Essential Oil Basics

Updated: Nov 14, 2019


The first time I heard about essential oils was in middle school while doing a google search for natural acne remedies. I never had terrible acne but like most self conscious middle schoolers, the occasional break out or huge pimple was a huge deal for me. As instructed by my google search results, I bought a small bottle of tea tree oil and put it directly on any pimple that arose. The oil worked great and became my new go to for pimples and I soon discovered its other great benefits as well. It works great for itchy bug bites, dandruff, athlete’s foot, and as mosquito repellent.

It wasn’t until several years later that I became interested in the other essential oils. The second time I came across essential oils was while trying to find natural remedies for hormone balancing. I’ve always had irregular periods and wanted an alternative to birth control which my gynecologist told me was the only way to regulate my periods. The first oil I read about connected to hormone balancing was clary sage, an herb often used for its antistress, antidepressant, and cramp reducing abilities.

Though I continued to do independent research over the years and used essential oils on and off, I finally took a 5 month aromatherapy course in 2019 and learned about more essential oils than I knew existed. Though I could write a full article on each essential oil, I want to share with you the most popular essential oils for common illnesses and problems and how you can incorporate them into your daily life.


Evidence of essential oil use was found as far back as 3000-2500 B.C. and the Egyptians are often given credit as being the first culture to use essential oils as we know it today. They used it for beauty, culinary, physical, and spiritual purposes. However, it is likely that people in China and India were using essential oil-like extracts at around the same time so it is debatable who was the first culture to use them. Several sources will say essential oils were used in Ayurvedic practices way before the Egyptians, but who really knows? All that’s important is that they’ve been around forever and clearly work if we are still using them thousands of years later.

The essential oil blend that is probably the most well known historically is thieves oil, which dates back to 1413 during the time of The Black Plague. While the disease spread rapidly around France killing citizens and doctors, there were some thieves who stole from the sick and dying and never caught the disease. They were eventually caught, charged, and sentenced to death. As the story goes, the judge was so surprised by how the thieves managed to stay alive despite being in such close contact with so many severely contagious people that he offered to spare their punishment if they told him their secret.

They explained that they had worked with perfumes and spices and prepared an essential oil blend to would rub all over their bodies to prevent them from catching the disease. With this information, doctors started to use the herbal infusion before treating Black Death patients. Today, the thieves oil blend, made of clove, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary, is a popular blend used to fight infections and boost the immune system. When I feel like I’m starting to get sick, I add one drop on a spoon of raw manuka honey and take twice daily until I feel better.

Essential Oil Uses

Diffuser. Diffusers work by dispersing essential oils into the air where they are inhaled and then absorbed into the body. Usually, you fill the diffuser with water to a marked spot and add drops of pure essential oils according to the instructions of the specific diffuser. This is a great option for creating a calm energy in the room or even purifying and cleaning the air. I often diffuse lavender a few hours before bed or a mixture of citrus oils for an uplifting energy during the day.

Topically. Using essential oils directly on the skin is the best way to help a specific area of the body. For headaches rub peppermint on the forehead, for stomach pain massage the oils directly on the stomach, for boosting immune system rub oils on the bottoms of the feet and wrists, for respiratory infections rub oils on the chest and back, and for muscle pain massage the oils into the muscle that is strained or inflamed.

It is important to note that oils must be diluted with a carrier oil before being applied to the body. Pure essential oils are extremely concentrated and strong and can cause skin irritation. Carrier oils also help the skin to absorb and utilize the essential oils. Common carrier oils include almond, jojoba, coconut, olive, avocado, sesame, argon, and grapeseed oil. I would recommend almond or jojoba oil for the face.

Smelling Salts. Unfortunately we don’t all work or live in a space where we can just turn on a diffuser whenever we feel like it. Smelling salts are a great portable option so you can get the benefits of essential oils anytime and anywhere. Essential oils evaporate very quickly so if you constantly open a bottle to smell, the oils start to evaporate. Salt helps to keep the oils in the bottle and you can easily create your own bottle of smelling salts. People with anxiety can take a few deep breaths of the salts when starting to feel stressed or stimulating oils can be used to help stay alert and focused throughout the day.

Internally. The strongest way to get the benefits of essential oils is get them directly into the digestive tract. This works great to fight infections and colds, kill candida and parasites, boost the immune system, and detoxify the body. However, only certain brands of high quality essential oils can be taken internally and only a drop or two is needed to do the trick. Because essential oils do not mix with water, adding a drop to a spoon of honey or olive oil is the best way to take them internally. Always consult with a doctor before taking any essential oil.

Household. Essential oils are great disinfectants and have several uses around the house. Pine, peppermint, thyme, and lemon are great disinfectants for cleaning the bathroom and countertops. Essential oils can be used to repel fleas, ticks, ants, roaches, mosquitos and gnats both inside the house and outside. Citronella, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, clove, geranium, and lemongrass are great mosquito repellents and much safer for the skin compared to many sprays.

Essentials oils can be added to laundry detergent to give your laundry a fresh, clean scent and can be mixed with castile soap liquid and distilled water to make a simple liquid hand soap. They're also great if you're into making your own deodorant, shampoo, lotions, sugar scrubs, and cleaning spray.

Popular Oils for Common Illnesses and Ailments

Anxiety: Sage, Orange, Frankincense, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Neroli

Depression: Camphor, Roman Chamomile, and Neroli

Digestive Disorders: Black Pepper, Cardamom, Ginger, Thyme, Coriander, Orange, Rosemary, Myrtle (parasites), Niauoli

Sleep: Lavender, Pine, Ylang Ylang, and Neroli

Headaches and Migraines: Peppermint, Lavender, Cardamon, Helichrysum, and Chamomile

Recommended Migraine Blend: Helichrysum, Lavender, and Roman Chamomile

Hormone Imbalances: Geranium, Sage, Clary Sage, Rose, Cypress, Roman Chamomile, and Jasmine

Weak Immune System: Black Pepper, Tea Tree, Lemon, Lemongrass, and Ravintsara

Dandruff: Lemongrass, Patchouli, Myrtle

Eczema: Juniper, Vanilla, Roman Chamomile, and Catendula

Toenail Fungus: Tea Tree, Geranium, Myrrh, Clove, and Thyme

Bacterial Infections: Oregano, Thyme, Lemon, Patchouli, Ravintsara

Viral Infections: Lemon, Eucalyptus, Orange, Patchouli, Ravintsara, Niaouli, Myrtle, and Camphor


Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to help people fight infections, balance the body, boost a weak immune system, disinfect, and ward off bugs. However, essential oils have powerful chemical compositions and if you are pregnant or epileptic, you should not use essential oils without permission from a physician. Do your research to make sure you are using the oils properly and remember, they are extremely concentrated and a little goes a long way.

The benefits of essential oils are endless, but you want to make sure you buy from a reputable source because their production is not regulated. My favorite essential oil brands are doTERRA and Young Living, though I’ve read contradicting information about all essential oils brands. I do also buy NOW and Aura Cacia oils, but for use in a diffuser only and sometimes external use. Young Living has a line of Vitality oils which are all safe for internal use. They are technically the same oils as the regular blends, but it helps customers prevent confusion from oil blends made for external use only.

If you aren’t sure where to get started, several companies offer starter kits with the most popular essential oils and a diffuser! The oils I use most are lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus orange, lemon, tea tree, and ylang ylang. These oils are a good combination of antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic, calming, cooling, bug repelling, and disinfecting. You can also check out my article on the top 10 essential oils and their uses to learn more.

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