By now, you’ve certainly heard about essential oils. You’ve likely got a friend or two (or five) that rave about them on social media daily. You may be wondering if they’re up to all the hype (depends on what you’ve heard). You may be wanting to check them out yourself. But where to even begin?
There are really two ways to begin this journey. You can buy one or two oils at a time and ease in gently. Or you can buy a handful of oils and jump in both feet first. There are pros and cons to each way and neither is really right for everyone.
Easing in- You’ll buy one or two oils and slowly start building your collection. You’ll likely want to start with lavender, lemon, or peppermint. Those are the common oils that can treat a whole slew of maladies and complaints. Rub lavender on boo-boos. Use peppermint for heartburn or as a pick me up. Use lemon to clean, kill offensive odors, or help wake you up in the morning. You’ll find dozens of uses for the basic oils.
There are pros and cons to this method. You’ll spend less initially. You’ll be able to grab the same two or three oils across several brands to compare them if you wish. You’re not putting a lot of money into the start up. The downsides will be that you’ll be less likely to spend money for a diffuser, which is an awesome way to use your essential oils, since it will only add to the initial cost. You’ll not get into the habit of reaching for an oil to help. You’ll likely find you want an oil for coughing, but only don’t have one on hand or you’ll want an oil for deodorant and none of the few you’ve got are adequate. You’ll find yourself a little frustrated at the lack of variety. And you’ll be running out of oil and having to replenish it eventually, slowing down your accumulation plan. Essential oils in an amber bottle should never expire. Exposure to heat will lessen their effectiveness, but they won’t go bad. They’ll survive the apocalypse with you. A bottle of essential oil lasts me anywhere from 6 weeks to years, depending on the oil and what is going on in our household. The common oils you’re likely to buy in the beginning will run out faster than obscure oils simply because you’re using them more often. (I find cheaper oils don’t last as long, because I’m having to use double or triple the number of drops for the same strength.)
Jumping In- This is how many people prefer to go about it. You can usually buy a starter kit that makes the overall “deal” better than wading in slowly. For example, a Young Living Premium Kit contains 11 oils plus a diffuser and some samples for $150 (plus tax and shipping). My DoTerra Family Physician Kit contained 11 oils for $150. If this doesn’t seem like a deal to you, know that lavender, lemon, and peppermint oil alone from either company would be over $50. So, you get more bang for your buck.
There are pros and cons to this way, too. You’ll be putting more money in up front. And say, you wanted an oil for thyroid function, well, that isn’t in the kit. You’ll have to add that to your collection. The kits generally contain basic, widely used, oils. Oils for relaxation, immune boosting, boo-boos, skin care, coughs, etc. They aren’t going to have the more specific oils like myrtle, helichrysum, ocotea, myrrh, etc. You will build the habit of using oil when you have this many, though. You’ll find ways to use it. You’ll likely find you have an oil on hand for most things you find you need. And in some cases, you’ll also have a diffuser to diffuse oils, which is an awesome way to use them. (You can also buy essential oil diffusers on Puritan’s Pride and Amazon for relatively low prices.) But the initial cost is going to be more. For some people, that means they’ll actually make themselves use it. For others, they don’t want that much money investing in something they aren’t sure they’ll enjoy.
So which oils should I try?
Lavender is the most common, basic oil to have on hand. It is especially good when you’ve got kids, since it is a good first aid oil. It can be used on cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns, stings, and more. Some people (The Pastor included) report it helping reduce allergy symptoms. It is also calming, helping you relax and sleep.
Lemon oil is also very common. It can be used in cleaning, both your house and yourself. It makes your house smell clean. It uplifts your mood and helps you focus. It is great to use in the morning to help wake you up. (This really goes for all citrus oils. They just smell so uplifting. It is a great scent to start the day.) Can be used to help smooth the skin on your feet. It can also help in the dishwasher for those with hard water. You’ll find so many uses for lemon oil.
Peppermint oil is very common with many uses. Of course, you know it will freshen your breathe. The smell can also help uplift you and help with nausea. Peppermint is also good for heartburn. Many people use lemon and peppermint together to help them on their weight loss journey. Peppermint is also of great help for people with headaches. Use it to help keep you awake and alert.
Thieves/On Guard is an oil blend. Most oil companies carry some version of this oil. (Clove, lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary) Also similar is just straight cinnamon bark oil. This is the oil used for immune boosting and germ killing properties. Many people get into essential oils for this blend. You can use is for cleaning (I personally mop and clean my counters with cinnamon bark oil), homemade hand sanitizers, diffusing to kill germs and boost immunity, rubbing on your feet to help boost your immune system, on toothaches, and as a natural air freshener. Some people drip it in their vacuums or rinse their carpets using a steam cleaner. This blend is what makes many fall in love with essential oils. (If you get a food grade version, know that a couple drops in a simple sugar glaze makes an awesome addition to spice cakes.)
Melaleuca (Tea Tree Oil) is also a great starter oil. You’ll want to be cautious with this one with pregnant women. (Well, you always want to be cautious with pregnant women and kids. Check oil safety and dilute them!) It is great for cleaning! Use it in your steam cleaner, mop water, counter spray. You can use it on your pets (and sometimes kids) for lice, fleas, and ticks. It is also a good oil for fungus and parasites, like yeast and ringworm. It is also great for skin issues like razor burns, athlete’s foot, and other skin conditions. You’ll find so many ways to use it. There are several different varieties of melaleuca. Melaleuca Alternifolia is the common “tea tree oil” variety. Other varieties may be milder or better for specific issues.
Frankincense is another common oil that is all the rage. You may be curious about this one, since it was a gift for the baby Jesus and all. And most people aren’t really sure what on earth frankincense is even good for, or what it smells like. It is great skin care. I personally use it in my hand cream. It has healing properties and kills germies. It is calming, and meditative. It can help reduce the appearance of scars. Seriously, skin LOVES frankincense. It helps with anxiety, stress, sadness, and moodiness. It helps boost your immune system. It soothes itchy skin. It can help back and joint discomfort. This oil is so soothing. You can use it on scrapes, and I do, especially if they are on the face. There are also lots of stories about frankincense being used by those with cancer. You’ll have to search for those personal stories, since I have none personally to share.
Those are the most common oils. There are others than many would argue are more important than those above, like thyme (great for congestion), eucalyptus (there are several varieties), oregano, patchouli (a personal favorite), valerian, tangerine, orange, lime (another personal favorite, dubbed “happiness in a bottle” by me), cedarwood, copaiba (there is a Wild Kratts episode about Orangutans that talks about copaiba). The lists just go on. Really, any essential oil is going to have its great uses and its own cautions. What becomes your household favorite remains to be seen. Then there are blends by various brands for anxiety, stress, depression, energy, grounding, etc. I found the Young Living blend Joy is one of my favorites. Right now, I’m also digging Gentle Babies by Young Living. I loved DoTerra’s InTune blend, as well as their Balance and Slim & Sassy blends.
What essential oils are not.
Essential oils are not going to make you loose weight while you eat cheeseburgers on your couch. They can help you crave more wholesome foods and help give you the energy to get started on that work out plan you’ve been saying you’re going to start.
They aren’t going to make up for years of bad decisions. They’ll help balance you. They’ll help with your symptoms. They’ll help get you on the road to better health. But they aren’t going to erase years of damage overnight.
They are not the be all and end all. There are other things you need for your health. Essential oils are one preparation of something. You might need something different for different issues. You may find dandelion tea is much better for your water retention than lemon essential oil. Essential oils are just part of a healthy lifestyle. They’re not the whole thing. We still use herbs, tinctures, teas, vitamins, food, and when needed, pharmacologicals in my house. Things have their place.
They are not a scam. Essential oils have worked for centuries. Just because we in the west have forgotten does not mean they aren’t valid and useful. Sure, some oil quality is better than others. You’ll find a slew of info floating around the internet about various oil quality issues. But they do work. They’re not going to be a miracle cure for every ailment. But they can help alleviate some of your discomfort and address many of your issues.
How not to use essential oils.
One drop is good, so ten drops is better, right? NO! Wrong! Less is more when it comes to essential oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated. And yes, some oils are such quality that you will have to use more, but you work up to that. A single drop of oil on a boo-boo is all you generally need. 4-5 drops of oil in a diffuser is usually plenty. You don’t have to douse yourself in it for it to work. You can use too much.
Dilution makes it weak, right? Wrong! Dilute 2 drops of essential oil in 2 drops of vegetable oil and you still have 2 drops of oil. Sometimes dilution HELPS the oil work. It helps it absorb slower, which is a good thing. It can help your skin absorb the oil better. It can add soothing properties to your oil. Always dilute with kids. Always dilute if you’re not sure about dilution. If an oil isn’t working the way you want, don’t add more oil, dilute the oil and see how it helps. You might be surprised.
Do not ingest all oils! Some oils can be ingested. There is a lot of debate on when, how much, what, and who should be in charge of these things. But some oils are edible. But not ALL oils are edible. If you don’t know, don’t eat it. And ingestion isn’t the best way to deal with every problem. A cough is better helped by diffusion. A cut is better helped by direct contact. A tummy ache is better cured rubbing diluted oil on the outside of your tummy. Where ever your research with ingesting oils takes you, be cautious. (And actually do the research!)
How do I even use essential oils?
There are several ways to use essential oils. You can diffuse them. A machine puts the tiny oil droplets into the air where you will breathe them in and enjoy their scent. Diffusing is great for many oils and many issues. You can rub them onto your skin. Some oils need to be diluted (see above). You can rub them onto the troubling spot, be it a sore neck, upset tummy, scraped knee, etc. You can rub them on your feet (this is an especially good option for kids). You can look at a reflexology chart and see where on the bottoms of your feet corresponds with which body system. You can add them to your homemade cleaning products and personal care products. (That links to some recipes I posted.) Some people ingest them, adding them either to water, milk, or empty gelatin capsules. (You want to research that option fully and make sure the oil you purchase is a quality that is edible. I wouldn’t ingest any oil from a company that says not to.) You can add a drop to a damp cloth and place on a sore muscle or over your chest. You can place a drop or two in warm water and cover your head with a towel to inhale. You can add a drop or two to your scarf, to smell while you’re out and about. (I especially like to do this with mood uplifting oils.) You can put a drop in your hands, rub your hands together, and inhale from your cupped hands.
You don’t want to heat the oil. A candle warmer isn’t a great diffuser. (Believe me, I tried using my Scentsy warmers to diffuse oil before buying a diffuser. It just doesn’t last long and the oil get broken down by the heat. If you insist on trying it anyway, add water to the warmer, then a drop or two of oil. You’ll only get 5-10 minutes of scent. Though therapeutic range is 15 minute intervals of diffusion, so it is something, I guess.) You don’t want to add it to a simmering pot on the stove. You won’t get benefits from cooking it into your soups or stews. (If you want to add it to cooked items, add it post cooking. And make sure your oil is edible and don’t use too much! A drop of oregano oil IS NOT equal to a pinch of dried oregano. It’s more like an entire oregano plant up in your spaghetti!)
How do I decide who to purchase oil from?
I used essential oils from the natural food store for years. I used their tea tree oil in my carpets and for my kids who just had a diaper rash his entire time in diapers. I used their eucalyptus oil to make shower soothers when I had a cold. (15 drops of their oil on a wet wash cloth in the bottom of the shower.) I’d add a couple drops of their thyme to the kid’s bath water when they were snotty. I was fairly happy with it. I didn’t always get the results I wanted, particularly from their lavender, but overall, I was pretty content. The Pastor used their patchouli for cologne for quite some time. You may find yourself happy with these brands, too. You may find that they are enough for you. That you don’t mind 15 drops of eucalyptus for your cold to be too much. You don’t mind the carpets getting cleaned with their tea tree oil. You’ll likely find the lavender doesn’t do anything people say lavender does, but it’ll smell nice at least.
You may want to try a company like Plant Therapy. Their prices are low. They aren’t a club or multi-level marketing set up. You just go on the website and buy oils. Simple. Their quality is better than I found at the mass natural food store. So, it is a step up from that. But they aren’t quite as good as DoTerra or Young Living, in my opinion. However, you’ll find some oils, like vanilla, that DoTerra and Young Living don’t have. There are other companies like this one. Eden’s Garden, Native American Nutritionals, Rocky Mountain Oils, etc. (Note that I have not tried any of those companies. It is on my to-do list. But I cannot speak to the quality of those oils.)
You may decide you want to buy in bulk from a company like Liberty Natural Products. Their prices are extremely low and you can buy a lot of oil! Think of the oil you could split in a co-op! My midwife recommends this company. I haven’t had an opportunity to try them yet. They also have various bottles and containers you can purchase for your oil concoctions.
You may decide you want to try one of the current big two: Young Living or DoTerra. They are MLM set up, but both offer wholesale membership instead of insisting on you being a distributor. The ordering is a bit more complicated. You’ll have to do things like give them your social security number (for taxes, since you have the potential of being paid by the company). They both now have pretty minimum order limits per year to maintain your “membership” or distributor status. They get all complicated with the MLM set up. But the oil quality is really there. (I personally found Young Living to be slightly better than DoTerra for my needs.) Both have great kit set ups if you want to go the “jump in” route. But both are MLMs, and that turns a lot of people off. Just know, you’ll be personally giving part of the money from your kit to your distributor, if that makes you feel better about your initial purchase. (I personally get about $50 from every $150 kit that someone buys with my member number 1650325. Just to give you an idea of how much of your purchase is going to help a family out.) I found this to be a great way for me to go, especially for the kits, but know it isn’t really for everyone.
Ultimately, it is up to you who you choose to purchase oil from. There are also likely herb shops in your community that sell oils. (Though many sell oils from one of the other places I listed above.)