Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils (almost)
Confused about Essential Oils? Here are essential oil facts so you can better understand what they are, how to use them, and more.
Essential oils are a hot topic these days. I used to be a total skeptic about essential oils, but I soon found that they really worked for several problems and I was hooked.
Soon after, I thought I should try to find the best essential oils company for my buck, so I set out to compare a bunch of essential oils companies to find out more about the differences between them.
Along the way, I've learned a lot about essential oils and facts about them, and believe me, they are fascinating.
Some of what I have learned I put in this new guide to Essential Oils - What You NEED to Know Before You Buy.
But now I have put more here and hope to continue sharing with you.
Essential Oil Facts
I hope these essential oil facts are all as helpful to you as it has been to me. Here goes.....
1. Are Essential Oils Really Oils?
That's kind of a funny question, but what I mean is, are they really oils or are they something else?
They are oils. However, they are not like the super greasy oils that contain fatty acids, but they are considered to be volatile oils and have a slightly oily feel to them.
The word "essential oil" is actually a contraction of the original term, "quintessential oil." This term comes from the Aristotelian concept that matter is made up of four elements--fire, air, earth, and water. The quintessence (fifth element) was thought of as the spirit or life force. Evaporating or distilling the "quintessential oil" out of the plant was thought to being out the spirit of the plant.1
Basically, an essential oil is a product made by distilling either citrus rinds or other natural products. The essential oil is then separated from the water phase.
2. Essential Oils come from many parts of a plant.
A plant's bark, roots, leaves, stems, flowers, and blossoms can all be used to make essential oils.
3. It Takes a Lot of Plant Material to Make a Little Essential Oil
I've read different figures in different places, but one of the figures I have read is that it takes 60,000 roses (about 180 lb) to make just one ounce ( 29.57 ml) of rose otto oil. Now you can see why essential oils are so expensive and why it must be tempting for some to add "fillers" to oils to make them go farther.
4. Essential Oils are Very Concentrated
This follows from how much plant material goes into each drop of essential oil, but it is important to note that there is a lot of power in these oils. While I don't encourage fear of using them, some caution is warranted because they are strong.
5. A "Fragrance Oil", "Scent", or "Natural Oil" is NOT an Essential Oil
In general, if you see the term "fragrance", "scent", or "fragrance oil", you don't know what you are getting, but you are not getting a pure essential oil.
It's kind of like the food industry in this regard. Think of how the word "natural" or "minimally processed" in the food industry means just about nothing. Same with the oils industry. You need to know your terms to know what is being sold.
6. Water and Essential Oils Don't Mix Well
Do not use water to dilute Essential Oils, water only INCREASES the strength of the oil. If you ever mistakenly apply an oil to your skin and it ends up burning or itching, do not use water to address the problem--instead, you should use a carrier oil.
It is recommended to always dilute oils before using them topically. However, that diluting needs to be done with a carrier oil and not with water. The most typical oil for diluting is fractionated coconut oil, but you can use pretty much whatever oil you like. I tend to use coconut oil as it has great health giving properties.
Likewise, if you ever do happen to get too much oil on your skin, you should dilute it by putting oil onto the oil rather than trying to rinse the essential oils off with water.
If you are making a DIY item with a water base and essential oils, you will need to use an essential oil emulsifier to make the oils blend thoroughly.
7. What is a NEAT oil?
NEAT means no carrier oil is added.
As mentioned above, oils are sometimes sold blended with other oils, the most common blending oil being fractionated coconut oil.
8. Allergies and Essential Oils
It is often said that if you are allergic to a food you will be allergic to the essential oil. That may or may not be true.
My son has food allergies and while he will have a potentially anaphylactic reaction to sesame, he eats sesame oil (even cold pressed) all the time with no problems. That is an unusual situation, but it is the truth.
Essential oils have a different chemistry than the plant. If you are allergic to a chemical in the plant and that chemical is in the oil you will be allergic to the oil, however many people are not allergic to the oil. For example, I have heard of one person that is allergic to lemons but loves the distilled lemon oil and doesn't have any reaction to it.
That being said, if you are allergic to the plant, I would personally recommend using extreme caution with the essential oil, or to avoid it completely.
9. Essential Oils for Children and Babies
You should never use undiluted essential oil on a baby or child and you should be very careful using essential oils on children of any age.
Remember that the younger the person is the more sensitive the skin will be. Use extreme caution when working with infants and young children.
Regardless of how you choose to use them, keep your essential oils out of the reach of children and babies.
10. Essential Oils and Pets
You will want to be cautious when using them on cats.
Cats are highly sensitive and just having them on your own body is usually enough to affect them.
11. Expensive Does NOT Necessarily Mean "better".
It has been estimated that 95% or more of the companies blatantly adulterate or purchasing from essential oils "experts" that blatantly adulterate (heat, add things to or take things out of the oils, or otherwise alter them from their natural state), it is important to find a source that you can trust for your essential oils.
As a general rule, the low cost oils would likely have a tendency to be more adulterated and the more expensive oils test out to be higher therapeutically.
However, there are expensive essential oils that have been found to have issues as well. So paying extra doesn't always mean that you are getting a better oil.
12. Can You Use Essential Oils Internally?
That is a hotly debated question. When I first started trying to find "The Best" Essential Oils company, I thought that it was OK to use essential oils internally but I have since changed my mind based on reading the opinion of many experts whom I trust.
I personally think that since the oils are quite strong, it is important to respect them and not use them willy nilly, and only when under the care of a medical professional or aromatherapist. Furthermore, it is possible that the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal oils could damage the good bacteria in the gut and so it might be wise to use a probiotic when using these types of oils, and to not use them for too long of a period.
The use of such oils for a prolonged period of time might in fact make changes to your microbiome and create a problem in your digestive system and thus affect your gut health.
13. Do You Need to Consult with an Aromatherapist to Use Essential Oils Internally?
This is a can of worms, but I am going to open it anyway.
I commonly see folks talking about essential oils on the internet stating something like "Do not use these unless you are under the care of a certified aromatherapist."
When I first started using essential oils, I thought differently, but I now have seen how the overuse of oils and use of them in the wrong way can be truly harmful.
Following is the official recommendation of the oils company that I recommend:
We recommend you consult with a professional before ingesting any essential oils. Consult a Medical Doctor, Naturopath, or clinically trained Aromatherapist who knows you and is aware of your medical history, as well as any medications you are on. With this information, the professional can tailor a regimen that works for your body.
And this is how I currently think as well.
14. Essential Oils Near Ears and Eyes
Never put essential oils in or too near to your eyes.
They are very strong and can do damage.
At least, if you are going to do it, be very very careful as I mentioned in this post on a Natural Goopy Eye Remedy.
15. Essential Oil Shelf Life
This is a complicated topic as many oils will oxidize and how quickly they will do that depends on how much they are exposed to oxygen. However, they typically do last a long time if stored correctly.
Here is more information on the shelf life of essential oils.
16. How to Store Essential Oils
Essential Oils should be stored in dark glass bottles (brown or blue, which they hopefully were packaged in), and out of direct sunlight. So an open shelf in your bathroom might not be the best place to have them.
This method of storage keeps them from having their chemistry changed by the light as it can interact with some chemicals in the oils.
17. Essential Oils, Emotions, and Moods
Many people talk about using essential oils for physical issues, or cleaning, or perfumes, but essential oils also can be helpful for moods and emotions. I find diluting a certain scent like a citrus oil (orange, lemon, or grapefruit), or peppermint can give me a real lift in the middle of the day.
When you think about it, this makes sense. Smells affect us. And pharmaceutical companies use nasal delivery for some medications, so the nose is one means of delivery into the body.
This post on mood-boosting essential oils has a full list of oils that are very useful for this.
18. How to Use Essential Oils
There are many ways to use essential oils.
- apply the oils topically to the skin (remember to dilute to a safe level always. I do not recommend using oils neat--see the next point)
- diffuse into the air
- take internally (read above for more about the internal usage debate)
- use in personal and home care products (for more examples, see my Homemade Hair Rinse, DIY Chest Rub, Homemade Hair Spray, and Homemade Peppermint Cleaning Paste)
The power in the oils is amazing and it is so wonderful to be able to use natural products rather than toxic chemicals for health, beauty, and natural home care.
This post on 6 Ways to Use Essential Oils has more details and more information.
19. Do You Always Need to Dilute Essential Oils?
It is best to always dilute essential oils for use. Essential oils are strong and really shouldn't be used without diluting.
This is crucial when talking about "hot" oils like oregano, lemongrass, cinnamon, clove, and thyme.
Many people (particularly essential oils direct sales company representatives), recommend using essential oils undiluted. Makes sense since they want to sell more, right?
However, the oils are powerful even diluted and there are more concerns these days about people becoming sensitized to them. See this survey on oils and sensitization for more information.
Where to Buy Pure Essential Oils
Even if you know about basic essential oils facts, it's important to know where to buy pure essential oils. After first joining 2 multi-level marketing essential oils companies, I decided to do some heavy-duty investigating to find out more essential oil facts and where to get the "best" essential oils for my money.
The research got to be very tedious, and the decision was a hard one to make. You can read about the research here, or skip ahead to the end here. The posts and comments did get a big dicey at times.
Furthermore, if you'd like you can go here to get a free copy of my new guide - Essential Oils - 10 Things You NEED to Know Before You Buy.
I hope these essential oil facts help you make sense of a very convoluted industry.
Choose well and use the oils to benefit your life.
By the way, having good books to guide you can be a HUGE help. Here's one that comes highly recommended.
The Heart of Aromatherapy
An Easy-to-Use Guide for Essential Oils
This book has real usage information, not just safety. It is a really great go-to that you can trust. Many people trust Andrea to have updated information as well, including guidance that is backed with chemistry.
Of course, the information in this post is not medical advice and I am not a physician. Always talk with your physician before making changes to your diet or using new supplements or essential oils.
I know - I wish I didn't have to write this, but I do :).
Do you use essential oils?
Have these essential oil facts been helpful?
1 Sell, Charles. (2010). Chapter 5: The Chemistry of Essential Oils. (Can Baser K H, and Buchbauer G. Editors) in the book Handbook of essential oils: science, technology, and applications, (pp. 121-150). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.
Great post! I was wondering if you could answer something for me. Do you happen to know if essential oils can be used in a CPAP machine? I just started using them and there's so much conflicting information. I appreciate any answers you can give me.
Thanks! I have heard that yes, you can do that. I haven't looked into the hows but hope to do so.
What would be the best when it comes to repelling mosquitoes? I have heard eucalyptus is good, but there are several types, I have also heard the peppermint and lemon are good too. What is your opinion and should they all be combined in one bottle?
There are so many that people say work - like citronella, rosemary, clove, cinnamon, etc. I have a contact who uses the following: peppermint, lemongrass, melaleuca, cedarwood, rosemary, lavender. Hope that helps.
I have recently been using an oil face fashion from a company called Kosmatology. I buy her acne face wash and the oil moisturizer. I started using these products in June or July of 2015 because I was breaking out really bad and i was pregnant with my 3rd child and what I was originally using wasn't working...anyway almost 3 months ago I started putting lavender essential oil on my breakouts (and it was working). We'll about a week or two ago..I was starting to see little tiny red bumps around my eyes. just a really light bump. We'll I really started noticing the bumps more a few days ago.. I stopped putting the lavender on my face yesterday and today I now notice those tiny red bumps around my nose and sides of my mouth. Their super small.
I'm sorry for the long story but my question is, is the rashy bumps caused by the lavender essential oil? And is it just going to get worse since I stopped using it?
If you can't help that's ok.
Thanks for writing. Of course I am not sure what is going on but typically if you stop exposing yourself to an allergen then the reaction should subside, but sometimes it doesn't and takes awhile. If it is an allergic reaction you might need an antihistamine. I would watch things very closely and talk to your doctor if it gets any worse. Sorry but I can't medically diagnose. I hope you get better! You could have gotten sensitized to something in the Kosmatology products as well?
Hi! Thank you so much for all of this! I am just beginning to learn about essential oils, so your articles are a tremendous help. I was wondering if you had any recommendations on diffusers? Type? Brand? Maybe even a specific model? (You mentioned trying the NAN diffusers...which, if any, were "winners" in your experience?) There are a ton of EO duffusers on the market... Thank you for your help!
I love the Aroma Cloud Spa that they have. I use it all the time - day and night. Make sure to clean per their instructions so it doesn't break early. Has a nice 1 yr warranty. Hope you like it if you try it!
Hi I would love your feedback on some oils I am looking into if s I can send you the link x
Hi. I'm sorry but I really can't evaluate companies. It would be a full time job. Thanks - you can read this. It might be of help: https://wholenewmom.com/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-essential-oils-before-you-buy/
Try Florihana. The best.
I considered them when I first did this series. Thanks. I'm looking at other companies now to have other options to recommend.
Aren't NAN and Rocky Mountain the same company?
Yes, they are merging. More information to come about it all.