Even though essential oils seem to have recently appeared, they’ve actually been used since ancient times. Only that, in those times, the right to use pure essential oils was reserved to royal and high rank families and priests. Since the essential oils basics have been known for such a long time, we get to enjoy their benefits today knowingly.
I’ve put up a 5-step guide to help you use them safely and plentifully avoiding common mistakes and bad experiences.
It’s a good thing that we have a large amount of essential oils information. That way we can find exactly what we need to know without having to learn it the hard way on ourselves. Although it may seem a bit overwhelming at first, it takes only a little research until you’re completely up to date with everything essential oil-related.
And it is my belief that a simple structure will help everyone understand the basic principles of using the essential oils in a safe manner.
You need simple and clear information about what exactly an essential oil is and what is allowed and not allowed to do when using them. Knowing all that plus the correct way to blend an essential oil to get the best results can lead to a happier life.
The way the oils interact with each other and how long their life is will also help you make great choices and decisions in the future.
An essential oil is a highly concentrated substance that contains all the properties and active ingredients of a plant. The essential oils are extracted through various methods from the leaves, stems, barks and roots of a plant. Some extraction methods are natural like the steam distillation and others are chemical, like the solvent extraction.
5 Essential Oils Basics
1. They are volatile – that means they evaporate and they’re flammable too.
2. They don’t usually have a color. The exceptions are the Absinth essential oil (green), the Ceylon Cinnamon (reddish color) and the Roman Chamomile (blue).
3. They’re water insoluble (don’t mix with water) and soluble only in alcohol and carrier oils (base/vegetable oils).
4. They go through the skin barrier and get to the capillaries really fast. This fact encourages a systemic action.
5. They can also penetrate the respiratory system easily (through diffusion) and the oral surface (through gargling).
Essential Oil Uses and Storage
When you buy an essential oil you must make sure it’s a product of high quality. Otherwise there will be no health benefit. The following criteria will ensure the product you’ve bought is good quality:
• It needs to have the Latin name (botanical name) on the label.
• The bottle must be glass and dark colored to keep away the sunlight.
• They must be extracted from one single ingredient.
• The extraction method must be stated. The best essences are extracted through steam distillation.
Essential oils are always used in combination with a carrier oil. They will both mix very well and deliver a potent substance to your skin and blood. More about the carrier oils here.
You can use essential oils to enhance your overall well-being through a few methods. Depending on the results you’re looking for, you can either put a drop or two on a diffuser and sit back and relax, or you can apply them on the skin. Don’t forget to always dilute your essential oil in a carrier oil before massaging it into your skin.
We all want our essential oils to last for as long as possible. And in order to keep them like that you must make sure:
a) You never leave the bottle loose. The oxygen can cause great damage to the essential oil left loose. It can react with some of the oil’s compounds and oxidize. Through oxidation the oil will lose its therapeutic properties and benefits.
b) Don’t keep it near a source of heat or in a very warm ambience. Depending on the distillation process the essential oils have been obtained, the heat may cause the volatile substances found in EOs to evaporate more rapidly.
c) Just like carrier oils, essential oils also need to be kept safe and away from the direct sunlight. So always make sure the recipient of an essential oil, as well as a carrier oil’s is dark colored. This way you’ll keep the UV light away and safeguard your oils.
d) And always take into consideration its expiring date or the compounds the oil is made of, so you know exactly for how long to use them. In the following paragraphs, I’ve explained in detail what the shelf life of most EOs is.
Essential oils’ smell is given by their volatile substances that evaporate into the air once the bottle is open.
A volatile oil may contain somewhere between 100-200 hydrogen and carbon based compounds that are all very different – they’re also known as terpenes.
These terpenes help the plant build different and powerful essential oils that will ultimately be able to influence the human’s body biology and emotions.
When it comes to the essential oils safety, there’s nothing more important than being informed. You ought to be properly informed about everything that might go wrong, especially when you’re a beginner.
And I believe that starting with the things you must be careful about, will put you on the right path to learning more about them.
The safety part is the only “ugly” bit in the world of essential oils basics. After we’ve sorted these things out, the rest of the journey will be simply amazing. Knowing all the dos and don’ts prior to absorbing all the other facts will help you use the EOs in a very safe manner.
Essential Oils Don’ts:
1. Don’t use the essential oils if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding without the consent of a professional.
2. Don’t use them on children younger than 3 years old without the consent of a professional.
3. Don’t go over the quantity given in a recipe. Inform yourself on all dilution dosages and use only trusted sources.
4. Don’t use the same essential oil for a very long time. Your body might not react anymore to the same EOs stimuli when it gets used to them.
5. Don’t leave the EOs within children’s reach.
6. Don’t apply undiluted essential oils in orifices like the genital organs, nose, eyes or the ear canal. In case of accidental touch there, you are NOT allowed to wash directly with water. Use vegetable oil instead. Water may cause the EO’s molecules to break and facilitate their absorption by the cornea.
7. Beware of toxic oils for the nervous system (that cause seizures) like Sage, Thyme, Thuja and Cedar.
8. Never inject yourself or others with essential oils.
9. Don’t ingest essential oils that haven’t been prescribed by a specialist or you’ve made sure they’re free from toxic substances (refined). It can cause oropharyngeal burns. In case of accidental ingestion, don’t vomit. You may risk a second round of burns. Call the poison center and take 3 or 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil or 2 – 4 capsules of medicinal charcoal.
10. Don’t use the EOs on allergic or asthmatic people.
11. Essential oils are highly flammable (they burn fast), so make sure at all times they are not near any intense heat or fires.
12. Finally, DO NOT apply Peppermint essential oil on very large portions of the skin or in the bath water. There’s a high risk of hypothermia.
Simple 5-Step Guide to Using Essential Oils (EO)
1) First of all, you must dilute the EO you like in some vegetable oil (carrier oil). Being concentrated substances, they can irritate or sensitize the skin if used undiluted.
2) You should then respect the indicated dose. The usual Aromatherapy dose is 6 drops of EO per Oz (30 ml) carrier oil. Various blend recipes will use a 0, 5% dilution (3 drops/Oz carrier) or a 5% dilution (30 drops). The latter is the maximum in Aromatherapy and it refers to the grand total of drops per Oz vegetable oil. The number will grow proportionally with the carrier quantity used.
3) Mix your essential oils for a more potent blend if desired. If you’re after certain results that only one of the oils can offer, then by all means, add only one type. These are very common and simple blends, and I suggest you start like this. For instance, try adding 6 – 12 drops of Frankincense EO in 2 tablespoons (1 Oz) Argan oil. This is one of the simplest and efficient anti-aging blends.
4) Apply your blends on the affected areas (stomach, bruises, face, scalp, etc.). Do not take essential oils internally unless you’ve got clear permission from the doctor. You can also diffuse essential oils in special diffusers or candle burners. Make sure you don’t diffuse them for more than 20 – 30 minutes per hour. Studies show that under 60 minute inhalations are beneficial for the body and mind. More than that and you’ll get high blood pressure and rapid heart beatings.
5) If you’re pregnant or nursing try to avoid using essential oils on skin applications or inhalations in the first 3 months. After that, you should do it only with medical consent. Being made from tiny molecules, they can penetrate deep into the blood, milk and even placenta.
Essential Oils Basics: Their Shelf Life and Chemical Compounds
Thinking back I realize I had no idea that essential oils can actually “expire” but they can. Because they can easily oxidize and evaporate, the shelf life of essential oils can be as little as only 1 year. Even though they’re powerful substances, they’re also sensitive to factors like heat and light.
However, if all conditions of storage are met the essential oils have a very long shelf life. And to be exact, some can even last for 10 years. But their life is also affected by the type of active compounds that each essential oil contains.
- The essential oils that contain monoterpenes are antiseptics, analgesics and general stimulants and they have the shortest life: 1 – 2 years. These oils are: Lemon, Grapefruit and Mountain Pine etc.
- The same happens with the essential oils that contain oxides. They also have the shortest life (1-2 years). The essential oils with oxides are Eucalypt (radiata and globulus), Myrtle, Niaouli, Ravintsara (or Ravensara) etc. and they are very good mucolytics and expectorants.
- The essential oils that contain phenols have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. They’re also hepatotoxic and derma caustic. They can last around 3 years. Here we have the Oregano essential oil, the Thyme (thymol), Cinnamon, Clove, Winter Savory etc.
- The essential oils with monoterpenols have great mild anti-inflammatory properties that can be used on children (over 3 years). Their shelf life is of 4-5 years. These oils are: Thyme (linalool), Thyme Thujanol, Tea Tree, Marjoram, Geranium etc.
- Those that contain ketones have mucolytic, lipolytic and analgesic properties. But they also promote external healing and their shelf life is of 4-5 years. These oils are: Helichrysum, Peppermint, etc.
- Oils with esters have very good balancing properties and their shelf life is also of 4-5 years. These oils are: Lavender and Neroli etc.
- The essential oils that contain aldehydes have a shelf life of 2-3 life and they are very soothing and have great anti-inflammatory properties. They are the Verbena, Lemon, Eucalyptus, Cinnamon, etc.)
- Essential oils that contain sesquiterpenes can last as long as 6 years and they’re very effective with their anti-inflammatory properties. Here we have Ginger, Myrrh, and Black Pepper etc.
As you now know, essential oils are very powerful and concentrated substances. And that makes them very dangerous. There are certain risks that you might assume when the essential oils basics safety measures are not followed.
But how can we dilute them so that we don’t assume any risks? How exactly can you dilute the EOs safely and benefit from their potency?
It’s quite simple. You need a carrier oil for the essential oil you’ve chosen to use. A blend between these two will help you use them in the safest manner possible.
A dilution is very important to:
1. Prevent or avoid severe skin reactions like irritation, phototoxicity and sensitization. These can be obvious within minutes or hours from the use of undiluted essential oils.
2. And to prevent or avoid the body’s system toxicity. For instance, hepatotoxicity and neurotoxicity cannot be seen right away. It takes time to start noticing these adverse reactions which are harder to treat.
So the dilution reduces these risks and promotes a healthy use of the essential oils.
Essential Oils Basics: Their Dilution
Even though the dilution of an essential oil is pretty simple there are a few simple rules that need to be taken into consideration. The first one is that when it comes to the quantity of EO to be diluted into a carrier oil, this one can be influenced by a few things like:
• The phototoxicity of an EO.
• The age and health issues of a person.
• The type of skin of the person who wants to use the EOs.
• The toxicity level of the essential oil to be used.
*Note: Please DO NOT take these guidelines as certain measures. They may vary depending on the essential oil and the issue treated!
The essential oil dosage will depend on what you want to use it for. And the percentage of EO used in carrier oil will not always be the same.
The number of drops needed per 1 ml (0.03 oz.) of essential oil depends on its viscosity and brand. It may vary between 20-35 drops:
• If the essential oil is very light and fluid, there’s a need of 40 – 50 drops to make 1 ml (0.03 oz.)
• And if the essential oil is thick, there’s a need of 20 – 30 drops to make 1ml (0.03 oz.)
25 drops of EO = 1 ml (0.03 oz.)
1 drop of EO = 0, 04 ml (0, 13 oz.)
In other words:
• A quarter of dilution (.25%) will be equal to 1 drop in 4 tsp. of base oil (carrier/vegetable oil).
• A 1% dilution – 1 drop only for one tsp. of carrier oil.
• 2% dilution ratio – 2 drops for one tsp. of carrier oil etc.
The best dilution ratio is the 2% one, mostly used in all cosmetic blends for daily beauty routines. But it is also useful in almost all other blends that are needed for various situations (bug bites, itches, dandruff etc.)
Essential Oils Basics: Understanding their Synergy with Other Oils
The practice of blending and using the essential oils is called aromatherapy. And in aromatherapy, the principle of the synergy is quite simple.
Mix two essential oils with additional properties to get a total spectrum of action. Or mix two essential oils with properties that are very much alike in order to amplify the results.
Example of Similar EOs:
We have the Wintergreen essential oil and the Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil in a 50-50 ratio. The first one is famous for its anti-inflammatory properties and the second one is also very powerful against inflammations of all sorts.
• Both combined offer very spectacular effects on a tendinitis, sprain or rheumatism.
• If you want you could replace the Lemon Eucalyptus with the Ginger essential oil or a citrus EO but they will never be this powerful.
Example of complimentary EOs:
We have the Tea Tree EO and the Lavender officinale for an infection of the ear.
• They complete each other quite nicely because the Tea Tree is antiviral and the Lavender has anti-bacterial properties. Their effectiveness lays in an equal ratio of 50-50. This is a very good way to boost the immune system if applied during night.
If the blend must be taken during the day as well, the Lavender officinale will be replaced with Lavender aspic for an adult. They will have a calming effect while keeping the same effectiveness against the infection.
If you know all these basic safety measures it’ll be easy to play with essential oils. There is a lot of literature on the subject and you can always keep yourself informed from all the essential oils blogs out there. They are a good source for finding out what’s new.
What do you think? Are the essential oils difficult or easy to use? Because I think that it may only seem difficult since you’re still new to the subject.
When you’re at the beginning it may all look scary or too complex. But as soon as you take them one by one, the essential oils will seem very easy to use.
For a very nice experience with all the essential oils, there are a few very clear rules and guidelines that must be followed. In order to obtain really nice and effective blends, all you have to do is take into consideration things like the shelf life of an essential oil and how much you must add to the blend for a perfect balance.
The blends obtained this way will be able to satisfy each necessity your skin might have. They can either work together in a synergy or complement each other for a more powerful mix.