The Ultimate Guide to Essential Oils
Table of Contents
It is likely that you have enjoyed the pleasant and alluring fragrance of a rose.
If that is the case, then you have smelt the satisfying aromatic qualities of various essential oils.
Keep reading, as in this guide we will tell you all you need to know about essential oils such as how they are made, how you can select and blend various essential oils, and a number of essential oil recipes.
What are Essential Oils?
An essential oil is a naturally occurring and extremely volatile aromatic compound that is contained in the bark, seeds, stems, flowers, and roots of a plant.
Essential oils are both powerfully and beautifully fragrant.
They give a plant its distinctive and unique smell and also protect it.
Apart from their beautiful fragrance and several intrinsic benefits they offer to plants, essential oils are also used in beauty treatment, food preparation, and a variety of healthcare products.
Essential oils contain highly concentrated compounds.
For instance, herbs such as rosemary and basil contain various compounds that are beneficial to humans.
They also have minerals and vitamins that can help us stay in good shape.
Essential oils are made using a distillation process; they are distilled with steam or water.
After the completion of the distillation process, essential oils are physically isolated, or separated from water.
Essential oils are made up of aromatic compounds.
These are tiny organic molecules with a tendency to change their form from a solid state to a liquid state, or from a liquid to a gaseous state, at room temperature.
As these compounds are volatile, they are able to change their state very quickly.
If you open a bottle or vial of an essential oil, you will instantly smell its potent aroma.
The fragrance is so strong that you will be able to smell it even from a great distance.
More than 3,000 different aromatic compounds have been discovered so far.
The nature and properties of essential oils vary from one plant to another; they also change based on botanical families, as well as the types of species.
The delicate balance of different aromatic constituents in an essential oil is what makes the oil distinct and gives it its unique benefits.
Both the chemical and physical properties of many aromatic compounds that make up an essential oil allow them to move quickly through the air, as well as interact with your olfactory sensors directly.
These distinct properties tend to make these oils a perfect choice for a number of applications such as aromatherapy (the use of oils extracted from different parts of a plant to improve both physical and psychological well-being).
Even in the case of many pure essential oils, it is believed that their composition tends to change based on factors such as the season, time of day, geographic location, duration and method of distillation, and the weather and year of growth.
This makes each step in the manufacturing process an important determinant of the quality of essential oil products.
How are Essential Oils Made?
Essential oils are made in a variety of different ways.
It is important to bear in mind that the extraction method will depend on the type of plant and the purpose the essential oil will be used for.
A majority of essential oils are made by distillation.
Different processes are used to extract the oil; however, in most of these processes, water is boiled to generate steam, which tends to carry the volatile compounds found in the aromatic materials with it.
This steam is condensed, which produces a distillate that can be collected.
Essential oils usually float atop the layer of hydrosol and can be isolated easily.
The different types of distillation methods used to produce essential oils are discussed below.
Steam distillation is the most widely-used method to extract various essential oils from a number of herbaceous plants, such as mints and herbs.
This method is used to extract the oils from wood and citrus sources.
Steam distillation utilizes an external steam source that can transfer the required amount of steam to a distillation unit, often at high pressure.
This steam will pass through an aromatic material, exiting into the condenser.
In this method, botanicals are soaked in water, producing a thick solution.
The solution is heated; the steam generated contains traces of aromatic plant molecules.
Hydrodistillation is a very versatile and ancient distillation method.
This method is very popular in a lot of primitive countries.
Of course, there is some risk involved as the steam may get overheated or run dry, which can burn the aromatic materials.
This is likely to produce essential oils that have a burnt smell.
Hydro distillation is ideal and works much better in the case of powders such as groundwood and spice powders, as well as extremely tough materials such as nuts and wood.
Steam and Water Distillation
A steam and water distillation arrangement is very similar to a steamer basket used in a kitchen.
The botanicals are placed in the basket over a container of boiling water.
This exposes the botanicals to steam vapors only.
The steam and water combination method is ideal for the distillation of leafy materials; however, it does not produce good results in the case of woods, seeds, and roots.
A number of delicate aromatics such as linden blossom and jasmine are usually too fragile to survive the distillation process.
In order to capture the magical and alluring aromas of these delicate materials, a different process known as solvent extraction is used.
Solvent extraction uses extracting units that are loaded with several perforated blossom trays.
These blossoms are rinsed a couple of times with solvents such as hexane.
During this process, the solvent helps dissolve nearly all of the extractable materials from the blossoms, which often include both non-aromatic pigments and waxes, and extremely volatile aromatic compounds.
This solution contains the dissolvable plant material; the solvent is then passed through a filter, and the resulting filtrate is distilled at a low pressure for recovering the solvent.
Essential Oils Uses
Essential oils are used in different cultures for health, medicinal, and beauty purposes.
Essential oil applications range from household cleaning agents and aromatherapy to medical treatments and beauty care.
Some important uses are listed below:
- Add two drops of lemon oil and three drops of tea tree oil to an ounce of lukewarm water. The resulting solution will work as a great cleaner to disinfect your countertops naturally.
- Essential oils can be used as mosquito repellent. Add one to two drops each of citronella oil, lemongrass oil, and eucalyptus oil to a single teaspoonful of coconut oil to produce a bug spray. Rub it on your skin and reapply if required.
- You can spray cinnamon oil in your room to enjoy the clean and fresh air, as the oil has anti-microbial properties.
- Mix zinc oxide, coconut oil, shea butter, lavender oil, and helichrysum oil. Store this mixture in a bottle to produce toxin-free and natural sunscreen.
- You can combine some boiling water with half a spoonful of lemon oil to get rid of burnt food from your pans and pots.
- Add a few drops of tea tree oil to a diffuser to eliminate pathogens and mold.
- You can freshen up your freezer or fridge during cleaning by adding two or three drops of grapefruit and lime oil to rinsing water.
- To get rid of cigarette smoke, mix three drops each of tea tree oil, rosemary oil, and eucalyptus oil, and spray inside your home.
- Lavender oil has the ability to alleviate insomnia and restlessness. Just sprinkle a couple of drops on your sleeping pillow and enjoy a good night’s rest.
- You can mix coconut oil, lavender oil, and beeswax to make an incredible balm to heal your chapped lips.
- To relieve your anxiety and stress, place a few drops of lavender oil on both hands and rub them together. Then cup the hands to the nose, allowing the pleasant smell to flood your senses.
- Apply two to three drops each of lavender oil, chamomile oil, and peppermint oil to your temples to get immediate relaxation.
- You can easily calm and soothe your children by adding a few drops of chamomile oil or lavender oil to their stuffed toys and animals.
- Essential oils can even help with depression. To relieve depression and boost your mood, add a few drops of rose oil to diffusers and baths.
- To relax and stay calm during your meditation or yoga session, inhale sandalwood or lavender before going to class. And you can mix citrus and clove oil to clean your yoga mat.
- To remove acne and pimples, make a natural face wash by adding tea tree essential oil to raw honey. Rub it gently on the face. After five minutes, rinse it off with cold water.
How to Select Essential Oils?
There has been a lot of change in the aromatherapy industry and in the use of essential oils in the last century.
A majority of people has moved away from synthetic and artificial chemicals in favor of natural health and cleaning products.
This trend has increased the popularity of essential oils, making them readily available.
With a slew of essential oils and their many brands to choose from, selecting the right and best essential oil may seem like a daunting task.
Therefore, we will now look at the different factors that you should take into account when you decide on the right essential oil for your needs.
These factors include the cost of essential oils and their purity.
It is vital to keep in mind the source of essential oils when you buy an oil bottle.
It can take 250 pounds or even more of rose blossoms in order to make just a single ounce of essential rose oil.
This can explain the extremely high cost of making rose absolute or pure rose otto.
A few other essential oils are comparatively easier to manufacture; however, every essential oil needs large amounts of plant matter or botanicals to generate small amounts of oil.
This implies that a quality essential oil is likely to be expensive.
Therefore, do not get duped by big box stores and discount retailers that sell essential oils at extremely low prices.
Some retailers even charge the same price for different types of essential oils, so you need to be careful.
The good news is that pure essential oils tend to be highly concentrated and, as a result, a small quantity is needed for most applications.
This can make even expensive oils such as rose otto very cost-effective in the long term.
The concept of purity with respect to essential oils can be difficult to grasp, as there is no standard or official definition of purity.
It has little to do with the therapeutic value or healing properties of the essential oil.
You have to understand that essential oils that have 100% purity may not produce as strong a fragrance if they have been inadequately processed.
Fragrance oils, perfumery oils, and flavorings usually have a strong and pleasant fragrance; however, they do not always provide the therapeutic benefits associated with true essential oils.
This is because the quantity of therapeutically beneficial chemicals in many essential oils tends to differ based on the year, season, and the location of the plant.
For a number of reasons, adulteration is a serious concern when it comes to essential oils.
Therefore, you should find honest and reliable retailers that specialize in essential oils, as they are most likely to sell pure essential oils.
This is because it is their area of expertise and they would not want to tarnish their business reputation by selling cheap knockoffs.
This can reduce the risk of buying adulterated or low-grade essential oils.
Another important consideration to take into account when determining the authenticity of essential oils is to ensure that every essential oil you buy is clearly identified with the botanical or scientific name of the plant, and in relevant cases, the plant’s chemotype.
The chemotype is a relevant consideration if the same plant (such as rosemary) has different chemical profiles depending on the growth location.
It is also important to consider the extraction process, country of origin, and expiration date.
Essential oil producers that care about offering pure and high-quality essential oils usually get their essential oils tested.
Often two tests are run at the same time; these are a mass spectrometry test and gas chromatography.
Reputable essential oils vendors perform both tests on each batch of essential oil they get from distillers and provide test reports on their sites.
So, before buying an essential oil, go through the reports.
Even if you do not understand all the technical scientific information, the transparency can be reassuring, and you will feel more confident.
Define Your Use
Only a handful of essential oils has a single use; however, many tend to have a main or primary use.
For instance, if you need essential oils for your diffuser, you would like them to have an appealing fragrance; however, you will also want them to purify the air.
Therefore, if your main use is air purification, then you should buy the most suitable essential oil for that purpose.
However, it is great if you can buy the oil that both have a pleasant fragrance and is also an excellent purifier.
Always keep in mind that in most cases you will have to blend different essential oils to get the desired combination.
What are Carrier Oils?
Carrier oils are vegetable oils that are extracted from the fatty portions of plants, such as the kernels, seeds, or nuts.
If you apply essential oils to your skin in undiluted form, concentrated aromatics and absolutes in essential oils can trigger extreme irritation, redness, sensitization, or a burning sensation.
A carrier oil can dilute the essential oils before topical application to reduce the risk of these reactions.
Every carrier oil provides a different mix of therapeutic characteristics and properties.
This is why choosing the perfect carrier oil for your needs depends largely on the type of therapeutic benefits you are seeking.
For instance, jojoba oil plays an important role in regulating the production of sebum (an oily residue that often leads to skin acne).
The oil will help keep your skin from generating excess sebum, while supplying more sebum where it is required, such as on the mature skin.
A number of natural creams, lotions, body oils, lip balms, bath oils, and other skincare products are made with carrier oils.
From simple carrier oil blends to more sophisticated natural lotions, the selection of carrier oils is likely to make a huge difference in the color, therapeutic properties, shelf life, and overall aroma of the final product.
How to Blend Essential Oils?
As you think about blending essential oils, you can get overwhelmed or even intimidated because there are so many factors to take into account.
These factors include the right quantity of each oil, which essential oils complement each other, the possible effects of the combined essential oils, and will they make your aromatherapy work.
According to experts, blending essential oils is part science and part art.
Before blending essential oils to create different aromatherapy recipes, it is ideal to categorize different oils into separate groups that have similar characteristics.
This can be done depending on different considerations, such as what these essential oils do, type of scent, specific chemical make-up, or how quickly they evaporate.
Follow these steps to blend essential oils easily:
- Reflect on the different fragrances that you like. This can help you come up with the most suitable oils for the blend. Ask questions such as:
- Do you prefer the fragrance of some specific spices or herbs?
- Do you often yearn for any specific flower scents?
- Do you like green and crisp aromas (such as a pine forest or freshly cut grass)?
- Carry out an organoleptic test on your chosen essential oils. Place a single drop of each oil on your fragrance testing strip. Draw this strip slowly to the nose; this will create circles in your surroundings about one foot away. Pay attention and note down the exact distance at which you sense the aroma. Keep holding the strip to the nose and at first, inhale swiftly, and then breathe in deeply.
- Take notes and use suitable words to describe clearly the thoughts, sensations, and feelings you experience. They can be colors, textures, emotions, or sounds. Does the aroma feel sharp, heavy, dark, or woody?
- Then allow these essential oils to evaporate for about 15 to 25 minutes. Sniff a few coffee grounds or get a little fresh air to clear your nose. Then, sniff the testing strip once again, paying attention to the aroma (it can be light or heavy). How long did the original aroma last? You can use words such as fruity, mossy, green, and floral to describe or express the specific fragrance. Also, try to figure out the core trait of these notes. It can be grassy, nutty, or musky.
- Allow your imagination to run wild and try to envision the relevant fragrance like a shape. Is the shape round, square, level, sharp, or rough?
- Then close both eyes and think about the fragrance’s personality and describe it. Is it spunky, friendly, seductive, charismatic, or shy?
- Staying aware of your own body is important. How are you feeling, both emotionally and physically? Is the essential oil blend too volatile, darting swiftly up your nostrils or between the eyes? Alternatively, the essential oil blend could travel to the chest. Try to stay focused, and note where you are feeling the oil in your spirit and body.
It is important to keep in mind that essential oils in the same group or category tend to blend much better together.
We do not want to specify the particular groups of oils that blend better with oils in another category, as it may restrict your experimentation and creativity.
Moreover, there are a few exceptions.
However, for starters, the following are a few essential oil categories that often blend well together:
- Floral oils often blend well with citrusy, spicy, and woodsy oils.
- Oriental and spicy essential oils go well with citrus, floral, and oriental oils. However, be careful and do not add too many oriental and spicy oils to your blend. This is a common mistake.
- Minty oils usually blend better with woodsy, citrus, earthy, and herbaceous oils.
- Woodsy oils usually complement all essential oil categories.
Harmonize Your Oil Blend
You may have noticed that a majority of fragrances smell quite different initially and after several hours of application.
A few essential oils tend to evaporate more swiftly, compared to other oils.
As some of the essential oils in your blend evaporate, you will notice that the scent will gradually change and reflect the scent of those oils that remain in the blend.
To harmonize your oil blend, you can use the musical scale as an analogy.
Essential oils that evaporate quickly, often within a short period of one to two hours, are known as top notes.
In contrast, oils that take two hours to evaporate are called middle notes.
Finally, essential oils that last the longest are known as base notes.
These oils may take a few days to fade away!
Some examples of top notes are:
Some examples of middle notes are:
Base notes include the following:
Essential Oil Blending Tips
The following blending tips can guide you, making blending easier and more effective.
- Whenever you create a new oil blend, begin with a small number of oil drops such as five, ten, or twenty, depending on the nature of the oil. Do not start with more than 25 drops; you are likely to waste less essential oil if you start small in the blending experiment.
- Start developing your oil blend by using only essential oils, CO2s, or absolutes. Once the blend has been designed, you may dilute it with alcohol, carrier oils, etc.
- Label your different oil blends to avoid confusion.
- A useful guideline is to create blends in this ratio: 30% top notes, 20% base notes, and 50% middle notes.
- A few oils are stronger compared to others, in particular, the absolutes. Study the essential oils with the strongest scent and use them in a smaller quantity, unless you would like them to dominate your blend.
Essential Oil Recipes
You will love and enjoy trying many useful and exciting recipes with your essential oils.
You can begin with a valuable beauty recipe that can replace your over-the-counter facial cleanser.
Or jazz up your cleaning routine using an easy diffuser and DIY cleaner combo depending on your mood.
You can also spice up your cooking recipes with the lively punch of essential oils.
You can try as many as you like!
These are some useful essential oil recipes.
Natural Citrus Recipe
This recipe requires two parts lemon and pine tree oils, and one part tangerine oil.
This is ideal for rooms that have strong or pungent smells, such as the bathroom, kitchen, or kids’ room.
You will enjoy the refreshing pine and citrus scent, and you will not have to use any harsh chemical cleaner.
Just add a couple of drops of lemon, pine tree, and tangerine essential oils to hot water and unscented, mild soap.
Outdoor Protection Recipe
This requires three parts lemongrass and one part each of cinnamon leaf and eucalyptus.
The ingredients in most natural and expensive bug sprays are usually essential oils.
It is why lemongrass, cinnamon leaf, and eucalyptus are very effective when diluted with castor oil and water.
You can spray this mixture on your clothes before you head outdoors.
Evidence indicates that many insects and bugs are repelled by the strong smell of certain oils.
Moreover, this recipe can keep you fresh in case you are sweating outside.
Healthy Hair and Skin Recipe
This requires one part each of tangerine, frankincense, and lavender.
You can save plenty of money on your hair and skin care products by carefully choosing the right essential oils, rather than pricey creams and lotions.
Add tangerine, frankincense, and lavender to your conditioner and lotion to get rid of unnecessary and expensive skincare and hair products.
Many essential oils protect and moisturize your hair and skin, particularly in dry or cold weather.
Immune Defense Recipe
This recipe requires two parts tea tree oil and one part each of sweet orange and pine tree oils.
With essential oils, you can boost your immune system, especially when it is vulnerable during the winter.
Add pine tree, tea tree, and orange oil to the diffuser – it will help fend off lung and sinus infections, and you will breathe easier.
Many oils are known for their ability to strengthen your immune system, and also to relieve the symptoms associated with cold-weather illnesses such as respiratory infections.
This recipe requires two parts lavender oil and one part each patchouli and bergamot oils.
You can create many lotions for your special occasions, each having a unique mix of essential oils meant for intimacy and romance, like bergamot, lavender, and patchouli.
The distinct and subtle scent of specific oils helps people feel more relaxed and easy.
Throughout history, various cultures considered these essential oils great aphrodisiacs.
Stomach Soothing Recipe
This requires one part each of grapefruit and cinnamon leaf oils.
This is an excellent home remedy in case you are feeling nauseous or sick.
Just add three drops each of grapefruit oil and cinnamon leaf oil to your morning or evening bath.
For a lot of people, these essential oils provide the best results when it comes to dealing with digestive problems, nausea, or soothing an aching stomach.
The mix of grapefruit and cinnamon leaf oil will help renew and calm your body, and may even boost your immune system by fending off various infections.
Soreness Relief Recipe
This requires one part each of rosemary oil and peppermint oil.
This is an ideal recipe for your sore muscles.
Just add rosemary and peppermint oils to your lotion.
Gently rub the lotion on your legs and arms after your workout; it will help keep all your muscles loose.
The distinct aroma of certain essential oils can relax your body and mind.
Also, their topical application can help relax your inflamed muscles, and improve your blood circulation at the same time.
This requires one part each of lavender oil, patchouli oil, and frankincense oil.
A mix that is very useful if you are at home or work and need to focus on an assignment or task, but you are getting distracted easily.
Pour a few drops of frankincense, lavender, and patchouli oils in the diffuser.
People have been using these oils for a long time.
Many religious leaders and scholars believe that these essential oils can give you more focus and clarity.
Air Freshener Recipe
This requires two parts each of eucalyptus oil and lemon oil, and one part lavender oil.
Add lemon oil, eucalyptus oil, and lavender oil to the diffuser to freshen up all the stuffy and smelly areas in your house.
It is a safer and cheaper alternative, compared to open-flame candles and chemical sprays.
Also, the effect will last throughout the day.
These essential oils help neutralize the unpleasant smells in your home and allow your family to breathe easier.
Digestive Protection Blend
This requires two parts peppermint oil and one part lemongrass oil.
For a lot of people, the Christmas season means plenty of sugary snacks and big holiday meals that many do not eat on a daily basis.
This can take a serious toll on the digestive system, making you feel nauseous and queasy.
However, a few drops of lemongrass oil and peppermint oil in the diffuser can serve as a great remedy.
These essential oils can help with various stomach ailments and nausea, providing a soothing and calming relief in a short period.
Energizing Shower Blend
This requires two parts tea tree oil and one part eucalyptus oil.
Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil to your morning or evening shower to jump-start your body and clear your mind before the start of the workday.
You will feel more upbeat and refreshed.
Essential Oils Precautions
Essential oils should be used in diluted form.
In the case of children, be careful and use low doses, or consult an aromatherapy expert before use.
If you have cancer, epilepsy, or are pregnant, use these oils with caution under the strict guidance of an aromatherapy expert.
Safety is a vital consideration when using essential oils.
Consider these factors to ensure you are using essential oils safely:
- Labeling and packaging
- Quality of the oil
- The oil’s chemical composition
- Knowledge of any risk associated with certain essential oils.
In most cases, the use of essential oils is extremely pleasurable, beneficial, and safe, provided you follow some basic precautions which are discussed below.
Essential oils are likely to cause a stinging sensation if they come in contact with your eyes or the mucous membranes.
Therefore, make sure not apply the oil near your eyes.
Most experts strongly discourage the ingestion of certain essential oils.
This is because of their highly concentrated nature that may hurt the fragile lining of your digestive tract.
Therefore, use essential oils internally under the supervision of a qualified aromatherapist.
Keep in mind that a few essential oils are toxic and should never be taken internally.
Essential Oil Contraindications
Individuals with high blood pressure and epilepsy, infants, pregnant women, and children are prone to certain risks.
They should follow the safety precautions for each essential oil before use.
Diluting Essential Oils
Most essential oils are highly concentrated.
You should always dilute them before using them on your skin.
With a few exceptions, a majority of essential oils must be applied directly to the skin.
Use on Sensitive Skin
A number of essential oils can cause skin irritation if your skin is sensitive.
To test your skin’s sensitivity to an essential oil, pour some undiluted oil drops on the inside of your wrist.
Then cover the area using a bandage, and check it after two hours.
Phototoxicity of Essential Oils
A few essential oils, especially citrus oils, tend to accelerate skin pigmentation if you use them on your skin before stepping out in the sun.
Therefore, if you use orange, bergamot, angelica root, or lemon oils on your skin, wait a minimum of six to eight hours before exposure to sunlight – which is why it is strongly recommended that you apply such oil before going to bed.
Essential Oil Storage
Most essential oils are extremely volatile.
Exposure to oxygen, heat, and sunlight can easily damage them.
Top-quality essential oils usually come in dark bottles, either cobalt blue or brown.
You should securely fasten the cap, and store the oil bottle in a dry and cool place after use.
Keep them out of your children’s reach.
Nowadays, plenty of essential oils usually come with plastic dropper inserts which allow you to dispense easily a single drop at a time.
This can prevent spills, and make blending easier and more accurate.
If adequately cared for, a majority of essential oils have shelf lives of three to six years.
Keep these factors in mind when using essential oils to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, while enjoying the benefits offered them.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.
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