Navigating through all the information and hype about essential oils can be daunting! Especially when you see the words pop up on everything from soap to toothpaste to lotion to foot scrubbers (we have those!) So what do you need to know?
Essential oils are made from the essences of plants. Roots. bark, leaves & flowers can all be used for steam distillation, where the essence is brought out of the above things. The liquid left is the essential oil. Here's a link if you'd like to understand this better.
This is why using pure or organic plant parts is so important. For example, it's the difference between something that has been grown with pesticides, chemicals and fertilizers, which then become part of that plant, or without anything unnatural. Everything that comes in contact with that plant is brought out in distillation. You can see why many companies are quick to tell you that their essential oils (EOs) are from particular growing areas. It IS important! Only purchase oils that are therapeutic grade, undiluted and pure; don't waste your money on anything else!
After being distilled, it's also an important consideration for bottling. EOs should be bottled preferably in glass because these volatile oils are strong and can leach (draw out) from plastic and other containers. As mentioned here, also keep your oils away from direct light, heat and oxygen (being left open) as they can lose their strength and become useless or damaged.
So, now you have this wonderful bottle of Lavender from a grower who is responsible and a processor who has put that oil in an amber or cobalt blue bottle...what now??!
Here is the point where we can be helpful.
There are several popular ways to use essential oils. Diffusing is the easiest and most popular since it relies on a diffuser or burner. It releases the smell into an area to be enjoyed by everyone. Many oils are germ killers so this method is great when there's sickness (or funky smells.....). Here is a great diffuser that doesn't use water so it's handy on your desk or even in your car (it works via a USB cord so it travels well).
You also can use oils on your skin, topically. This is where you need to be prepared to be a little cautious. Just because they smell great, doesn't mean they aren't powerful because they are! They may irritate skin so a test patch is ALWAYS a good idea until you become more familiar with your own body and the essential oils you love. Take a drop of oil and dab it on a section of skin that is tender---the inside or your arm or leg, stomach or breast area. If no irritation occurs, with a little thoughtfulness, try it wherever you want. It's always good to have a carrier oil available in case of sensitivity. There are many fine oils available and if you are caught without one, olive oil is usable. Dilute with about a half teaspoon of oil and 4 or 5 drops of oil, increase or decrease as needed. Undiluted essential oils are called "neat".
Adding oils to products you already use is also very popular. A few drops of Tea Tree to shampoo or rinse may help you with dandruff, scalp conditions and even resisting lice. Lavender in your favorite bedtime lotion will help soothe you right to sleep. Adding oils to almost any product (natural products are always the best) can enhance the product naturally and make it work even better than it already does. EXPERIMENT!
Lastly, you may choose to use essential oils internally. This is a consideration that should be well thought out and researched, here's a good place to start. After you do some reading and talk to other "oilers", decide for yourself. Many times adding an oil to an empty capsule is the easiest but in tea or water or to flavor food is also great!
Don't worry, you'll be fine. This isn't rocket science and common sense will prevail. :) Experiment, read, research, ask questions and above all else...
HAVE FUN. Seriously, have fun! This is the beginning of a wonderful new relationship!