What are essential oils?

Essential oils are aromatic liquids found in shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes and seeds. We think of them most frequently for their strong aromatic properties, but they are complex substances made from many different chemicals with many beneficial properties.

It is important to purchase pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils that are concentrated naturally through steam distillation as the use of synthetic materials to extract oils will alter their properties and affect their therapeutic value.  Many less expensive oils on the market are cut with alcohol, preservatives or diluted. Be sure to ask before you buy.

How are they used?


The aromatic properties of essential oils stimulate our sense of smell and positively affect our bodies, moods and minds simply through inhalation. More on the neuroscience behind aromatherapy in next week’s blog. Oils may be inhaled directly from the bottle, your hands, bath or diffused in your home or work space.

Topical application

Essential oils may also be applied directly to the skin. Be sure to check the label on any oil you are using as there are slightly different recommendations for topical application for individual oils. Some oils may be applied undiluted, in which case place 2 to 3 drops directly in the palm of your hand or directly on the desired part of your body.

Others may need to be combined with a carrier oil such as a vegetable or nut oil. Carrier oils are most frequently used when essential oils are used for massage or to cover a large part of your body.

Internal uses

While there are some essential oils that should not be ingested, many can be safely used in an empty capsule or combined in a favorite recipe or with liquids (Therapeutic-grade only, as lesser quality oils are often cut with preservatives and not safe for ingesting). Safety is key, so always check the label or with a health care professional first to ensure an oil is meant to be used internally.