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Using Essential Oils

Essential oils are fun to work with, but please keep in mind how powerful they are. Don't be scared, but do be safe. All oil orders come with a printout of this page.

Please note: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS "THERAPEUTIC GRADE" or the latest hogwash, "CERTIFIED PURE THERAPEUTIC GRADE" ESSENTIAL OILS. Claims to be carrying such a thing are BOGUS and strictly the result of MLM schemes like "Yuck Living" (you know who I mean!), which is always looking for more suckers, or the latest, "DupeTerra." People who harvest and sell essential oils do not grade them in any way! That's right, there is no standardization whatsoever in the essential oil industry, nor does the FDA grade or certify essential oils. It is the wild West out there in essential oil land, folks, which means greater freedom but also a greater need for awareness. "Therapeutic grade" is a completely imaginary categorization intended to get you to pay exorbitant prices for spin/ For instance, "Yuck Living" claims that AFNOR, a regulatory organization in France, grades oils or somehow certifies their oils. According to AFNOR, they do neither. IOW, "Yuck Living" is just plain lying. Likewise, claims to have "verified" an essential oil with gas chromatography or a mass spectrometer are baloney. Here's why: if an isolated component of an essential oil is created in a refinery and added to a natural essential oil to make it have a certain scent profile, there is no way for even mass spectrometry to tell for certain whether that component came from a plant or a refinery. Anyone who asserts otherwise is either a liar or knows nothing about chemistry or both. So don't be cozzened out of your hard-earned cash. The way to find good, natural essential oils is the same way you find good produce or well-made clothing--shop and compare. Get experience with the scent of a particular oil from different sources. Look for oils that are not excessively cheap, seek out organic oils (although this is no guarantee--it just increases the probability of naturalness), and learn about your supplier(s). Use your nose. Remove all synthetic scents from your life; once you do, synthetic additions to oils and "amber" will jump out at you. As for claims I have seen that the primary components of 98% of the essential oils out there are synthetic or contain heavy metals or concentrated pesticides, BAH HUMBUG. I could not be more opposed to the use of synthetics in anything--I myself have not used any item containing a synthetic scent since the 1980s--and I can tell you honestly that these claims about "therapeutic grade" are sheer crap. For further information on the question of adulteration, check out Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt's "Advanced Aromatherapy" or read the essay on cropwatch.org entitled "Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils Disinformation".


Don't apply them directly to the skin or drink or eat them.  

Don't use them on animals or children--they don't have enough body mass to process them, and some animals can't handle essential oils in even the tiniest amounts. Children shouldn't be allowed to play with them at all nor to work with them without direct supervision.

If you are pregnant, get the advice of a qualified aromatherapist before using any of them, especially if the pregnancy is four months old or less.


Working With Them

When you're working with bottled essential oils, it's a good idea to wear gloves, especially if you are working with oils that don't come with a built-in dropper top (so the fluid could spill on you). Wear gloves and keep a bottle of cheap vegetable oil and an old towel handy. If the essential oil spills on you, pour vegetable oil on the spill and wipe it off with a towel. Do this three times. Work fast if you have a spill, because it takes only 7 seconds for an essential oil to start circulating through the body. Remember that essential oils are not soluble in water but they are soluble in fats. If you get some in your eye, flush it with whole milk or vegetable oil. Work with a fan blowing the evaporating oils away from you. Don't sniff from a bottle. Instead, put a drop of oil on a piece of paper and wave it in front of you to get a sense of the scent. You can clear your nose after each smell by taking a whiff of coffee grounds.


Always mix an essential oil in a carrier oil or in alcohol before using it on the skin at all. A rule of thumb is no more than 12 drops of essential oil for every ounce of carrier oil. Good carrier oils are olive oil, sweet almond oil, and an oil that is really a wax, jojoba oil. I like jojoba because it doesn't oxidize (get rancid).

1% dilution = 1 drop/5 ml or 6 drops/ounce or 3 drops/tablespoon

2% dilution = 2 drops/5 ml or 12 drops/ounce or 6 drops/tablespoon

3% dilution = 3 drops/5 ml or 18 drops/ounce or 9 drops/tablespoon

Start with a low dilution and don't go any higher than 3% for any oil that will be a rub. With dab-on, you can go higher, but 20% should be the absolute tops. Essential oils smell harsh when they are in too high a concentration and they can be dangerous at that level. You can poke a hole in a vitamin E gelcap and squeeze out the stuff inside to use a preservative for carrier oils (one drop per ounce is plenty), although jojoba won't need it. In order to get the full impact of an oil you have created, let it age for a few weeks at least. This really seems to improve the scent. Store your essential and fixed oils in a cool, dark place, and keep them well capped.


Don't go out sunbathing after putting anything containing essential oils on your skin--some essential oils greatly potentiate the Sun's power and you can get a sunburn.

Instead of using the same oils every day, vary them. This decreases the likelihood of developing a skin reaction to them.

If you want to use them in the bathtub, drop them into the running water.

Remember that essential oils are flammable.

If you get seizures, don't use any sort of camphor, hyssop, wormwood, mugwort, pennyroyal, or tansy. Always be careful with essential oils, since you don't know if you personally might react strongly to a particular oil. If you have epilepsy, especially don't use essential oils internally or ones that might lower the seizure threshold in the tub.

Some people have sensitive skin that can be easily irritated by an essential oil, even when it's diluted. Test by first diluting the essential oil with a carrier and then rubbing it on a small bit of skin on your wrist. Check for a reaction after 24-48 hours. If there is none, it's probably safe for you to use.

Other people--and there is no way to know this in advance--become sensitized to particular essential oils. This is very much like an allergic reaction and can begin with itchy skin. I have had the experience of using an essential oil for years and then suddenly becoming very sensitive to it, so much so that just smelling it was enough to set off a reaction. But this is rare. Just be aware of how you react to any mixtures you make.

If you have ever had any damage to your liver, use essential oils only in very small amounts, because it is your liver that processes them.

2009, 2013 Alchemy Works; No reproduction without permission