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My Battle for Better Health: Essential Oils 101

12/28/2015 Laura Watkins 2 Comments


Essential Oils 101



I'd heard of essential oils and how amazing they are for years, but didn't really give them a try until a year ago. Since then, I've started collecting and trying as many new oils as I can, while trying to learn all I can about them. These little suckers can get expensive, so I was very grateful to be able to receive so many of these at a discount in exchange for trying them and giving my honest review. (All opinions are my own. I did not receive any other sort of compensation.)

I've only been using them a short time, but have seen some really neat results. From helping with my anxiety, headaches, and asthma, to helping with my son's temper tantrums, I'm loving essential oils! I especially love that, even with my scent sensitivity, I can use essential oils as perfume or air freshener and NOT get sick.

A Bit About Essential Oils
Applied topically or dispersed via diffuser for aromatherapy
Essential oils aren't usually true oils. They're liquids extracted via steam distillation or cold pressed from plants. There are many ways to use essential oils, including oil diffusers (which disperse the oil into the air for aromatherapy), skin and hair care additives, perfume, etc.

Starter Tips — If you're shopping around for oils, I highly recommend that you try them or at least smell them first. Here's a great little article about the best way to test these scents, and 21 Things You Should Know About Essential Oils.

Carrier oils — This is one term you'll hear a lot with essential oils. A carrier oil can be anything from coconut oil, olive oil, to jojoba oil. These are less expensive, gentle oils, to which a few drops of an essential oil can be added to for a variety of uses. I really enjoy Radha's Jojoba Oil.

General warnings
  • Essential oils are NOT regulated by the FDA. Many companies will label their oils as "therapeutic grade" but there is no regulation or official certification for these grades.
  • While essential oils can be amazing, never use or ingest (eat/drink) any essential oil that you are not sure is 100% safesome oils are safe to use outside the body but poisonous if you eat them! Research the oil itself, the pros/cons, risks, uses, AND the oil's manufacturer. NOT EVERY OIL IS PURE AND SAFE as advertised.
  • As with any health product or supplement, consult your doctor about potential interactions or side effects.  
What makes a pure, high quality, essential oil?


As a newbie, I purchased these brands for review and comparison: Simply Earth, First Botany, Majestic Pure, and Pure Body Naturals. But I have tried a few other brands, including DoterraYoung LivingSpark Naturals, etc.

Oddly enough, with all of the oils I've tried so far, the bigger the bottle, the less quality/pure the oil. One obvious indicator of this less quality is the scent. In the oils that were lower quality, the scent was not as concentrated, and the scent was even off.

So, what does make an essential oil pure or high quality? Ingredients. It can take hundreds of pounds of plant material to extract one pound of essential oil. This gets quite expensive. Some of the lower quality oils, while they are from the same type of plant, they're often made from the cheaper plant parts (like twigs, branches, wood, etc, instead of leaves).



For example, in the Pure Body Naturals brand of Peppermint oil, the peppermint scent was overshadowed by a rubbing alcohol-type smell, probably because peppermint oil naturally contains menthol and the menthol content increased with lower quality ingredients.

The Bergamot oil by Majestic Pure had a strong pine smell instead of a citrus scent.

While First Botany's Myrrh oil had a wonderful scent (although very diluted) that I absolutely love, their Lavender oily smelled off, and it gave me a headache, which doesn't usually happen with lavender oil. So, I can't recommend this as a reliable brand of essential oils.

I can, however, highly recommend, Simply Earth. So far, I've found their quality to be comparable to Doterra and Young Living, but much more affordable and I love their business model!


Of all the oils I've tried so far, Simply Earth is my new favorite! They average around only $5 per bottle. Their oils are high quality, pure, potent, and 13% of the profit from each purchase goes to help end human trafficking. You can read more about this company and their mission on their website. Here's a little bit about each oil I got to try.

Bergamot Oil 
Scent: Spicy, warm, light citrus scent. Low quality Bergamot oils that I've tried smell like a musky pine.
Origin: Cold pressed from Bergamot Orange (an inedible lemon/orange hybrid) peel
My favorite benefits and uses
  • Relieves anxiety and headaches.
WARNINGS: Bergamot oil becomes POISONOUS if exposed to sunlight (this is why it should always be stored in a dark colored bottle and away from direct sunlight.) If applied to skin, that area may become more photosensitive and more susceptible to sun damage and skin cancer.


Peppermint Oil 
Scent: Peppermintsweet and minty. If you haven't smelled peppermint before, you had a terrible childhood. Go buy some candy canes and melt them in your hot chocolate right now!
Origin: Extracted through steam distillation from peppermint plants.
My favorite uses and benefits
  • First and foremost, I love the scent. I frequently use this in my diffuser or even as a light perfume.
  • Headache and/or stress reliefUse in a diffuser, bath water, or inhale.
  • Hair and skin careAdd a few drops to shampoo, body wash, or lotion to treat dandruff.
  • To treat indigestion, nauseaWhen inhaled, peppermint oil helps some with nausea and/or motion sickness.
  • For colds, congestion, asthma, coughPeppermint naturally contains menthol, which is effective and well-known for helping relieve respiratory discomfort and congestion. Use a few drops in a humidifier, diffuser, a steaming shower, or create your own vapor rub.
WARNINGS: Peppermint oil is highly concentrated, use with caution. Burning sensation or rash may occur with sensitive skin, especially if used without a carrier to dilute it (like jojoba or almond oil).
Tea Tree Oil 
Scent: Smells a lot like eucalyptusvery strong, astringent, and medicinal, yet earthy.
Origin: Extracted through steam distillation from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia (a shrub-like tree, native to Australia).
My favorite uses and benefits
  • Colds, coughs, congestionPut a drop or two on your pillow or make a vapor rub to help while you're sleeping.
  • Hair careAdd a bit to your shampoo or conditioner for dandruff control and healthier hair.
  • Homemade cleanersI love natural cleaners! They're inexpensive and so much better for you.
  • Skin ProblemsTreat infections, rashes and itching, sunburns, acne, athlete's foot, warts, ringworm, small cuts, psoriasis, insect bites, etc.
  • Insect repellentRepels fleas, mosquitoes, flies, and ticks.
  • Refresh carpet and laundryAdd a few drops to that laundry that you accidentally left  in the washer and rewash to get rid of mildew. Tea tree oil is an antimicrobial, antiviral, and antisepticSpray a diluted tea tree oil on your carpet to lightly disinfect and refresh. 
  • Pet deterrent—Our new cat (which we found starving, sick, and abandoned, you can read about it here) would pee on our mattress. I sprinkled our mattress with tea tree oil, lemon oil, and fir needle oil on the mattress and he hasn't peed on it since! He'll still sleep on it, but no more potty. Yay!
WARNING: Poisonous, do NOT ingest (eat/drink), and NEVER use on babies, children, or pets!


Lemon Oil 
Scent: Lemony :)
Origin: Cold pressed from Lemon peel
My favorite benefits and uses 
  • This oil smells amazing 
  • This is the oil I whip out when my son is throwing a fit. Taking a quick whiff of this helps his mind switch tracks and think rationally again!
  • I LOVE to use it in perfumes
  • in in homemade cleaners
  • as a pet deterrent (to keep them from scratching up my furniture), 
  • and to make any room smell great.  
Fir Needle Oil 
Scent: Sharp, crisp, and clean scent of fir needles.
Origin: Extracted through steam distillation from Siberian fir needles
My favorite benefits and uses
  • Christmas aromaI LOVE to use cypress oil in a few different combinations to make my house smell like Christmas!
  • Colds, congestion, respiratory conditionsMake your own vapor rub or add a few drops to a steaming shower to relax respiratory passages and reduce phlegm.
  • PreventativeInhaling the scent of fir needle oil is said to help prevent cold or flu. I haven't seen results either way yet, but I don't mind trying this one over and over!
  • Pain relief—Apply topically (in a cream, lotion, or carrier) for local pain relief. I used this the other day when I re-injured my knee, and it actually helped a lot.
WARNING: Do NOT ingest (eat/drink) or apply undiluted fir needle oil to skin.

Copaiba Balsam Oil
Scent: Warm, like honey
Origin: Extracted through steam distillation from the crude resin of the Copaiba tree
My favorite benefits and uses 
  • Relieves headaches and anxiety.


Cypress Oil
Scent: If you've ever smelled a cypress tree, it's the same scenta warm balsamic, pine-like, woodsy, spicy scent.
Origin:Extracted from needles, stems, and twigs of cypress trees.
My favorite benefits and uses
  • Christmas aromaI LOVE to use cypress oil in a few different combinations (listed in my Blends section of this post) to make my house smell like Christmas!
  • Stress relief—Cypress oil has a calming, sedative effect. Add a few drops around a room, in a diffuser, or bath water.
  • Odor controlA few drops inside your shoe kills bacteria and helps eliminate odor.
  • Colds, congestion, respiratory conditionsMake your own vapor rub or add a few drops to a steaming shower to relax respiratory passages and reduce phlegm.
WARNING: Do NOT ingest (eat/drink)! Do NOT use during pregnancy or on children.


Cassia Oil 
Scent: Smells like cookie dough! It's a light, warm cinnamon-ish scent. Very yummy.
Origin: Extracted through steam distillation from the leaves of Chinese Cinnamon (aka Chinese Cinnamon) tree
My favorite benefits and uses 
  • Helps with nausea and mood.
  • Makes any room smell wonderful!
WARNINGS: Cassia oil can lower blood pressure and/or blood sugar (which can be a problem if you have diabetes, etc.) If ingested, it can also cause liver damage to those with weak/sensitive livers.



Camphor Oil
Scent: A very strong, lingering, medicinal odor. If you've ever smelled vapor rub, it's one of the key ingredients.
Origin: Extracted from the wood and bark of camphor trees.
My favorite uses and Benefits
  • Skin itching and irritationUse in lotion or cream to relieve itching and/or irritation.
  • Anti-inflammatory/pain relieverWhen used topically, it can help increase blood flow and relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Bug repellent
  • DecongestantCommonly used in Vicks VapoRub, camphor can help calm the respiratory system and easy congestion.
WARNINGS: NEVER ingest (eat/drink) camphor oil or apply to broken skin or wounds where it can enter the bloodstream! It is a poisonous substance. It can impair brain function, or cause death. Addiction to smelling or consuming camphor has been known to happen. Do NOT apply camphor directly to the skinalways dilute in a lotion, cream, or other carrier (such as olive oil).  Use with caution.
Clove Oil
Scent: Like clovesearthy, spicy, and a bit sweet.
Origin: Extracted through steam distillation from the leaves of the clove tree
My favorite benefits and uses
  • I LOVE to use this mixed with orange oil for an amazing holiday scent!
  • Use in a hot, steam shower to help with headaches or asthma. It is also a natural bug repellent.
WARNINGS: NOT safe for children. May slow blood clotting—do NOT use if you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners.

My goals

I want to have energy to spend time and actually do activities with my family.
I want to be able to be physically active. I’m not saying I plan on running marathons, but being able to exercise and do basic housecleaning on a daily basis would be nice.
I want my mind to feel less foggy all the time so I can do my job well and enjoy being in the profession I love.
I want to be healthy and be at a healthy weight.
I want my life back! I will look for the best in my life and realize what I truly have, always striving to make it better.
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