Essential Oil Basics


Not quite sure where to start with that new essential oil kit? You'll find plenty of information on this page that will help. Time to start reading - and learning everything you need to know about the basics of essential oils!

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What are essential oils?

Essential oils 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.

Read more: An Introduction to Essential Oils

How are essential oils used?

There are three basic ways essential oils can be used:

  1. Aromatically - diffusing or the direct inhalation gives the therapeutic properties of essential oils direct access to the brain through the limbic system.

  2. Topically - 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. But remember - it's always important to properly dilute essential oils.

  3. Internally - oral usage should only be used under the careful supervision of a certified aromatherapist.

See below for more details about aromatic and topical use.

For more about internal use: Ingesting Essential oils

For more about Certified Aromatherapists: What is an Aromatherapist {and why should I visit one}?

Are essential oils safe?

Essential oils are safe to use - with caution. They are potent substances and should be used with care. 

 There are some basic safety guidelines you need to follow:

  • While essential oils can be applied topically (properly diluted, of course) do not put them in your eyes or ears

  • If you do get oil in your eyes or ears, flush with a carrier oil (like olive oil), NOT water

  • For most applications, 1-3 drops is sufficient

  • Dilution with a carrier oil is highly recommended

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

  • 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 women should consult their physician before use

  • Those who suffer from epilepsy or have high blood pressure should consult their physician before use

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

  • If adding oils to the bath, mix with bath salts or gel before adding to bath water

  • Only ingest under the guidance of your physician or a certified aromatherapist

Read More: When to Use Essential Oils {and when to avoid them}

How can I tell if my essential oils are pure?

The best thing you can do is buy from a reputable source. Look for companies that follow these procedures:

  1. Sourcing - how does the company source the plants? Are they involved in the process? Are the plants grown in their country of origin?

  2. Growing & Harvesting - what are their growing practices of the farm? Are any pesticides or chemicals used during the growing process?

  3. Testing - after the distillation process, does the company test the essential oils before packaging and selling? Are they transparent about their testing practices?

A reputable essential oil company will be completely transparent about this process and will openly share this information on the company website.

A few of my favorite places to purchase high-quality essential oils:

Do essential oils go bad or expire?

Essential oils have a shelf life (from one to six years, depending on the chemo-type of a particular essential oil). With improper storage and use, it’s possible that essential oils will oxidize before that shelf life expires. Exposure to heat, light, and oxygen contribute to the oxidization of essential oils. But there are ways to limit this exposure and keep your essential oils safe - keep them stored in a cool, dark place and limit the amount of time that each bottle is open.

Read more: How to Store Essential Oils

How do I know what essential oils to use for a specific issue?

Is it possible to overuse essential oils?

Yes, you can develop a sensitization to an essential oil from overuse. 

It's important to vary the essential oils you use, dilute them properly, and remember that they are potent substances! 

Can I use essential oils with babies & kids?

Yes, certain gentle essential oils are safe for babies -- as long as they are heavily diluted.

  • 0.5% dilution for babies - 1 drop essential oil to 1 tablespoon carrier oil

  • 1% dilution for children - 1 drop essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil

Safe essential oils for babies 6 months+:

  • Lavender

  • Citrus oils (grapefruit, lemon, mandarin, orange)

  • Tea tree

  • Roman chamomile

More essential oils for babies and children.


Hydrosols are a safer, gentler option for babies. 

Learn more: Everything you need to know about hydrosols

A hydrosol is simply the leftover water after an essential oil has been distilled from a plant. It can also be known as a hydrolat, floral water, or plant water.

Hydrosols are gentler than essential oils -- making them perfect for use with babies and young children. 

Can I use essential oils with my pets?

While some essential oils can be safe for use with your pets, animals are much more sensitive to essential oils and they react to them very quickly. In most cases (except things like first aid) diffusing is more than enough. Never add oils to your pet's food or treats.

A topical application should be saved for those times when it is necessary - it shouldn't be a regular occurrence. Topical application is appropriate in these instances:

  • flea treatment (essential oils on collars work as a repellant)

  • first aid (bruises, strains, small injuries)

  • arthritis

  • skin issues

Always dilute essential oils when using them with your pets:

  • 1% dilution (1 drop to 1 teaspoon carrier oil) for emotional issues.

  • 2-3% dilution (2-3 drops to 1 teaspoon carrier oil) for physical issues.

Read more: Best Essential Oils for Pets

Essential Oils & Aromatic Use

If you're new to essential oils - diffusing is the easiest way to start. Find all the information you need to start using essential oils aromatically below. You'll learn how to diffuse, the many ways you can diffuse, and why you should diffuse essential oils.

How do I diffuse essential oils?

Diffusing is one of the easiest and safest ways to get started with essential oils. Purchase a simple ultrasonic diffuser (my favorite diffusers!), add water and 8-10 drops of essential oil. Run the diffuser for 20-30 minutes.

More advice about diffusing essential oils:

Why should I diffuse essential oils?

Diffusing essential oils is one of the quickest & easiest ways to begin using them. It's also easy to do and everyone in the family can benefit from the wonderful aromas.

There is a long list of benefits associated with diffusing. Here are a few:

  • Produce negative ions

  • Increase amount of available oxygen

  • Improve concentration & mental clarity

  • Relieve headaches

  • Eliminate airborne germs & bacteria

  • Release natural ozone

  • Relieve tension

  • Stimulate neurotransmitters

  • Alter molecules that create odors

  • Improve hormonal balance

Read more: Why Diffuse Essential Oils

Are there other ways to use essential oils aromatically?

Yes! And I suggest you focus on using essential oils aromatically before adding in topical use. You can enjoy many of the same benefits without the risks associated with applying essential oils to your skin.

Aromatherapy inhalers are a great, portable option for taking your favorite essential oil blends with you.

Read more: How to use an Essential Oil Inhaler

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the aromatic benefits of essential oils:

  1. Add a few drops to a bowl of cedar chips or pine cones

  2. Add a drop to your child's favorite stuffed animal before bedtime

  3. Use a clip-on diffuser in your car.

Read more: How to Diffuse Essential Oils without a Diffuser

Essential Oils & Topical Use

Learn how to properly apply essential oils - where to apply them, how to properly dilute them, and how to create your own personalized (and safe) essential oil blends.

Where should I apply essential oils?

Learning how to apply essential oils topically is one of the most confusing parts of using essential oils. Dilutions... carrier oils... safety concerns -- it's a lot to figure out! 

Properly Diluting Essential Oils:

The first thing to remember is that you must dilute essential oils. If you do not you risk developing an allergy, a reaction, or a sensitization to the oil. It's especially important to dilute essential oils more heavily for babies & children, animals, elderly, and those with sensitive skin. See the next section for details about properly diluting essential oils.

Application Locations:

Once you've properly diluted your essential oils there are a number of places you can apply them:

  • Right at location

  • Feet

  • Ears - outside or behind (don't put oils in your ears!)

  • Temples

  • Abdomen

  • Upper back

  • Wrists

  • Neck

  • Nape of neck

Unique ways to use essential oils:

Besides direct application, there are more ways to use essential oils topically.

  • Auricular therapy - applying oils to the rim of the ears

  • Vita Flex therapy - applying oils to the contact points on the foot

  • Massage (be sure to dilute oil by 15-30%)

  • Foot massage

  • Baths (add 3-6 drops of essential oils to bath gel before adding to water)

  • Acupuncture

  • Acupressure

  • Compresses

  • Added to lotions, bath gels, or soaps

For more information:

How do I dilute an essential oil?

It's important to dilute essential oils before applying them. Here are the basic dilution guidelines:

  • Infants - 1-2 drops essential oil to 1 tablespoon carrier oil

  • Children - 1-2 drops essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil

  • Sensitive skin - 1-3 drops essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil

  • Daily use - 2-3 drops essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil

Once you have figured out your dilution ratio (depending on who it is being applied to), it's simply a matter of combining the carrier oil and essential oil and applying directly to the area of concern. 

Read more: How to Read a Dilution Chart

Carrier Oils:

Carrier oils are simply vegetable-based oils that you can use to dilute your essential oils. Here are some commonly used carrier oils:

  • Coconut oil

  • Jojoba oil

  • Almond oil

  • Grapeseed oil

Read more: How to Apply Essential Oils Topically

How do I know which essential oils blend together?

Blending essential oils isn't difficult when you follow a few simple steps:

  1. What is your goal? Why are you creating a blend?

  2. Use a reference guide to find what oils will work for you.

  3. Test a few oils - looking for a few that smell nice and work well together.

  4. Dilute and create your blend.

Read more: How to Make an Essential Oil Blend

500sq essential oil blending workshop.png

Looking for more guidance?

Take a look at the Blending 101 Workshop -

you’ll learn everything you need to know to blend essential oils using their aromatic notes and therapeutic properties.

More helpful information:

Looking for more helpful advice and articles? Here you go!

Join the Community

When you join the Essential Oil Beginner's community you'll learn the basics of using essential oils so you can start creating a healthy home for your family.

Not sure where to start with essential oils? Find everything you need to know to start using them today. All the essential oil basics, how to use essential oils safely -- everything an essential oil beginner needs to know.