How to Get Started With Essential Oils
* This article contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.
By guest contributor Jade Cardy of Yurtigo.
I’ve always liked essential oils. I used to buy them to diffuse in my apartment to make the room smell nice. Or I would make a body spray to make myself smell nice. I had no idea the health benefits that lay hidden within these amazing oils.
My official essential oil journey began one day last year when I was looking into natural hair care. Since we moved off-grid we do not have running water, so I wanted to find something I could use to nourish my hair and scalp between showers. I saw a YouTube video that mentioned using essential oils and misting your hair and scalp. I was curious to give it a try, so I joined a few online essential oil groups to start my research, and dove head first down the rabbit hole.
I didn’t initially realize the strength of essential oils. I had thought they were natural perfumes, rather than medicinal tools. The more I learned, the more I realized I knew very little about essential oils.
I was drawn to the safety groups. I spent hours pouring over previous posts and videos. And more hours learning about solubilizing, diluting, dispersing and emulsifying.
I learned the difference between hydrophilic and hydrophobic substances and how they interact. I learned which oils were unsafe for pets, kids and pregnancy. I learned about maximum dilutions, as well as safe dilution percentages to make skin tonics versus room sprays. I took notes on many different recipes for different products, while creating a wish list of essential oils. After quite a few months of research, I was ready to get my hands on some oils.
After doing even more research on essential oil suppliers, I chose to deal with Plant Therapy (affiliate link). The quality of their products, coupled with their free essential oil safety education, outstanding customer service, and their price point made them the choice for me.
Plant Therapy also provides batch-specific GC/MS reports for their customers to review on their website, which test the quality and purity of each oil. These reports are important because they show the breakdown of the main chemical constituents that give an essential oil some of its therapeutic properties. The safety considerations of each individual oil are also determined by their chemical profile.
I spent a little over two weeks studying Plant Therapy’s menu. I quickly figured out that the gift sets were the best value, so I ordered gift sets #1 and #4 to get me started, which comprised of Cinnamon Cassia, Eucalyptus Globulus, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Orange Sweet, Peppermint, Rosemary and Tea Tree.
While I waited for my order to arrive, I delved into researching what I could make with these oils. This was when I learned the true importance of using the proper carrier with essential oils.
What’s A Carrier Oil And Why Do I Need One?
I had always thought I could simply mix my oils with tap water, apply and be done. But since oil is hydrophobic, it doesn’t mix with water. Shaking it vigorously doesn’t mix the two, it simply disperses the water and oil molecules into smaller particles. So you could potentially be applying essential oils “neat” to your skin, which is basically undiluted essential oil on your skin. This can lead to sensitization and problems later on, to the point of potentially not being able to use essential oils anymore.
The solution? Use a carrier oil.
Oil lasts longer on the skin, so you’re going to get the most out of your essential oils. Oils also dilute essential oils very well so they are safe to use topically, and most don’t need preservatives.
Oils also have a fairly long shelf life. Fractionated coconut oil is a popular choice, since it is in liquid form and can be sprayed on. Different oils have differing therapeutic properties and comedogenic ratings, so depending what you are planning to use them for, you may want a few different carrier oils. See the chart below to help determine which oil is best for you.
Using Water As A Carrier
Water is still an option to use as a carrier for essential oils, there are just a few rules to follow.
First off, if you are going to use water, it has to be distilled; otherwise, the essential oils could bond with impurities in the water which can lead to health problems. Also, if you are using distilled water you will need to use a preservative to prevent anything harmful from growing in it. The only exception to this is if you use up your concoction within a few days, and you keep it in the fridge.
Finally, if using distilled water and wanting to apply topically, you will want to use an emulsifier such as castile soap, or a solubilizer such as grain alcohol. This will help dilute the essential oils and allow them to mix with the water so they are safe to put on your skin. An added benefit of grain alcohol is it also acts as a preservative, so it works double duty.
Essential Oil Safety
If you are thinking of getting into essential oils, I would recommend joining a few essential oil safety groups to learn the basics. Robert Tisserand is an excellent source of information and the Safe Essential Oil Recipes Facebook Group is one of my go-to’s to ask questions and learn about essential oil safety.
Do some research. Read up on the oils you have or are interested in getting. I recommend the book Essential Oils Natural Remedies: The Complete A-Z Reference of Essential Oils for Health and Healing if you’re looking for a comprehensive reference guide to essential oils.
And learn the dilution charts. These charts are an amazing resource for when you’re ready to make your own products. They tell you how many drops of essential oils to add to a particular volume of carrier, in order to get a certain dilution percentage. See the graphic below on dilution guidelines for essential oils. I like to start all my creations at around 1-2% dilution so I don’t waste any oils. I then add more as necessary.
Getting Started With Essential Oils
I’m often asked, what are the best oils to get when starting out? A lot of it really depends on what you are planning to do with the oils. My initial intentions were for hair and scalp care, bug repelling, respiratory aid and to reduce anxiety and depression.
Here are my top 6 suggestions in order of how often I use them:
Lavender – soothes skin, calming properties.
Frankincense Serrata – skin care, anti-inflammatory, meditative properties, respiratory aid.
Patchouli – skin care, odor eliminator, soothing, meditative properties, alleviates nervous tension and worry.
Peppermint – energizing, soothing, cooling, queasy stomach aid, bug repellant.
Tea Tree – skin care, cleans air, bug repellant, antiseptic, antimicrobial, antifungal, good for minor cuts & scrapes.
Cedarwood Atlas – scalp care, bug repellant, respiratory aid.
You don’t need to have a lot of oils to get started. It’s actually easier to start small with two or three oils and get to know them really well. Learn about their benefits and what other essential oils they blend well with. As you learn more about your oils and how you want to use them, you’ll notice where the gaps in your collection lay.
Essential oils also have a shelf life, so best to start small to avoid wasting money on oils you never use or don’t know how to use.
Essential oils come in singles and synergies. Singles are one essential oil, while synergies are a blend of essential oils. I like to buy singles and make my own blends, though there are many great synergies out there that help with bug repelling, sleep, mood, germ fighting… the list goes on.
Here are a few of my go-to blends. I’ve included my full recipe, as well as a modified version for those with a more basic set of essential oils.
My Top Homemade Essential Oil Recipes & Blends
Bug Spray Essential Oil Blend
1 oz. Witch Hazel
1 oz. Distilled water
9 drops Lavender
6 drops Citronella
4 drops Patchouli
4 drops Peppermint
1 drop Lemongrass
Add witch hazel to spray bottle, then add essential oils. Shake well. Top up spray bottle with distilled water. Be careful not to overfill. Shake well before using. The above recipe can also be made into a topical spray or rollerball by substituting the witch hazel and distilled water for your favourite carrier oil. Diluted at 1.5% but can be increased up to 5%. Recommended for short term use.
This recipe is for clothing and furniture only, must be kept in the fridge, and should be used up within a few days. Apply to clothing, furniture, doorways… anywhere mosquitoes are present.
* Modified version: 8 drops Lavender, 4 drops Cedarwood Atlas, 4 drops Patchouli, 4 drops Peppermint, 4 drops Tea Tree.
After-Bite Essential Oil Blend
1 tsp. Sesame oil
2 drops Frankincense Serrata
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Orange Sweet
1 drop Copaiba
1 drop Palmarosa
1 drop Patchouli
1 drop Tea Tree
Add sesame oil to a roller bottle or a clean, empty essential oil bottle, then add essential oils. Shake well. Apply to bites as needed. Diluted at 5% which is safe to use topically on a short term basis. Dilution can be increased up to 10% if needed.
Modified version: 5 drops Lavender, 3 drops Frankincense, 2 drops Tea Tree. You can make any blend out of Lavender, Frankincense and/or Tea Tree oil. Play around with them to create your favourite After Bite scent.
Related: DIY Essential Oil Rollerballs
Mojito Foaming Hand Soap
1/4 cup Castile soap
2 tsp Jojoba oil (or carrier oil of your choice)
1 tsp Vegetable Glycerin (if you have it)
10 drops Lime (or substitute Grapefruit Pink, Lemon, or Orange Sweet)
10 drops Peppermint
Mix ingredients in an 8oz. foaming soap dispenser. Shake well. Fill the rest of the dispenser with distilled water. Don’t overfill. Use up within a few days. Diluted to less than 0.5%.
Some other amazing blends for foaming hand soap are:
Calming: 10 drops Cedarwood Atlas & 10 drops Lavender.
Grounding: 8 drops Lavender, 7 drops Frankincense Serrata, 5 drops Patchouli.
Soothing: 10 drops Lavender & 10 drops Lemon or Grapefruit Pink.
Germ Fighting: 6 drops Eucalyptus Globulus, 6 drops Lemon, 6 drops Rosemary, 1 drop Cinnamon Cassia.
Immune Boosting: 4 drops Frankincense Serrata, 4 drops Tea Tree, 3 drops Eucalyptus Globulus, 3 drops Lemon, 3 drops Orange Sweet, 3 drops Rosemary.
Holiday: 10 drops Cinnamon Cassia & 10 drops Orange Sweet
Menstrual Cramp Relief
1 oz. Coconut oil
6 drops Lavender
3 drops Frankincense Serrata
3 drops Patchouli
2 drops Copaiba
2 drops Cypress
2 drops Palmarosa
2 drops Peppermint
2 drops Rosemary
Add essential oil drops to coconut oil. Mix well. Apply topically to lower abdomen to ease menstrual cramps. Diluted at 2.5% but can be increased up to 5% if needed, for short term use only.
Modified version: 9 drops Lavender, 7 drops Frankincense Serrata, and 4 drops Peppermint.
Related: DIY Hair Pomade with Rosemary Essential Oil
Worry-Free Personal Inhaler
2 drops Cedarwood Atlas
2 drops Lavender
2 drops Patchouli
1 drop Ho Wood
1 drop Peru Balsam
1 drop Saro
Place a cotton ball inside an empty, resealable container, such as an old prescription pill bottle or an empty M&Ms candy tube. Add essential oil drops to cotton ball. Inhale whenever stress, anxiety or worry hit.
Modified version: 3 drops Cedarwood Atlas, 3 drops Lavender, 3 drops Patchouli.
Another question I’m often asked is, what accessories should I get? Again, this is going to depend on what you want to get out of your oils. If you want to apply topically, I would suggest getting a rollerball and a spray bottle.
Spray bottles are my main go-to as they are so versatile and fairly inexpensive. Coloured glass spray bottles are always the best option, but aluminum or PET plastic is perfectly acceptable as well. I love to reuse empty containers, so I turn empty essential oil bottles into rollerballs and mini spray bottles.
Personal inhalers are also a very popular delivery method for essential oils. I like to make my own inhaler by taking any small empty container that seals, like a prescription bottle or an old candy tube. Put a cotton ball in the bottom of the container. Add 9-15 drops of your essential oils. Voila. Your own personal inhaler. Add more drops of essential oil as the scent dissipates.
One thing to keep in mind is you don’t want to be opening your essential oil bottles very often, so in a pinch you could use your essential oil bottle as a personal inhaler, but the more you open it, the more oxygen gets in which shortens its shelf life.
Time to talk diffusers. Contrary to popular belief, diffusers should not be running for long periods of time, even though they come with 2, 4, 6, and 8 hour settings.
The best practice for diffusing is typically 30-60 minutes on, and 30-60 minutes off. When choosing to diffuse for longer periods of time it is best to use an intermittent setting. Since essential oils can affect people differently, it’s best to start slowly to determine which practices are best for you and your family, so you don’t risk sensitization.
I personally don’t diffuse anymore, as I have cats and live in a yurt, so although the ventilation is good, there’s nowhere for the cats to escape to in our 314 square feet (and some essential oils are dangerous to cats). I find using my personal inhalers work just as well.
My Essential Oil Picks
Another question I am frequently asked is, what oil can you not live without? My favourite oil to date is Peru Balsam. Its benefits include soothing emotions, soothing skin issues and minor scrapes, soothing respiratory congestion, soothing nervous tension, and treating dry and reddened skin. The smell is absolutely amazing. It has a sweet, coconut, vanilla, aroma with a hint of marshmallow and cinnamon. I’ve added it to a few of my creations to enjoy its scent throughout the day.
Of the more common essential oils, I would have to say Lavender is another oil that I cannot live without. Its versatility and soothing properties work well in my life. Plus I love the smell.
While there is much to learn about essential oils and using them safely, it is also very empowering to use Mother Nature’s tools to live a healthier, happier life. Delving into the essential oils world should not be daunting or scary, but rather exciting and refreshing. Always remember, Mother Earth has got your back, and she’ll make you smell amazing in the process.
Happy oiling everyone!
*** For more information, I highly recommend Essential Oils Natural Remedies: The Complete A-Z Reference of Essential Oils for Health and Healing. This is my go-to guide on everything to do with essential oils. It includes everything you’d ever want to know about just about every essential oil on the market, including common uses, safety precautions, plus a complete list of illnesses, injuries and ailments and the essential oils that can be used to treat them. ***
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I didn’t know that lavender possesses calming properties. My wife and I would like to find some essential oils for our son. We’ll be sure to get some essential oils that contain lavender.
Yes, lavender is one of the best for calming properties. There are also some really nice calming blends available from Plant Therapy that we use for our daughter. Our favourite is called “Calming the Child” which has lavender, chamomile and orange oils.