Defining the Uses and Basics of Essential Oils

Essential oils have been are dated back as far as 18,000 B.C.E. These naturally derived gems are from common plants, trees and flowers and pack a powerful punch when used for common and not so common ailments and needs. Don’t be fooled however they can also cause you trouble if not used correctly. They can alleviate many troubles such as nausea, headaches and dry skin but they can also make you very sick, give you skin irritations and even kill you if used incorrectly. 


In today’s shopping market you can find them readily on the shelf were as in years past the only people you may have known to have them was an esthetician, massage therapist, holistic doctor and the crazy hippy lady that lives down the street.

Many people were and still are skeptical about these tiny amber bottles so today I thought we would have an essential oils beginner’s class. I hope to clear up a few common questions and possibly create a new excitement for you with regard to treating minor issues with a more natural and clean solution. So here is my list of the most common 5 questions and answers to understanding essential oils and how to use them for skin care.

  1. History of essential oils
  2. What are they used for and why? 
  3. How do I know if I have good quality oil?
  4. Where can I get them?
  5. Can they hurt my family?

What is an essential oil?

These precious oils come from many different sources, plants, trees, nuts and likely other weeds and misc. things growing in nature.  There are 3 common ways to make an essential oil, Steam, Cold Press and Extraction.  It is always wise to research any method prior to trying this at home.  There are so many wonderful sources on the market now so creating your own is not really necessary. Here is a brief history of essential oils.


What are they used for and why?

There are more uses than not for these oils, I could list dozens and dozens of reasons and ways to use them and still have more to tell. Essential oils can be used for an endless list of ailments and issues, both topically and internally. You will want to have a good understanding of the oils you choose to use because some cannot be ingested while others can. It is best to start your oil usage out with some common samples like lavender, lemon, and peppermint and tea tree. You can do a lot with just these 4 and the list goes on and on.  When you buy your first oil you may think it is only for one thing but you’d be wrong, let’s use lavender for example, it is by far one of the most purchased oil and has many uses- 

  • Skin care, it’s extremely healing, used in your face cream it can help to heal dry chapped skin, repair sun damage, calm your senses and it’s very relaxing. 
  • Bed time, if you feel anxiety or stress at bed time you can put a drop or two on your pillow and that can create calm and relaxation to your mind and body. 

You will see here a list from on the 7 most common uses for Lavender oil

lavender and essential oil

Source / Pixabay

“Today, lavender is the most used essential oil in the world. Ancient texts tell us that lavender essential oil has been used for medicinal and religious purposes for over 2,500 years.

The Egyptians used it for mummification and as a perfume. The Romans used it for bathing, cooking and for scenting the air.

And, quite possibly the most famous usage of all, Mary used it to anoint Jesus with her hair and and some believe spikenard was made from lavender essential oil.

“Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” ~ John 12:3

Many researchers claim that 2,000 years ago, lavender was referred to as spikenard or simply nard from the Greek name for lavender, naardus, after the Syrian city Naarda. This really puts the power of lavender into perspective, doesn’t it?

Today, lavender oil benefits your body in the following ways: 

  • Reduces anxiety and emotional stress

  • Heals burns and wounds

  • Improves sleep

  • Restores skin complexion and reduces acne

  • Slows aging with powerful antioxidants

  • Improves eczema and psoriasis

  • Alleviates headaches


So to summarize you can see that just investing in a few of the easy to use oils can provide so many options for uses. Anything that you can do in an age of modern medicine that is natural and healthy is a good option. Your whole body and spirit will be enlightened and thankful for the healthy alternative.

How do I know if I have good quality oil?

It is nearly impossible to find the exact source of where your oils come from  and the regulations on them are equally as tough you will see in the next segment how the FDA plays a role in this area.  Many aroma therapists will seek the highest quality oils from around the world and it is possible that they can tell a difference from a high quality and lower quality oil but it is doubtful that the average consumer will be able to tell.  It is always a good standard to find a reputable company and with the on line knowledge we have now that should be easy for anyone.  The difference in a standard oil and organic will also make a big difference is price point to be leery of anything that says “organic” those are hard to verify as well and you could be spending extra money on a standard oil.

According to a University of Minnesota article, How Do I Determine the Quality of Essential Oils?, there are specific factors that you can use to consider the quality of an essential oil.

What Factors Effect Essential Oil Quality?

“There are a number of ways in which the quality of essential oils can be compromised-from the growing conditions of the plants to their harvesting, distillation, manufacture, distribution, and storage.

  • Plants: The quality of essential oils can be negatively impacted by the use of pesticides and other chemicals, the variability in altitude, soil conditions and rainfall, and the difficulty of differentiating plant species and varieties.
  • Processing: Because of the growing popularity of essential oils and aromatherapy, there are many products on the market that may not be suitable for clinical use. They can be found nearly everywhere, from health food stores to discount stores to the Internet. These products may include pure essential oils, but sometimes they are adulterated or diluted. Such adulterations are difficult to identify.
  • Packaging and handling: Other considerations include packaging, storage, and handling. Chemical degradation can occur with exposure to heat, light, or oxygen. Essential oils from citrus products are especially prone to oxidation that can quickly alter the chemistry of those essential oils.
  • Storage: Essential oils should be stored in tightly closed, darkened glass containers in a cool place to ensure lasting quality (Buckle, 2003; Tisserand & Balacs, 1995). We recommend writing the date on the bottle after opening it so you can keep track of your own essential oils. Oxidation rates vary, but most essential oils can be safely used for 1-2 years or more after opening.

How do I find quality essential oils?

Because standards for quality control of essential oils do not currently exist in the United States, it is important to find reputable sources that sell good quality essential oils if you are planning to use them for health-related purposes. Whether you buy essential oils in a store, from an individual, or from the internet, be sure to read any information provided on the label or website, or ask questions about quality.

Some Important Considerations

  • Is the Latin name of the plant provided so that you are sure you are getting the right essential oil? For example, there are several species of lavender.

  • Is the name of the country in which the plants were grown provided? A consumer would not be expected to differentiate oils from different countries, but this information is important to aromatherapists because quality can vary by country. This is an indication that the company is marketing to knowledgeable parties as well as general consumers.

  • Is there a statement about purity? You should be informed if it is not 100% essential oil (meaning, it has been altered or mixed with something else).

  • Is the cost comparable in comparisons with other brands of the same essential oil? If it’s really cheap, it probably isn’t the real thing.

  • Does it smell as you expect it to smell?

  • Is there information about organic growing or wildcrafting (gathering wild plants)? Most essential oils sold in the U.S. are not certified as to their organic status, but some European brands are.


Now that you have a better idea of how to determine the quality of essential oils you may be considering, using the factors above, it is time to look at purchasing those that meet your criteria. So now you may be ready to purchase your first essential oil and you are excited to incorporate it into your home or beauty regime.  Do a little research first, shop around and don’t just go for the cheapest, that is a good indicator or poor quality.  A good quality non organic essential oil will cost about $10-$15.00 Retail, if you are spending much less I would steer clear of that brand. An organic can be double that amount so don’t be surprised when you see that final cost. Remember that oils are highly concentrated which means a little goes a long way.

Where can I source Essential Oils?

Let’s review a few safe sources for your oil shopping.

(Note: these are suggested retailers and I am not personally endorsing them. I have used each brand and have been pleased with my outcomes and their quality)

The Essence of Well-Being Aromatherapy Source

ESS is the professional’s choice for aromatherapy, offering a wide range of essential oils, essential oil blends, and carrier oils for professional treatments and home use. With ESS, you can provide clients with the greatest spectrum of unique and personalized spa experiences.

  • Pure, natural, and undiluted oils
  • Comprehensive product selection
  • Educational and retail support
  • Options for custom treatments
  • Superb quality at affordable prices

Essential Oil Recipes by Aura Cacia

Here are there suggested recipes by area of use


Young Living Essential Oils

On the Young Living “About Page” they indicate “Through the painstaking steps of our proprietary Seed to Seal production process, we produce the best, most authentic essential oils in the world. We are committed to providing pure, powerful products for every family and lifestyle, all infused with the life-changing benefits of our essential oils.”

These 3 brands are quality oils with a long history of sales and service.  You will want to visit their web sites to see ordering information and quantity requirements as many will have restrictions of this.

You can also talk to your salon and spa as many estheticians use oils in their treatment rooms so he or she may be able to help you with your purchase of your first essential oil.

Can Essential Oils hurt my family?

Simple answer is yes they can.  Did you know that it takes 256 pounds of peppermint to make one bottle of peppermint oil? How about Lavender, it takes 150 pound of this flower to make one bottle and Rose oil, 1000 pounds! So if you think about the potency in just a few drops of oil you could easily make someone sick or cause skin reactions very quickly.  Learning safe practices is not hard as long as you respect the bottle and have an understanding of what you are using and how to use it.  Being excited to try your new oil is a bit overwhelming but if you jump right in you could be making a huge mistake that can cause real trouble.

Essential Oils contain very concentrated amounts of the herb , plant or nut that they are derived from. A very small amount of Essential Oils often has the volume of many cups of herbal tea from the same plant. For instance, one drop of peppermint essential oil is the equivalent to 26 cups of peppermint tea. This doesn’t mean to say essential oils should not be used, but they should be used carefully.  If you wouldn’t drink dozens of cups of an herbal tea at one time, you should probably think twice before consuming the equivalent amount of essential oils.


Essential Oils on the Skin


I use essential oils in many of my beauty recipes like lotion bars and herbal face oil but in diluted amounts. The key word is “diluted.”


In most cases, essential oils should not be used undiluted on the skin. There are exceptions, of course, but most of the time, essential oils should only be used undiluted under the care and guidance of a trained medical or aromatherapy practitioner. Due to the small molecular size of essential oils, they can penetrate the skin easily and enter the bloodstream.As a general rule, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil like coconut oil or almond oil in a 3-5% solution. On practical level this is 3-5 drops of essential oils per teaspoon of carrier oil (and much less if using on a baby or child).


Undiluted use on the skin can cause irritation or an allergic reaction in some people, and I’ve even read cases of someone getting a permanent sensitivity to certain oil after using it undiluted on broken skin. Some oils, like lavender, rose and chamomile are typically considered safe for undiluted skin use, but I’d still personally dilute them (most of these are expensive oils and would be costly to use undiluted anyway).


I personally test any essential oil, diluted, on my arm before using on a larger part of my body. Some essential oils are considered ok to use undiluted on the skin if an individual isn’t sensitive to them, but again, always check with a qualified practitioner first.


From a personal perspective, I have firsthand experience with the potential problems with undiluted skin exposure. I tried a new massage therapist in our small town since she had a special deal for “aromatherapy” massage. I assumed this meant that there would be essential oils in a diffuser during the massage. To my surprise, as the massage began I felt drops on my back. I realized a few seconds later that she was pouring essential oils on my back… a lot of them. I asked her what oils she was using and she assured me that they were safe, but I got a headache soon after.


In all, she probably poured 80+ drops of undiluted essential oils on my back. I had shivers and a headache for the rest of the day and a large red spot on my back (12 inches in diameter) that lasted several days. Certainly, I should have asked her to stop instead of just asking what the oils were, but what shocked me was that she did not ask if she could use essential oils on me, she did not ask if I was pregnant or had a health condition first and I found out after that she was not even a trained massage therapist or aromatherapist but that she had just “invented” the technique as a way to therapeutically use essential oils.


Again, I should have acted differently and probably asked to see her massage license first, but my experience with this amount of essential oils on the skin was not a positive one.

Bottom Line: Exercise caution and do your research before using essential oils on the skin, even undiluted.”

Do not assume that the massage therapist or esthetician is educated on the oils they are using, they truly may not be at all.  It is always okay to ask what they will be using and why they are using it. Doing a patch test on any new product is always wise. It may take a bit of time to discover if you are sensitive but in the end it’s worth it. 

Okay so there you have it, a quick overview on where oils come from and a few tips on why you use them and how to use the.  You can read so much information about them so easily on line so when you are confused or you have a new ailment or trouble seek the assistance of an oil, even though you need to be cautious you can solve so many problems in a natural and healthy way with no harmful chemicals, artificial fragrance, nasty preservatives and toxic ingredients.   You are now ready for your first oil so have fun with them and be creative and you will see how they can change your life!





Heather Cooper

Heather Cooper

Heather has extensive experience having worked in various salons and spas in Ohio and Indiana focusing on skin care, manicuring-pedicuring, makeup and many other spa services and treatments.

She is a master manicurist with Creative Nail design and certified with OPI Nail Products as well as certified in Bio-elements skin care and techniques. She is Wedding Wire rated for Bridal Makeup. Contact Toolbox Studio Salon, 2037 Madison Rd. Cincinnati, Ohio 45208. Lower level in O'Bryonville
Heather Cooper
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