Your Guide to Essential Oils – and How to Use Them

Get a whiff of these babies.

By Hannah Zahner
essential oil, health, beauty, sleep

Essential oils have come a long way from the days when their sole users were tree-hugging hippies.

Today’s essential oils are more regulated and accessible than ever, and while we all know that lavender is relaxing, it can be tough to remember which oils we should be using for their myriad other benefits.

To take some of the guesswork out, we’re breaking down the best oils for five common needs. The best part is that there’s quite a bit of overlap between uses, so you don’t need to go out and buy 20 different bottles! Bookmark this as your official cheat sheet, but first: let’s cover some of the basics of safe essential oil use.

3 Main Rules for Safe Essential Oil Use

1. Not all oils are created equal.

Many cheaper brands also use fillers like soybean oil in their oil. Look for oils that are “pure” or “100%” essential oils and list the oil’s botanical Latin name on the label of the bottle. If possible, try to only buy organic oils with a non-GMO or “therapeutic grade” label – meaning they’re undiluted and free of toxins. Oils that say “fragrance oil”or “perfume oil” almost always mean that there are additives and don’t make the cut to be considered non-toxic.

2. They’re extremely potent.

Handle with care! Always dilute before applying to skin. Common carrier oils (a plant-based oil that can act as a base) include sweet almond, jojoba, coconut and avocado.

3. Don’t take internally.

Whether or not essential oils should be ingested is a highly debated topic, but in general unless specifically advised by a doctor, I wouldn’t do it.

Now that you have the low-down of how to use them, here’s the breakdown of the best oils to use for whatever ails ya. Rub some on your wrists, get your diffuser going or turn your bathtime into a spa-like experience with a few drops!

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image by free people

Essential oils to help you sleep:

Spray some on your pillow or into the air before bedtime to get you feeling especially relaxed. Making essential oils part of your bedtime routine can also help train your mind to associate the specific scent with falling asleep.

  • Lavender, vanilla, rose, sandalwood, clary sage, bergamot, marjoram, chamomile.

essential oil, health, beauty, diffuserimage by anthropologie

Essential oils for de-stressing:

The impact of these oils range from generally calming and relaxing, to even helping sufferers of PTSD! Diffuse throughout the day or make a custom roll-on blend to apply to your pulse points with these scents.

  • Lavender, clary sage, frankincense, bergamot, ylang-ylang, lemon, orange, sandalwood, chamomile, marjoram.

essential oil, health, beauty, diffuserimage by urban outfitters

Essential oils for improving concentration:

Whether you’re having trouble focusing in a meeting or you just can’t seem to concentrate on the task at hand, these oils will give your brain a boost. Also, if you continually experience brain fog, food intolerances could be the culprit!

  • Rosemary, basil, peppermint, cedar, vetiver, grapefruit, lavender, sandalwood, patchouli, frankincense, lime, ylang ylang, chamomile.

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Essential oils for energy:

If you seem to hit a wall come 3pm every day or are reaching for 3+ cups of coffee a day, try diffusing one (or a combo!) of these oils throughout the day for a natural energy boost.

  • Lemon, orange, grapefruit, eucalyptus, cinnamon, peppermint, ginger, rosemary, spearmint, black pepper, frankincense.

essential oil, health, beauty, bathimage by urban outfitters

Essential oils for inflammation:

The best way to deal with internal inflammation is through gentle lifestyle changes, but these essential oils can help with topical inflammation woes. Dilute with a carrier oil and apply to the affected areas for some relief.

  • Acne and skin irritations: tea tree oil, lavender, oregano, bergamot, rosemary
  • Muscle inflammation: peppermint, eucalyptus, wintergreen, chamomile, rosemary, black pepper