I’ve already posted in depth about some of the major problems with modern use of essential oils (in one of my most controversial posts to date), but essential oils do have many benefits, so I wanted to cover the positive side as well.
Benefits of Essential Oils
Though essential oils do have a dark side if used incorrectly, they have been safely used by many people to:
- Improve immunity and speed illness recovery
- Deal with infection (under the care of a professional)
- Balance hormones
- Make homemade cleaning or beauty products
- For diffusing and natural air cleansing
- Topically (when diluted)
- In recipes like homemade bug spray to avoid outdoor pests naturally
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated non-water soluble phytochemicals that are distilled from different parts of plants. They can be distilled from leaves, roots, flowers and other parts of plants and are very potent because of their concentration of phytochemicals.
Herbs and plants have been used for thousands of years and modern society has lost some of the wisdom of past generations and the ability to address illness with these natural solutions.
Essential oils have gained incredible popularity in recent years, but they are really an age-old remedy that have become popular again (though it is important to note that many modern essential oils are more concentrated than the oils used historically because of better distillation techniques).
More is not always better…
Essential oils are extremely potent and it is important to use as little as needed, not as much as possible. When a few drops of an oil used topically or aromatically will work, using more or consuming it internally is not only unnecessary, but may actually be harmful.
Another concern with modern essential oil use (especially the overconsumption that often accompanies regular internal use) is the long term sustainability of essential oils. Since a tremendous amount of plant material is needed to extract the oils, their long-term and widespread use could potentially create a negative, world-wide environmental effect.
Differences in Quality
The quality of essential oils on the market varies greatly. Essential oils can be quite expensive, but a high quality essential oil takes a large amount of plant material to produce and is highly concentrated. Many inexpensive essential oils are available commercially, but are altered with other oils or do not pass third party testing because of their inferior quality.
High quality oils should be produced without chemicals and come from organic plants that grow in their natural environment and growing region.
Safe Use of Essential Oils
Essential oils are very powerful plant compounds and should be used carefully and in the correct way. I’ve seen a lot of information promoting the regular internal use of essential oils and while there can absolutely be a place for this, I think it is important to be careful and check with a qualified professional when consuming them internally since they are so strong.
My two favorite ways to use essential oils are diffusing and topical use. The body can still utilize the beneficial parts of the oil and this is a much gentler (yet still effective) approach.
Essential oils contain tiny molecules that are much more easily absorbed into the body than other types of oils, so when an oil is used on the skin, the body rapidly obtains the benefit of the oil. This is why it is also important to follow safe usage guidelines, even for topical use.
I highly recommend diluting any oils that are used on skin with a safe carrier oil and consulting with a qualified aromatherapist or functional medicine doctor before using topically, especially on children.
Essential oils can also be diffused into the air. This process is known as aromatherapy and provides the benefits of the oils as they are inhaled. There is evidence that the oils are absorbed into the blood stream when inhaled.
Some research has shown that aromatic use is actually more effective that internal use, and it is certainly much safer.
I reviewed some of my favorite EO diffusers in this post.
My Favorite Essential Oils
I’ve written before about my favorite oils, but in summary, these are excellent ones to use for daily activities:
- Peppermint– We use it on feet for nausea or fever, in homemade cleaners and soaps, and in the diffuser. For congestion, I add a few drops of Peppermint and other oils to a pot of steaming water and breathe in the steam to help open the sinuses.
- Lavender– I use it in skin care recipes and as a calming oil when needed. It is naturally antibacterial and I often add it to homemade cleaners. I also add Lavender to bath water to help me relax at night.
- Lemon, Lime and Orange– These citrus essential oils are astringent and antiseptic and are thought to stimulate the immune system. They are uplifting and considered cleansing. We avoid these in the sun since they do make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. In some studies they are shown to have antimicrobial properties.
- Frankincense– I use topically on my thyroid and it seems to have helped shrink the nodules that were forming (along with dietary changes).
- Rosemary– I add a drop to my shampoo to increase hair growth and improve scalp health.
- Tea Tree/Melaleuca – I add this to natural cleaning products as it is naturally antibacterial and smells great when mixed with a citrus oil or lavender.
Saving Money Using Essential Oils?
One benefit of essential oil usage is that you can save money in other areas of the budget, such as using them in DIY beauty products and homemade cleaning products that no longer have to be purchased at retail from the store.
- We make our own natural cleaning products with essential oils and inexpensive ingredients like baking soda and white vinegar to save money on cleaning products
- We use essential oils in place of candles and air fresheners
- We use essential oils to make homemade laundry detergent instead of store bought laundry products
- We use essential oils and other natural ingredients to make our own toothpaste, lotion, shampoo, and deodorant which frees up the budget for those items
Where I Get Essential Oils
I purchase essential oils from multiple companies and sources, depending on the blend and usage. There can be a substantial difference in quality between brands, so I always make sure the source is certified organic and available in various sizes (including bulk sizes at a discount) whenever possible. However, the vast majority of oils I use are purchased here.
Here’s how to organize and store your essetial oils and other natural remedies.
A Note of Caution
Wherever you buy essential oils, you should always ensure they are:
- Organic- as pesticides can be more concentrated in essential oils.
- Sourced from the native region for each plant
- Not altered or adulterated in any way
- List any precautions and contraindications (pregnancy, medications, etc) for each of their oils
Please also take a moment to read this article with important risks and cautions before using essential oils.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Michelle Sands, ND. She is double board certified in Integrative Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine and is also a Board-Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and competitive endurance athlete. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Do you use essential oils? What is your favorite blend of oil and how do you use it?
Discussion (47 Comments)
Is it safe to use Peppermint oil around 18 month old children and up? I have asthma and would like to see if it helps but don’t want to harm my grandchildren. They are at my house most of the time.
Hi Katie, love your articals and home made recipes. I’m very cautious using EO and it seems to me I spend a lot of time sifting through (when reading) arguments regarding MLMs (don’t live in USA or CA). So confused with it all. I’m also shocked by the nasty agressive comments made. So have read but avoided asking questions. I wanted to ask you though if you were alergic to asperin (which occours naturally in plants, so people equate natural = safe which it is not, which I trust from reading your articals you would understand) what EOs would you avoid??? (asking as a general guide not a specific persciption). At the moment I have used only single EO no blends on myself for this reason but would like to start using more home made recipe from your site. Just finding research overwhelming. Even if you could point me in the right direction. Thanking you in advace.
Fantastic question! I would be cautious if you have that allergy, and definitely check with a functional medicine doctor before using any… There are some EOs that are more likely than others to contain components that will cause a reaction, but a doctor will be able to help you identify unusual suspects too. Good luck!
Hi Katie, just an update. The EO’s to avoid for an asperin allergy are sweet birch, wintergreen and ylang ylang. So glad I was finally able to find this information out as EOs are now being added to so many products. I was warned that tiger balm is a common product containing wintergreen. I’ve noticed that ylang ylang is in many different products like shampoos, shower gels and hand soaps. Now I know what not to put in my home made recipes.
Thanks for sharing!
Never, ever use PENNYROYAL for ANYTHING!!! It’s poisonous. I had bought it because I liked the name (silly I know but I was trying just to create a perfume not for health applications). I received it and immediately sniffed it and it smells like peppermint. I put it in the diffuser and sat down to look up it’s uses and benefits and what it’s made of etc. before I even got to the portion of the book that says it is toxic I had put it out and opened the doors and windows and was suffering both an asthma attack plus headache!!! (I’d be curious to know why they make and sell the stuff). Omg. I am soooo much more careful now. Plus I burnt my neck once with peppermint oil and that was IN a carrier oil (almond)! but I had put too much. Took about 15 minutes of being very uncomfortable before I could adequately wash enough of it off. And I had used it for a headache/neckache (which works fabulously when done right!). So I was not a happy camper!! I’ve had a couple other little misadventures. The point however is this stuff is STRONG!!! So be vewwwry careful – when hunting these kinds of rabbits!!
Just the way you phrased this I was curious If you were washing the peppermint e.o. off with water, as water drives the essential oils deeper into the skin. To remove the oil you would want to add more carrier oil to your skin and then wipe away and repeat as necessary.
Hi Wellness Mama – just a question with Thyroid problems..especially Hashimoto’s as i noticed you have this condition as well – do you recommend having a flu shot – would you consider this a pro or con…?
Katie - Wellness Mama
With an autoimmune condition I would personally never consider getting one…
I use Young Living and ingest oils every day. I have a cup of chai tea in the morning that I add a drop of Clove oil to. It taste great! At night I take a drop of Thieves and chase it down with a little water. I cook with Rosemary and also Lemon. Sometimes I add Wintergreen to my stainless steel water bottle. I’ve been doing this for a long time. Their Ninxjia Red drink has oils in it. I agree about doing your homework but so far this has worked for me. I also do the Raindrop Technique which is done with undiluted oils on the back and never had any complaints. Only perhaps someone may feel a little heat so all I do is add some more massage oil. Plus I put their Peace and calming on my feet when I feel like it. OK, so that’s my two cents!
Since indigenous regions not in the USA do not have usda organic certifications. It’s a contradiction to only buy organic and from indigenous regions simultaneously. Wild crafted often do not label organic even if they are more potent and more pure.
Our family uses your lotion recipe (and love it!)…I’m wondering what your thoughts are on using a blend essential oil vs a single? Better to stick with 1 or if no reactions can blend be used?
I read your information about diffusers and not using wick candles. It makes a lot of sense when you see the back soot on the glass of the candle. I don’t want to put toxins in the air of my house ! Does it also apply to the melts? Like Scentsy that don’t use wicks but just heat and melt?
Thank you !!!
Katie - Wellness Mama
Yes, unfortunately, because they use the same types of chemicals for scents and are petroleum based.
My understanding is that both soy and bees wax candles burn clean. All you have that’s not “clean” is the wick and you can go with the cotton kind and skip the zinc and I believe that the parts per million of carbon in your air would be very negligible. Certainly parrafin gives off lots of carbon, being a petroleum product ie: it’s made of the same stuff as engine oil or coal. (FYI, any candle that does not say soy or bees wax IS parrafin!! No matter how expensive!!)
In addition, bees wax candles literally clean your air. The dust and pollen in your air is positively charged and the bees wax gives off negative ions, when burned, which attach themselves to the positively charged particles making them heavy enough to fall to the ground. It would seem wise to me to burn them in a “sick room” just like you would some kinds of loose incense (I think cedar, frankincense, Rosemary all destroy bacteria in the air, talking the herbs/resins here, not EOs although the EOs would accomplish the same thing, without the smoke. Ironically almost exactly when they figured out that burning Rosemary cleans the air of bacteria, the French hospitals stopped doing it cuz they thought the old practice may be unhealthy – often we find that old remedies were in fact not only effective but more so than the new-fanged (lol) stuff. It had been a practice that was in place for hundreds of years!!! Whoops!!)
In any case I make soy and bees wax candles cuz it’s soooo incredibly cheaper than buying them and they burn clean to my knowledge and they burn about 3-4x longer than paraffin – an 8 oz soy candle will burn for about 40 hrs if you keep the wick to the right size!! – plus it’s fun and easy (actually bees wax is a bit challenging – to find the right wick-size to vessel-size so that it will burn evenly all the way down. If anyone knows the secret to this please clue me in!! But if it doesn’t burn all the way down then you can cut out the wick and remelt what’s leftover for whatever project or another candle, although I wouldn’t recycle old candles to make health products but bees wax has sooo many applications from furniture/floor polish and saddle soap to using it for certain things like you would glue and so on…). Plus you can scent them with EOs and while you won’t get as much dispersed in the air, you would get some, plus they would smell awesome!!
And I was just thinking as writing this that if you mix bees wax with say almond oil — that is melt them together then pour into a tartlet container to harden up then break off pieces to use – I’ll bet you can make a tartlet out of that for an electric burner that wouldn’t even have the smoke from the wick plus it WOULD disperse a lot more in the way of EOs AND clean your air – although it might be somewhat counter-productive to add EOs to bees wax in that if the EOs give off positively charged particles (not sure that they do or do not or what almond or other oils give off) then you’d be canceling them out plus bees wax smells awesome without any additives!! I don’t personally add anything to bees wax candles as I like the subtle, warm smell of honey!!
Truly giving up candles altogether seems a bit over the top to me but I did switch to soy/bees wax as there really is a big difference in terms of carbon emmition!! That little wick just cannot give off that much carbon in say a 10 x10 room with gently circulating air like a window opened a couple inches, plus the air-cleaning bees wax would seem to cancel that out anyway. (Ya know just FYI that carmelizing meat plus bbqing both cause a certain amount of carbon to be in your food!! My point being there has got to be a limit to where you say enough is enough in terms of illuminating EVERY source of toxin, our bodies were designed to deal with a certain amount, naturally, although I agree unnecessary ones like in normal antiperspirant that you buy at the store is harmful and I’ve cut sooo many toxins out of my life with the help of people like you!! Thank you!!)
If I’m mistaken about this I’d like to know (although there’s no way it’s going to stop my spiritual practices using candles and loose incense – there are just too many positive results from that. It’s a matter of weighing your pros and cons. Still…I’d be interested if anyone knows better).
Sorry if too long post (blushing).
I read you… I actually wrote a whole article saying (mostly) that: https://wellnessmama.com/22656/dont-use-scented-candles/
Hey! So I used to be a consultant for scentsy! The wax they use is food grade & safe. Have you looked it up or am I being misled?
I wrote this article about scented candles in general. I don’t feel good about any kind of paraffin wax, and avoid soy too.
Bees Wax is a good choice and safe
I’m REALLY surprised you don’t use doTERRA oils, any reason why not? Genuinely curious 🙂
Katie - Wellness Mama
As I mentioned in the article, I purchase from multiple companies depending on the quality, blend, and price.
Hi, I was just introduced to Jade Bloom. I like the oils and they are great qualility, from what I understand. Plus they are very affordable when compared to other companies.
Soooooo glad you posted more about essential oils and the caution one should use. I have been using essential oils for years and was happy when I hard more people interested in them. But yikes! I learned so much from many different books and respect and use oils just like other medicine. I was floored when speaking with some oil “sales person” advocating daily ingestion of numerous oils. I’m worried these companies, and the fact the oils are potent and very effective, will ruin it for everyone. I can see the government stepping in and regulating oils to the point where it is no longer economical and possibly impossible to purchase over the counter.
I think it’s probably unlikely if you know the laws in CA about transportation but I don’t know if the laws are federal or state. The thing is I don’t seem to be able to order EOs from mountainroseherbs.com anymore. Am I doing something wrong? Did you experience a change in the way you have to order them during this last year? Is anyone else experiencing these problems and do you know how to make it so that I can have them delivered to me. I’ve since taken my business to bulkapothecary.com who seem to have quality oils but one thing that is annoying about theirs is that they don’t put reducers on the bottles!! The first one I rec’d I spilled cuz I assumed it had a reducer on it and it did not and it’s an annoyance to have to use droppers (believe me when I say disposable is the way to go unless you keep a dropper for each oil which I’m thinking of doing as I hate throwing these away all the time, environmental reasons plus just seems a waste!). But never use the same dropper with different oils!!. What a mess!! But the house smelled awesome for a good while. Thankfully it didn’t do any damage to the table or carpet, it was cerdarwood which is a relatively mild oil in comparison to say cinnamon which would have been darn near disastrous!! (I’m extremely careful with cinnamon and clove and pretty darn careful with peppermint as these will all burn you!! I only use cinnamon and clove in diffusers or making soy candles and not in any topical applications and would NEVER ingest them and if I ingest peppermint, only when I have something like food poisoning – mild case – I put a drop in a huge glass of water, swish it around dump it out and refill the glass with filtered water so that I’m only getting the very small amount that was stuck to the glass and it works fabulously and almost immediately!! Please don’t use me as an example and do your own research!! Just something to think on!!)
Ok done with the soapbox lol. Does anyone have a solution for me? (I hope so as I trust mountainroseherbs.com sooo much more! They are fantastic, practice fair trade, use recycled material for packaging and things like labels and give you all the info you need plus use organic or inform you if wildcrafted, give origin, etc.. and just plain ROCK!! I love them!!)
Thanks for this and all you do!!
Katie - Wellness Mama
Apparently MRH can no longer ship to California due to their state regulations. I don’t know all the details since I don’t live there, but you can probably contact their customer service to find out…
I’m in CA and haven’t had any issues with shipping. Here’s their shipping policies talking about using UPS ground because of new FAA rules. https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/ordering/shipping
I just called MRH as we live in California as well. We can still receive everything – there has been no change. Canada and Hawaii have limitations, but we are good in California! :). Spoke with Karen in Customer Service – she was awesome!
omgosh soo many times I have ordered elsewhere cuz it says restricted when I try to order online!! When I go to pay it simply won’t let me!! I guess I will call in my orders from now on!! I’m a little dismayed how often I have to order them. (Like for henna-ing my hair or for making candles or soap…. It just really adds up once you start using them for sooo many things!!). I use them a lot!! And I could sooo use the savings plus I just feel more comfortable ordering from them. Then I don’t question the quality when I’m using them.
Ya know there are places that sell them for as low as $3.99/bottle?!?! Before I had read a bunch of books, took a class and came on sites like this one I was haphazardly using those!! I had no clue!! Scary!!! But I wasn’t using them for any health applications like the bottom of my foot or putting in salves, rather just dispersing and using like perfume, still!!! Actually that might still be better for you than using chemically laden stuff, idk really.
Doesn’t matter now. But I am sooo pleased that I can order from them again!!!
Ya know I’ve been scared to travel with them since that happened. Do you know what hazards there are if any to putting them in your luggage to fly?