Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide

One of the most commonly asked questions that I receive is "Where do I find essential oils?" And you know what? It's actually ridiculously easy to find essential oils. They're not as mystical and unknown as we tend to make them out to be.

I know, because I was there! I had no idea what they were, how to use them, or where I could find them even if I did want to use them! So I've decided to create a brief beginner's guide to all things essential oils...

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are botanical extracts made from flowers, herbs, trees, and various other plant materials. These oils, present in all plant matter are extracted either by cold pressing or steam distillation. Have you ever felt that oily residue on your hand after squeezing an orange? That residue is actually full of essential oils from the orange skin!

How Can Essential Oils Be Used?

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years (as early as the ancient Egyptians) for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. In modern times, their uses have expanded to include everything from air fresheners and massage oils, to skin care and cold remedies. Aromatherapy is also an area of alternative medicine where essential oils play a large role. Personally, I use them in all of my homemade products, like bath and body care, and household cleaners and disinfectants.

Essential oils can either be added directly to home and bath products, or they're diluted in a carrier oil (ie: olive, almond, grape seed oil, etc.), and then applying this blend to the skin for absorption. They can also be carefully inhaled for their therapeutic benefits! 

Are All Essential Oils Created Equal?

Not all essential oils are created equal. To receive the full benefits of essential oils, you must be sure you're using 100% pure, therapeutic grade oils, and not just a fragrance oil, which is artificially created and doesn't contain the same therapeutic benefits. Some trusted brands are: NOW, Aura Cacia, and Organika. There are, of course, other brands available, but whatever you choose, make sure they say 100% pure and therapeutic on the label. Healthy Planet carries a wide selection of essential oils on their website.

Are Essential Oils Safe?

Absolutely! However, a great deal of precaution must be taken to ensure the proper use of essential oils. Essential oils should never be used "neat" (or undiluted), but instead should be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied to the skin. Some oils are not safe to use during pregnancy, some may cause skin irritations, and some should not be used internally. Special care should be taken when using essential oils on children, and those with chronic health conditions. Essential oils should be kept out of reach of children and pets, and should never be used on or near babies or pets. As always, please consult your health care provider before using essential oils as part of your regimen.

Where Can I Buy Essential Oils?

This can seem like the hardest part, but it's actually pretty simple. First, you'll want to know which essential oils you need for your specific applications - check out this link for a great list of essential oil therapeutic properties. From there, you can start your collection with just a few of the more common oils, like lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, and orange. Essential oils can be found at any local health food store, like Health Planet in Canada. They can also be purchased online at Healthy Planet Online.

Have you ever used essential oils before? What are your favorites and how have you used them?