How to use essential oils for aromatherapy and personal care?

What are essential oils?
Essential oils are aromatic water-insoluble liquids of complex composition obtained from plants 6. Essential oils can be extracted from different parts of plants: flowers (rose, lavender), leaves (eucalyptus), buds (clove), fruits (anise), bark (cinnamon), zest (citrus), wood (sandal) and roots (ginger) 1.

Interesting facts:

  • Some essential oils (for example, oregano, thyme, tea tree, clove, and cinnamon) have strong antibacterial properties. Thus, they can enhance action of antibiotics and even potentially replace them in future 4, 11.
  • Ambient odor of orange or lavender essential oils significantly decreases child anxiety during dental treatment 10, 12, 13.
  • Agarwood and eucalyptus essential oils have anticancer properties 5, 8


Use of essential oils 1:
- Aromatherapy and massage
- Cosmetics
- Pharmacology (as components of ointments, capsules, syrups, sprays, etc.)
- Medicine (disinfection of operating blocks, medical equipment and surfaces)
- Household chemicals (insect repellents)
- Food preservation  

How to use essential oils for personal care and aromatherapy:

1. Make sure you use good quality essential oils (follow our recommendations). Remember if the essential oil is of bad quality it will not do any good to your skin and can cause a serious allergic reaction.

2. Carefully read all instructions and warnings on the label!

3. Store essential oils away from sunlight, heat and ignition sources. Do not store the bottles tilted or flipped because the essential oil might come in contact with the plastic dispenser and the cup and form toxic substances.

4. Carefully close the bottle after each use and do not keep it open for a long time. Essential oil components get easily oxidized (react with oxygen) and lose their beneficial properties.

5. Keep essential oils away from kids!

6. Always dilute essential oils! Pure essential oils can cause serious irritation. Dilution of essential oils to 2% (2 ml of a pure essential oil to 98 ml of a vegetable oil) is considered to be optimal 14. Some expensive essential oils (jasmine, rose) can already be diluted in carrier oils. In that case, it is written on the label – for example, jasmine oil (10% in almond oil).

7. Many essential oils are highly allergenic substances 7, 14. Thus, always perform patch testing before using essential oils for personal care! Apply small amount of DILUTED essential oil on the skin at the bend of elbow and wait for 24 hours. If redness or itching occurs, do not use it.

8. Safety of essential oils use during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding periods has not been clearly demonstrated 14. Some essential oils, for example, rosmarine (Rosmarinus officinalis), anise (Pimpinella anisum) must not be used at all during pregnancy because they can cause miscarriage 15.

9. Do not use essential oils on sensitive areas – eyes, ears, genitals, and mucous membranes. If accidentally an essential oil got into your eye, rinse it with any vegetable oil from your kitchen. Never use water – essential oils are not soluble in water, so it will not help you. If the burning feeling or discomfort does not fade away, immediately contact a doctor.

10. Essential oils are extremely concentrated substances and excessive use of them might cause headache, nausea and other negative consequences. If you spilled an essential oil, remove it with a cloth (put on household gloves to protect your skin) and open the windows to ventilate the room.

11. Even though some studies highlight benefits of internal use of essential oils 3, 9, the optimal dosage, possible side effects and contraindications are yet to be determined. Thus, I do not advise taking essential oils internally unless your medical doctor prescribes it. By following any recommendations on internal use of essential oils found on the internet, be aware that you are experimenting with your own health. 

This article is based on reviewing multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


  1. Asbahani A. El. , Miladi K., Badri W., Sala M., Aït Addi E.H., Casabianca H., Mousadik A. El.,, Hartmann D., Jilale A., Renaud F.N.R., Elaissari A. (2015) Essential oils: From extraction to encapsulation. Int. J. Pharmaceut., http://dx.doi. org/10.1016/j.ijpharm.2014.12.069
  2. Cavanagh H. M. A & Wilkinson J. M. (2002) Biological Activities of Lavender Essential Oil. Phytotherapy research, 16, 301-308.
  3. Cayuela Sánchez & Elamrani A. (2014) Nutrigenomics of essential oils and their potential domestic use for improving health. Nat Prod Commun. 2014 Nov;9(11):1641-8.
  4. Chaieb K., Hajlaoui H., Zmantar T., Kahla-Nakbi A.B., Rouabhia M., Mahdouani K., Bakhrouf A. (2007) The chemical composition and biological activity of clove essential oil, Eugenia caryophyllata (Syzigium aromaticum L. Myrtaceae): a short review. Phytother Res. Jun;21(6):501-6.
  5. Döll-Boscardin P.M., Sartoratto A., Sales Maia B.H., Padilha de Paula J., Nakashima T., Farago P.V., Kanunfre C.C. (2012) In Vitro Cytotoxic Potential of Essential Oils of Eucalyptus benthamii and Its Related Terpenes on Tumor Cell Lines. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:342652. doi: 10.1155/2012/342652. Epub 2012 May 8.
  6. European pharmocopea, 8th edition
  7. González-Muñoz P., Conde-Salazar L., Vañó-Galván S.(2014) Allergic contact dermatitis caused by cosmetic products. Actas Dermosifiliogr. Nov;105(9):822-32. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2014 Mar 20.
  8. Hashim Y.Z., Phirdaous A., Azura A. (2014) Screening of anticancer activity from agarwood essential oil. Pharmacognosy Res. Jul;6(3):191-4. doi: 10.4103/0974-8490.132593.
  9. Jaber R. (2002)Respiratory and allergic diseases: from upper respiratory tract infections to asthma. Prim Care. 2002 Jun;29(2):231-61.
  10. Kritsidima M., Newton T., Asimakopoulou K. (2010) The effects of lavender scent on dental patient anxiety levels: A cluster randomised-controlled trial. Commun Dent Oral Epidemiol.; 38:83–7. PubMed
  11. Langeveld W.T., Veldhuizen E.J., Burt S.A. (2014) Synergy between essential oil components and antibiotics: a review. Crit Rev Microbiol. Feb;40(1):76-94. doi: 10.3109/1040841X.2013.763219. Epub 2013 Feb 28.
  12. Lehrner J., Eckersberger C., Walla P., Pötsch G., Deecke L. (2000) Ambient odor of orange in a dental office reduces anxiety and improves mood in female patients. Physiol Behav. 2000;71:83–6. PubMed
  13. Lehrner J., Marwinski G., Lehr S., Johren P., Deecke L. (2005) Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office. Physiol Behav.;86:92–5. PubMed
  14. Lis-Balchin M. (1999) Possible health and safety problems in the use of novel plant essential oils and extracts in aromatherapy. J R Soc Promot Health. Dec;119(4):240-3.
  15. McGuffin M., Hobbs C., Upton R., Goldberg A., editors (1997) Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1997.


Liz's picture

what is the shelf-life of essential oils?

Natalia's picture

The average shelf-life of essential oils is 2-3 years, however, it depends on storage conditions. It is very important to keep essential oil away from sunlight and close the bottle after each use. If you are buying essential oils from a retailer, make sure that the products have been stored properly.