An Introduction to Essential Oils: Important Safety Guidelines You Need to Know

I know it seems like everyone and their brother is talking about essential oils lately. It seems like a fad. But they've been around for many years {read your Bible - you'll find 'em in there!}. So instead of rolling your eyes and leaving this page, I encourage you to keep reading this introduction to essential oils. You'll learn the basics of essential oils, three ways to use them, and important essential oil safety information.

I know it seems like everyone and their brother is talking about essential oils lately. It seems like a fad. But they've been around for many years {read your Bible - you'll find 'em in there!}. So instead of rolling your eyes and leaving this page, I encourage you to keep reading this introduction to essential oils. You'll learn the basics of essential oils, three ways to use them, and important essential oil safety information.

A short introduction to essential oils

Essential oils have been around for a very long time. They were used as the first medicines and you'll find records of their uses in Egyptian hieroglyphics and the Bible, to name a few sources. Egyptians used the oils in the embalming process - some were even found preserved in jars in King Tut's tomb. The Bible is filled with references to oils - Jesus was even given some by the wise men.

They have been around many years though it seems like a fairly recent fad. Essential oil use has thrived for a reason - they work!

What are essential oils, anyway?

They are the concentrated, aromatic liquids that are extracted from a variety of plants and their various parts (trees, seeds, shrubs, flowers, and roots) through a distillation process.

The plants use these oils to grow and adapt to their environment and they are also important in protecting the plant from insects and harsh conditions. When processed correctly, these oils retain their helpful properties. Essential oils are complex with many different chemical constituents. They will oxidize and turn rancid, so be sure to store them correctly (in a cool, dark place).

There are a variety of factors and variables that can affect the quality of oils but pure essential oils will include some basic natural properties & compounds (things like terpenes, alcohols, esters, ketones, and phenols). Each essential oil can have between 200-500 different constituents, giving them many diverse uses. All of these constituents serve their plants in a variety of ways and, if distilled properly, will be preserved in the oils, where they can provide support for health and wellness.

The molecular structure of the oils gives them the ability to penetrate cells and travel through blood and tissue. They provide support for the body in many ways - immune system support, restful sleep, or soothing daily aches and pains. When they are applied topically to the feet, they can travel through the body in just a few minutes. They really are powerful!


Essential Oil Safety Guidelines

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Essential oil basics -- 3 ways to use essential oils

Now that we've covered our introduction to essential oils, let's take a look at how to use them. There are three different ways that pure essential oils have been used - topical application, inhalation, and ingestion. 

Inhalation - diffusing or using other methods to inhale the aromas of essential oils provides those oils with direct access to the brain through the limbic system.

Read more: Why diffuse essential oils

Topical application - massage or direct application techniques are very beneficial for providing direct support to various body systems - the molecular structure of the oils is so small that it can be easily absorbed through the skin.

Read more: How to apply essential oils

Ingestion - oral usage is common in the French model and with many users, but please be careful and do your research before ingesting essential oils.

Read more: Ingesting Essential Oils

One of the many benefits of the properties of essential oils is that the methods of application are often interchangeable. While some people may ingest a drop of peppermint essential oil for an upset stomach you can apply it topically (properly diluted, of course) for the exact same benefit (and none of the risks associated with ingesting essential oils).

A few essential oil safety guidelines -- it’s potent stuff!

While it can be exciting to jump right into using essential oils, it's better to take a slower and more careful approach. And, since they are so potent, there are some general safety guidelines you should be aware of:

  • NEVER put essential oils directly into the eyes or the ears

  • If you do get oil in your eyes or ears, flush with a carrier oil (like olive oil)

  • When applying to the skin you should always dilute the essential oils in a carrier oil before applying

  • For most applications, 1-3 (diluted) drops is sufficient

  • Keep bottles closed and store them in a cool, dark location to avoid oxidation

  • Keep oils out of reach of children

  • Some oils are photosensitive and shouldn't be used on skin that will be exposed to sunlight

  • Pregnant and nursing women should consult their physician or a registered aromatherapist before use - there are oils that are not safe for pregnant/nursing women to use

  • Those with asthmatic conditions should take care with essential oil inhalation

  • If adding oils to the bath, mix with bath soap or body wash before adding to bath water

Vary the oils you use

Because of their potent nature, it’s possible to develop a sensitivity to a particular essential oil if you apply it undiluted to your skin. To keep this from happening, it’s important to always properly dilute your essential oils and vary the oils you use. If you always use the same essential oil for a specific topical application you can put yourself at risk of developing a sensitivity to that oil. Vary the oils you use - there is more than one essential oil for any specific need.



Essential Oil Safety Guidelines

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Put your email address in the form below to join the community & learn how to create a healthy home with essential oils - and learn what you need to know about safely applying essential oils. 


Use with care!

I'd like to add one last caution here at the end of our introduction to essential oils. There are lots of websites and images on Pinterest. Some are helpful and some are really not. For anything you find online (even here!) please do your own research. A reference guide is always a great tool to have on hand.

Tonia L

Hey! I'm the owner of Happy Homeschool Nest - a website devoted to helping homeschool moms balance the needs of homeschooling with managing a healthy and happy home.