There are so many reasons for which we love essential oils! They smell great, they enhance our mood and they have therapeutic effects on the body, skin and hair. But using them on a regular basis, you have to know how to choose essential oils, right?
There are so many essential oil companies and independent product consultants out there! Because of that, I can see why the confusion. While using essential oils is quite easy and fun, choosing them can be pretty overwhelming. Especially if you’re at the beginning! For that I’ve made a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions.
They will address all the important aspects of essential oils. Because, when you have to choose them for Aromatherapy purpose, they need to be pure. Things like quality, packaging and costs are just a few aspects that matter when choosing your essential oils.
At the end of the article you will find a brief introduction on how to use essential oils. That will then send you to more in-depth articles on the topic, if you want to know more. You will also find tips and guidance on how to make your own essential oils starter kit.
That being said, let’s start shedding some light on the best ways to choose essential oils.
Frequently Asked Questions on How to Choose Essential Oils, and Their Quality
When you’re new at using essential oils (EOs), there’s a lot of info you need to know. Safety precautions are the most important aspect when dealing with EOs. Then, there’s the correct way to use them. If you don’t take them internally, all the other methods are fairly easy to use. Just follow the recommended dose and you’ll be safe.
But there are lots of other interesting things about essential oils. I’ve made up a list of common questions that refer to all the important aspects about them.
Even if you’re not an expert, you will still be able to choose your own essential oils after reading this FAQ section.
A. What exactly are essential oils?
Before finding out how to choose essential oils, you must first know what they are.
Essential oils are plant extracts. Concentrated essences extracted by steam distillation from leaves, barks, roots, flowers and resins. Steam distillation is the safest method to get pure essential oils. During the process, the steam vapors will extract the aromatic oils from the plants. These aromatic oils are made of over a hundred different molecules. These molecules are heavier than water.
Being heavier, essential oils don’t mix with water. The latter will then be evacuated through a separate orifice. That water is known as floral water or hydrolate. Floral waters are very gentle tonics that can be sprayed on the face, hair or sheets. They still contain most of the beneficial properties of the oils, but in a less concentrated form.
B. How much does it matter if I know the Latin name of an essential oil? What about the chemotype?
Each type of essential oil belongs to a certain plant species, or family. The Latin name is actually the plant’s scientific or botanical name. It is important to know it to be able to buy the right essential oil. For instance Lemon essential oil is called Citrus Limon. Lime essential oil is called Citrus Aurantifolia. They both have different properties. But mistakenly buying one for the other will usually give very different results.
Chemotypes are other criteria which can differentiate essential oils. Chemotypes are part of the chemical profile of an essential oil. They give it specific properties. But not all plants have chemotypes.
Usually, chemotypes depend on the place the plant has grown. Things like altitude, weather and soil can make a plant produce certain substances in higher quantities. For example, if rosemary will grow in a very hot area, it will produce more camphor.
That plant’s name and chemotype (ct.) will be Rosmarinus officinalis ct. camphor. Other chemotypes for Rosemary essential oil are ct. Verbenone and ct. 1, 8 – cineole. They are all different substances that give the oil different properties.
Another plant with many chemotypes is basil. Common Basil essential oils are extracted from the Ocimum basilicum ct. methyl chavicol. But other known chemotypes are ct. linalool, ct. eugenol and ct. fenchol.
C. How can essential oils help me?
Learning how to choose essential oils may depend on whether they can help you or not. If you are allergic or suffer from severe medical conditions, you should not use essential oils. Otherwise, essential oils will influence you, one way or another.
Through inhalation, essential oil molecules will travel straight to the brain. They are known to reach the amygdala and the nervous system and influence them. That’s how essential oils can improve your mood with a simple sniff.
When applied to the skin, they usually get into the bloodstream quite fast. They will then begin their journey through the body, and take care of internal problems. An inflammation here, a bacteria there, essential oils can help.
They have different qualities. They are disinfecting, analgesic, sedative, and anti-inflammatory, among others. The body will take what it needs and then expel them through tears, milk, and other bodily fluids.
There have been many studies showing that Aromatherapy can help people in various situations. Hospitals use them to promote better sleep and relaxation in their post-operatory patients.
D. Are fragrance oils the same as essential oils?
No, they are not. Essential oils are natural substances, while fragrance oils are synthetic. They are lab-made and their only role is to smell nice. They also have a more powerful aroma, and they imitate any aromas out there. Fragrance or perfume oils don’t have therapeutic properties.
E. How can I tell if an essential oil is good quality?
One good way to tell if your essential oils are good quality is to make sure the label contains all the necessary info. How to choose essential oils might become easier if you pay attention to a few small details.
The seller should pack its essential oils in dark colored glass bottles because they are sensitive to light. The label should also say the country the plant came from, and state its botanical name. The extraction method is also important, especially in the case of citrus oils. Citrus essential oils that are steam distilled don’t cause sun sensitivity (phototoxicity).
But citrus oils that are extracted through the cold pressed method can. This means you cannot expose your skin in the sun for 24 – 48 hours after using them.
If you feel like experimenting, you could also buy from different companies and compare essential oils. Usually, very strong and odd smells means they are not pure. They can be adulterated with lots of lab-made components, or extracted from different chemotypes.
For example: a too sweet Peppermint essential oil is not pure. That’s simply because Peppermint is more pungent than sweet. It is minty and herbaceous.
F. Are certain essential oils supposed to cost so much?
What makes essential oils so concentrated is the amount of plant matter used. Some plants and trees grow in abundance, so the price of their oils will also be smaller. Such is the case of Pine, Cypress, Lemon, Sweet Orange, Sage, etc.
But other plants and flowers, or even resins don’t grow in abundance. For instance, Rose Otto needs hundreds of pounds of blossoms to produce just an ounce of essential oil. There are also endangered species of trees. This type of situation can also influence the cost of certain essential oils. Here we have Sandalwood and Agarwood. They take tens of years to grow up and yield quality essential oils, and are already overexploited.
Being natural, some essential oils can cost quite a lot. If you ever see an essential oil that you know it should be more expensive, then you should not buy it. It most definitely is adulterated to make it more affordable.
Instead, try to replace the expensive oils with their substitutes. For example, instead of pure Sandalwood (Santalum album) try using Amyris essential oil. Or try some New Caledonian Sandalwood essential oil, which is the closest to the real one.
G. What does pure essential oil mean?
Again, learning how to choose essential oils might require a bit of research on your part. Pure essential oils are not adulterated in any way. They should also be extracted from the same crop (not from a mix of old and new plant matter). But unfortunately, even if the producer used quality plant material, the oil quality might still be affected.
The tools, recipients and the processing method can also alter the oil’s quality. What you can do though, is read the MS/GC reports for each type of essential oil on the website you’re buying from. That should include all the test results for each new batch of oils.
H. What does “therapeutic grade” essential oil mean?
This term is just marketing. There are no grades because there is no official body to regulate the standards of essential oils. There are only internal standards, which can basically mean whatever the company wants.
Some companies label their essential oils as “therapeutic grade” on purpose. They want to boost their sales, but other companies might just follow the trend. They could actually be selling 100% pure essential oils. These “therapeutic grade” essential oils refer to those that are pure and unadulterated. The best way to call them would probably be Aromatherapy grade essential oils.
I. How can I decide upon an essential oil?
Each type of essential oil is different, which means it has different properties as well. Learning how to choose essential oils will automatically help you decide better.
Whether you’re looking for relaxation and a better sleep, or more energy during the day, you have many essential oils to choose from. You could also need them to soothe an inflammation on the skin, or help your hair grow. There are enough essential oils to help with such conditions.
Depending on your needs, you can find essential oils for almost any type of mild condition. You can then prepare yourself simple blends, and start preventing or improving those conditions.
J. What are the most important aspects to look for when choosing essential oils?
This question is more like a small recap on how to choose essential oils from the answers mentioned above.
First of all, make sure the company you’re buying from is trustworthy and reliable. It would be great if they nurture some type of relationship with their distillers. A reliable company should also have a strong noncontroversial reputation.
Then you can start paying attention to the product itself. It needs to come in a dark colored glass bottle, with all the necessary info on the label. Look for the Latin name, extraction method and the country of origin. But the chemotype and end date are also important.
Make sure the cost of your essential oils is appropriate. Also, don’t hesitate to compare the prices you find. The oils should be organic, and the plants untreated with pesticides. Also, look for any type of company membership and research the association to see what it is about.
K. Which essential oils brand is best and what makes them reliable?
It’s important to research the company and its reputation, just like I said above. Too much controversy means something’s not right. Take into account all the small details about their company and products. But don’t neglect their connection to Aromatherapy either.
The most reliable companies are those run by aroma therapists or naturopaths. They usually care for the quality of their products.
L. How safe are essential oils?
Generally speaking, essential oils are safe for a person with normal health. However, they must still be tested for allergies and skin reactions. Essential oils need to be diluted because they can be very powerful.
In case of special conditions like pregnancy or seizures, you should always seek the opinion of a doctor first. Children must also use essential oils with care. Not all are safe for them!
From now on, when facing with the dilemma of how to choose essential oils, you will at least know where to begin. The best thing about a thorough research is that you do it once and you’re done. Once you’ve found yourself one or two good sources to buy your oils from, you won’t have to worry again. You should have at least two essential oil companies in case you don’t find a certain essential oil.
How to Use Essential Oils and What Should a Simple Starter Kit Contain
Luckily, no matter how you use essential oils, they will reach your blood and start working their magic. The most controversial method is still the one of ingesting essential oils. That should only be done with the advice of a doctor. He is also the one who’s entitled to give you the proper dose.
Essential oils must not be treated lightly, or they will cause severe damage. That happens especially when they are consumed in large doses.
Besides taking them orally, essential oils can also be applied on the skin. You can blend a few drops of essential oil in carrier oils, or vegetable oils. Massage the affected areas (skin, scalp or hair) as often as needed.
You can also add a few essential oil drops in some fatty milk and pour it in your bath water. That will help you relax and nourish your skin at the same time.
Last but not least, you can diffuse your favorite essential oils in your home or working office. They will purify the air and enhance your mood. Depending on preferences and needs, you can just change the smell in your house or improve insomnia. At work, you can use oils that energize and help you stay focused and sharp for more efficiency.
I believe that knowing how to choose essential oils will improve the way you live. Essential oils can be quite a fun and beautifully scented way to help a cold or a migraine pass, for instance.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and writing articles on essential oils. I’ve seen that there are a few essential oils that can easily fit in any home, so here’s a simple starter kit. It contains affordable and easy to find essential oils, and it could be a great starting point for beginners.
- Tea Tree essential oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) – It has powerful antibacterial and antifungal qualities. You can use it to disinfect wounds, get rid of mold and improve genital infections. In other words, Tea Tree should never miss from any household.
- Lemon essential oil (Citrus Limon) – Is another strong antibacterial with a beautiful and refreshing aroma. It is often used in cleaning products. But it can successfully be used in all types of homemade blends for skin care and hair care.
- Lavender essential oil (Lavandula Angustifolia) – Is perfect to have around the house. It can be a great bug repellent and soothe their bites also. It has strong relaxing and calming properties, which makes it good at improving insomnias. It is also good at helping the tissue regenerate faster in case of cuts, scrapes or minor burns.
- Rosemary essential oil (Rosmarinus Officinalis) – It is helpful in improving the memory and focus. Rosemary can be diluted in some carrier oil and massaged on the stomach area to soothe and relieve stomach pain, gas and bloating. It can also improve a slow digestion. It also has strong disinfectant qualities.
- Rose Geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens or Rosae) – It’s a very balancing essential oil. It can be used for all skin types in cosmetic blends to tone up the skin. It is also moisturizing and nourishing. It smells really nice (first geranium, then rose). It’s great in perfume blends as a strong middle note, too.
Essential oils may be powerful and concentrated, but that’s their beauty. You only need to use just a small amount in carrier oils to enjoy their benefits on the skin, mind and body. Remember to do your research whenever you have doubts about certain aspects of your oils.
How to choose essential oils and how to use them should now be a bit easier. But, if there are still questions I didn’t cover, please feel free to ask me in a comment. I’ll make sure to give you an honest and informative answer.
What is your experience with essential oils so far, and what are your favorites?