What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are concentrated, highly potent substances distilled from the leaves, flowers, or seeds of various plants. They can be used in a variety of ways, from aromatherapy to adding them to food.

Before using them, it is important to know that inhaling essential oils can irritate the respiratory tract and may be harmful for individuals with chronic respiratory diseases like asthma or COPD. Moreover, they can interact with some medications.


Some essential oils are known to promote relaxation and ease feelings of stress. Others have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help prevent the damage to cells caused by free radicals that can lead to diseases like cancer.

Inhaling or applying diluted essential oils may help alleviate symptoms of respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the benefits are often anecdotal and there is limited research on humans, Dechen says.

Most essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause skin sensitivity, so they should be mixed with a carrier oil before applying to the body, Dechen says. If you do apply them directly to the skin, call your healthcare professional if you develop a red, itchy rash or other signs of an allergic reaction. Also, some essential oils have been shown to interact with medications, including blood thinners, so check with your doctor before trying them if you take prescription drugs. It is also important to choose a trusted and reputable source for your oils, and choose dark-colored glass bottles because pure essential oils can dissolve plastic over time, tainting the oil.


Essential oils are natural and, in general, safe for adults to use under the guidance of a qualified health professional. It’s important to remember, however, that not all oils are created equal. Low-quality oils can be adulterated with fillers or synthetic chemicals that change their efficacy. This can cause toxicity when the oil is used in excess or under improper application methods.

It is possible to have a reaction to an essential oil, but it’s usually a minor one. The most common side effects are digestive issues and skin irritation. If you’re experiencing a reaction to an essential oil, use a fatty oil like sesame or olive to dilute the oil and wipe it away.

It is not recommended that you apply essential oils directly to your skin without a carrier oil, as they are more potent than the botanicals they come from. It’s also important to keep your oils away from direct sunlight and heat, as they can degrade quickly. They are also flammable, so they should never be used or stored near candles, gas stoves, or lit cigarettes.


Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that are used in a variety of natural and alternative health practices, such as aromatherapy and naturopathy. They are often used as fragrances, but can also be applied to the skin or inhaled.

The most common adverse reaction to essential oil is skin irritation. This can happen when an undiluted oil is applied to the skin and irritates it, but is also common when synthetic perfumes or other products containing essential oils are ingested.

Some essential oils, such as citrus oils, increase photosensitivity and should not be used before sun exposure. It is also possible for certain oils to interact with medications or worsen a medical condition. For this reason, it is important to choose high quality, pure oils from a trusted source and follow the first aid guidelines on this page.


When purchasing essential oils, you want to make sure you are choosing high-quality. A good oil should be pure and free of any impurities such as fillers or additives. It should have a subtle aroma that reminds you of the plant it was distilled from and not smell like perfume or chemicals.

Some unscrupulous companies may adulterate an essential oil to increase profits. This can be done by mixing in cheap vegetable oils or synthetic extenders to dilute the price of expensive essential oils.

Another way to judge quality is to look at a company’s transparency. Do they provide up-to-date GC-MS reports and Safety Data Sheets for each oil they sell? Do they have a Statement of Purity?

It’s important to keep in mind that not one essential oil company has the best quality of every single oil. Some may have a dedicated sourcing and production team that finds the finest organic or non-organic oils for their line, while others may focus on a specific region or type of oil.