Best Ways to Access and Use Essential Oils

When thinking about essential oils, there are always various discussions that will take place whether or not they actually do anything. While there may be limited research to determine the effectiveness of essential oils in regards to human health, there are many promising lab studies, such as finding persistent Lyme disease bacteria can be killed off by herbs and essential oils from garlic.

Some studies on aromatherapy and health benefits have shown that is has improved anxiety and depression, the quality of life - especially for those with chronic health and mental health conditions, and sleep quality.

Drop of oil ready to go into bottle "Are your essential oils top quality?"
Do your research - quality over anything else will be your best option when searching for the right essential oil to use. Photo courtesy of: Meghan Telpner

Reputation and Purity - Finding Quality Essential Oils

Important Factors when it comes to selecting your product

Since neither the FDA or any other government agency in the US provides a grading system or certification when it comes to essential oils, there are some important factors when it comes to shopping for the right brand and scent. According to Harpreet Gujral, DNP, FNP-BC from Johns Hopkins Medicine and Linda Halcón, PhD, MPH, RN, RATC from University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality & Healing, some of these important factors include looking at the label, evaluating the company, choosing a dark-colored, glass container, avoiding “fragrance oils,” and comparing prices.

When looking at the label, you should see the Latin name of the plant to ensure you have the right plant in the container. There should be information on the purity and other ingredients added to it - organic, wild crafted, therapeutic grade, and purity. If there are combination oils, companies may add a carrier oil to dilute the actual essential oil. This will cause there to be less than half the quantity of essential oil to what you should have. Look for 100% essential oil to ensure it has not been mixed with anything else.

On the label, the companies should indicate where the plant has been grown. The quality of plants can vary from country to country, which companies will market to knowledgable and general customers. Do your research when evaluating companies. You will want to purchase products from an aromatherapy company that has made a statement through years of being well-known and reputable.

For containers, you want to purchase a dark-colored, glass container. Since it is highly recommended to purchase 100% pure essential oils, they will be highly concentrated - which can dissolve plastic bottles over time. To protect the quality of their products, nearly all companies will package the oils in either a small brown bottle or a blue glass bottle.

Fragrance oils are not the same as aromatherapy oils. The average fragrance will contain 14 chemicals that are not actually listed on the label - this can cause health issues as it will accumulate your body. Fragrances typically will contain a combination of synthetic chemicals, whereas essential oils are derived fully from plants.

In comparing different products, outside of these factors, you should take a look at pricing. Essential oils will vary in price depending on the plant harvested and produced. So, if you are looking at more expensive oils, such as rose (absolute) and sandalwood, they should be pricier than sweet orange.

Overall, the overall impact of quality will come from the plant used, the processing of the plant, packaging and handling, and storage.

Hand holding a sideways bottle with oil hanging over the side
When choosing the method of using essential oils, will depend on your desired effect and the specific oil selected. Photo courtesy of: NeedPix

Safest Ways to use Essential Oils

What you should know about the different methods of applications for essential oils

While there are a number of ways to use essential oils, the two most common (and safest) methods are by inhaling through various kinds of aromatherapy accessories, or by applying them to your skin through various cosmetic products. Although there have been claims for ingesting to be safe in a few cases, it is not safe to do this and you should contact your doctor if you are unsure of ways to utilize essential oils for what is best for you.

Options for inhaling oils include the following:

  • Diffuser or diffuser/humidifier: These products will take the drops of essential oils, mix them with water to dilute them, and release the scents into the air. Some humidifiers have the ability to take in essential oils and help dilute them - either through a specific slot to place the oil on, or you can place a few drops directly into the water.
  • Accessories: There are necklaces, bracelets, and keychains that may come in different forms to allow you to place oil drops in them to keep with you all day. For example, there may be a bracelet with a piece of felt that is meant for absorbing the essential oil and release it throughout the day.
  • Aroma sticks or sprays: Aroma sticks contain an absorbent wick that can soak in the essential oil and may come with a cover to contain the scent until you are ready to use it. There are also products that come in spray bottles that you can spray onto fabrics, for example you could have a spray bottle with lavender in it, spray your bed before your go to sleep, and be more relaxed.

For topical (directly to skin) uses, it is important to pay attention to your skin - fully concentrated/full-strength essential oils can cause skin irritation. Some ways you can dilute your essential oil before using it on your skin directly, is by adding a drop or two of your favorite carrier oils, such as coconut or olive oil. Some areas you can apply essential oils to, are your temples, chest, stomach, and feet. They can help relax you before you go to sleep, help relieve any congestion or cough, calm a nervous stomach, and massage reflexology points in your feet.

3 bottles of oil sit next to lit candle on table with flowers around
Different essential oils are better for different necessities. Photo Courtesy of: Stillpoint Aromatics

Most Common Essential Oils and Their Uses

Five of the most popular essential oils

  • Lavender: Lavender can help calm your anxiety, eliminate harmful bacteria, relieve muscle spasms and tension, relieve flatulence, and soothe irritated skin.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint can be used to help aid digestion, relieve muscle and joint pain, benefit your respiratory system, and relieve headaches.
  • Lemon: Aside from using this as a natural cleansing product, lemon can be used to help relieve nausea, promote detoxification, and act as a pain reliever.
  • Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus has a number of benefits that include relieving your cough, clearing your chest which can help you breathe easier, ease joint pain, control your blood sugar, and more.
  • Frankincense: Frankincense can help boost your immunity, reduce stress and anxiety, fight inflammation, and can help create healthy-looking skin.

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Brianna Holzman
Brianna is a master's student at Carnegie Mellon University, music enthusiast, and lover of all things animals and Groot.
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