The Essentials of Essential Oils

Lavender Essential OilIf you’ve chosen to live a more holistically healthy life, chances are high that you’ve encountered essential oils in some way. Today, they are available in many stores and mass marketed through many companies. Perhaps you’ve wondered about the sudden popularity of essential oils. Is this a passing craze or has an ancient holistic healing wonder been introduced to modern individuals in a new and effective way? Can essential oils help others live a more happy, healthy, productive life or is this just wishful thinking?


oil dropsHow Are Essential Oils Produced?

Essential oils are produced by extracting liquid from plants’ flowers, leaves, roots, and stems. Dr. Erika Krumbeck, ND, describes essential oils as “the distilled volatile aromatic constituents of the plant that are highly concentrated.”

Distillation is one of the purest forms of extracting essential oils. The process involves creating steam by boiling water in a vessel with the plants. This extracts the oils from the plant and they evaporate and are captured along with the steam vapor. The condensation is rapidly cooled which returns all oils and water to their liquid state. Because the water and the oil do not mix, the oils are separated and bottled for sale.

Another form of production is expression, which is a method most commonly used by people who grow their own plants. Expression involves simply adding pressure to plants to extract the oil. There are a few other practices that can be researched to extract essential oils, some are ancient, and some are rarely used today.

Caution with essential oils is necessary in all aspects of their usage, but knowledge about the production processes of the oils you choose to use is imperative. Not all oils are created equal, so it’s important to research the various brands’ practices. Because of FDA classifications, essential oils are not always regulated as drugs and there are many chemicals that are legally allowed to be added to them. This lack of regulation can also lead to dilution of essential oils with other unknown liquids resulting in impure and weakened oil. Researching the production standards of the different essential oils brands is wise because this is a product you are applying directly to your skin or, in some cases, ingesting.

Essential Oil Bottles

What Are The Uses of Essential Oils?

It is very important to have realistic expectations about the results of using essential oils. While they have a host of uses, they are incredibly powerful! It takes 256 pounds of peppermint leaves to make one pound of peppermint essential oil and a single drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea.

5,000 pounds of rose petals are required to distill 1 pound of pure rose oil, making it one of the most precious and expensive oils on the market.  The amount of plant material required for distilling to gather essential oils explains why some oils are more expensive than others.  And yet, since we only use a small amount of essential oils at a time, even oils that are expensive are often considered to be very cost-effective.

Important Notes for Safety

Essential oils can have the same effectiveness as some antibiotics, so it would be wise to treat them as such. Ingesting essential oils is potentially quite dangerous if incorrectly executed, but even application directly on the skin should be treated with the utmost caution. When we put oil on our skin, it goes directly into the bloodstream. This means there is a direct effect on our hormones, internal bacteria, and can even affect a baby through the placenta if used by a pregnant woman.

Happy ChildExtra caution should be practiced when using oils on children. Never put oils directly on their skin without a mild carrier oil and caution should be applied if you let them ingest essential oils. One drop, possibly two, diluted in mild carrier oil applied to the feet is an effective to treat any need your child may have while keeping the oil far from their air passageways. It’s easy to overdose with children because we consider essential oils in ‘drops.’  For example, as noted above, one drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 28 cups of tea. Therefore, if you wouldn’t consider it wise to give your child 28 cups of tea, you might want to consider using carrier oil and only applying a small amount at a time.

There are certainly risks if essential oils are misused, just like any medication. One or two drops are usually sufficient and it’s always safer to use a diluent oil. It would be wise to remember that more is not necessarily better when using essential oils. The benefits of essential oils can far outweigh the risks, and it is valuable to understand their strength and use the oils wisely.

All About Application

A term frequently used alongside essential oils is “carrier oil.”  This refers to a vegetable oil (usually derived from the seeds, nuts or kernels of a plant) that can be used in the dilution of an essential oil.Hemp Seed Oil

Dilution is useful when you would like to incorporate essential oils into a massage, use essential oils over a large portion of the body, or apply an essential oil to a young child or to a sensitive part of the skin. See the ‘Essential Oil Dilution Chart’ as a reference for the suggested essential oil/carrier oil ratios.

Image: Inside Outside the Box

Image: Inside Outside the Box

The best rule of thumb is one drop of essential oil per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil.  1% dilution would be used on children under age 6, pregnant women, elderly adults, those with sensitive skin or compromised immune systems or other serious health issues. 2% dilution would be used for most adults and most situations. This is also a good dilution for basic skin care issues and for daily use. 3% – 10% dilution is best for short-term use for a temporary health issue, such as muscle injuries or respiratory congestion. Up to 10% dilution is generally free of issues, depending on the health concern, the age of the person, and the oils being used. 25% dilution is occasionally necessary for a muscle cramp, serious bruising, or severe pains. If you do not dilute oils, they are known as “neat”. This method can cause some individuals to experience irritation or sensitivity. Lavender is frequently used neat for bug bites, burns, or wounds.

Herbal Essence Dropper

Essential Oil Measurement Equivalents

100 drops = 1 tsp = 5ml = 1/6 ounce

200 drops = 2 tsp = 10ml = 1/3 ounce

300 drops = 3 tsp = 15ml = 1/2 ounce

400 drops = 4 tsp = 20ml = 2/3 ounce

500 drops = 5 tsp = 25ml = 5/6 ounce

600 drops = 6 tsp = 30ml = 1 ounce

essential oil massageCarrier oils are also useful if you need to relieve an over-application of an essential oil in a sensitive area of the body (such as accidentally administering to the eyes) as water does not effectively work to remove oil. Rub the carrier oil over the area of discomfort and you will feel relief immediately. Some carrier oils are: sweet almond, avocado, jojoba, fractionated coconut, olive, sesame, and hemp seed oils.

There are 4 ways to apply essential oils: they can be:

  1. Applied directly to the skin and absorbed
  2. Inhaled (as in aromatherapy)
  3. Diffused through the air
  4. Ingested either directly, in water, or in a capsule form.It is recommended to store essential oils in a dark place, safe from sunlight, which can weaken their potency, in a dark amber or blue colored glass bottle. Stored correctly, essential oils can last indefinitely.

cup of hot tea

Personal Experience

About a year ago, my mother and I were watching my 1 year old niece. My mother made some herbal tea for herself and me. In the few seconds between setting the boiling hot cup of tea on the coffee table and returning to her chair, my niece pulled the whole cup down on herself, completely scalding her sensitive skin.

We rushed her into some cold water, but could see the redness and blistering beginning to develop. I quickly grabbed the lavender essential oil and some coconut oil to dilute it in, mixed the oils and applied to my niece’s skin. She stopped crying immediately as the oils drew the warmth from her burn and soothed her skin. We applied the oil mixture periodically throughout the evening. The next morning, she had only a dime sized red spot left of the burn that had previously marked the whole right side of her chest.

Essential oils are powerful medicines that, time and again, prove themselves to heal when needed. I personally prefer the high quality of Young Living Essential Oils with their ‘Seed to Seal’ promise which ensures safe treatment of every plant from its planting to its bottling for sale.


Buckle, J. (2003). Clinical aromatherapy: Essential oils in practice. New York: Churchill Livingstone.

Hammer, K. A., Carson, C. F., Riley, T. V., & Nielsen, J. B. (2006). A review of the toxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil. Food & Chemical Toxicology, 44(5), 616-625.

Kejova K, Jorova D, Bendova H, Gajdos P & Kolarova H. (2010). Phototoxicity of essential oils intended for cosmetic use. Toxicology in Vitro, 24 (8), 2084-9.

Price, S. & Price, L. (2007). Aromatherapy for health professionals, 3rd Ed. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

Tisserand, R. & Balacs, T. (1998). Essential oil safety: A guide for health professionals. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Vigan M. (2010). Essential oils: Renewal of interest and toxicity. [Review]. European J of Dermatology, 20 (6), 685-92.

Williams, A. & Barry, B. (1989). Essential oils as novel human skin penetration enhancers. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 57, R7-R9.




Jessica JohnsonThis article was written by Jessica Johnson. Jessica is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Jessica has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Management with an Economics and International Studies Minor from the University of Central Misouri (UCM). She is currently working as Assistant Manager and Sales Representative in Pacific Grove, California. She was Vice President of Delta Epsilon Iota Honor Society from 2011-2012 and is a sales representative for Young Living Essential Oils Company. Jessica is passionate about holistic health and healing. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at

Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.


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