Essential oils are the oil-based aromatic extracts derived from the leaves, stems, fruit, bark, flowers, roots, or seeds of plants. They are a highly concentrated form of volatile oils — another name for essential oils — and have many beneficial properties. Historians estimate that humans have been using essential oils for 5,000 to 6,000 years for medicinal, cosmetic, and hygienic purposes.
Though the modern scientific community is skeptical, aromatherapists ascribe to an idea called an energy signature. They believe that living beings resonate at a particular frequency and life experiences, or processes in the case of essential oils, change the speed at which their molecules vibrate. This energetic signature is what they believe provides the many health benefits of essential oils.
The Top 33 Uses of Essential Oils
Essential oils have a variety of health-promoting and helpful uses. Try essential oils the next time you want to soothe a headache, reinvigorate your mind, calm frayed nerves, or any of the other uses for essential oils listed below.
1. Clean Surfaces, Air, and Clothes
Many natural and organic cleaning products already contain essential oils as they tend to have antimicrobial properties. Beyond just cleaning surfaces, the volatility of these oils makes them ideal for reducing microbial contaminants in the air. For example, you can:
• Use eucalyptus and tea tree oil to freshen humid rooms like the bathroom
• Add a few drops of lavender oil to a dry washcloth and throw it in the dryer with your wet clothes
• Use lemongrass or rosemary to freshen and disinfect the fridge or freezer by sprinkling a few drops on a damp washcloth and wiping down surfaces.
• Freshen up your gym bag, locker, car, or shoes with a few drops on a cotton ball or piece of felt
2. Get Rid of Shower Mildew
Shower mould is unsightly and unhealthy. To get rid of it, liberally sprinkle eucalyptus oil on any areas that have darkened, especially grout or the tracks of sliding shower doors. You can also apply to problem spots with a cotton swab.
3. Promote Skin Health
There are several skin care benefits that essential oils provide. Patchouli and clary sage slow skin ageing and increase cell turnover to reveal fresh glowing skin. Orange oil revitalizes ageing skin by promoting collagen production, just like the vitamin C in the whole orange.
Apply a drop of bergamot oil to soothe dry, cracked, or inflamed skin. Chamomile also helps moisturise dry skin to soothe itchiness. For dandruff, add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo bottle and shake well to distribute evenly.
Patchouli also calms irritated skin and expedites wound repair. Slow or stop a small cut from bleeding with a small dab of cypress oil.
4. Moisturise Hands and Nails
For a DIY cuticle oil, dilute lemon or rosemary oil into sweet almond oil and rub into bare nails.
5. Clear Blemishes
Basil, bergamot, and cedarwood will help clear blemishes. A compress made with bergamot oil promotes the healing process by soothing swollen, painful skin eruptions. Cedarwood and orange oil help balance the production of skin oils.
6. Encourage Supple Lips
Topical bergamot oil minimises pain from lip conditions, while lemongrass and peppermint promote clear, moisturised lips.
7. Calm Anxiety and Promote Relaxation
Essential oils are well known for their ability to improve mood. Lavender is thought to be so effective at reducing feelings of anxiety that it’s encapsulated and taken orally. Diffuse oregano, basil, black pepper, and cedarwood in a humidifier to create a calming home or work environment.
8. Discourage Harmful Organisms
Several essential oils are good for addressing topical Candida overgrowth, so you’ll have no trouble finding one that suits your preference. These include lavender, peppermint, sage, tea tree oil, thyme, tulsi, and clary sage. Make sure to apply them correctly. If your preferred essential oil requires a carrier oil, mix into lotion or coconut oil to apply.
For athlete’s foot, rub a few drops of cedarwood into your skin, or mix a couple of drops of tea tree oil into a teaspoon of a carrier oil and massage into skin. For nail fungus, use a cotton swab to apply 100% tea tree oil to the affected area.
9. Create a Rejuvenating Bath Elixir
Add a few drops of lavender, lemon balm, jasmine, or chamomile to your next hour-long soak. Drop the oil on your bath salts, on your bath bomb, or add it directly to the water. Boost the efficacy of your foot bath by resting tired feet and killing fungi. If you’re prone to urinary tract discomfort, using bergamot oil in the bath helps keep your bladder and kidneys healthy.
10. Assist Recovery After a Workout
Add a few drops of lavender, rosemary, or rose oil to a damp hand towel and freeze it. Fold over your eyes during savasana at yoga or drape it around your neck after your workout to cool down and boost your mood.
11. Increase Alertness
Mix a few drops of eucalyptus and peppermint oil together in your humidifier to increase alertness. You can also try basil oil, bergamot, and black pepper for similar results.
12. Boost Memory and Concentration
Inhale the vapours of black pepper, cypress oil, or eucalyptus to boost your concentration. Clary sage, cloves, sage, and coriander increase your ability to concentrate with the bonus of increasing your recall.
13. Deepen Meditation
To deepen your meditation practice, inhale the vapour of benzoin and cypress oil. It can help increase your focus and help turn your thoughts inward.
14. Repel Insects
Peppermint, lemongrass, basil, and eucalyptus are natural insect deterrents. Either diffuse the oils to deter mosquitoes, or use a mixture of the essential oil in vegetable glycerin and water and spray lightly on clothing. Just make sure to shake well first.
15. Support Normal Digestion
There are many ways that essential oils can help relieve gastric upset like bloating and gas. Lemongrass relieves gas and helps your body recover from stomach distress. For indigestion, dab a dry mint with peppermint oil. After letting it soak in thoroughly, quickly crunch the mint and swallow. For heartburn, use the same method but with chamomile oil. To relieve gas, stimulate appetite or relieve constipation, try basil, black pepper, or coriander oil.
16. Boost Cleansing and Detoxification
To stimulate your body’s natural cleansing abilities, dilute 3 drops of fennel oil into a teaspoon of olive or flax oil and swallow.
17. Calm Upset Stomach
Peppermint has long been used to quell nausea, and it’s an effective non-pharmaceutical option for people undergoing aggressive medical therapies (however there’s no scientific evidence it helps with morning sickness.) You can also try inhaling the scent of ginger, peppermint, or coriander.
18. Appetite Suppressant
Inhale fennel or bitter orange to suppress appetite.
19. Encourage a Happy Mood
Surround yourself with uplifting scents when you’re feeling down in the dumps. Chamomile and clary sage resist down moods, basil oil brings about feelings of joy, and eucalyptus increases optimism.
20. Boost the Immune System
Many essential oils stimulate the immune system. Add them to your diffuser to reap the health benefits.
21. Promote Respiratory Comfort
Calm a cough with cedarwood and clary sage. If you already have a sore throat, soothe it with bergamot, lavender, or black cumin seed oil. If your lungs ache from coughing, inhale the scent of benzoin to soothe the discomfort. To reduce feelings of bronchial tightness, add 10 drops of clary sage to your humidifier. For a runny nose, inhale cypress or eucalyptus oil through your nose to dry it up.
22. Support Easy Breathing
Many OTC medicines contain chemicals that help loosen thick phlegm (so you expel it) but there are several natural ways to break through chest congestion. Use your humidifier to moisten dry air and diffuse the vapour of essential oils like benzoin, cedarwood, Manila elemi and eucalyptus to loosen phlegm and make your coughs more productive.
23. Clear Nasal Passages
To clear a stuffy nose, inhale the scent of basil or black pepper oil.
24. Relieve Headache
Apply lavender, ginger, lemongrass, or willow bark to your temples to relieve headache pain. Dilute a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint in a carrier oil and apply the same way, or simply rub a few drops between your hands and inhale the scent.
25. Topical Pain Relief
To relieve local pain, apply clove, echinacea, kava, or myrrh topically to the affected area.
26. Menstrual Pain Relief
Attenuate menstrual pain with basil oil, chamomile, or clary sage. Rub undiluted chamomile on the abdomen, or dilute basil or clary sage oil in an equal amount of sweet almond oil and apply.
27. Ease Symptoms of Menopause
For hot flashes, keep a bottle of clary sage on you. Rub a few drops into your hands and inhale the aroma to quell a hot flash.
28. Calm Joint and Muscle Discomfort, Swelling, and Stiffness
Massage black pepper, chamomile, basil, coriander, or eucalyptus into the skin to relieve joint and muscle stiffness and soreness. Dilute the essential oils according to the directions on the bottle.
29. Encourage Restful Sleep
Dispel insomnia with chamomile. Either rub some onto your chest, add it to your humidifier, or sprinkle lightly on your pillow case.
30. Flavour Foods
To flavour your hot chocolate, add a drop or two of peppermint in your cocoa.
31. Promote Hair Growth
Some believe cedarwood and clary sage stimulate hair growth. Add a few drops to your shampoo to apply.
32. Add Shine to Hair
Return some lustre to your locks with basil or chamomile oil. Evenly distribute 2-3 drops into dry hands and comb your hair with your fingers to coat strands lightly.
33. Enjoy a Pleasant Fragrance
You can use essential oils to scent your home, car, or even yourself. Dilute a little rose, orange, lavender, and lemon oil in jojoba and rub into your pressure points for a perfume. To freshen your breath, add a drop of peppermint oil to your toothbrush and brush as normal after using toothpaste. For your home, use a humidifier to distribute the oil’s aroma throughout your house.
Be careful about putting essential oils in your car. Some oils contain plant compounds that, while natural, may be rough on finishes. You can easily apply a few drops to a cotton ball, piece of cardboard, or felt and put it somewhere in your car to keep it smelling fresh and clean.
Essential Safety Tips for Using Essential Oils
The dose is what matters most when using essential oils at home. Always check the label or consult your trusted essential oil producer’s website to ensure you’re correctly using these powerful oils. Many essential oils must be diluted to prevent skin irritation, and some should only be used in humidifiers or diffusers.
Follow the directions when using essential oils. In addition to skin irritation, some essential oils increase your susceptibility to sunburn when applied to the skin. If you’re pregnant, nursing, or trying to get pregnant, consult with your healthcare practitioner before using any essential oils, even if you’ve used them before. Some essential oils stimulate the shedding of the uterine lining and should be completely avoided. If you cannot find information on the essential oil you want to use, do not apply to your skin or ingest it]
Some essential oil producers intentionally dilute their oils to make them safer for consumer use, or to lower the price of extremely expensive oils like neroli.
Make sure to buy your essential oils from organic sources and check to see that they are therapeutic grade if you intend to use them pure.
If you’re not yet ready to try using pure or undiluted essential oils, you can always try products that contain them — there’s no shortage of options. The best quality essential oils are 100% pure, organically grown, and minimally processed.