The therapeutic properties of essential oils are endless – they can be sedative, relaxing, energising and soothing, and some of them even act as aphrodisiacs.

Essential oils are the aromatic life source of a plant. When extracted, they’re very concentrated – so much so that they must only be used in their diluted form and, even then, in very small quantities.

Interestingly, Australia is regarded as the world’s best producer of eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils.

A guide to the most popular essential oils:

Essential oilKey actionsIndicationsCautionHow to use
BasilUplifting, awakening, soothingIncrease concentration, clarity of mind and enthusiasmDon’t use for prolonged periods of time or during pregnancyIn the bath or as a massage oil
BergamotPowerfully upliftingFor stress and depressionA photosensitiser, so don't use before sun exposure and use in small amountsIn the bath or as a massage oil
CamomileVery relaxing, soothingSleep-inducing and soothes and protects the skin against free radicals that cause ageingIn the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products
CardamomRestorativeAlleviates fatigue and apathyIn the bath or as a massage oil
Clary sageSoothing, restorativeClears the mindIn the bath, as a massage oil or in haircare products
CypressRevitalising, astringent, decongestantEases menstrual cramps and hot flushesAvoid in the first three months of pregnancyIn the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products
EucalyptusAntiseptic, highly decongestantRespiratory aid for colds, also healing and pain-relieving for cuts and woundsIn the bath, as a massage oil, as a vaporiser or in hair and skincare products
FrankincenseRestorative, calming, relaxingTones lined, slack skin and is often used in skincare preparationsIn the bath, as a massage oil or as a vaporiser
GeraniumRelaxing, antidepressantMood-lifting; relieves aching muscles and premenstrual fluid retentionIf you have sensitive skin, avoid using at high concentrationsIn the bath, as a massage oil, as a vaporiser or in hair and skincare products
GrapefruitCleansing, refreshing, detoxifying, purifyingRelieves nervous tension and relaxes musclesDon’t use before exposure to sunIn the bath and as a massage oil
JasmineVery soothing, aphrodisiac, antidepressantBoosts self-esteem, lifts depression and pessimism and soothes aching muscles and tensionDon’t use during pregnancy or if you have sensitive skinIn the bath or as a massage oil
JuniperPowerful diuretic, antiseptic, astringent, revitalising, detoxifyingUsed for the treatment of acne or cuts and woundsOnly use in extremely small quantities (less than 10% of blend) and never during pregnancyIn the bath, as a massage oil, for vaporisation or in skincare preparations
LavenderHighly antiseptic, soothing, healingCan be applied undiluted to the skin for the treatment of burns, bites and spots, it minimises scarringDon’t use in the first three months of pregnancyIn the bath, as a massage oil, as a vaporiser or in hair and skincare products
LemonAstringent, healing, reviving, upliftingA mood boosterDon’t use before exposure to sunIn the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products
LemongrassAntiseptic, antibacterialPurifies the air, relieves headaches (if blended with a carrier oil and rubbed into the temples), a great natural insect repellentUse with care as it can cause irritationNo more than three drops diluted with carrier oil for a bath. Also used as massage oil
LimeUplifting, reviving, refreshing, antisepticHelps relieve anxiety and fatigue and stimulates circulation thereby aiding detoxificationDon’t use before exposure to sunIn the bath and as a massage oil
MandarinCalming, relaxingGives a sense of serenity and can be used on childrenDon’t use before exposure to sunIn the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products
MarjoramStrongly sedative, warming, comfortingCombined with lavender to ease insomnia and, when used as a steam inhalation, chest and respiratory problems tooIn the bath or as a massage oil
MyrtleDetoxifying, decongestantTreats respiratory problems and detoxifies body tissuesIn the bath and in haircare products
NeroliProfoundly uplifting, also antiseptic, regeneratingCalms nerves, good for stress and boosts moodDon’t use before exposure to sunIn the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products
OrangeCalming, antidepressantSkin tonic and a hair strengthenerDon’t use before exposure to sunIn the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products
PatchouliAnti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antisepticTreats skin disorders such as acne, eczema and athlete's foot. Also relieves anxietyIn the bath, as a massage oil or in skincare products
PeppermintAntiseptic, stimulatingRelieves painDon’t use in the first three months of pregnancyIn the bath or as a massage oil
PineEnergising, decongestant, toningClears out respiratory tract during a coldIn inhalations, baths, for massage, vaporisation and haircare products
RoseAstringent, anti-ageing, aphrodisiac, relaxantRelieves stress, restores confidence and moisturises dry skinIn baths, massage and skincare
RosemaryStimulating, revitalising, antisepticClears the mind and aids concentrationDon’t use if you are pregnant, epileptic or have high blood pressureIn inhalations, baths, for massage, vaporisation and hair and skin products
SandalwoodBalancing, aphrodisiac, antisepticHelps with coughs and sore throatsIn baths, massage oils, inhalations and perfume
Tea treeAntibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, invigoratingTreats skin problems (especially acne), controls dandruff, develops a positive mental outlook and builds confidenceIn baths, and hair and skin products
Ylang YlangRelaxingTones skin and induces a sense of wellbeingIn baths, massage oils, hair and skin products

How to use them


If you’ve rarely experimented with essential oils, you might not be sure how to use them. Here are a few ideas:

In the bath


Follow the instructions on the bottle, but generally blend no more than 10 drops of essential oil to about 20ml of vegetable oil or a neutral foam, and add to running bath water.

As a body lotion


Add five drops of essential oil to 10ml of a neutral, unscented body lotion.

As a facial moisturiser


Add two drops of essential oil into 4ml of neutral, unscented lotion.

As a massage oil


Blend 10-12 drops of essential oil to 30ml of carrier massage oil.

In an oil burner


To scent a room, mix three or four drops of essential oil with a little water in the dish. Then light the tea candle underneath. An oil burner is also known as a "vaporiser".

For an air-freshener


Add two drops of essential oil to 150ml warm water in a clean spray bottle.

Tips for the safe use of essential oils



    • Store all essential oils in dark glass bottles and keep them out of direct sunlight – they’re easily damaged by heat, light and humidity.

    • Essential oils shouldn’t be taken internally; they’re only for external use.

    • Always blend essential oils with a carrier oil or a neutral, unscented lotion before applying to your skin. Lavender is the only exception to this rule as it can be applied undiluted to soothe insect bites and stings as well as burns and spots.

    • Don’t let essential oil get into your eyes. If this happens by accident, rinse with milk or vegetable oil and consult your doctor immediately.

    • Many essential oils are photosensitisers, which means they increase the skin's reaction to the sun, making it more likely to burn. For this reason, you shouldn’t apply essential oils before going into the sun.

    • Certain essential oils may also irritate a sensitive skin. If irritation occurs, stop using the oil immediately.

    • It’s not advisable to use essential oils for a prolonged period of time as they can build up in the body.

    • Essential oils should be kept out of reach of children.

    • Essential oils are flammable. For this reason, candles and oil burners (vaporisers) should be placed on heat-resistant surfaces and shouldn’t be left unattended. Avoid using metal candle holders and burners that get very hot.

    • Pregnant women shouldn’t use essential oils without first consulting a doctor.

    • Aromatherapy massage shouldn’t be performed on people who are ill or who have torn muscles or broken bones.



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