By: Adrienne Suhm

Even for long-time health warriors, essential oils can be a bit intimidating: there are dozens to choose from, and each oil offers a unique range of benefits. Allow us to break down the research and provide a few key ways to incorporate essential oils in your everyday routine, from healing to cooking to beauty.

Essential oils are simply concentrated plant extracts drawn from flowers, shrubs, trees, roots, and seeds. Unlike vegetable oils, essential oils do not have a greasy texture and are extremely compatible with the bodily system, facilitating the circulation of both oxygen and nutrients to tissues throughout the body. They also contain a variety of antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties that are useful in cleaning products, personal care products, medicines, and food preservatives. Interestingly, a large body of research has recently developed on the use of essential oils as an alternative or supplement to antibiotics due to their potent phytonutrient content.

There are three common ways to use essential oils in your own home: administered on the skin, circulated in a diffuser, or inhaled directly from the bottle.

When used topically, it is important to mix essential oils with a carrier oil, or a fatty vegetable oil used specifically for the dilution of essential oils. To mix the two, combine a few drops of essential oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, jojoba, olive oil, or shea butter. A good rule of thumb is to mix 2-3% essential oil into the carrier oil, given that the high concentration of chemicals in essential oils can cause adverse health reactions in its pure form. You can then massage the oil mix onto your wrists, temples, stomach, or soles of your feet for instant impact.

Diffusers transmit oils into the air for a less concentrated but still effective and pleasurable experience. They work to limit microbes in the air and alter your mood as they are inhaled. Diffusers are cheap, simple to use, and common in many home goods stores. Fill the diffuser with the recommended amount of water and oil and let the scent disseminate into your space.

Smell is the most powerful of our five senses, so inhaling essential oils is a quick way to receive their health benefits. Oils such as lavender and peppermint are particularly good for smelling due to their ability to instantaneously sooth your nervous system. Simply close your eyes and waft the open bottle of oil under your nose for a few seconds while inhaling the scent.

When purchasing oils, seek out pure, organic, and cold-pressed products to deliver maximum health benefits to the body. Be wary of pricing, as there are a variety of marketing gimmicks intended to promote inferior products at a cheaper price. If you have any specific health conditions such as high blood pressure, epilepsy, or are pregnant, we suggest consulting with your doctor or researching safe essential oil use. In addition, although essential oils are all-natural, we suggest exercising caution when using them around young children and infants due to their concentrated chemical content.

Consider these popular and versatile oils to start your collection:

Cinnamon Oil

Use cinnamon oil topically to mitigate muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain. When rubbed on the chest, it can also provide relief from chest colds.

Eucalyptus Oil

Although you may not be partial to its strong menthol smell, eucalyptus thoroughly cleanses the air of bacteria and virus particles. It can also be applied on the skin to heal the common cold.

Grapefruit Oil

With its light citrus scent, grapefruit is a fragrant oil to mix into a DIY, all-natural perfume. Citrus is a proven mood booster and can help to uplift you even in the winter months.

Lavender Oil

A powerful relaxant, lavender oil can help to alleviate stress and even create a sensation of calm simply by inhaling its scent. It is also anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and immune boosting. Use it when you are feeling tense or pour a few drops on your pillow before going to sleep for relaxation. Unlike other oils, lavender can be applied directly to the skin without the use of a carrier oil and is safe for children.

Lemon Oil

Lemon oil will offer anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and astringent properties to any DIY cleaner. Its fresh scent also invokes feelings of cleanliness and brightness in the home.

Peppermint Oil

When rubbed on the temples, peppermint can serve as an effective treatment for headaches. It also has the ability to reduce nausea and heighten concentration and memory.

Rose Oil

Rose oil is a wonderful addition to any skincare routine. It is softening, soothing, and moisturizing. However, you may want to mix rose with other essential oils, as it is extremely expensive.

Rosemary Oil

Rosemary facilitates the balance of oil in the scalp and can even promote hair growth, making it a common natural haircare solution. It is also a brain-wave boosting stimulant that can be used to increase energy and focus.

Sweet Orange Oil

Like grapefruit, the scent of sweet orange is proven to improve mood. It reduces feelings of anxiety and can be diffused in the home for a feel-good atmosphere. Like lavender, sweet orange is another oil that can be used to calm children.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a common ingredient in skincare products and can be used to fight acne naturally. It can also kill oral bacteria and treat gingivitis.