An essential guide to essential oils
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 oil||Key actions||Indications||Caution||How to use|
|Basil||Uplifting, awakening, soothing||Increase concentration, clarity of mind and enthusiasm||Don’t use for prolonged periods of time or during pregnancy||In the bath or as a massage oil|
|Bergamot||Powerfully uplifting||For stress and depression||A photosensitiser, so don't use before sun exposure and use in small amounts||In the bath or as a massage oil|
|Camomile||Very relaxing, soothing||Sleep-inducing and soothes and protects the skin against free radicals that cause ageing||In the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products|
|Cardamom||Restorative||Alleviates fatigue and apathy||In the bath or as a massage oil|
|Clary sage||Soothing, restorative||Clears the mind||In the bath, as a massage oil or in haircare products|
|Cypress||Revitalising, astringent, decongestant||Eases menstrual cramps and hot flushes||Avoid in the first three months of pregnancy||In the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products|
|Eucalyptus||Antiseptic, highly decongestant||Respiratory aid for colds, also healing and pain-relieving for cuts and wounds||In the bath, as a massage oil, as a vaporiser or in hair and skincare products|
|Frankincense||Restorative, calming, relaxing||Tones lined, slack skin and is often used in skincare preparations||In the bath, as a massage oil or as a vaporiser|
|Geranium||Relaxing, antidepressant||Mood-lifting; relieves aching muscles and premenstrual fluid retention||If you have sensitive skin, avoid using at high concentrations||In the bath, as a massage oil, as a vaporiser or in hair and skincare products|
|Grapefruit||Cleansing, refreshing, detoxifying, purifying||Relieves nervous tension and relaxes muscles||Don’t use before exposure to sun||In the bath and as a massage oil|
|Jasmine||Very soothing, aphrodisiac, antidepressant||Boosts self-esteem, lifts depression and pessimism and soothes aching muscles and tension||Don’t use during pregnancy or if you have sensitive skin||In the bath or as a massage oil|
|Juniper||Powerful diuretic, antiseptic, astringent, revitalising, detoxifying||Used for the treatment of acne or cuts and wounds||Only use in extremely small quantities (less than 10% of blend) and never during pregnancy||In the bath, as a massage oil, for vaporisation or in skincare preparations|
|Lavender||Highly antiseptic, soothing, healing||Can be applied undiluted to the skin for the treatment of burns, bites and spots, it minimises scarring||Don’t use in the first three months of pregnancy||In the bath, as a massage oil, as a vaporiser or in hair and skincare products|
|Lemon||Astringent, healing, reviving, uplifting||A mood booster||Don’t use before exposure to sun||In the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products|
|Lemongrass||Antiseptic, antibacterial||Purifies the air, relieves headaches (if blended with a carrier oil and rubbed into the temples), a great natural insect repellent||Use with care as it can cause irritation||No more than three drops diluted with carrier oil for a bath. Also used as massage oil|
|Lime||Uplifting, reviving, refreshing, antiseptic||Helps relieve anxiety and fatigue and stimulates circulation thereby aiding detoxification||Don’t use before exposure to sun||In the bath and as a massage oil|
|Mandarin||Calming, relaxing||Gives a sense of serenity and can be used on children||Don’t use before exposure to sun||In the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products|
|Marjoram||Strongly sedative, warming, comforting||Combined with lavender to ease insomnia and, when used as a steam inhalation, chest and respiratory problems too||In the bath or as a massage oil|
|Myrtle||Detoxifying, decongestant||Treats respiratory problems and detoxifies body tissues||In the bath and in haircare products|
|Neroli||Profoundly uplifting, also antiseptic, regenerating||Calms nerves, good for stress and boosts mood||Don’t use before exposure to sun||In the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products|
|Orange||Calming, antidepressant||Skin tonic and a hair strengthener||Don’t use before exposure to sun||In the bath, as a massage oil or in hair and skincare products|
|Patchouli||Anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antiseptic||Treats skin disorders such as acne, eczema and athlete's foot. Also relieves anxiety||In the bath, as a massage oil or in skincare products|
|Peppermint||Antiseptic, stimulating||Relieves pain||Don’t use in the first three months of pregnancy||In the bath or as a massage oil|
|Pine||Energising, decongestant, toning||Clears out respiratory tract during a cold||In inhalations, baths, for massage, vaporisation and haircare products|
|Rose||Astringent, anti-ageing, aphrodisiac, relaxant||Relieves stress, restores confidence and moisturises dry skin||In baths, massage and skincare|
|Rosemary||Stimulating, revitalising, antiseptic||Clears the mind and aids concentration||Don’t use if you are pregnant, epileptic or have high blood pressure||In inhalations, baths, for massage, vaporisation and hair and skin products|
|Sandalwood||Balancing, aphrodisiac, antiseptic||Helps with coughs and sore throats||In baths, massage oils, inhalations and perfume|
|Tea tree||Antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, invigorating||Treats skin problems (especially acne), controls dandruff, develops a positive mental outlook and builds confidence||In baths, and hair and skin products|
|Ylang Ylang||Relaxing||Tones skin and induces a sense of wellbeing||In 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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