Do you remember the iPhone commercial with the phrase “there’s an app for that?” Well, that’s how I feel about essential oils.
Headache? There’s an oil for that.
Can’t sleep? There’s an oil for that.
Acne? There’s an oil for that?
Can’t find a job? Ok, there’s not an oil for that…at least that I’m aware.
But do they really work? How can they fit into an overall healthyish life? As essential oils seem to be going more mainstream by the day, I figured the topic was a good starting topic for my first “wellness” post. I broke it up into sub-topics so hopefully it’s easy to browse through.
A disclaimer for all “wellness” posts: my goal isn’t to share expert knowledge or write an Encyclopedia, although this is a lengthy post. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned during my experimentation and personal research. I’m also very open to learning more, so if you’re reading and have experience, feel free to share! Bottom line: You do you.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils carry the properties of plants and flowers in liquid form. They have been used for thousands of years in cosmetic, dietary and spiritual capacities.
“Aromatherapy” is the use of essential oils for mental, emotional and physical healing. Oils are often thought of as “natural healers” because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. More than inhaling oils, you can also ingest or use them topically. However, each one has a different purpose so you want to reference a guide (like this) to use them in the most effective way.
Also, the oils aren’t oily. They are very concentrated (a little goes a long way) but generally clear and watery in appearance.
TELL ME MORE…
There are dozens of different oils and blends (mixtures of oils). When applying directly to skin (instead of using in a diffuser), an essential oil might need to be diluted with a carrier oil (coconut or jojoba oil) to lessen the intensity. The common areas for topical application are behind the neck, feet, forehead and stomach. The ways to use oils are endless (even as bug spray!), but again, read up on it first. Eventually it might become second nature in the sense of knowing which oil works when, where and how, but I still use a cheat sheet.
Let’s talk cost and quality
Once you start browsing aisles and websites, you’ll immediately notice a few different brands. Rocky Mountain, doTerra, NOW, Young Living, Aura Cacia, among other smaller, independent vendors. Obviously each brand/vendor is going to say their products are the best! Truthfully? I’m not loyal to one brand yet. I’ve purchased out of convenience, recommendation and, yes, smell. However, the main factors that come into play (for me) are quality and cost.
Side note: this post looks like a walking add for the NOW brand. Their products are sold at Whole Foods, which is basically my second home, so I do have more of their line. I also own doTerra and Aura Cacia.
What makes an oil “good” quality? Well, there’s no governing body (aka FDA) to regulate quality or set industry standards. Every company site details their individual standards and how they test for purity. Lots of confusing terms on those sites (which I still don’t know), kind of like all the food labels in the nutrition world.
Very simple, but from what I’ve read and learned: 1) you don’t want your oils diluted with alcohol. Pure is better. 2) Prices for oils of the same plant don’t vary much by brand (i.e. lavender from one brand is probably close to the same price as lavender from another). Here’s more information on quality.
DO OILS BREAK THE BANK?
Most bottles aren’t super expensive. They range from $15-$60+ depending on the size and type of oil. As a reference, lavender is around $20 while Frankincense can cost $60. I equate oils to spices in your pantry…not something you need to buy every week, or even every month. Full disclosure, I haven’t spent more than $23 on one bottle yet.
Blah, blah, blah…do the oils really work?
I started using essential oils in April because
my mom the Easter Bunny gave me a diffuser and two oils in my Easter basket (lavender and lemongrass). For a few months my only “experience” with the oils was in a diffuser by my computer. Truthfully, I used the diffuser for the obvious/superficial reason…it smells good. Who doesn’t want their room to feel like a spa?
As for the healing properties of oils, my first test happened this summer. Long story short: I had extremely bad cramps (not at all related to my gut issues), and turned to essential oils instead of traditional drugs. I can’t take NSAIDs because of my history of ulcers. I used a doTerra blend and rubbed it on my stomach. Who knows if it was a placebo effect or what, but it helped!
Other ways I’ve used oils:
-Peppermint oil on my temples to relieve headaches and in a diffuser to clear up sinuses
-Oregano oil for a sore throat (warning: for this one you must mix with a carrier oil or you’ll get a rash, like I did at first)
-Lemongrass in the diffuser to freshen up the kitchen after cooking something smelly (looking at you, kale)
Physical “healing” aside, I’ve also experienced positive mental benefits. Again, placebo effect? Maybe. But, hey, if it helps it helps. For me, lavender works wonders, especially for sleeping. It’s just a calm, light and soothing scent that has become a source of comfort.
Right now I own 7 oils, including 2 blends and if I had to suggest one oil, it would be lavender or peppermint.
The Healthyish bottom line
I look at oils as a very good tool, not the end-all-be-all. They are a go-to “method of defense” for me, but I still turn elsewhere for help. However, I can’t dismiss both the benefits I’ve experienced and the long history of oils. I mean, Jesus received Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh when he was born. There’s a reason they’ve been around so long!
I’ll be perfectly honest, no oil has helped my foot pain. Some have definitely helped with sore muscles, yes, but I don’t think they can heal bones or take out your appendix (if that’s the issue). There are plenty of articles/people supporting both sides of the spectrum, but I think a grain of salt is necessary no matter what you’re reading. This post included :) I consider myself an oil newbie (in quantity and experience) so my thoughts, opinions and collection of oils are bound to evolve.
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So was this post long enough?! Phew. I think I covered everything but I’m happy to share more of my experience if you have any questions.
Heather @Lunging Through Life says
This was really interesting. I’ve heard a lot about them but never knew the why and what they did. A few people have told me to use them with Annabelle but I want to try them with me first, ha.
Heather @Lunging Through Life recently posted…Happy Birthday, Dad!
I’ve read that certain oils help with babies/sleep! I was a colicky baby so my mom might have benefited from trying it back then.
This is exactly what I needed. I went out last night and bought my first round of oil.
I’m praying they help the child sleep. I’m hoping they mitigate my allergies. We shall see :-) this is the perfect complement to my new supply.
Carla recently posted…How do you lick your forearms?
I hope you find relief! Allergy season has been so rough this year.
Essential oils are amazing! Sometimes I think we are resistant to just how effective they are because we’ve been taught to believe natural is somehow less than when compared to pharmaceuticals. Ya know? It’s just the way our western world thinks.
I’ve been using:
+ a drop of lavendar eo on the back of my neck at bedtime (it knocks you out)
+ peppermint eo to awaken senses and improve memory when studying
+ lemon eo to clean my house (including stain removal and the wash!), it smells divine!!
Young Living essential oils seem to be my favourite but the NOW brand is great, too!!
Hi Robin! Thanks so much for your comment. I second all of those points. I use the oils so similarly!
Akansha Agrawal says
Probably the most helpful posts I’ve read on essential oils. Thank you!
I’m so glad to hear that! Thank you for your comment :)
This is great Em; I love how you approached them in a balanced way. They don’t solve or help everything, but God made all these plants from which the oils come so they definitely serve a purpose! I really love lavender and tea tree and lemon; we buy the NOW brand too. It’s the cheapest!
Emily recently posted…WIAW: Why Stress Kills My Appetite
I agree! These plants were created for a reason so it’s been fun to explore their uses.
Diana @ Live Lean Eat Green says
I love essential oils! I got a diffuser from Santa aka my mom for Christmas last year and have been hooked! Currently love peppermint for headaches, lavender in the evenings to calm down and grapefruit for dropping in water for detoxing.
Diana @ Live Lean Eat Green recently posted…Your Fall Produce Guide
Our mom’s seem to have the same mindset for gift giving :) I brought lavender with me on my trip because I use it so often!
Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday says
I’ve used a blend my aunt’s oil-selling consultant made on my neck and temple for pain and been surprised to find relief (sometimes). Perfect? No. But as another tool in my health arsenal, why not?
Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday recently posted…Maple-Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Perfectly said. I will take what I can get!
So I live in Utah and everyone is crazy about essential oils here! (the doTerra and young living companies are in utah, along with about a million other brands) but I didn’t know ANYTHING about them until recently. To be honest I was always pretty hesitant to try them because there aren’t any regulations on them, but after reading up on them a little bit I do think they have their place.
I recently have been using peppermint oil because I get massive migraines and it actually helps sometimes. I’m also not sure if it’s just a placebo effect, but if as long as it’s working i’m going to keep using it!
Megan recently posted…Five Things
Thank you so much for sharing, Megan! I didn’t realize how concentrated the brand headquarters were. I knew doTerra was there, though. I’m with you on the placebo effect but, likewise, have had some success. Let me know if you continue using them/your thoughts!
I’ve never used essential oils before, but need to check them out! I’ve heard lavender is great for headaches. I spend a lot of time on the computer, so that would be super helpful to me :)
Edye recently posted…31 Pumpkin Treats For Fall!
I brought lavender with me to Italy because I love it so much! Keeping a diffuser by the computer could be a nice de-stressor :)
I use oils because they smell good and I feel like they help with my stress/anxiety. I love frankincense, lavender, and cinnamon! They help clear up my sinuses too. :)
Love frankincense! I haven’t found cinnamon but I can imagine I’d love that too.
Susan @ PickMyHumidifier says
This is really great guide Emily, So informative and would be perfect for newbies to essential oils! I’m a huge fan of essential oils and I started with some basic essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, and lemon so that I can explore their uses and now I really enjoy them.
I’m so glad it was helpful! The basics are still my favorite and most used oils.