Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils

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New to essential oils? This beginner's guide to essential oils gave me great info for understanding what essential oils are and how to use them! There are also great DIY recipes in here.

Spend time on Facebook or Pinterest and within minutes you’ll probably encounter talk of essential oils. The dark, glass bottles and picture guides to get you started on an essential oil journey are everywhere! Some conversations on essential oils and brands to buy spark heated debates among the closet of friends. It’s a serious topic these days!

So, what about me? If you’ve been around Live Simply long enough to enjoy brownies or a glass of kombucha, you know I use essential oils. While I don’t talk much about these oils, a few of my favorite oils can be found in many of my homemade recipes, such as: lotion, body wash, foundation powder, and homemade cleaners.

I’m a non-confrontational kind of gal.  I research what’s best for my family, carry on with what works best for me, share with others, and avoid discussion on heated topics. Today, after much thought and and reader questions, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on essential oils including where I buy my oils, what I buy, and how I use them.

Let’s get started!

New to essential oils? This beginner's guide to essential oils gave me great info for understanding what essential oils are and how to use them! There are also great DIY recipes in here.

Why Essential Oils?

Before we dive into the what and how of essential oils (the practical side),  I thought it best to explain a bit about essential oils. Essential oils are quite popular today with good reason, but knowing what an essential is and the why of using them, is really important if you’re going to make informed choices about the how.

So, what is an essential oil? In the most basic of terms an essential oil is a highly concentrated plant extract. Plant Therapy takes this definition further:

An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam. Some important information that you should know about an essential oil is the botanical name, chemotype (if applicable), origin of plant (this can drastically change the chemical constituents percentages) and extraction method.” (source)

Some essential oils come from seeds while many others are extracted from the leaves of the plant. Because essential oils are so highly concentrated it takes a large amount of plant to produce just one oil. Essential oils are incredibly powerful due to this high concentration, so a little bit goes a long way.

Despite the sudden burst in popularity, essential oils are not a new thing. The ancient Egyptians were among the first people to use aromatic essential oils, incorporating them into their daily lives. Pure essential oils were incredibly valuable and saved for priests and royals. Ancient books such as the Bible also talk about the use of essential oils. According to the book, Essential Oils for Beginners, the Old and New Testament reference essential oils over two hundred times.

Other ancient societies such as the Chinese and Greeks and Romans used essential oils and herbs for: aromatherapy, ailments, and personal hygiene. Even Hippocrates spoke of and used essential oils.

Let’s talk why? Essential oils may have been popular in ancient times, but why today?

First, essential oils are natural if grown, harvested, and extracted properly . They are naturally extracted and highly concentrated using a couple different methods (see quote above). Because these oils are extracted from plants they contain some of the most powerful chemicals plants synthesize. Good-quality essential oils are known to help with,

congestion, memory loss, pain, inflammation, headaches, nausea, killing bacteria, viruses and fungus, stimulating the  immune system, skin issues and many more ailments and concerns. (source)

When certain oils are blended with the correct knowledge based on therapeutic properties and chemical families, the blends can be even more powerful than a single oil.

Where Do I Buy Essential Oils?

I think the majority of essential oil users would agree on the why of essential oils, but here’s where essential oil talk gets a bit controversial.

Before we talk about where I buy my essential oils, I think it’s important to discuss two terms often used in the buying controversy: “therapeutic grade” and “certified pure therapeutic grade”. It’s important to note that there is no agency that regulates these terms, rather they are made up by the essential oil industry. Don’t let these terms fool you or effect your buying.

It’s true, not all essential oils are created equal. Essential oils will vary depending on how they are grown, harvested, and tested. It’s important to do your research, ask questions, and find a trusted essential oil company that tests their oils and openly answers your questions.

One of my absolute favorite companies for buying essential oils is Plant Therapy. I also purchase essential oils from Aura Cacia, NOW, and Mountain Rose Herbs.

What Essential Oils Do I Use?

New to essential oils? This beginner's guide to essential oils gave me great info for understanding what essential oils are and how to use them! There are also great DIY recipes in here.

When I first started using essential oils for my homemade products, I only owned one oil: lavender. I’ve always been obsessed with the lavender fragrance. Once I learned about the healing properties of lavender for the skin, I decided to add a few drops to my homemade foundation powder. Between the absence of toxins from the store-bought powder and the healing properties of lavender, my acne-prone skin cleared within a few weeks. I was beyond thrilled.

Today, inside my linen closet sits a box of essential oils (safely stored away from little hands); some are used more than others. A few of my favorites are:

I’ve also started to learn more about the blends we discussed earlier, called, “synergies”. These blends are carefully formulated by mixing oils with similar therapeutic properties and chemical families, making a powerful blend of oils.

New to essential oils? This beginner's guide to essential oils gave me great info for understanding what essential oils are and how to use them! There are also great DIY recipes in here.

Because a little bit of oil goes a very long way, a starter set of oils lasts months (if not longer) in our house. It’s a good thing the shelf life of oils is around 1-2 years. One of my favorite sets that includes seven basic oils and seven synergy blends is the “14 Essential Oil Set” from Plant Therapy.  This set contains the majority of oils needed to make most of my homemade products, along with therapeutic synergies (blends of individual oils).

Along with essential oils, I also stock carrier oils, as it’s best to dilute essential oils.  Some oils can even burn the skin if applied directly.  I’ve found a diffuser is also helpful. Remember those toxic scented plug-ins? Yep, throw them away! Your favorite essential oils and a diffuser are your new friends.

How Do I Use Essential Oils?

Before using essential it’s important to educate yourself! Knowing what essential oils work best for various uses, which essential oils should not be used around children or even in the sun, and how to store oil is vital to safe essential oil usage. Plant Therapy provides responsible education for oil use on their site. You can read more about essential oil FAQs here and here. Keeping a non-biased reference book on essential oil basics can prove very handy.

With knowledge on your side, you can put your essential oils to work in your home. Remember, a little bit of oil goes a long way.

New to essential oils? This beginner's guide to essential oils gave me great info for understanding what essential oils are and how to use them! There are also great DIY recipes in here.

Homemade Recipes Using Essential Oils

Below, you’ll find a few of my favorite homemade recipes using essential oils. You can also use essential oils simply for fragrance and their therapeutic aroma benefits using a diffuser.

Foundation Powder from Live Simply

*Lotion (without coconut oil) from Live Simply

Simple Homemade Moisturizer from Live Simply

Homemade Peppermint Toothpaste from Live Simply

All-Purpose Surface Cleaner from Live Simply

Vapor Rub from Live Simply

Antibacterial & Healing Cream (like Neosporin) from Live Simply

Natural Cleaning Challenge

Ditch toxic cleaning products in 5 days! 

Essential oils are powerful and serve a wonderful purpose in the natural family’s home. Always make informed choices and do your own research with essential oils. With knowledge and a few high-quality oils you can make many homemade products and enjoy therapeutic benefits.

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