Many people are interested in essential oils, but they don’t know where to start. I am one of those people. I’m new to essential oils. So, my journey begins here, as I strive to understand and learn what these oils are, how to use them, and the best essential oils for beginners like me.
It’s an interesting topic to me because I know so little about them. Essential oils can be used for a lot more than just aromatherapy. They can also be used to support healthy living and moods, or for beauty purposes.
It is important to understand what you’re working with before you start using them so that you know what essential oils work best for different purposes and which ones should not be used around children or in the sun, for example.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll cover the basics of essential oils, and we’ll keep it nice and simple. This is a topic that can easily become overwhelming because of the sheer volume of information and product out there.
We’ll also discuss the top 5 essential oils for beginners, to give you a simple plan to incorporate essential oils into your life if you decide to add this dimension of natural care into your healthy lifestyle.
By the way, if you click on a link and then make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are compounds taken from plants. They contain the plant’s fragrance and essence, including terpenes, ketones, phenols, and oxides.
Essential oils are what give each plant its unique scent. The word “essential” means something necessary or indispensable; so the term essential oils means “the essence of the plant” or “the most important compounds of the plant”.
These oils are best known for their aromas, which can help create an environment to suit your specific needs. It’s interesting to note that the aroma of a true essential oil might not be what you would expect. Many times the aroma is quite subtle, although it will remind you of the plant it was derived from.
Synthetic-derived essential oils may have a more intense aroma, but that doesn’t make them better. Many people would describe the aroma of an essential oil as floral, citrus, woody, minty, earthy, etc.
In addition to adding them to cleaning products and beauty staples, you can infuse the air directly with your favorite fragrance by using one of the many diffusers. Many people find that essential oils help them relax and create a peaceful atmosphere in their homes.
Our sense of smell is closely tied to our limbic system, the part of our brain responsible for memory and emotions. This is why we associate scents with different states of mind and memories.
Why is the botanical name of essential oils important?
The botanical name of an essential oil the shortened version of the plant’s real name. The botanical name helps us know exactly what plant species we are dealing with.
Although they appear similar, essential oil and common substances have important distinctions. The labels should clearly state the brand as well as the popular name so you know exactly what you’re receiving.
This knowledge can be helpful for several reasons:
1) Essential oils might contain components that could be dangerous to your health, like allergens or toxins;
2) Essential oils are not needed in the same concentration;
3) The oils contain different properties, and knowing what exactly is in them helps us know how to use them more effectively.
For example, some plants like German Chamomile or Birch (Betula lenta) can be dangerous for pregnant women to use because they might induce a miscarriage. So, unless you know for certain that the essential oil you’re working with is safe to use during pregnancy, it’s best to get your botanical names straight.
How are essential oils made?
An essential oil can be distilled (the most common method of extraction), or extracted via cold pressing. They can also be carbon dioxide extracted, but that’s not common.
Distilled essential oils are the most common because they’re easy to do, and this method allows for higher volumes of products created with less plant material. This means that distillation is better for plants that don’t grow in abundance, like tree resin.
Cold-pressed essential oils tend to be more expensive than distilled oils, so they’re most often used for plants that grow in abundance or whose plant material doesn’t contain as many of the desired compounds – think citrus peels and flowers.
Carbon dioxide extraction is a different process. The plant matter goes into a low-pressure and low-temperature chamber and then carbon dioxide is forced through it. This method is considered one of the safest methods because it doesn’t use solvents or heat to extract oils, which can lead to changes in the compounds.
Where do essential oils come from?
Essential oils can come from a variety of places, but the top countries for growing essential plants are mainly in Europe and Asia. A lot of companies that offer wholesale essential oils buy them from suppliers all over the world.
Some of the most popular places to source these oils from include: France, Hungary, Morocco, Italy, China, and the United States.
What types of plants, trees, and flowers are known for producing essential oils?
The most well-known plants for producing essential oils are citrus trees, which produce oils like lemon, tangerine, grapefruit, and bergamot.
Other well-known plants that yield essential oil include mints (like peppermint), fennel, lavender, rosemary, thyme, tea tree/melaleuca, chamomile, ginger, frankincense, and myrrh.
Where do essential oil companies get their botanicals?
Most companies buy essential oils from suppliers all over the world who gather them in different ways like distillation or cold pressing.
Some companies buy essential oils from small farmers who are focused on sustainable practices. These are called “certified organic” essential oils, but there are also other certifications that you can check out to make sure the company or farmer is adhering to sustainable or ethical growing practices.
Some companies offer therapeutic-grade essential oils. This label means that the oils have been tested and contain no more than a certain amount of pollutants or adulterants.
Best Essential Oils for Beginners
There are hundreds of essential oils available, and it can quickly becoming overwhelming. What to choose? How should we use these oils, and where to start with quality essential oils?
I’ve created my newbie’s list of the best essential oils based on my research, that would be useful oils for beginners.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint oil is most famously known as the go-to remedy for upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting. It can be used to treat headaches and respiratory issues because it clears congestion.
Peppermint oil can also be used to treat skin irritations like eczema, psoriasis or insect bites because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
This oil can be diffused to produce a stimulating, focused atmosphere for daily activities.
To provide a cool, tingling sensation on the skin, apply it topically. It may be quite nice and relaxing after hard physical effort like a strength training session.
Peppermint can assist with headaches, appetite suppression, stomach calming, and as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree essential oil, commonly known as Melaleuca or Melaleuca Alternifolia oil, is a must-have for every home since it’s one of the most widely used and extensively studied essential oils.
Tea tree oil is made from steaming the leaves of the Australian tea tree. Many users feel it is the perfect remedy for acne, fungal infections, and bug bites. It’s both antiviral and antiseptic, which means you can use it anywhere on the body to promote healing.
It’s great for soothing the skin and a bottle of this multipurpose oil can be used to treat several skin ailments from athlete’s foot to acne.
Because essential oils are generally safe, you can use Tea Tree on almost any skin type. However, if you have sensitive skin or open wounds, it is best to consult with your doctor before using this product.
Tea tree oil has a strong, purifying scent and can be overwhelming if not diluted in another carrier oil or water. You can add a few drops of tea tree essential oil to your favorite shampoo! Other uses include Dental care, Insect repellent, and Oil cleansing.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is a liquid obtained from the dried flowers of the perennial lavender plant, lavandula angustifolia, which is a tiny shrub native to the Mediterranean but cultivated all over the world.
Lavender’s most popular uses are to treat stress, insomnia, and tension, but it’s also great for skin issues like burns and rashes.
Here is some additional helpful information about lavender oil:
- Lavender has a floral, clean-smelling scent.
- It’s this distinctive scent that has made the plant a staple in perfumes, soaps, fresheners, and cosmetic items.
- Lavender has a soothing, relaxing effect that can help you get a good night’s sleep. Lavender also helps to relieve tension and may help you sleep better if applied to your feet.
- It’s also effective for treating congestion or allergy season. It aids in the drainage of the sinuses.
- For a slice of tranquility, add 4 drops of Lavender and 1 cup Epsom salt to a hot bath.
- Blend with lotion or aloe vera to soothe burned skin after spending time in the sun.
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is known for its energizing and refreshing scent. It is made by using a process called steam extraction, using the peels of fresh lemons.
It can also be made with the cold-pressing process, where the lemon peel is pricked and rotated to release the oil.
It’s a great mood enhancer and can help lift your spirits when feeling down or sluggish.
The scent alone may provide you with a boost, making it ideal for diffusing during the long, sometimes dark, winter months.
Lemon oil’s pleasant and uplifting scent makes it a great addition to any space. It also helps skin and hair as much as its fragrance improves the ambiance.
Other uses for lemon essential oil include:
- Mix it with your cleaning products,
- use it during your nighttime skincare routine,
- or add a drop to your conditioner for a great scent.
There are two schools of thought regarding the ingesting of lemon essential oil. Some say it is safe to add to your drinking water, for example, while other experts warn never to ingest this.
Just make sure to do your homework and know what you are putting into your body.
Orange Essential Oil
Orange essential oil is made by using the cold pressing method, as described above for lemon essential oil.
It is also antibacterial, antiseptic, calmative, diuretic, sedative, stimulant, and tonic, according to The Complete Book of Essentials Oils and Aromatherapy. It’s been used to alleviate nervous tension while also treating cellulite and sleeplessness.
You can use it with your cleaning products, boost moods, or for skincare.
Orange essential oil has a sweet and uplifting scent. It always brings back memories of driving through orange groves in Florida when I was young and on vacation with my family.
You can diffuse this oil during the mornings or evenings to make your space smell fresh and inviting.
It’s also beneficial for skin and hair, helping to reduce the appearance of scars, stretch marks, and cellulite.
If you are not feeling well or experiencing indigestion or heartburn, then smooth a few drops of orange essential oil on your abdomen.
Want to try making your own orange essential oil? Here is a simple how-to that will get you started: https://hillsborough-homesteading.com/easy-homemade-orange-essential-oil/
What are carrier oils and how are they used with essential oils?
Carrier oils are vegetable and nut oils that you can use with essential oils. They help to dilute oil so that it can be safely applied directly to your skin. This also ensures the scent of the oil will last longer than just diffusing it into the air.
How do I know which oils should not be used on my skin?
You have to be careful about which oil you use topically, as some can cause severe irritation if not diluted. These oils include wintergreen and birch, among others. It’s best to do your own research on which essential oils shouldn’t be applied directly to skin or taken orally before you start using them.
How do I know how much to dilute my oil?
Again, this depends on the specific essential oil. If you’re not certain what to do, it’s always best to do your homework first:
- read all of the instructions that accompany the essential oil (duh)
- gather further information from the company that you purchased the essential oil from
- do some online research
- learn and adjust from your own experience.
What is a diffuser and how is it used with essential oils?
A diffuser is an appliance that emits scented oils into the air. That’s all there is to it! Some of them look like candles, others are more ornate and beautiful. There are even some that can be attached to your humidifier or nebulizer.
How long do diffusers last?
Diffusers vary in terms of how long they last and how strong they are. It’s recommended that you buy a diffuser that has an automatic shut-off feature, just in case you forget to turn it off after using it.
Diffusers are not exactly an essential oil, but they are a great way to use your oils. It’s worth investing in one if you want the benefits that come from using essential oils.
How to use essential oils
Now that you’ve decided which oils you’re going to start with, how do you go about using them?
This depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and how much time you have. For example, if you need to quickly relieve stress and tension in your muscles after a particularly difficult workout or day at work, then applying essential oils topically will be the best option for you. If you’re looking for mood support throughout the day, then diffusing essential oils into the air is better suited to your needs.
- You can add a few drops of your essential oils to a diffuser to circulate the scents throughout the room.
- If you’re using an oil topically, make sure you dilute or mix it with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil before applying it to your skin.
- Doing this will also increase the length of time that it will take for your oil to absorb into your skin.
- Topical application is great for things like pain relief, anti-inflammation, acne reduction, and scar removal.
- If you’re using an essential oil orally, make sure you only use a drop or two in juice or water. Using too much oil orally can cause you to get nauseous. Again, most experts will tell you that ingesting essential oils is not recommended. Research thoroughly before you make this decision!
Essential oil safety
- It’s important to know which essential oils should not be used on children. Some oils can damage their sensitive skin or burn them if ingested orally. You’ll want to do some research into the different kinds of essential oils before using them with children, as this is especially true for young babies and toddlers. It’s best to err on the side of caution.
- If you’re going to be using your essential oils in the sun, take care because some oils like citrus and cinnamon can make skin more sensitive to the sun. If you plan on using one of these oils, make sure that you wear sunscreen before heading out into the sun.
- If you know someone who is pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best for them to avoid essential oils. Not only can they impact fetal development, but you don’t want to give them the chance to absorb into your bloodstream and pass over to the child.
- When using your essential oils, make sure that you first consult a list of medical contraindications or a trusted herbalist or aromatherapist.
How should I store my essential oils?
Just because you don’t use your essential oils every day doesn’t mean they should go to waste. Here are some things you can do to make sure they last.
When not in use, keep your oil bottles tightly closed and out of direct sunlight or heat sources.
If you have alcohol-based oils, make sure that the caps are tightly closed to prevent evaporation. These oils are very volatile and will evaporate much faster when exposed to irritation, light, or heat.
If you want to make sure your essential oils last for years to come, store them in dark-colored glass bottles with tight caps. The darker the bottle, the better it is at protecting the oil inside.
It’s also best to keep your essential oils in a cool, dark place like a cabinet or pantry instead of on your counter. If you do this, you’ll prevent any harm that could be caused by light or heat exposure.
As you can see from the above article, there is so much more to essential oils than just the scents. Topical application has healing properties, and topical use in addition to diffusing is great for creating a pleasant environment.
What am I going to do now that I’ve learned about the value and use of these special oils? I’m going to select one of the five listed above, purchase a carrier oil as well as a diffuser, and experience essential oil use for me and in my home.
How about you? If you’re looking to get started with essential oils, it’s important that you learn more about their safety before using them on yourself or others. Once you do this, go out into the world and experience the magic of essential oils for yourself.
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