Beginners Guide to Essential Oils

Beginners Guide to Essential Oils

What Are Essential Oils?

An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing all kinds of beneficial compounds derived from plants. What really are essential oils, though? 

Defining Essential Oils

You might be wondering what a "hydrophobic" liquid actually is? A hydrophobic liquid is one who molecules are repelled from water - hence, the notion of being "phobic" of "hydro," which comes from the Greek word for water (hudor).

The thing to remember is that an essential oil is hydrophobic and considered volatile due to the fact that these oils evaporate easily at or above room temperature of 72 degrees. Volatile in the context of an essential oil doesn't mean that these oils are dangerous. In fact, essential oils derived from peppermint, lavender, and sandalwood have a number of beneficial properties.

What Does Essential Mean?

Before moving on to a couple of essential oil examples, like peppermint oil, and their benefits, it might be worthwhile to clear up some confusion about the term "essential" in this context as well.

Essential is this context does not refer to an essential oil being absolutely indispensable for human health like an essential amino acid; rather, the adjective "essential" in this new context means that these oils (e.g., sandalwood) contain the essence of the plant from which they're derived.

Two Ways to Use

An essential oil is a tool used in alternative medicine and administered one of two ways - through some kind of aromatherapy or by being diluted then rubbed on to the individual's skin. Both methods have their benefits, but make sure that you're not allergic to the essential oil in question before taking it in. 


For aromatherapy, the most common method is using a diffuser. A diffuser uses water and a few drops of the oil to diperse the scent into the air. Be sure to only use a few drops of your chosen oil to begin with and build onto the amount if needed. 

Skin Application

To apply essential oils to your skin, you must first dilute the oil. You will need to add the oil to a "carrier" oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil. The carrier oil dilutes the essential oil to make it safer for your skin. If you apply an essential oil directly, it can cause irritation and therefore is not recommended. 

My Favorite Oils

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Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is an extremely popular kind of essential oil, and people have used peppermint oil to address a number of respiratory issues, like nasal congestion and bronchitis. Additionally, peppermint oil has been used to address the following issues: headache, low energy, stress, and sore muscles.

While these beneficial oils are certainly not a substitute for medical attention following some kind of health emergency, alternative health practitioners claim that peppermint oil can open skin pores and improve circulation when applied topically.

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Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is thought to have antiseptic qualities and, as such, been used to treat fungal infections. While lavender can be dangerous to swallow, using lavender oil has proven medical benefits of helping to heal wounds when applied topically.

Alternative health practitioners also claim that lavender oil can usher in a sense of calm and provide some relief from anxiety and insomnia. Indeed, there has been some research indicating that lavender oil can help: depression, anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.

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Sandalwood Oil

Sandalwood is used in traditional medicine and as a folk medicine in much the same manner as lavender oil - primarily as an antiseptic and astringent. In the Indian Ayurvedic alternative health system, sandalwood oil is used as a diuretic, mild stimulant, and method for improving the texture and health of skin.

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Remember, an essential oil can usually be applied topically or through aromatherapy, but make sure that you're not allergic first!