Essential oil guide – your simple introduction to essential oils

by Alison Angold CIDESCO ITEC

Essential oil guide

Using and blending essential oils yourself at home can be fun and simple to do. You can create tailored oils or creams to treat physical and psychological ailments and conditions. This essential oil guide, allows you to become more familiar with each oil, so that your blends can be effective and safe. Learn more about essential oil uses and benefits here.

It is important to have a basic understanding of essential oils, before progressing to making tailored blends, for oils, creams, compress’s and other wonderfully effective recipes.

Essential oils are complex chemicals, so need to be treated carefully and safely. For example, I am sure that most people are aware, that there are many oils that are not safe to use during pregnancy, but did you know that some oils are not to be used by sufferers of epilepsy? Or that some oils react on the skin when in contact with sunlight, causing the skin to become over sensitive or burn? So let’s dive in, and learn some more about essential oils!

A row of essential oil bottles on a shelf.  Essential oil guide

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are the pure oils extracted from the leaves & flowers of plants, herbs, fruit or even the bark, resin and roots of trees. They are aromatic, volatile substances, extracted mostly by either distillation methods or expression.

Examples are – Basil essential oil is extracted directly from the leaves of the herb, and pine essential oil is extracted from the needles of the pine tree. Some plants produce more than one essential oil. For example an orange tree produces, orange oil, extracted from the peel of the fruit, petitgrain from the leaves and branches, and neroli from the blossom.

The essential oils are made up of atoms, which join together to form molecules. Each molecule of an essential oil produces a particular effect depending on the types of atoms they are made up of and how they are arranged. Each essential oils has a different chemical ‘recipe’, meaning the effect it will have on the skin, body or mind.

The molecules in essential oils, are so fine that they can penetrate the skin, when applied topically.

They can be absorbed to the deeper layers of the skin and from there, can enter the bloodstream and travel around the body to have a positive effect where it is needed.

In addition the molecules can travel through the membranes in the nose, when inhaled, so have an effect here too.

Furthermore, the aromas of the oils have a relaxing, uplifting or nostalgic effect on us, so can instantly make us feel better.

For full blending tips and instruction read my article of Blending Essential Oils

Properties Of Essential Oils

As we have seen already, the differing atoms the essential oil is made up of, gives it its unique effects. Each oil has a range of properties or therapeutic actions, meaning the effects that it can have on the body or the mind.

Every essential oil has many different properties and therefore effects on the body and mind.

Essential oils and oil burner on a shelf.  Essential oil guide.

Glossary of properties

So, you can get a better idea of choosing the correct oils, here are some of the therapeutic actions, the oils can have.

  • Antiseptic – prevents or removes infection
  • Antispasmodic – calms muscle spasms
  • Analgesic – relieves pain
  • Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation
  • Antiviral – prevents or kills viruses
  • Anti-catarrhal – removes or reduces catarrh
  • Antidepressant – lifts the symptoms of depression
  • Anti-allergic – prevents allergic reactions
  • Bactericidal – kills bacteria
  • Balancing – balances emotions
  • Calming – has a calming effect on the body and mind
  • Cooling – cools the area of application and can reduce temperature
  • Cytophylactic – regenerates cells; useful for the skin
  • Deodorant – removes unpleasant smells
  • Depurative – removes impurities and toxins
  • Diuretic – increases production of urine; useful for detoxing
  • Expectorant – loosens and removes fluid from the lungs
  • Fungicidal – destroys fungus
  • Immuno-stimulant – strengthens the immune system
  • Relaxing – has an overall relaxing effect on the body
  • Rubefacient – warms an area – useful for muscle aches etc..
  • Sedative – calms the nervous system, good for stress, anxiety & sleep
  • Stimulant – stimulates a particular area
  • Tonic – strengthens the body as a whole
  • Uplifting – promotes positive feelings
  • Vasoconstrictive – reduces blood flow to the area of application; good for varicose veins, heavy bleeding etc…
  • Vasodilation – increases blood flow to the area of application; warms an area, increases blood pressure…
  • Warming – produces a feeling of warmth

Essential oil notes

Each essential oil is given a ‘note’. This is mainly used for blending perfumes and fragrances, so that the aroma’s not only compliment each other, but have lasting qualities too.

A top note essential oil usually has a light, refreshing aroma – the citrus oils of orange and lemon are good examples of top notes. These aroma’s, while wonderful, usually are the first to evaporate or disappear.

A middle note essential oil, lasts longer than a top note, and is often referred to as the ‘heart of the scent’, and they bridge the gap between the lighter top note oils, and the heavier base notes. Many of the floral essential oils are middle notes.

A base note is the heavier, often highly fragranced essential oils. Base notes are often extracted from woods and barks of trees. The scent gives the blend, a foundation, and a ‘base’.

When blending essential oils for home use, it is useful to look at the note of the oils you wish to use, however it is not essential to use oils from each group.

For example, a blend of lemon, orange and grapefruit (all top notes), may not last very long, but nonetheless, smells amazing and can be extremely beneficial for treating stress and depression!

However, using 3 base notes in a blend, could cause the scent to be overpowering, and too ‘heady’, potentially causing headaches or nausea.

Essential oil guide

There are many, many essential oils, each with very varied and many different properties. Here are some of the main essential oils, some of their main properties, and maybe most importantly, the precautions (or contra-indications) to each of the oils.

BasilTopAntiseptic, Tonic, Antispasmodic, UpliftingPregnancy, sensitive skin
BenzoinMiddleExpectorant, Sedative, WarmingVery sensitive skin
BergamotTopAnalgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Antiseptic, UpliftingPhototoxic
Black PepperMiddleAntispasmodic, Depurative, RubefaciantVery sensitive skin,
incompatible with
homeopathic treatment
Carrot SeedMiddleDepurative, Tonic, VasodilatoryPregnancy
CedarwoodBaseAntiseptic, Tonic, Calming, ExpectorantPregnancy
ChamomileMiddleAnalgesic, Sedative, RelaxingPregnancy
Clary sageTopAntiviral, Anti-inflammatory, Relaxing, SedativePregnancy, before or after
CypressMiddleAntispasmodic, Cooling, VasoconstrictivePregnancy
EucalyptusTopDepurative, Expectorant, StimulantIncompatible with
homeopathic treatments
FennelMiddleCarminative, Depurative, Rubefacient Pregnancy, epilepsy
FrankincenseBaseExpectorant, Relaxing, SedativeNone
GeraniumMiddleBalancing, Anti-inflammatory, RelaxingVery sensitive skin
GingerTopStimulating, Tonic, WarmingVery sensitive skin,
GrapefruitTopTonic, Uplifting, StimulatingPhototoxic
JasmineBaseRelaxing, Sedating, UpliftingPregnancy
JuniperMiddleAnalgesic, Antiseptic, Diuretic, TonicPregnancy, kidney issues
LavenderMiddleAnalgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Relaxing, AntifungalNone
LemonTopAntiseptic, Detoxifying, Tonic, UpliftingPhototoxic
LemongrassTopAntidepressant, Uplifting, StimulantVery sensitive skin
MandarinTopAntiviral, Tonic, UpliftingPhototoxic
MarjoramMiddleAnalgesic, Warming, Sedative, TonicPregnancy
MelissaMiddleAnti-allergic, Relaxing, CoolingPregnancy
MyrrhBaseAnti-catarrhal, Expectorant, Tonic, StimulatingPregnancy
NeroliTopAntidepressant, Uplifting, RelaxingNone
OrangeTopAntidepressant, Antiviral, Stomachic, UpliftingPhototoxic
PatchouliBaseAnti-inflammatory, Cytophylactic, Sedative, FungicidalPhototoxic
PeppermintMiddleAnalgesic, Antiviral, Cooling, Stomachic, UpliftingIncompatible with
homeopathic treatments
PetigrainTopAntidepressant, Antispasmodic, Digestive, RelaxingNone
PineMiddleAntiseptic, Bactericidal, Deodorant, RefreshingVery sensitive skin
RoseBaseAntidepressant, Bactericidal, Depurative, RelaxingPregnancy
RosemaryMiddleAntiviral, Astringent, Stimulant, HypertensivePregnancy, epilepsy, high
blood pressure
RosewoodBaseAnalgesic, Bactericidal, Cytophylactic, DeodorantNone
SandalwoodBaseAntidepressant, Expectorant, Relaxing, Sedative None
Tea TreeTopAnti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, immuno-stimulantVery sensitive skin
ThymeTopAntiseptic, Antiviral, Bactericidal, Fungicidal, StimulantPregnancy, high blood
ValerianBaseCalming, Hypotensive, SedativeUse in small amounts
VetiverBaseRelaxing, Rubefacient, Sedative, StimulantNone
Ylang YlangBaseAphrodisiac, Hypotensive, SedativeUse in small amounts

Learn more about the specific oils and their numerous properties, uses, recipes and blends here.

Precautions of essential oils

Most essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy. Many oils can provoke menstruation therefore not advised.

Some strong oils, may react on very sensitive skin, so you should proceed with caution or avoid these oils is you have very sensitive skin, or allergies.

A phototoxic oil, means that when exposed to sunlight after application, the skin will become sensitive or burn.

If you have epilepsy, then certain oils should be avoided.

Some oils are hypertensive meaning they increase blood pressure, so would not be suitable for those with already high blood pressure.

Certain oils are incompatible with homeopathic treatments, changing either the effect of the homeopathy or the essential oil, which could be unsafe.

Clary sage essential oil heightens the effect of alcohol, so this oil should be avoided if you plan to be drinking or have already drunk alcohol.

If it is your first time using and blending essential, air on the side of caution, especially for blends that you plan to apply to your skin.

Recommended essential oil brands

This is a great starter set of oils. These are ideal to start blending for diffusers or burners, to start learning about the aroma’s.

Gya labs is one of my favourite 100% pure therapeutic grade oils. These oils are ideal to start blending oils for topical use. All Gya Labs essential oils can be purchased through this link.