How to use essential oils: Which oils are best for your health?

Last Updated: September 15, 2021

Essential oils have a ton of benefits and we want more of ‘em. We’re covering the what’s, why’s, and how-to’s of these aromatic oils that really pack a punch.

Whether you’re stressed, sore, or in need of a quick midday boost, there’s an essential oil for what ails you.

Fire up your sniffer, because we’re covering the basics on what scents are essential for specific health issues, aches and pains, or a relaxing aroma in your home.

But first, what are essential oils?

Illustration of 3 flowers

Essential oils are plant extracts made by steaming or cold-pressing the flowers, bark, leaves, or fruit of a plant to distill its aromatic compounds and turn them into an “essence” of highly concentrated nutrients.

Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, or simply as the oil of the plant from which it was extracted — like lavender oil. Each oil has its own characteristics and medicinal or therapeutic properties.

How do essential oils work?

As a topical application

When essential oils are applied directly to your skin — either directly or in a carrier oil — they penetrate deeply, and their medicinal properties take effect.

You should always test a small patch of skin first to see if you have any allergic reactions to specific scents and oils.

As aromatherapy

When you inhale essential oils, the scent molecules travel from your olfactory nerves to the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, where they have relaxing or stimulating effects.

What are the health benefits of essential oils?

Illustration of an essential oil dropper

Pure essential oils have a ton of benefits for health and beauty. They reduce stress and anxiety, help heal wounds, and relieve aches and pains.

The beneficial properties of essential oils include:

Antibacterial: Prevents or destroys the growth of bacteria.

Antifungal: Helps prevent the growth of fungi like yeast and ringworm.

Anti-inflammatory: Reduces inflammation and related pain.

Anxiolytic: Has a calming effect and helps reduce anxiety.

Analgesic: Relieves pain.

Want some recommendations? Here’s a rundown of our members’ favorite essential oils and blends.

Or check out this infographic below for a quick lesson on 10 super-beneficial essential oils and what to use them for.


How to use essential oils for aromatherapy

Blue candle illustration

Essential oil burner

Burners rely on a heat source to warm up the essential oils and release their aromatic molecules into the air. Just add water and essential oils to the bowl on top, light a candle below, and sit back and relax!

Don’t forget to blow out the candle when you’re done chillin’!

Illustration of blue bubbles

Ultrasonic diffuser

Electric ultrasonic diffusers use vibrations to break the oil into tiny particles that blend with the water, which is then sent into the air as mist.

This heatless process preserves the structure of the oils and emits more therapeutic fragrance than other methods.

Blue spray bottle illustration

Reed diffuser

Reed essential oil diffusers consist of multiple wooden sticks inside a small dish filled with essential oil. The reeds absorb the oil, which works its way to the tops of the sticks and evaporates into the air.

The reeds used in these diffusers need replacing one to four times a year, depending on how much you use them.

Illustration of 3 water droplets

Room spray

Make a custom room spray with calming essential oils like lavender and clary sage, or stimulating ones like peppermint and lemon.

Add a total of 36 drops of essential oils to an 8 ounce glass spray bottle filled with filtered water. Screw on the top, shake to combine, et voilà — a DIY spray to suit any mood!

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How to use essential oils on your skin

As Grove’s favorite unhinged soapmaker, Dr. Bronner, once said, “Dilute, dilute, dilute!” Undiluted essential oils are potent and may cause skin irritation, so mix them with a carrier oil before you apply them to your skin.

A carrier oil is a plant-based oil with little to no scent that’s used to dilute essential oils and make them safe for topical use.

Quality carrier oils include:

  • Olive oil
  • Apricot oil
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Coconut oil
Blue sunscreen bottle illustration

For moisturizing

Add 15 drops of your favorite essential oil per one ounce of unscented lotion or carrier oil.

Shake the bottle, or use a clean butter knife to combine the essential oil with the product. Apply the oil or lotion for amped-up hydration that smells as good as it feels.

For topical pain relief

To relieve sore joints or aching muscles, massage the skin over the area first.

This increases the blood flow to help the essential oils penetrate more deeply and work their magic to the very best of their ability.

Purple hand illustration

For wound healing

To protect wounds against infection and speed healing, make an antibacterial ointment.

Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil until just melted, and add two drops each of oregano, frankincense, lavender, and lemon essential oil. Mix well, and let it cool back to a solid state.

Quick tip: Tea tree oil is also great for its antifungal properties.

Grove Tip

Amy Hart, Chief Innovation Officer at Elevation Labs, told us her favorite ways to use essential oils: “Lavender, chamomile, bergamot, clary sage, valerian, ylang ylang, and sandalwood are some of my favorite essential oils for sleep. I also find customizing blends that work specifically for you, whether it be a scent profile or overall strength of the aroma, is very beneficial. Changing it up from time to time is also nice too.”

How to use essential oils in the shower

Try one of these tricks to get steamy in the shower with some therapeutic essential oils.

  1. Dollop a few drops of oil onto a washcloth (eucalyptus makes an excellent shower partner!) and place the washcloth on the floor of the tub. The hot water will release the aroma into the steam.
  2. Fill a tea strainer half-full of epsom salt. Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil, and hang the strainer from your shower caddy. The steam from the hot water will carry the fragrance throughout your shower.

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