Essential oils are nothing new, but they’ve recently sparked an obsession that shows no signs of slowing. You’ve probably heard about them through friends, read about celebrities who swear by them, or noticed a number of recent studies suggesting their benefits are legit. But getting in on the action can be somewhat complicated since there is an overwhelming number of options—as well as risks involved with using them. Simply put: It’s not in your best interest to just buy a random oil and wing it. Here, three things you should keep in mind for a successful essential oil experience.
Step #1: Finding a Quality Essential Oil
There are occasions when it pays to be thrifty, but buying essential oils isn’t one of them. Buying from a source that’s upfront about how they make the oils will ensure that you end up with one that’s potent and uncontaminated—and that likely won’t be the cheapest option. Even if a bottle says “100 percent pure,” you should still double check the ingredients list to make sure that there aren’t fragrances or perfumes added to the oil. That said, some oils have been found to contain components not listed on their ingredient lists, so it’s also important to do your research and make sure you’re buying from a reputable company.
Take a look at the company’s website. It’s a good sign if they’ve had third-party testing conducted with their oils.
Other signs to look out for? The plant’s botanical name should be on the bottle (ex: lavender is lavandula angustifolia or officinalis), and its country of origin should be readily accessible.
Step #2: Using Essential Oils Properly
Essential oils might be natural, but they’re also strong, so using them the wrong way can be risky. They’re a common irritant and can even react with certain drugs when consumed. Essential oils are potentially toxic to a fetus, so avoid essential oils while pregnant or speak with a doc first.
When it comes to cooking with or ingesting essential oils, avoid anything that’s not labelled as safe for consumption. And even if it does have the all-clear, there may be risks involved.
When using oils on your skin, start out slow, since they can cause irritation or even burns. Always start with a patch test to see how your skin reacts to a particular oil. And you should *never* apply an essential oil directly to your skin; always dilute it first with a carrier oil (such as coconut, almond, or avocado oil). As a rule of thumb, you want 2 percent dilution: 12 drops of essential oil per 1 fluid ounce of carrier oil or lotion. Finally, some oils are photosensitized, meaning they’ll cause burns when exposed to sunlight (!!). Double-check that an oil isn’t photosensitive if you plan on applying it before heading outside.
Step #3: Choosing the Right Essential Oil for Your Needs
Now comes the fun part: selecting an oil based on what you’re trying to achieve.
- For relaxation: Vetiver is commonly used to promote rest and relaxation.
- For pain relief: Arnica oil is often used to relieve muscle aches and soreness. Studies suggest it may help speed up bruise healing and reduce pain.
- For energy: One study found that peppermint oil may enhance memory and increase alertness.
- For anxiety: In one study, lemongrass lowered levels of anxiety and tension.
- For stress: Ylang-ylang has been linked to lowered cortisol and blood pressure levels.
- For seasonal allergies: Eucalyptus oil is associated with reduced congestion.
- For cleaning: Tea tree oil is a star in DIY cleaning products because of its antimicrobial properties.