A Complete Essential Oils Guide
The Best Essential Oils and Their Many Uses
By Millie Troth – Over the years I have submitted various articles on finding and how to use the best essential oils. Each time I do I receive numerous inquiries about essential oils, such as how to use them, what they’re good for, plus many other excellent questions. I thought perhaps it would be helpful for those inquiring minds and others who are curious but have not been inquisitive enough to contact me to explain more about essential oils.
No doubt you’ve smelled candles with their enticing aromas, or even walked down the laundry and detergent aisle at the grocery store and inhaled all the smells. What you smell from those kinds of products are essential oils … so to speak! The reason I say “so to speak,” is because the sources of those aromatics are made synthetically to mimic essential oils. There is nothing natural about them as compared to therapeutic-grade essential oils. To me, they are absolutely overwhelming and toxic-smelling. I avoid laundry and detergent aisles at any price.
Consider this, next time you need a burst of energy, reach for a bottle of peppermint oil and put a small drop of the oil in a glass of water; on the soles of your feet; or rub your hands together and then cup them over your nose and take a deep breath. Imagine your delight when you experience an all-natural burst of energy and feel more alert and energized.
Here is a very short list of some of the common toxic household products that could be replaced with the (therapeutic-grade) best essential oils:
• Pain creams (peppermint, copaiba, or Idaho balsam fir)
• Burn ointments (lavender)
• Athlete’s foot creams (lemon, peppermint, lemongrass [diluted], or tea tree)
• Wart removal products (lemon or oregano)
• Mood enhancers (frankincense, jasmine, peppermint, or ylang ylang)
• Immune system boosters (frankincense, oregano, cinnamon, or thyme)
• Sinus tablets (peppermint or eucalyptus)
• Sleep aids (lavender, chamomile, or orange)
• Aftershave (lavender or cedarwood)
• Deodorant (lavender, geranium, cedarwood, or many others)
• Skin lotions (lavender, geranium, or rosewood)
• Chapped lip sticks (lavender or geranium)
• Cold sore balms (lavender or oregano [diluted])
• Bath oils (several oils)
• Perfumes (several oils)
• Dandruff shampoos (lavender)
• Moth balls (lavender, patchouli, or western red cedar)
• Antibacterial cleaners (lemon)
• Herbal teas (several oils)
• Cooking spices (several oils of which we’ll explore in upcoming articles)
Before we get started looking at all the different uses of an essential oil, let’s cover some beginning thoughts such as, “Exactly what is an essential oil?”
How to Use the Best Essential Oils: What is an Essential Oil?
Essential oils are the aromatic liquids that are distilled from flowers, seeds, roots, bushes, leaves, shrubs and trees.
Essential oils are a very complex by-product of these natural plants containing hundreds of different and unique chemical compounds. Essential oils are also highly concentrated and far more potent than dried herbs. Dried herbs lose up to 95% of their essential oil in the drying process. One drop of therapeutic-grade peppermint essential oil equals 26 cups of peppermint tea. The manner in which a plant goes through the distillation process makes essential oils highly concentrated. It often requires an entire plant or more to produce a single drop of distilled essential oil.
This explains why pure therapeutic-grade essential oils will be more costly than perfume-grade essential oils that have been diluted with artificial additives and other synthetic compounds, some of which can be very toxic—even dangerous.
Something that was not clear to me when I first learned about using the best essential oils is that there is a big difference between the types of essential oils. For all I knew, oils were oils, and even though I knew about lavender scented products in my grocery store—I had no idea about the possibilities of supporting my health naturally, with the best essential oils.
We all understand and know what vegetable oils are, but essential oils are different from vegetable oils such as corn oil, peanut oil, and olive oil. They are not greasy and do not clog the pores of the skin like many vegetable oils can.
Over time, vegetable oils can also become oxidized and rancid. Vegetable oils are also not antibacterial. On the other hand, most essential oils cannot go rancid and are powerful antimicrobials.
Biochemist Nicole Stevens made a comment that her first exposure to therapeutic-grade essential oils was while she was doing cancer research using therapeutic-grade essential oils. She also stated that she was most impressed with the quality, purity, and consistency, as well as the research of these products prior to her own research. Her research began with every brand of essential oil she could find and very quickly narrowed to a single brand of therapeutic-grade essential oils that she continued with throughout her research against cancer.
Choosing the Best Essential Oils: Four Grades of Essential Oils
Grade A oils are the best essential oils for most uses, and are pure therapeutic quality. They are usually made from organically grown plants distilled at the proper temperatures using steam distillation.
Grade B oils are food grade; they may contain synthetics, pesticides, fertilizers, extenders, or carrier oils, thereby, perhaps making them not the safest compounds to ingest.
Grade C oils are perfume grade and may contain the same type of adulterating chemicals as food grade oils. They usually contain solvents, which are used to gain a higher yield of oil per harvest. Solvents are normally cancerous. Typically there is only around five percent of the pure essential oil in perfume-grade oils.
Floral Water is a byproduct of the distillation process, a very high quality if it comes from a Grade A distillation process. Accordingly, it is of low quality if it comes from poor quality raw materials and/or poor distillation processes. It is usually found in skin and hair products.
Essential oils are well known as being effective when used in massage therapy and meditation or prayer. But the best essential oils have a wide range of other powerful applications. They can be extremely effective when used to aid the body in fighting colds and the flu, as well as, in first aid treatment for burns, insect bites, cuts, bruises, and much more.
Below is the type of information I hope to pass on to you with each article about specific essential oils and some of their uses:
- Antibacterial properties make them highly effective for sanitizing, disinfecting, deodorizing, and air purification as well.
- Some essential oils make excellent toxin-free cleaning agents for removal of grease, oil, carpet stains, crayon, etc.
- Powerful anti-oxidant properties in some essential oils make them amazingly effective in anti-aging, energy and health giving applications both alone and when combined with supplements.
- Anti-microbial properties make them extremely powerful in aiding the body to enhance its immune system.
- And of course, nothing beats the power of the best essential oils in personal care products for skin, hair and personal hygiene.
One of the best qualities of essential oils, aside from their aroma, is that they help to make oxygen more available to the body, especially the much-neglected brain. As the oils are inhaled, they stimulate the olfactory bulb nerve fibers, and proceed to the brain for more stimulation in the limbic system. Just bringing in oxygen to the brain helps raise our spirits, or our mood. Oxygen allows our wonderful hormone glands in the brain to get the nourishment they have been seeking. Since oxygen is the most important nutrient that we all must have to sustain life, it is so exciting to find substances that deliver this nutrient to us in such a pleasant way.
Some of the most powerful essential oils for inhaling or applying topically to increase oxygen to the brain are cedarwood, sandalwood and frankincense, and a brand new one that has come out of Ecuador called Palo Santo. These are very high in a compound called sesquiterpenes. There are many others that can be utilized for increasing oxygen in the body that also have high levels of sesquiterpenes in them. Myrrh is another, however, its aroma is not one of the most pleasing to sit with a bottle under your nose while inhaling. But it is an exquisite oil for skin care and anti-aging usage.
How to Use the Best Essential Oils
There are three basic ways to use essential oils: inhalation, topical application, and internal consumption. (Internal consumption is definitely not recommended when using any oil other than a therapeutic-grade essential oil; as mentioned above a non-therapeutic-grade essential oil may actually be most harmful for the body no matter how it is used.)
How to Use the Best Essential Oils: Inhalation
Inhalation of essential oils heightens the senses and can trigger numerous desired responses in the body. There are differing techniques on how to inhale essential oils. Inhalation of essential oils is a well-known method of using them for things like home remedies for headaches, calming anxiety, and relieving depression. Essential oils can also be used as aromatherapy for natural cold remedies.
1: Direct inhalation—simply smell them from the bottle.
2: Diffuse the oils in a diffuser which disperses the oil in a micro-fine vapor into the air. Candles in potpourri and light bulb rings are not recommended since they will heat the oils and damage important constituents in the oil.
3: Fill a humidifier with water. Put a tissue or small cloth sprinkled with a few drops of oil in front of the escaping steam. Do not put essential oils in the humidifier. Since oil and water do not mix, the oil will float on top of the water instead of rising with the water vapor and may also cause damage to your humidifier.
4: Carefully pour hot water into a bowl and add a few drops of oil. Cover your head and bowl in a tent-like fashion with a towel. Breathe deeply and slowly.
How to Use the Best Essential Oils: Topical Application
Apply essential oils directly onto the skin, diluting with an organic cold pressed carrier oil such as olive oil, sesame oil, or jojoba oil if needed due to an oils “hotness” on the skin or perhaps because you might desire to apply a few drops of oil to a large area of the body such as the back or hip areas.
When I apply most essential oils topically I tend to never dilute unless it is because I’m applying to a large area. Covering a large area, I generally start out with one tablespoon of the carrier oil and five or six drops of essential oil. I mix them together and then apply topically. It depends on what the oil is and for what purpose I am using it. Sometimes I may use only two or three drops of essential oil and other times I may use 10 or more drops of essential oil. I make my mixtures in a small dark brown or cobalt blue bottle (always glass) so it makes it easier to mix the carrier oil and essential oil together for a more thorough mixture. It is also the best way to store left-over blends so light waves will not destroy them. (Quick side note: Always store essential oils in a cool dark environment—never in a sunny windowsill or exposed to heat.)
I’ve been using the oils for so long I have quite a collection of empty oil bottles. I’ll just use one of the empties because it already has an orifice in the neck of the bottle that controls how much I get out at the time of usage. Dropper bottles with the glass pipet are also an efficient way to mix a carrier oil and essential oil.
To apply topically, either neat (straight out of the bottle) or a diluted mixture, I generally follow these simple steps:
1: Carefully tip the oil bottle and drop two or three drops in the palm of the hand or directly on the desired application area.
2: If dropping oil in your hand, rub palms together in a circular motion and then massage oil onto the desired point of application. When applying directly to the desired area, use your hand to very lightly massage the oil in a circular motion into the skin. Repeat if desired.
You can also create your own massage oil blends by mixing your favorite essential oils with a massage oil (carrier oil as listed above) to relax, uplift, soothe, and relieve.
Topically applied essential oils are great home remedies for bug bites.
How to Use the Best Essential Oils: Internal Consumption
Research indicates that some oils are more effective when taken orally. Only pure essential oils, proven safe and labeled as dietary supplements, should be used internally. Dilution and dosage are dependent on the age, size, and the health constituent of the individual.
These are commonly suggested methods for internal consumption:
1: Put several drops of oil into an empty capsule and swallow with water. This is most definitely my preferred way of internal consumption.
2: Add one or two drops to a glass of water or rice milk. Personally, I would never do this with oils that are considered “hot,” such as oregano or cinnamon, or with oils that I already know do not have a very pleasant after-taste, such as thyme. I also avoid this because the oils tend to adhere to the glass so I feel I’m losing some of their benefits. The glass sure doesn’t need it—I do.
3: Put one or two drops onto a piece of bread or add to your meals when cooking. Cooking with oils offers several definite ways to add essential oils to your meals that I’ll cover when I start talking about specific oils and give you some recipes in which they can be used.
4: Add one or two drops onto a teaspoon of honey or agave and swallow down slowly.
5: Drop directly onto the tongue and swallow. Exercise extreme caution when using this method. Many oils are very strong and should be tested by pouring a single drop onto a spoon and tasting a small portion to determine the amount of oil to be used, or “hotness,” or taste.
As we begin to understand further the power of essential oils in the realm of personal, holistic healthcare, and cooking, we will appreciate the necessity for obtaining the purest essential oils possible. No matter how costly pure essential oils may be, there can be no substitutes. Inferior or adulterated oils most likely will not produce therapeutic results and could possibly be toxic and even dangerous.
As mentioned earlier therapeutic-grade essential oils may be beneficial for the brain as well as other parts of the body. Each method of inhaling, topical application, or ingesting essential oils causes the essential oils to enter the body and mix with the blood. Essential oils have a unique ability to penetrate cell membranes and diffuse throughout the blood and tissues. The molecules of the essential oils are relatively small, which enhances their ability to penetrate into the cells. When topically applied to the feet or elsewhere, essential oils can travel throughout the body in a matter of minutes.
I have been using and learning about essential oils for more than 11 years. I use them on a daily basis. Other than coming down with Hunta Virus from working with some mice-infested straw last summer I have not been ill—not even a cold—in that entire time. As most people know, Hunta Virus can be fatal and there were a few days that I know I would have felt much better dead, but I kept using the essential oils and rid my body of every last symptom in six days without the aid of an allopathic doctor or the need to go to a hospital. Thereafter, I just had to regain my strength. Even taking an ever-so-welcomed shower was a chore.
Now with all that being said, I need to share this disclaimer. I am not a doctor or medical professional, so I cannot by law diagnose or prescribe even essential oils to anyone. Also, each person is different so they may not work as well for you as it does for others, so I always suggest that perhaps another oil might work better for you. An oil that works for me most often will not have any effect on my husband for the same issue so then we just have to find another that will work for him.
Any of the products or techniques mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information provided here is in no way intended to replace proper medical advice. I can share with you what I do or what a desk reference for essential oils suggests, but I am not allowed by law to “prescribe” to anyone.
So now here are some bits of information to look forward to in future articles. I’ll discuss oils such as lavender, peppermint, basil, marjoram, cinnamon, and the list goes on. I’ll cover in as much detail as allowed by law what the beneficial aspects of the oil is for natural healthcare and I’ll even dig up some recipes for using the essential oils.
Ever think about the possibility of Lavender Lemonade? This is absolutely yummy! What a center of discussion at a party this can be! How to you use the best essential oils? I’d love to hear your recipes, tips, and ideas. Leave a comment and share them with us!
’Til next time—happy oiling!
Originally published in the May/June 2010 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.