The Benefits of Essential Oils

Essential oils may seem like a buzzy, modern trend, but these concentrated plant extracts have been used for centuries. They can be used in a variety of ways, including massage, cooking and skin care.

When using an essential oil for cooking, make sure the one you choose is considered food safe. A good place to start is the FDA’s list of essential oils that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS).


Essential oils are distilled or pressed from plant parts, such as roots, leaves, flowers and stems. Many pounds of plants are used to make just a small bottle of oil.

Aromatherapy is a way of using essential oils to promote health and well-being. The oils are inhaled or applied to the skin to help treat pain, depression and anxiety, headaches and other problems.

The oils work through the olfactory nerves to send messages to the brain that affect emotions, memory and sensations. They can also stimulate the immune system and increase blood flow, John Hopkins Medicine says. People with chronic respiratory conditions, like asthma and COPD, should use them carefully after consulting a healthcare professional. Also, people who are pregnant or nursing should avoid certain oils.


Applied topically, essential oils are absorbed through the skin and can affect your bodily systems, including nervous, immune and respiratory. They’re also used for emotional and mental health.

But keep in mind that essential oils aren’t regulated pharmaceutical drugs and may cause harm if used improperly. Inhaling or ingesting them, especially undiluted, can irritate your eyes and mucus membranes. And certain oils should be avoided by pregnant women, because they can make your uterus more sensitive and increase your risk of miscarriage.

While some research shows promise for certain essential oil uses — like using wintergreen to help relax tight muscles during a massage or adding lavender to bath salts for a soothing soak — more human studies are needed before essential oils can be considered as safe and effective. Talk to your doctor before trying them.


Essential oils can be added to food in small amounts to boost flavor and add beneficial properties. It is important to only cook with high quality food grade essential oils as they are not all created equal. Look for an oil labeled as “food grade” or on the FDA’s approved list of safe ingredients for use in foods per Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS).

Cooking with essential oils is a delightful way to elevate your culinary creations with unique flavors and health benefits. Using essential oils as a substitute for herbs or spices in recipes can save you time and effort while also adding a more potent aroma. The possibilities are endless! Here are some ways to get started cooking with essential oils.

Skin Care

The skin absorbs essential oils through inhalation, massage or application directly to the skin. Applied to the skin, they help treat everything from stress and sleep disorders to acne and pain. They can also tame queasy stomachs and promote deep relaxation.

The most effective and safest way to use essential oils is under the supervision of a trained professional. However, there are some risks associated with the topical and inhaled use of essential oils, including a rash, asthma, liver and nerve damage or harming a fetus.

It’s important to dilute pure essential oils with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or coconut oil. Otherwise, they can irritate or burn the skin. Also, be careful with some oils, such as birch and wintergreen, which contain the chemical methyl salicylate, which can cause serious problems in kids under 6. Talk to your doctor before using them on young children.

Pet Care

Essential oils are a type of oil that contain the natural chemicals that give plants their specific scent and flavor. They can be used in aromatherapy, food flavoring, and as a medicine. Because of their strong chemical composition, they should be diluted before use on the skin or in household appliances that create scented vapor. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for safe dosages, especially around children and pets, who may not tolerate the same amounts as adults.

To measure precise amounts of essential oils, a chemistry syringe is ideal. These syringes are resistant to essential oils and have fine volumetric graduations for accurate results. Many plant essential oils are effective repellents of granary insects such as the rice weevil Sitophilus oryzae and the beetles Callosobruchus chinensis and C. paniceum, as well as greenhouse white fly Trialeurodes vaporariorum and pear bug Stephanitis pyri.