Understanding What Essential Oils Are

Essential oils are one of those things that you really have to research in order to use them properly. You could probably use them to some degree with only the knowledge on the back of the bottle, but you may not get the full effects if you don’t have some understanding of how to use them correctly and safely.

Understanding What Essential Oils Are

Essential oils are in fact not actual oils at all, but are the literal essence of the aromatic plants that they are made from. The oils contain many organic compounds from plants, which are called terpenes. Terpenes are volatile molecules that are heavily fragrant smelling and easily evaporate.

Essential oils might resemble oil in appearance but in texture they are almost completely the opposite of oil, feeling much more like water. True oils are heavy and don’t evaporate as easily.

Essential oils may be made from many different parts of an aromatic plant; such as the leaves, flowers, bark, roots or fruit.

How Many Essential Oils Are There?

There are around 500 different essential oils – all with their own unique properties – that are commercially produced and sold. However, many of them are not commonly sold; the number of single (meaning non-blended) oils that you would be most likely to easily find would probably be closer to about 100.

There are a lot more aromatic plants in the world than that, but not all of them are commercially produced into essential oils. This may be because they don’t have as many useful properties or because they don’t have as strong of a therapeutic effect, and so other oils would be better used, or because they aren’t well known or sought after, and therefore they aren’t seen as profitable to businesses.

Facts About Essential Oils

There are a lot of little facts that are useful to know and will help you use essential oils more effectively.

  • One such thing is how sunlight can negatively affect essential oils, so you never want to store oil in clear bottles or near a window. They will last longer when stored in airtight, dark amber bottles. Heat also plays a big part in how long they will last. Ideally, you want to refrigerate your oils.
  • However, they don’t have a very long shelf life even when stored correctly. Most only last for one to three years, so be careful about buying in bulk. If you do, make sure it’s what you can reasonably use in about one year, unless it’s an oil that can last for longer, like sandalwood or vetiver. Essential oils are expensive; you don’t want to waste your money.
  • Also to do with sunlight, a fact that people commonly don’t know is how some essential oils are photo-toxic, meaning that they can cause skin irritation when worn in direct sunlight. Citrus oils are the most common photo-toxic oil and can result in a bad sun burn. Therefore, never wear citrus oils when you will be going outdoors; apply only for indoor use.
  • Some people confuse essential oils with fragrance oils and think that they can use the cheaper fragrance oils in the same way. These are actually very different oils. Fragrance oils are generally full of synthetic chemicals and they do not have the same properties that essential oils have. While essential oils are potent, they are natural and safe when used correctly. The same cannot be said for fragrance oils due to the additives that are added to them.

Ways To Use Essential Oils


  • Diffusing: Inhaling oils can work just as effectively as using oils topically and there are also many benefits. Diffusing can alleviate negative moods, kill bacteria in the air, and make your house smell wonderful without using synthetic fragrances. You can inhale oils simply by dripping a couple of drops on a tissue, but one of the best methods of diffusing is by using an Doterra Nebulizer. They’re small, portable, easy to use and use very little oil.
  • Skin Care: You can use oils to help maintain healthy skin. Whether you want to cure acne, treat athlete’s foot or sooth eczema, there are different oils that you can apply to your skin as part of your skin care regimen. Some oils can even fade scars, enhance your tone and help with aging. A few of the best oils for skin care are carrot oil, myrrh oil, tea tree oil and lemon oil.
  • Hair Care: Similar to skin care, there are oils that can treat your hair for a variety of things. If you need to get rid of dandruff or head lice, you can add a few drips of tea tree oil to your shampoo. If you have hair loss, rosemary oil will promote new hair growth. If your hair is very dry then geranium oil can improve the quality of your hair.