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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