Editor’s Note: This is a revised and updated resource for 2018.
When it comes to treating minor ailments, nothing seems to beat the effectiveness of essential oils. I say this not as a healthcare professional for surely I am not, but as someone who recently dumped two drawers filled with over-the-counter remedies in favor of essential oils. To say I am pleased would be in understatement and while a bit of experimentation has been involved, each day my confidence in these miracle-worker oils grows.
In the past, I have written about the amazing uses for Melaleuca (Tea Tree), Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary and Clove oils. If you have followed closely, you will have seen patterns where the solution to some ailment may be positively treated by more than one essential oil, either singly or in combination.
The reason for this is that many essential oils have common properties, such as Antiseptic, Anesthetic, Antibiotic, Anti-Bacterial, Antiviral, Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Fungal, and Anti-Depressant. Most essential oils will have at least two or three of these properties and sometimes more.
The goal today is not to confuse you with the various oils or combinations of oils that are out there to help with first aid and other minor health concerns. Instead, I want to boil it down and give you a nice chart that you can keep with your medical supplies so you can easily jump to the right solution to what ails you.
But first, how do essential oils work?
How Do Essential Oils Work
The actual science behind the effectiveness of essential oils is best described by Debra Fulghum Bruce Ph.D. as follows:
Essential oils are highly concentrated substances extracted from a variety of different parts of a plant, including the flower, bark, roots, leaves, wood, resin, seeds, or the rind (in the case of citrus fruits). The oils contain healing vitamins, antibiotics, and antiseptics and represent the “life force” of the plant.
Scientists agree that essential oils may perform more than one function in living plants. In some cases they seem to be a part of the plant’s immune system. In other cases they may simply be end products of metabolism. Essential oils are said to be healing because they contain hundreds of organic constituents, including hormones, vitamins, and other natural elements that work on many levels. For example, essential oils can be sedative or stimulating. Some are antispasmodic, and most are antibacterial. Essential oils are 75 to 100 times more concentrated than the oils in dried herbs.
When you think about it in terms of gardening, this makes sense. You plant a seed, it germinates, a plant grows, and more seeds are created. Each plant has its own circle of life. So, from a non-scientific and non-technical perspective, to transfer the essence of a plant to the cells of a human body means we are taking advantage of this essence for a mostly if not completely positive outcome.
Okay, enough science. Here is the chart I have put together for you. This is my go-to chart when I don’t have time to look something up in my essential oil bible (The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy) or online. And don’t worry, I have created a download link for you so you can easily print out a copy for reference purposes.
How to Apply Essential Oils for Health and Wellness
Although I have been writing about essential oils for quite some time now, I still get emails asking how to get started, or, more specifically, how to use them. For me it was easy. I became interested in aromatherapy in the early 90s and studied everything I could get my hands on to learn about the therapeutic values of essential oils.
Taking things one step further, it is a simple recipe from Valerie Worwood’s book that really clinched the deal. I was having some serious issues with my wrist and thinking it was tendonitis, I used her healing formula that included lavender, rosemary, and peppermint oils to relieve my pain and suffering.
Those three essential oils should sound familiar since they are the basis for my own blend of Miracle Healing Salve.
But I digress. The question at hand is how to apply essential oils for health and wellness purposes. or, put another way, Essential Oils 101.
Today I call upon Contributing Author Rebecca Schiffhauer to help explain how to apply essential oils to derive health and wellness benefits for those that are just getting started on the EO journey.
How to Apply Essential Oils 101
EOs are used for a wide range of emotional and physical wellness applications. A single oil can be used or a complex blend, depending on the user’s experience and the desired benefit.
Essential oils are usually administered by one of three methods: diffused aromatically, applied topically, or taken internally as dietary supplements.
Due to the natural molecular composition of EOs, they’re easily absorbed by the skin and can be safely applied topically, sometimes diluted with a carrier oil and sometimes “neat” (undiluted).
Once they’re applied, essential oils can have almost an immediate, localized effect to the target area of application. They have restorative and calming properties and can be used very effectively in massage and beauty therapy.
EOs are also natural disinfectants. The chemical structure of essential oils allows them to be absorbed into the bloodstream via the skin for internal benefit throughout the body.
1. Sub-occipital Triangle: (pictured below) is a great place to apply an EO topically, it sits at the base of the brain stem and close to the blood supply to the brain.
Gaye’s note: When Shelly and I “salve-up” at bedtime, we call this “salving the brain”. I use my Sleepy Dreamy salve blend for this.
2. Feet: the bottoms of our feet host the largest pores on our body and allow quick absorption.
3. Over the heart: I nice place for a topical application, I find it very soothing and calming.
4. Localized: When aches and pains are involved, apply EOs directly to the area of discomfort and massage the oils in with carrier oil.
Our sense of smell influences lots of physiological pathways including the stimulation of hormones and other metabolic processes. Aromatherapy is founded on the body’s predictable response to specific olfactory stimuli.
Essential oils are widely used in aromatherapy applications. Certain essential oils, when diffused in the air, can be stimulating while others can be calming and soothing. Beyond emotional benefits, diffusing essential oils can purify air of unwanted odors and some airborne pathogens.
Low or no-heat essential oil diffusers are recommended because they don’t change the chemical structure of the oil being diffused. EOs can also be used as cleaning and purifying laundry and surfaces in the home.
Therapeutic grade essential oils can also be used as dietary supplements supporting a variety of healthy conditions. Some EOs have powerful antioxidant properties while others help support a healthy inflammatory response in cells.
Many EOs are generally regarded as being safe for dietary use, but some oils should not be taken internally. Please don’t use any essential oil product internally that does not have the appropriate dietary supplement facts on its label.
Gaye’s note: My best experience taking essential oils internally has been placing a drop or two in a glass of water and drinking it. Adding essential oils to a capsule did not work for me at all (severe heartburn). A drop of lemon oil in a glass of water is surprisingly refreshing (see 33 Awesome Uses of Lemon Essential Oil for some tips for using lemon essential oil) and nothing beats the woes of eating too much or too spicy than a drop of a digestive blend in water.
Using essential oils can be both profoundly simple and life changing all at once. Working with someone who has used essential oils before can help first-time users have a good experience and boost their confidence. There’s a wealth of information available for those wanting to increase their knowledge of essential oil applications.
I highly recommend Valerie Worwood’s books, and lots of time spent Google-ing EOs and their uses! As always, hands on use will add to your confidence and open up lots of learning opportunities to broaden your healing skills.
I hope this post helps simplify some of the basics of EO use. While it all seems overwhelming at first, very soon it becomes second nature, I promise. Just keep EOs within reach and use them everyday!
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
When it comes to essential oils, keep in mind that everyone’s physiology is different. Not only that, it has been my experience that something that is working great for months may suddenly become less effective.
I equate this to growing tomatoes. You may have grown a particular variety of tomatoes in your garden patch for years when suddenly, boom, they do not do well at all. By switching to another type of seed – similar but different – all is well again. I just wish I understood the science behind this better but for now, let’s just say that this is Mother Nature’s way of doing things.
The good news is that many essential oils have similar qualities (Antiseptic, Analgesic, Anti-Inflammatory, Antiviral, Antibacterial, Anti-Inflammatory, etc.) so it is easy to switch around. Another thing to keep in mind that many are quite inexpensive, at online retailers like Spark Naturals, making it easy to build up a reasonable collection of basics at very little cost.
Final Word on Application
Late last year I dumped two drawers full of over-counter-remedies into a box and the box has not seen daylight since. My feeling is that by using essential oils exclusively, I will learn what works and what does not work. Besides, playing with my oils brings out the inner chemist is me and is fun.
There additional things you need to know. A little goes a long way. Also, when stored in a cool dark area, most essential oils will have an infinite shelf life. Now I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer to use 100% pure and natural essential oils than a concoction whipped up in a corporate lab somewhere.
For more articles on essential oils, see Interested in Learning About Essential Oils? Start Here. And of course, if you have questions, leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them in a future article.
8 Best Essential Oils for Your Health and Wellness Kit
Here they are, the 8 essential oils you need to cover a wide range of maladies, Except for Frankincense, all are very inexpensive and will serve you well for a variety of conditions. NOTE: Feel free to navigate with the hyperlinked items below for more in-depth information on the respective Essential Oil / Treatment covered by BDS.
Respiratory Ailments and Bronchitis
Fungal, Bacterial or Viral Infections
Cold and Flu
Corns and Warts
Minor Cuts and Scrapes
Colds and Flu
Warts and Skin Tags
Minor Cuts and Wounds
Hard Water Stains
General Cleaning Solutions
Remove Sticky Labels
Gum Soreness and Infections
Cold and Flu Symptoms
Gas and Bloating
General Cleaning Solutions
Sore Gums and Throat
A Note About Quality
There are many companies that make and sell essential oils. It is beyond the scope of this article to evaluate the effectiveness of one brand over another, however, I do have my favorites. First let me say this: there is no official system that grades essential oils as A, B, C or therapeutic grade. That is bogus and if any website claims their essential oil is “FDA” or otherwise approved, run for the hills since it is marketing hype and not fact.
On the other hand, a company may legitimately indicate that their oils are of a “therapeutic grade” (without reference to certification) which will likely mean it is manufactured according to strict standards of purity. That may also mean that under certain conditions, the essential oils may be taken internally (not something I have tried).
So here is the scoop. For wellness purposes, I use essential oils from Spark Naturals. There are a lot of reasons the most important being their commitment to both quality and value. I am satisfied that the raw materials used in Spark Naturals products are tested and authenticated to be of pharmaceutical-grade purity.
For cleaning solutions and DIY household products, I sometimes use essential oils from NOW Foods (available at Amazon). They are inexpensive to the point of being downright cheap and they work just fine when added to cleaning products. I use and recommend both brands.
Note: If you do decide to make a purchase from Spark Naturals, you will receive a 10% discount by using the code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout. I do earn a small commission on your purchases.
Please keep in mind that I am not a health care or medical professional and when in doubt, consult with your own physician regarding the use of essential oils for a particular ailment.
The Final Word
Once you start using essential oils, it is easy to get downright evangelistic about them even to the point of becoming preachy. That said, they really do work and can play a vital role in a potential survival situation where over the counter remedies are in short supply or non-existent. The beauty of essential oils is that they take up little room, store well, and perhaps best of all, a little bit goes a long way.
Spotlight Item: After a ton of research, for wellness purposes, I use essential oils from Spark Naturals. There are a lot of reasons the most important being their commitment to both quality and value. I am satisfied that the raw materials used in Spark Naturals products are tested and authenticated to be of pharmaceutical grade purity.
One of my favorite SN products is the “Health and Wellness Kit” which includes all of my favorites all of those referenced in this article but Clove Bud. Be sure to use the discount code BACKDOORSURVIVAL to receive a 10% discount.