The Basics on Essential Oils Lavender, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree… many people have made essential oils part of their everyday beauty, cleaning or wellness routine. In fact, essential oil sales in the U.S. have boomed over the last few years to nearly half a billion dollars annually. If you haven’t given them a shot yet—or even if you’re a devoted user—check out some of the basics on essential oils and a few interesting things you may not have known.

Essential Oils

Did you know essential oils aren’t really oils at all? They are actually highly concentrated elements of the plant itself. Hundreds of plants can be used for essential oils such as chamomile, cinnamon, jasmine, red cedar and valerian. People have been using essential oils in many different ways since ancient times—for their healing properties, stimulation, relaxation, cleaning and disinfection. Today, there are a vast variety of uses for essential oils—as a scent for your body, an air freshener for the home, in homemade cleaning products, for relief from cold symptoms, as a stimulant in massages, an addition to DIY face scrubs and masks and many more.

To start, try some of the more popular oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, tea tree (melaleuca) and lavender. See below for some tips on using these. And always remember that essential oils are not fragrance oils! Fragrance oils are artificially created and likely contain chemicals.

The Basics on Essential Oils

Therapeutic Grade

There are a lot of resources online that tell you to buy “therapeutic grade” essential oils and while you’ll see this label on some products, it doesn’t actually mean anything specific. There is no government agency or independent group that regulates or approves items with this label. Instead look for essential oils that are 100% pure, organic, sourced from known botanical species, sustainably grown and harvested, chemical-free and widely used by integrative health professionals. 

Basic Uses & Tips

First and foremost, always make sure you are using a high-quality product. Some of the below uses involve placing the oil on your skin—so you want to be sure it’s safe and comes from a good source. Also, do research to make sure an oil is safe for topical or oral uses, some essential oils can be toxic.

  • The next time you or another adult in your family has a cold, put a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil in the tub. As the steam rises from a shower or bath, the essential oil will help to open up the sinuses.
  • To relieve a headache, place a couple dots of peppermint oil on your temples, forehead and back of the neck.
  • Use lemon essential oil to remove the sticky gunk left on glass from stickers.
  • Make your own air freshener by mixing tea tree oil with baking soda and placing in a container with a lid. Be sure to poke holes in the lid!
  • Keep lavender essential oil on hand to reduce stress. Research has shown that breathing in this calming scent can help with relaxation.

Be cautious with using essential oils on pets and children or if you are pregnant or nursing without approval from your doctor.