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A Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils

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a beginner's guide to essential oilsI love essential oils.  Can I get that T-shirt?  I discovered them about 3 years ago after a friend introduced me to the essential oil company, Young Living and urged me to attend a class with her.  I happily went, not really knowing what I was in for. I sat amazed as the benefits and properties of essential oils unfolded. This post is for the person who has no experience with essential oils but is interested to start. Hopefully you find my beginner’s guide to essential oils helpful.

I had worked with many skin care lines before that had essential oils in them but they were never in the “spot light”.  It was always some anti aging chemical that was the selling point. In this beginner’s guide to essential oils you will learn everything you need to know to start reaping the benefits of essential oils!

Once I started using essential oils on my family I was hooked.  I had had my first home birth behind me and was avoiding vaccinations but now with the help of essential oils, I could really support my beliefs and protect my girls.  Below is my summary of essential oils.  The internet is swimming with information on this subject and it can be quite overwhelming.  Hopefully this will clear things up and convince you essential oils are where it’s at!

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oil is the volatile liquid of a plant.  It is highly concentrated and contains hundreds of chemical constituents that make an oil antiviral, anti bacterial, anti microbial, antiseptic, anti parasitic, anti fungal and anti inflammatory.  Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to heal and protect against sickness.  Not only can essential oils be used to heal the body, they also are known to have effects on the mind.  Many oils can uplift, revive or relax. 

The molecular makeup of essential oils is so small that they can quickly and easily penetrate to the lower layers of the skin and move quickly into the blood stream.  They work on a cellular level and because of this they are highly effective.

What to Look for When Selecting Essential Oils

Essential oils are extracted from a plant in two ways.  The first and most common way is through steam distillation.  When oils are steam distilled, very little heat is used.  Heat will greatly affect the purity of the oil.  The second way to extract oil from a plant is by cold pressing.  Only citrus oils can be cold pressed. 

When choosing an essential oil brand, do your research first.  Many oil companies dilute their essential oils or use improper distillation practices.  Both practices render the oil ineffective.  When choosing an essential oil, look for words like “100% steam distilled”, “therapeutic grade”, “pharmaceutical grade” and “certified pure pharmagrade (cppg)”. There are very few essential  oil companies I trust.  Mountain Rose Herbs is my essential oil supplier of choice.  Their oils are properly extracted, organic and undiluted. My Mountain Rose Herbs essential oil review will help you decide if they’re the right choice for you.

Mountain Rose Herbs Essential Oils


Essential Oils for Skin

Because essential oils work on a cellular level, they help oxygenate the skin-giving the skin a healthy glow.

Some common essential oils are great to add to your skin care recipes. Lavender and chamomile are great for sensitive skin. Tea tree otherwise known as Melaluca, works well for blemished and/or oily skin. Frankincense helps with scaring, age spots and moisturizing. Peppermint revives dull skin.

I personally believe certain oils can be used undiluted on the skin, but my view is controversial.  You must use your own knowledge and judgement in this matter.   When it comes to skin care, I prefer  to add them to my recipes.  Adding essential oils to carrier oils such as rosehip seed oil, olive oil or sweet almond oil make a highly effective moisturizer.

Storing Essential Oils

Because essential oils are highly volatile, they must be kept in a dark glass bottle.  They will dissolve plastic and react to light.  Store your oils in a dark cabinet being careful not to expose them to light or heat.  When stored properly they have a very long shelf life.  In fact, I have never had an oil go rancid but it is a myth that they never go bad.

Essential Oil Precautions

  1. When using essential oils on babies or children I always dilute with a carrier oil such as coconut oil unless I am applying oils to the bottoms of the feet.
  2. Keep out of eyes.
  3. Essential oils are toxic to cats, but can be used on other animals. I’ve written a post on which oils adversely effect cats.
  4. Remember that certain oils are photosensitive and can cause dark pigmentation or irritation if exposed to sunlight.  These oils are lemon, neroli, grapefruit, bergamot, lime.  All though sweet orange and tangerine are not said to be photo toxic I am still cautious. Go HERE for a complete post on phototoxic essential oils.
  5. If you are pregnant certain essential oils can be toxic to the fetus or cause you to go into labor early. Go HERE to get a full list of what you can and can not use during pregnancy.

During the first trimester you must be careful to dilute essential oils because most of them have detoxifying qualities.  The following oils should be avoided

Oils to Be Avoided During Pregnancy

  • Marjoram
  • Fennel
  • Aniseed
  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Cinnamon
  • Clary Sage
  • Clove
  • Ginger
  • Jasmine
  • Lemon
  • Nutmeg
  • Rosemary

Once you are full term many of the essential oils I listed above can actually help facilitate labor and aid in recovery.  I hit 40 weeks and slathered jasmine all over my ankles to induce labor-It works!

During breast feeding taking fennel or basil can increase milk production while peppermint, jasmine, spearmint and sage can reduce your supply.

*It is not possible to have an allergic reaction to essential oils because they do not contain protein which is what causes a histamine reaction.  If you become red from an essential oil this usually means your skin is detoxifying.*

There you have it-my beginner’s guide to essential oils in a nutshell!  I hope this has cleared the fog and convinced you to put these God given healers into action in your own home! 

To get started, you might find my post, The 5 Most Important Essential Oils Never Be Without post helpful!

More Posts on Essential Oils

xx, Jenni


a beginner's guide to essential oils

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Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips worked as a licensed aesthetician for over 8 years before creating the green beauty blog, Jenni Raincloud and her natural skin care line, J. Raincloud Organics. Jennifer has been blogging full time for 9 years and loves to gain and share knowledge on how to achieve beautiful skin the natural way.

24 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils”

  1. I’m wondering in the difference in grades…how do I know which ones are safe for ingestion, vs. inhalation? Is there really a difference?

    1. Kaci, it gets hard to know which are ok. Great question! There are companies that claim to be therapeutic grade but they are not. That’s why I stick to the same company. There are actually 3 companies that I trust(Spark, Young Living, DoTerra). There are others that have quality oils but it’s just research I haven’t made time for. There is a difference in ingesting and inhalation due to the oils that are ingested run through your digestive system. In the article I state exactly what words to look for when choosing your oils, but my advice is to stick with the 3 I mentioned above. Hope this helps!

  2. I purchase organic oils from Mountain Rose Herbs and Aromatics International. They are great quality oils without the MLM scheme. I’m sorry, but you should do more research yourself and not just trust what you’re told from a company that’s getting your money and trying to get you to sell something. I just started my path to become a certified aromatherapist and the first thing I learned on a FREE online class no less, is that you should NEVER take EO’s internally unless under the care of a certified aromatherapist and DR and you shouldn’t use EO’s undiluted(with the exception of a few if really needed), especially in children. A little goes a long way and inhalation is a great way and dilution. Aromahead Institute has a free online class call Introduction to Essential Oils that has good safety info. Many EO companies do state not to take them internally, not because their oils are inferior, but because they know it’s not safe or the best way to be used. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t trust any of the companies you listed above. Also check out, he’s like the “father” of essential oils. A quote says “he’s recognized in our aromatherapy industry as the leader and world expert.”

    1. Alecia, I don’t know if you’re aware but there are 3 different schools of aromatherapy-French, English and German. You are taking a class that adheres to the English school. The English school of aromatherapy believes that oils should never be ingested or used undiluted. They are very strict with their rules on oils. I absolutely don’t agree with the English school and lean more towards the French school where they believe in not diluting oils and ingesting. There are many benefits to ingesting oils and using them neat. It all comes down to how you are taught and what is right for you.

      As I stated in my article, there is A LOT of info. out there and this is my take on essential oils. Maybe once you finish your class you can write your own article stating your opinion instead of telling me I need to do more research.

      1. Thanks for that info you told Alecia. I did quite a lot of research & I decided that I would not want to use a company that you could not ingest their oils. I like Spark Naturals because they tell which oils you can consume. Thank you for the link for the 10% off also. I just placed 2 orders with it. Next month I am going to join the oil of the month club. Thanks for all the blogs.

          1. Sometime if you could I would love for you to elaborate on the 3 schools a little more. I did not know this. Thanks for the wealth of info

      2. “The (other) tradition, which advocates the internal use of essential oils, arose in France where virtually all aromatherapists are fully qualified medical doctors, and this is an important factor to bear in mind. These therapists have a thorough knowledge of both the pharmacological aspects of essential oils and of human physiology. They also have access to a body of pharmacists trained in the dispensing of essential oil prescriptions, usually in the form of capsules, containing essential oil in a suitable excipient.”

  3. Thanks Jenni for the great information :D. Love your recipes! I have made a few and they are awesome! My knowledge is growing about EO’s. Between you and Rebecca at Camp Wander I’m learning quite a lot.

    Have a great weekend!


  4. Love your 101 on EOs – very informative. I have purchased 4 of your products and love them all. If I had to pick my fav I think it would have to be Creamy Shea Facial Moisturizer – I use it twice a day – even under makeup.
    Keep up the good work Jenni!

  5. Hi. Grat info. One thing you mentioned concerned ,me. I am tryingt on,are my own cleaning products and you mention the EOs are toxic for cats. Does that mean if I out a drop or so in cleaning g products this would affect them?

    1. Maria-I don’t think so-What you have to be careful of is diffusing in an area where they are. I still diffuse but my 2 cats have the option of going outside or I open windows. Plus, oils shouldn’t be used to treat any conditions for cats.
      In this article, this lady says it’s ok as long as they are therapeutic grade-I love her blog she is very knowledgable-
      Another lady wrote a paper called “THE LAVENDER CAT”. You can google it and read her PDF document.
      Overall, I am cautious. I diffuse and we use oils for everything but I don’t put them directly on my cats or spray them where they sleep.
      I hope that helps!

  6. Hi Jenni!!

    So I was wondering what essential oils you would suggest for somebody just starting to make their own products?? I love your blog by the way! Great job 🙂

  7. Hi Jenni! I am new to soap making and I have seen different recipes online that call for Essential Oils and some that call for Fragrance Oils. Which would you use? Since I am new to soap making, I am starting with just the melt and pour until I feel comfortable trying a more difficult recipe. I would appreciate any info or advice you could give me! TIA

    1. Hi Camey! I have not had much luck making my own soap-but I would always use essential oils. The only time I would use fragrance oils (and it would get them from a co. you know isn’t into chemicals and synthetic fragrance) is in candle making. Essential oils don’t work too well in candles. Here is where I’ve found the best fragrances that I don’t feel are full of chemicals—

  8. Thanks for all the helpful info! I have been cautious and curious about the oils I have been using and this helps to clear things up! Thank you so much for ALL of your posts and recipes. Love that you put all the useful information and why you use each ingredient when you post. Your blog is awesome! Very informative.

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