The Ultimate Guide to Essential Oils (and How to Use Them)

by Rebecca McCusker April 15, 2019
ReadThe Ultimate Guide to Essential Oils (and How to Use Them) Photo by Kelly Sikkema

If you hit up your local natural market, you’re sure to find at least one shelf full of essential oils. Sure, they smell amazing, but what are you supposed to use them for? Do they actually work?


For centuries, people have been using the essential oils from plants to alleviate multiple health symptoms. Years of clinical studies show that essential oils can serve as an alternative to medicine—to alleviate inflammation and pain, to lower fever, to boost skin health, and to ease stress, anxiety, and depression.


What are essential oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts. Typically, essential oils come from the most aromatic part of a plant, and since they’re so concentrated, they can be incredibly potent. An essential oil captures the scent, flavor, and “essence” of the plant from which it was extracted, and it comes with powerful benefits for human health.


How do you use essential oils?

Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways. But first, the most important thing to remember is that you need to pair essential oils with a carrier oil, especially if you plan on applying the essential oils directly to your skin. If you plan on using essential oils for skin treatment, a massage oil, or in a bath, be sure to mix a few drops in a carrier oil, such as castor oil, avocado oil, olive oil, or coconut oil.


You can also diffuse essential oils in a diffuser, which releases a gentle mist of the essential oil’s vapor. Mix them with cleaning solutions for a beautifully fragrant home. Or, gently inhale directly from an open bottle to clear your mind. They are also divine as a facial steam.


No matter how you decide to use them, you’ll quickly fall in love. Here are some of our favorite reasons to use essential oils—and how they can improve your life.


Ease stress and anxiety

Essential oils: lavender, cedarwood, lemon, and valerian


Sometimes you don’t realize how stressed you are until you find relief. Any essential oil that makes you feel less stressed and more relaxed can work wonders for your mental state, but lavender especially has been lauded as a relaxant that can calm the mind and help you let go of stress and anxiety.


A great way to bust stress: Put some drops in a carrier oil and massage into your temples. You will instantly feel the stress and anxiety melt away.


Boost your mood

Essential oils: jasmine, lemon, and peppermint


There’s no reason to walk around feeling grumpy. A cheerier mood is just a drop away. Jasmine oil has been found to boost mood and alleviate symptoms of depression in post-menopausal women, and lemon can help you feel fresh and invigorated. These are perfect for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up!


Take care of your skin

Essential oils: tea tree, basil, rosehip, and geranium


There are a number of essential oils that are amazing for skin health. Geranium helps balance oil production, tea tree oil helps clear up acne, basil can help heal and provide relief from insect bites, and rosehip seed oil can reduce fine lines and signs of aging.


Clear congestion

Essential oils: eucalyptus, peppermint, and chamomile


Having the sniffles is the worst. According to a 2010 study, chamomile essential oil is effective at relieving cold symptoms when inhaled, and another study shows that eucalyptus oil helps alleviate nasty symptoms of congestion and other respiratory problems. Peppermint acts as a decongestant and has been shown to reduce symptoms of fever.


Boost libido

Essential oils: jasmine, clary sage, neroli, and fennel


When life wears us down, it can be hard to feel interested in sex. Our overall sex drive can be affected by a number of factors: stress, fatigue, and even the natural course of aging.

Certain essential oils have been found to be especially helpful for a healthy sex drive. A 2010 study found that jasmine oil stimulates arousal and uplifts mood. Clary sage oil strengthens libido in women struggling with menopause symptoms. Neroli essential oil is also a boon to a healthy sex life. A 2014 study showed that neroli oils can increase sex drive, reduce blood pressure, alleviate stress, and promote healthy hormone production.


Ease muscle tension and body aches

Essential oils: marjoram, rosemary, and yarrow


According to Healthline, “marjoram relaxes muscle spasms and tension,” which make it perfect to rub on sore muscles. Furthermore, rosemary and yarrow have been shown to ease pain and inflammation.


Focus and concentrate

Essential oils: basil, patchouli, and ylang-ylang


End brain fog once and for all by diffusing these essential oils by your desk at work. Basil, patchouli, and ylang-ylang focus the mind, improve mood, and increase attentiveness. So, if you find yourself needing to buckle down and get stuff done, diffusing some of these oils can clear your mind and help you get the job done.


Repel mosquitos

Essential oils: lavender, geranium, citronella, and clove


Put down the spray can of DEET once and for all and start using essential oils to repel mosquitos and other bugs in the summertime. It is natural, safe, and will make you smell way better. You’ll be amazed at how well it works, even in the deep woods.

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