essential oilsEssential oils and aromatherapy have become a hot topic in recent months. These plant-derived oils have a variety of functions and many people use them in cooking, air purification, and more. For those who may be familiar with aromatherapy, let us introduce you to the world of essential oils, what they are, and what their possible benefits are for the soul and body.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are simply compounds found in flowers or other parts of a plant. The plant material is treated through cold pressing or distillation and a concentrated liquid that is known as essential oil is obtained. Similar to olive oil, essential oils are made with different levels of quality.

The three types of oils available include synthetic, food grade, and therapeutic grade. Synthetic or fragrance oils are one of the lower qualities and are often used in lotions or perfumes. They may also be the ones sold at craft stores. Food grade oils are designed to be used in food products as a flavoring agent. They may be found in cake mixes, cereal, and similar items. A lemon flavoring would be an example of a food grade oil. Finally, therapeutic grade oils are the highest grade available. They are often used with an essential oil diffuser, applied topically to the skin, or even taken internally.

History of Essential Oils

Although these oils have become more popular recently, they have a long history of being used for therapeutic purposes. Myrrh is an oil that was used by the Romans to aid in wound healing and anti-inflammation. During the outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in the 12th century, ginger, cinnamon, and sandalwood were all used for their antibiotic properties.

Although the early people who used them didn’t completely understand their function, they have been studied to a greater extent today. Many of the essential oils used have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic, and similar properties. They are used for therapeutic purposes for a variety of conditions to aid in healing.

What Can They Do?

While there have been books written on the numerous uses for essential oils, there are a few examples of their uses shown here. For people who suffer from seasonal allergies, lemon, lavender, and peppermint essential oils can offer relief. When going on a hike, many people make a natural insect repellent with lemongrass, citronella, and lavender oils. Keep in mind that if using essential oils for health-related reasons, it’s recommended that you use therapeutic grade oils.

When Not to Use Essential Oils

Although the makers of essential oils recommend them highly, they’re also careful to not dismiss traditional remedies. Essential oils won’t make up for a poor diet, for example. They can’t fix a broken leg either. Following a healthy diet and seeing a physician for any serious medical problems is recommended. Essential oils can be used to improve health and build on a person’s efforts to have a balanced lifestyle.

How Do You Use Essential Oils?

The oils can be used in a variety of ways. They can be diffused, applied topically, or taken internally. Keep in mind that most essential oils will need to be diluted before being applied to the skin. Most oils come with a recommended usage guide which should always be followed for best results. Since the oils are highly concentrated, applying them directly to the skin can result in irritation. Instead, they are often diluted in a carrier oil, usually olive or a similar oil. They can then be used to apply directly to the skin. Oils that are taken internally may also be diluted in water or put into a gel capsule and taken. Always make sure to follow the user guide to avoid any irritation.

Mixing Essential Oils

Although oils can be used by themselves, they are often mixed for improved results. There are a number of recommended mixtures to use, but after gaining some experience, it’s also possible to try mixing your own. The general principle for blending essential oils involves striking a balance. For example, if using essential oils for aromatherapy, the oils can be designated into top, middle, or base notes. They should be used in combination.

Top note oils are delicate and usually derived from leaves, flowers, and herbs. Their aroma evaporates rapidly and they are often used to treat fatigue and spark alertness. In a mix of oils, the top notes hit the nose first. Some examples of top notes include basic, orange, and peppermint.

Middle note oils include nutmeg, lavender, and juniper. As their name suggests, they are well-balanced and affect the overall health of the body. They are derived from distilling the entire plant and are derived from herbs and spices. An interesting fact about them is that they are robust and heavy, bringing about a connection between mind and body.

Base notes possess a solidness and richness that makes them a firm background in a mix of oils. They are typically extracted from the gum and resin of trees. They possess earthy qualities and are used for grounding purposes. The base notes are used for their ability to relax. Some examples of base note oils include vanilla, patchouli, and myrrh. While they are often a little strong to be used by themselves, they form a great combination.

Getting Started

Although the world of essential oils is appealing to many people, the process of using them can appear overwhelming. The best way to approach essential oils is to get started slowly. Choose just a few essential oils to start with and notice if they appear to make a difference. After using a few and finding your favorites, consider branching out into other essential oils. Focus on the ones that offer the benefits or uses that you need for the best results.


Although essential oils are a popular topic, many people don’t have a good understanding of their history and uses today. From air freshening to therapy, essential oils can be used in a variety of ways. People who are interested in their benefits can get started with their favorite oils or blends.

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