The Essential Basics
Updated: Mar 6, 2019
When I started using essential oils, I was a little overwhelmed.
I was all in for a more natural alternative for healthy living, but I was a deer in headlights about where essential oils fit in there. I had lots of questions...
"Is it an actual oil? What does it do? How do you use it and how do you NOT use it?!"
Fast forward several years and here we are with some research, experience and confidence under our belts ready to help you with your own EO questions! So let’s start with the basics...
What are EOs?
Essential oils are highly concentrated oils extracted from the bark, seed, root, flower, fruit or leaf of a plant. So for example, Orange EO comes from the fruit’s peel while Lavender EO is extracted from the plant’s flowering tops.
These concentrated oils are found naturally in the glands of plants as microdroplets (pause for a mini science lesson… low chemical weight molecules tiny enough to directly enter our bodies’ cells). These microdroplets come to the plant’s surface during distillation where they evaporate and release the plant’s scent as well as its health properties.
So how do they get the oil out of the plant?
EOs are distilled in several ways, but the most common methods are steam distillation and expression (also called cold press). Again, Orange and Lavender make good examples. For cold pressed or expressed EOs like Orange, the peels are squeezed to get the fruit’s EO.
Some plants like Lavender, however, undergo steam distillation to get the EO. Think sauna for plants. The plant’s pores are opened and the oil is released when steam is forced over the plant material.
The EO containing steam is then collected and cooled, allowing the oil to rise to the top and be siphoned off from the distilled water. Fun fact - the left over water is what's known as Hydrolat or Hydrosol (like Rose-water or Lavender-water) and is a similar, but gentler product with it's own therapeutic properties.
How do you use them?
EOs are mainly used in two ways: topically and diffusing.
Applying essential oils to the skin is an effective way to get the oil's benefits to a specific area. There are 2 ways people like to use an oil topically… diluted or neat (straight onto the skin without a carrier oil). Both ways have their own benefits, but it’s always a good idea to dilute an essential oil when using it topically.
Only a few essential oils are safe to use neat, and even these are only safe in certain circumstances (for small areas of application, and only for short term use). Diluting an oil is just as effective and is better for your body in the long run, especially if you intend to use it consistently for a long period of time.
When using an essential oil topically, especially if it’s an oil you’ve never used before, it's a good idea to patch test the oil first. Patch testing simply means you apply the oil to a small area of skin, usually the inner wrist or forearm, let it sit a few hours and see if your body reacts to the oil.
Common reactions are redness and itching or burning sensations. If this happens, wash any un-absorbed oil off and apply more carrier oil (like coconut or sweet almond oil) to dilute any EO leftover and to calm any irritation. We recommend you always patch test oils at their suggested dilution rate. If your skin does react, listen to your body! Increase the dilution rate of the essential oil or discontinue using that oil all together. Check out our dilution blog to learn more about using EOs topically!
Probably the most popular way to use essential oils, just add a few drops to a diffuser and voila! Health benefits and air freshener all rolled into one... But remember, depending on the size (water capacity) of your diffuser, you may need more than a few drops of essential oil before you can smell it.
Small diffusers (50ml to 120ml) | 5 - 10 drops EO
Medium diffusers (150ml to 250ml) | 10 - 20 drops EO
Large diffusers (250ml+) | 15 drops or more EO
(Of course, directly inhaling an essential oil is the more basic form of aromatherapy and can be used in some cases as a quick fix.)
Don’t have a diffuser? Check out our diffusers here!
What can you use them for?
So we separated EOs uses into 7 main categories...
Some oils help calm or relieve stress while others can energize or help with memory and focus…
Oils can help balance emotions and (check this out ladies!) help with PMS symptoms…
Use oils to help with pain relief and to heal wounds and scars…
Use it in skin care, hair care and to just smell really nice...
When it comes to immune, respiratory and digestion support, EOs are a natural and effective remedy worth a try...
Some EOs have strong antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties which make them great air purifiers, disinfectants and natural antimicrobial cleaners...
Other uses for EOs include weight loss aids and insect repellents…
I guess the cliche saying of “There’s an oil for that...” is kinda true!
Have other questions like using EOs with children, medication or during pregnancy? Check out our FAQ page or leave a comment and one of our certified aromatherapists will answer your questions!