Essential Oils for Health and Well-Being

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts with many health-promoting properties. They can be used in a variety of ways, from cleaning the kitchen to setting the mood for your next social gathering.

Always use only those that are deemed safe for ingestion by the FDA and follow recipes from a trusted source.


Aromatherapy uses essential oils to promote psychological and physical well-being. It is a safe and noninvasive approach to treating a variety of conditions. Its antianxiety and stress-relieving properties can help relieve tension and promote a sense of calm. It can also soothe headaches and menstrual cramps. Its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties may help reduce infections. It is often used to alleviate pain from sprains, arthritis, and muscle injuries.

When applying essential oils to the skin, it is important to dilute them with a carrier oil. This helps reduce the risk of irritation and increases the surface area that absorbs the oil. A good rule of thumb is to use five drops of essential oil per half-teaspoon of carrier oil.

It is important to remember that essential oils are extremely concentrated and can cause serious health problems if not used properly. It is recommended to seek the advice of a qualified aromatherapist and follow his or her instructions carefully.

Topical application

The most common use of essential oils is topical application, inhalation or diffuser. Applied to the skin, they can help relax muscles and joints, calm and soothe the mind and promote healthy, glowing skin.

It’s important to always dilute oils when using them topically, especially if you have sensitive skin. Pure, undiluted oil can irritate the skin and even cause a reaction or sensitization, so it’s best to start with a carrier oil, which is a plant-derived oil that helps dilute the concentration of essential oils.

Examples of good carrier oils include coconut and almond oil. When used as a massage oil, the light and non-sticky carrier oils provide lubrication for a smooth, luxurious glide while helping to carry the therapeutic properties of the essential oil into the body. They also protect the skin from abrasions and allow for longer lasting absorption of the essential oil.


In a kitchen, essential oils can add flavor and a dash of health benefits to food. Because of their long-lasting shelf life, essential oil can also take the place of dried herbs and spices in many recipes.

Essential oil is a natural oil compound that has been extracted from a plant’s roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds by steam or water distillation or by cold pressing (similar to squeezing lemon peels). They are not regulated by the FDA and can be potent, so they must be diluted in a carrier oil such as olive or coconut before adding them to food.

Choose high quality culinary grade essential oils. They should be marked as safe for ingestion and have third-party certifications such as organic, Leaping Bunny cruelty free, or non-GMO. The best culinary essential oils will be clearly labeled as “food grade” and may even be accompanied by a supplement fact panel that looks like a standard nutrition facts label.


Despite their scent, essential oils aren’t inherently safe to swallow, per the FDA. Swallowing them can burn the mucous membranes of your mouth, esophagus and stomach lining, and can cause nausea, abdominal pain and neurological symptoms like nerve pain and numbness. It’s also possible to ingest essential oils by mistake, mistaking them for liquid pharmaceuticals or aspirating them, which can lead to pneumonia. “It’s not the most common, but it can happen,” says Cairns. He recommends choosing a brand that lists ingredients and method of use on the label, and avoiding oils that are more likely to be mistaken for pharmaceuticals or inhaled, like wintergreen and eucalyptus.

It takes a lot of plant material to extract just a few drops of oil, so it’s important that people only use them as directed and always use caution with edible oils. The FDA keeps a list of essential oils that are Generally Recognized As Safe for use in food, but they aren’t regulated the way medicines are.