Health And Wellness

What Are Essential Oils? + How They Work & Which Are The Best To Use

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What Are Essential Oils? + How They Work & Which Are The Best To Use

You’ve probably heard the buzz going around social media about the benefits of essential oils for anything from anxiety to depression to skin care. You may even have thought about giving them a try, but when you looked them up to find out where you can buy them, you saw the prices.

Before you shell out your hard-earned bucks, you want to be sure they are essential oils, not snake oil remedies! You want to know for sure if they really work, how they work, and what they're best used for.

So let's start with this basic guide.

What are essential oils?

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Essential oils are the highly concentrated, volatile, and aromatic essences extracted from various parts of the plants. These oils often contain hundreds of organic constituents that may promote beneficial responses when applied or inhaled.

They can be inhaled, diffused, added to perfumes and cleaning or personal care products, and, when properly diluted, applied directly to your skin.

Essential oils are different than fragrance oils. Fragrance oils are man-created, and while they smell amazing, they have no therapeutic properties and simply act like perfumes.

Do essential oils work?

Many people ask if essential oils do what the many companies now selling them promise they will do.

Essential oils have been used and considered precious for their many healing properties for thousands of years, and, yes, they have been found to instantly soothe or enliven people's energy. They are well known for their ability to uplift us physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

The oils can bridge the gap between cutting-edge technology and traditional wisdom in order to help you energize your life and reclaim your balance between your body, mind, and spirit.

Will certain oils "cure" you?

No, they only support your body’s natural ability to heal. They can, however, be an excellent complement to more traditional healing methods.

Some oils have specifically useful properties, such as being anti-fungal or anti-viral, and can assist you in achieving your optimal state of health, and were used such purposes long before modern pharmaceuticals existed.

Which essential oils do you need most?

Due to the precious nature of essential oils, they can be pricey. Happily, you only need a few drops to get the job done!

Still, out of the many hundreds of oils, knowing which you should choose to invest in can be confusing.

Here are the four must-haves for essential oil beginners, along with what the properties of each, as explained on Well + Good:

  • Peppermint oil (made up mostly of menthol and menthone): "Stimulant, antispasmodic, antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antioxidant. It is an effective treatment for headaches... helps soothe nausea, improves concentration and memory, and is an analgesic, which means it numbs and kills pain on the skin."
  • Tea tree oil (melaleuca oil): "Antiviral, anti-inflammatory, exhibits anticancer activity, kills oral bacteria for up to two weeks, can be used for gingivitis, heals mild to moderate dandruff, kills the influenza virus, and has been shown to slow the growth of tumors in mice. This Australian wonder also works like benzoyl peroxide to treat acne."
  • Eucalyptus oil: "Works as a pesticide and has the ability to kill fungus, bacteria, insects, mites, and weeds — and it has been believed to kill the drug-resistant parasite that causes malaria ... can also help boost your immune system and is anti-inflammatory... also makes a great pantry and closet moth and bug repellent."
  • Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia): "Sedative, antispasmodic, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antibacterial, anesthetic, immune-boosting, and antiviral."

Another great way to go is with blends.

What are oil blends?

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Blends are a combination of two or more oils that create the desired effect while sparing you the need to purchase each of the oil and ingredients separately.

Some are sold undiluted, which means you will have to mix these with a carrier oil before applying them to your skin, while others are sold already diluted to the proper concentration, so you're ready to go right away. Roll-on versions offer a perfect combination of convenience and effectiveness.

In addition to therapeutic benefits at the emotional and physical level, essential oils can be used in household and laundry cleaners. Some oils act as natural insect repellent and pesticide, such as the citronella candles many people use during summer nights to keep mosquitoes away.

And if you happen to hate spiders, peppermint oil can be used to create an effective barrier to keep those pesky arachnids out of your personal space without needing to use any dangerous chemicals.

Here's a DIY spider repellent recipe you can make with essential oils at home:


  • 2 oz spray bottle
  • 2 oz water
  • 1–2 drops dish detergent (helps oil "stick" to the surface)
  • 10 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil


  • Clean the area around your door and window sills throughout your home
  • Remove all leaf litter and debris
  • Add all three ingredients to the spray bottle, then shake to mix the ingredients and liberally spritz any areas where spiders might be able to enter

No matter what you need, essential oils can play a vital role in achieving improved wellness through organic means.

Pay attention to the quality, purity, and reputation of the brands and distributors you are considering buying from. If you find them listed somewhere for what seems like a cheap price, be especially cautious, as pure, effective essential oils are precious and, unfortunately, that usually means pricey.

Welcome to the world of essential oils! Now you know what they are and a few of their many uses. Once you get started, you will learn for yourself just how wonderful, effective, and oh, so amazing they can be!

RELATED: 5 Interesting Benefits That Essential Oils Can Bring To Your Life

Susan K. Edwards, L.S.H., is an author, Reiki Master and Energy Healer whose work centers around reminding people that it's "All About Love!"

This article was originally published at The Balanced Empath. Reprinted with permission from the author.