for one or two uses to avoid the degrading of the oil. If you are mixing up oils for home use and would like to keep mixtures on hand, there are several great online stores from which you can purchase dark amber oil jars.
Using an oil on the afflicted area is normally the best remedy. For example, if I am having trouble breathing, I rub the oil on my chest. I also spread some on my feet because feet are second only to the sublingual (under the tongue) area for quick absorption. If I am struggling with cramping from gas, I use the oil directly on the abdomen. Benefits can often be noticed within 1 to 3 minutes of application of an oil.
By far, the most scrumptious, self-indulgent way to use essential oils is in your bathwater. A few drops of your favorite oil added to your bath offer a blissfully aromatic soak. You can use several oils for a therapeutic blend, such as eucalyptus and peppermint for respiratory problems or lavender and orange for relaxation. But remember: Just a few drops will do the trick! If the floating oil is too much for you, use a natural body wash to diffuse the oil in the bath water. Start with a ½ ounce of body wash or shower gel, infuse several drops of the oil into the wash, and then add it to the bath water.
Ah…how the pleasant aromas waft through my home! Refreshing, calming, invigorating, healing, purifying as they infuse! But here, too, I learned a thing or two. First, and very important: NEVER used a diffuser made of plastic or with plastic parts. The oil will eat right through them. (A great science experiment is to watch eucalyptus melt a plastic cup…just beware that it is very messy to clean up!) Second, viscosity or thickness varies from oil to oil. Therefore, it is important for you to clean your diffuser periodically to prevent clogging (be sure to clean according to the manufacturer’s instructions). Many oil users report that daily use of a diffuser helps decrease the frequency of colds and other viruses in their households.
Typically, you can use hot water as the vehicle to dissipate oil in the air. A small pan of simmering water to which essential oils have been added will distribute the oils nicely. (Caution: NEVER leave the simmering oil and water unattended or allow the water to boil out of the pan!)
For a more intense inhalation treatment: Fill a bowl with hot water, and add several drops of oil. Close your eyes, and place a towel over your head and the bowl. Breathe in deeply for several minutes. Be sure to discontinue the treatment if you experience dizziness, lightheadedness, or any other adverse reaction. (Heat decreases some benefits of the oils, but this method is still a good way to use essential oils if a diffuser is not available.)
Finally, you can add a few drops of any essential oil to a small piece of cloth or towel. Place the towel near your face, and inhale and exhale normally. If the aroma is overwhelming, simply increase the distance from your face. This is a great way to take oils with you (in a glass container!). For instance, I take a cotton ball soaked with a few drops of peppermint oil in a small pyrex container in my purse.
Caution: Most essential oils can be inhaled without problems, but it is important to research each individual oil for potency and potential irritations. Clary Sage is one oil that should NOT be inhaled for a prolonged treatment. It can cause headaches and intoxication if over-inhaled.
Around the Home
I have never been an advocate of using chemical cleaners in our home, even before I got crunchy. The harsh smells, irritating to my head and skin, always left me wondering how clean the area actually was. So I was thrilled to find out how useful essential oils are around the house. There is hardly a task I undertake that does not include an oil or two. In addition to the satisfaction of knowing my house is cleaned well, the oils leave a pleasant aroma in the freshly cleaned home!
These are just a few basics of the world of oils. I have used essential oils for everything from getting the gooey mess from a sticky mouse trap off my aunt’s Sheltie’s fur (using orange oil) to relieving my migraines with Peppermint Essential Oil to helping my infant daughter breath by diffusing the respiratory recipe off and on throughout the night.
I love trying new scents and finding new recipes. Just about every day through reading, research, and networking with other Essential Oil users, I find new and fascinating uses for my shelf full of oils. Once you grasp the essentials of essential oils, you’ll enjoy testing various uses, too. My next experiment is going to be adding Lemon Essential Oil to my house paint to modify the fumes. Now how’s that for crunchy!
Mary Ewing is a part-time employee for Beeyoutiful as well as wife, mom and aspiring homesteader. She stays at home with her three children and enjoys exploring life with her brood as they cook, clean, garden, and play. Her passion are traditional cooking, essential oils, gardening, learning about raising livestock, and traditional art forms such as sewing, crocheting, knitting, and smocking!
Starter Recipes for Essential Oils
For Topical Use
(1) Sore Muscle Rub
• 1 drop of Rosemary
• 2 drops of Eucalyptus Oil
• 1 Drop of Lavender
Add these to 4 teaspoons of a carrier, such as Sweet Almond Oil. Apply to sore muscles before and after exercise!
(2) Sleepytime Rub
• 4 drops Lavender
- 1 drop Clary Sage
- 1 drop Lemon Essential Oil
Add these to 1 teaspoon of skin lotion or 4 teaspoons of carrier oil, such as Jojoba Oil, and massage on bottom of feet, shoulders, or navel.
(3) Basic Salve Base
• 1 ounce of Beeswax, melted
- 2 cups of oil-can be a combination (I use half olive oil and half coconut oil)
Either infuse the oil with herbs of choice before adding beeswax or simply add a few drops of the essential oils to your oil, and then add the beeswax. To test for consistency, put one tablespoon to harden in the refrigerator. For more solid consistency, add beeswax; for less, add oil.
(1) Breathe Easy
• 10-15 drops of Eucalyptus Oil
• 10-15 drops of Peppermint Oil
• 10 -15 drops of Lavender Oil
• 10-15 Drops of Tea Tree Oil
I diffuse this throughout the day and night to help relieve respiratory problems.
(2) Purify the Room
Add equal parts (to mix for diffusing, I use around 10 drops of each):
• Eucalyptus Oil
• Rosemary Oil
• Clove Oil
• Cassia Oil
• Lemon Oil
Diffuse for 20-30 minute intervals during the day. This can also be added to a carrier oil and massaged on the feet, shoulders, chest, navel, and other areas for help in boosting the immune system.
For Around-Home Use
(1) Basic Cleaner
- Approximately a quart of water
- ½ cup vinegar
- Few drops of Lavender or Rosemary Oil
- Few drops of Tea Tree Oil
Add vinegar and essential oils to spray bottle and fill with water, depending on the size of you spray bottle you may have a little water left over. You can also make this up and store in mason jars.
(2) Floor Cleaner
(Always test small patch to make sure this will not damage your floor)
- 1 gallon of water
- 15 drops of Lemon Oil
- 6 drops of Oregano Oil
Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a mop bucket, and mop away! The aroma of the essential oils combined is fantastic, not to mention the antiseptic value. A great way to rid your house of all the germs that hitch a ride on your feet!