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What Are Essential Oils – Absolute Beginner’s Guide

What Are Essential Oils

So, what are essential oils?

Seems to be a common question when people are new to aromatherapy and essential oils.

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) defines essential oils as a complex mixture of chemicals. Essential oils are a product that is made through distillation with either steam or water.

In clear English, essential oils are very highly concentrated versions of oils found in plants.

To get a bottle of essential oil the plant roots, stems, leaves, bark, or flower need to go through a distillation process. The oils that are extracted through this process will produce a highly concentrated version of that plant.  This is then bottled and sold.  Then, we can use these oils, which has many healing properties.

There have been countless studies conducted on essential oils and they have been proven to help people.  For instance, tea tree and lavender have been studied which may act as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These are natural or man-made compounds that mimic or oppose the actions of hormones produced in the human body.

For instance, some essential oils are good for helping us sleep, reduce anxiety, depression, pain, hair growthacne, etc.

According to doTERRA 3 pounds of plant material is needed to make one 15 mL bottle of lavender essential oil. 50 lemons are needed to make one 15 mL bottle of lemon essential oil.

There are a lot of different brands that sell essential oil, though. Some of them sell pure essential oils while others actually sell synthetic or adulterated oils. There are lots of companies that have been proven to sell fake or adulterated essential oils. What is sad is a lot of these companies use Amazon to sell their products. Most of the people that buy them don’t even realize they are buying synthetic or adulterated oils, though.

Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils

Therapeutic Grade Essential OilI’m not sure exactly who coined the phrase “therapeutic grade essential oils”, but really those words don’t really mean anything. Meaning, there isn’t a governing body or regulated grading system that overseas essential oils to be “therapeutic grade”. Don’t mistake that the company is trying to scam you when they print the words “therapeutic grade” on a bottle of essential oils. There are respectable brands that do sell high-quality essential oils that do use this marketing tactic.

So, when you see the words “therapeutic grade” printed on a bottle of essential oil it’s solely done for marketing purposes. Again, they could print “super duper awesome grade” essential oil on the bottle and it would mean the same thing as therapeutic grade.

Don’t get me wrong there are companies like doTERRA which do use the words “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade”, which is really just their own internal testing standard. Don’t get it twisted and think that doTERRA is trying to trick you because they do offer high-quality essential oils.

Pure Essential Oils Can Be Proven In A Lab

I remember the first thing I ever learned about essential oils. They need to be pure in order to have healing properties that I have already mentioned in this article. You can test the purity of essential oils with GC/MS test. This stands for Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Basically, it’s a way to test which constituents are in a bottle of essential oil.

For example, lemon essential oil has these 6 constituents in it, limonene, B-Pinene, Gamma-Terpinene, a-Terpineol, a-Pinene, Geranial. Not to mention there are more constituents found in lemon essential oil.

“Pure” I am sure you have seen it printed on bottles of essential oils. Again, this is another overused word in the aromatherapy industry. Meaning, companies print the words “100% Pure”, “Pure Grade”, etc. on bottles of essential oil. Again, a GC/MS test can prove whether or not an essential oil actually pure or not.

Fragrance Essential Oils Are Misleading

Fragrance Essential OilOne thing that a lot of people really don’t realize about essential oils is they can be labeled as fragrance oils. Meaning that on the bottle of essential oil if you see the words “fragrance” these oil‘s don’t hold healing properties.

Fragrance oils are actually manufactured in a chemist lab. So fragrance oils will just mimic the smell. Essential oils, on the other hand, are natural and found in nature.

Typically fragrance oil’s are going to be a lot cheaper and they can be used for candle making, perfumes, cosmetics, and even soap making. I repeat fragrance oils are going to be cheaper and are NOT essential oils.

Blends & Single Essential Oils

There are two different ways you can purchase essential oils. Meaning you can either purchase a single oil or a blend.

Single Essential Oils

These essential oils are exactly how they sound. You are purchasing one single oil. There are hundreds of essential oil‘s here are a few of them:

Keep in mind that citrus essential oils are the cheapest. Every single essential oil can cost more depending on which one it is. For instance, sandalwood and rose are two of the most expensive single essential oils. For one 5 mL bottle expect to pay over $75.

Blend Essential Oils

Blends are commonly called synergies. This means that it’s a mix of essential oils already blended together. Here are a couple of examples of blends:

  • Thieves Blend. This is a blend that was trademarked by Young Living (see review). It’s a blend that supports your immune system. It’s a powerful essential oil that was developed to keep you from getting sick It can be used topically and diffused. It’s one of the most popular blends in the aromatherapy industry. It contains the essential oils lemon, clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and rosemary. I have actually written a Thieves blend alternative article if you don’t want to purchase it from Young Living.
  • Energy Synergy (Plant Therapy). This is a blend that was created by Plant Therapy. It was developed to help give you a boost of energy when you are tired or mentally fatigued. It can be used topically as a massage oil, in your lotion, and diffused throughout the day. It contains the essential oils orange, peppermint, lemon, ginger root, eucalyptus, and geranium.
  • Muscle Relief (Edens Garden). This is a blend that was created by Edens Garden. It’s a good synergy to apply topically when your muscles are sore. When you apply it to your sore muscles it will reduce inflammation, tight knots, and relieve tension. It contains the essential oils peppermint, clove bud, wintergreen, and helichrysum.

Keep in mind you can make your own synergies from single essential oils. For instance, a simple synergy that I make includes peppermint, rosemary, and lemon. I clean out my old essential oil bottles and use the bottles to create my own synergies.

Where Can I Buy Essential Oils

You can purchase them at local whole food stores. However, the selection is usually pretty limited. Essential oils are available online. For instance, you can purchase them on Amazon but there are a lot of synthetic or adulterated brands operating on Amazon.

These companies I would highly avoid purchasing essential oil from:

These companies are ones that I would highly recommend purchasing from. They have a good reputation in the industry and sell pure essential oils:

(please see my full list of the top essential oil brands in the industry)

If you have any questions about essential oils please feel free to leave a comment down below.

8 thoughts on “What Are Essential Oils – Absolute Beginner’s Guide

  1. I’ve been wanting to use essential oils for my kids for quite some time.  However, I am not so sure they are safe for kids.  I need something that will calm them down at night.  Do you have any suggestions on what I should do?  Do you use essential oils as you would with adults with kids, too?

    Can you please clarify on this?

    1. Hey Ayodeji,

      You’re in luck because several companies have created sets that are safe to use with kids. Actually, I would recommend checking out this article I wrote

      Good question, you don’t want to use essential oils the same way you would with children. Meaning, some of them can cause breathing issues when used aromatically. Also, you don’t want to use them topically the way you would with kids.

      These three oils can be used:


      All of the above are calming essential oils. You can mix them in a 10 mL roll-on bottle with fraction coconut oil (or your favorite carrier oil. You can then apply them to the back of the neck, behind their ears, bottoms of feet.

      Also, I would recommend using a diffuser and diffusing it prior to going to sleep. There are a number of diffusers to choose from.

      Lastly, you might want to check out a nebulizer, too. They are more expensive but more potent.

  2. I tried to buy essential oil but one of the reasons why I stop buying them was because there are too many companies selling these oils.   It is difficult to find one to trust, but with the list of companies that you mention in this article, it will be easier for me to try again.  I’m interested in buying energy synergy.  Do you believe it will really give me more energy, though?

    How long should I diffuse energy, though?  Are there any best practices to diffusing essential oils?

    1. Hey,

      I know there are a ton of companies to choose from!

      What is sad is a lot of them sell adulterated or synthetic essential oil.

      But, to answer your question. Yes, essential oils can really help stimulate your brain. For instance, peppermint and rosemary are two essential oils that are great for boosting your energy. There have been several studies conducted that prove they are effective.

      Here is a good study that shows that the fragrances from essential oils can increase time to exhaustion

      It’s recommended that you diffuse essential oils for 15-20 minutes and then turn it off for 30-40 minutes. The molecules will stay in the air after you turn it off. They stay in the air longer with nebulizers verses using an electric diffuser, though.

  3. I’m a newbie to the whole essential oils industry and this guide is super helpful. I feel a lot more confident now.

    You mentioned that Muscle Relief is a good synergy to apply topically on sore muscles. I need to apply to my injured foot/ankle, so what’s right amount of drops should I be using? (Whether this particular synergy or any other essential oil).

    Also, how long would an average essential oil bottle last? (I’m thinking of buying a 10 ml bottle and use it for relaxation + healing my injury).

    Thank you for this guide and advice!

    1. Hey Zee,

      We were all newbies to essential oils at one point in time. I actually, used to think that you could do a blot test to measure the purity of essential oils. However, I found out that a GC/MS test is a more accurate way to check whether or not essential oils are pure or not.

      But, to answer your question the Muscle Relief by Eden’s Garden does come in 5, 10, 30, and 118 mL bottles. You need to then mix it with a carrier oil. It’s recommended that you mix essential oils 3-5% dilution. Meaning that for a 10 mL roll-on you would use 10 mL of fractionated coconut oil and 10 drops of the Muscle Relief synergy blend.

      Here is an article that talks about carrier oils and essential oils

      Eden’s Garden states on their website that that blend is good for 4 years. However, if you put it in the refrigerator it will double the life of it. I do have a 10 mL bottle of it and can make rubs anytime I need it. It should last you for almost 6-8 months if you use it every day. You will need to keep making your roll-on, but I feel it’s a better way to go rather than purchasing the roll-on synergy blend from Eden’s Garden.

  4. I have heard there are lots of essential oils with lots of benefits but have been researching them a lot lately.

    I do know a little about the basic essential oils like lavender, lemon, and peppermint, though.  I know that peppermint seems to energize me.

    Do you happen to have any recommendations of books on these oils though?

    1. Hey Jason,

      There is a lot to learn about essential oils and aromatherapy. In the 3-4 years, I have been learning about them I have learned a lot of valuable stuff. For instance, you need to make sure the oils you are buying are pure. The industry is plagued with companies that sell synthetic or adulterated oils.

      Here is an article I wrote on books on aromatherapy and essential oils:

      Hope this helps!

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