Essential Oils

Essential oils are natural plant extracts with unique properties. They can help treat many common ailments, including anxiety, pain and sleep problems.

Always look for pure essential oil without additives. Some can be toxic or cause allergic reactions.

Food-safe essential oils can replace herbs and spices in cooking. Always use a small amount so that it doesn’t overpower the recipe.


Essential oils are highly concentrated natural extracts that contain the aromatic molecules from leaves, flowers, and other parts of plants. These fragrant liquids can be used in aromatherapy to enhance relaxation and sleep, help treat cold symptoms, boost immunity, and increase libido.

The most common use of essential oils is inhalation, but they can also be used in massage, bath, and beauty recipes. The molecules of an oil are so small that they can pass through the skin and enter the bloodstream, where they can be distributed throughout the body for internal therapeutic benefits.

Several studies have shown that essential oils have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and other beneficial properties. The phenolic compounds in some oils, such as bergamot and ravintsara, have been found to act as hepatoprotective agents, while the terpenes (including aldehydes and esters) in others can reduce the HPA axis response to stress and prevent oxidative damage. Some oils also act as natural preservatives, such as lemon and orange essential oil, which can inhibit foodborne pathogens like E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

Side effects

Essential oils are powerful substances, and should be used with care. Improper use can lead to skin irritation, respiratory problems and hormone imbalances. “Essential oils contain compounds that can act as endocrine disruptors and interfere with your body’s natural production of hormones,” says Romy Block, board-certified endocrinologist and co-founder of Vous Vitamin. Those hormones control metabolism, appetite, mood, sexual function, growth and more.

You should always test a drop or two of an oil on your skin before using it regularly, especially on babies, children, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. These groups are more sensitive to the effects of these potent plants. They may also be allergic to certain oils, causing rashes and nasal or sinus allergy symptoms or even anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition. The safest way to use essential oils is to mix them with a carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba oil. It is important to look for pure, unadulterated oils that are labeled as such on the bottle.


Essential oils can cause allergic reactions in some people, including irritant contact dermatitis and sensitization of the skin. Sensitization happens when the immune system recognizes molecules in the oil as a foreign substance and produces an antibody response. This can lead to inflammation in the skin, respiratory tract, digestive tract and other parts of the body.

Using high-quality oils, properly diluting them with carrier oils and following safety guidelines can minimize the risk of side effects. However, the sensitivity of an individual to an essential oil or blend is dependent on their unique protein levels and genetics.

It is also important to keep essential oils out of reach from children and pets. Young children have thin skin, immature livers and immune systems, making them more susceptible to the toxicity of some oils. In addition, if an undiluted oil is placed near the eyes, it can cause burns and irritation. For this reason, all bottles should have child-proof caps, and they should be stored in a safe place where kids can’t get to them.

Cooking with essential oils

Essential oils can add a burst of flavor to recipes, and are great for adding natural herbs and spices. They can be used to infuse oils, marinades, salad dressings, desserts, and beverages. However, they must be diluted properly and added towards the end of cooking because they can become toxic when exposed to high heat.

It is also important to note that not all essential oils are created equal. It is important to ensure that the oil you are using for cooking comes from a reputable source and has been properly tested for possible contaminants or additives.

If you do decide to use essential oils in cooking, be sure to lock them away in a childproof cabinet. A few drops of a bad quality oil can cause anything from mouth irritation to a potentially fatal allergic reaction, and could interfere with some medications. Also, keep in mind that some essential oils can trigger respiratory irritation in those who are sensitive to them.