Essential Oils 101

Essential Oils 101
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Most essential oils smell divine, and have a profound effect on our entire being. Aromatherapy can be defined as the controlled use of essential oils to maintain and promote physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing.  This is why the thinking that the benefits of essential oils are primarily their lovely scent, is not true. The aroma is the icing on the cake, but the real benefits are truly medicinal, and have the power to affect every organ in our body including our brain.

Because Pure essential oils work on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level, I have always been interested in working with them. There is a huge body of credible science behind how they work, and what they do, but because there are so many essential oils available today (over one hundred), I like to try to make things as simple for you as I can.

In thinking about my Essential Oils 101 post, I thought I would focus on a bunch of the most frequently asked questions that have been left for me over the past few years. I hope my answers help to clear up any confusion, and inspire  you to be able to begin to use oils in your everyday life.


What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are synthesized and stored in many parts of the plant. They are extracted from leaves, fruits, roots, trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers. It is not completely understood why plants manufacture essential oils, but the research shows us that they fulfill an important ecological function, such as attracting pollinating insects, or repelling unwanted critters. The oils are extracted by by various different methods, including steam distillation. It takes a huge amount of work to create even a tiny amount of essential oil. For example, sixty thousand rose petals are required to make just one ounce of precious rose oil. It takes eight million hand picked jasmine blossoms (which must be picked before sunrise the first day they open), to make one kilo of Jasmine oil. This is why many essential oils can be very expensive.

How do I know if the one I am buying is “pure” or the real thing:

Aside from buying from a reputable company (see the brands I like below), you can do a little test. Take a sheet of blotting paper with you to the store (I use traditional blotting paper) but you can also take the little blotting wipes that you can find at store like Sephora. When you test you oil, add a drop to the paper – it should evaporate and disperse immediately, leaving no trace of oil. If, however, it leaves a big oily patch, it has been likely diluted with a cheap plant oil. An oil that has been diluted is not a “pure” essential oil. There are a few exceptions of oils that are naturally thick and resinous, such as Vetiver essential oil. Sandalwood is another. In their pure form, these oils take a lot of tapping and patience to even get one drop out of the bottle because the oil/resin is so thick. Also use your nose, a pure essential oil should have a very powerful scent: Lavender oil should knock your socks off it’s so lavendery – same with any other oil. Some of the adulterated/diluted oils smell so weak, even in the bottle.  Red flags are cheap oils, or ones that don’t fluctuate in price – rose, jasmine and sandalwood should be way more expensive than grapefruit (which I grow in my backyard), and mint (which overruns my backyard!).

A final note on the pure and “therapeutic” thing: A few companies out there say that theirs are the only “pure” or “therapeutic” oils on the market. This is a hard-sell, an untrue marketing tactic to sway you into buying only their brand. There are actually a number of excellent, reputable brands across the world that are both pure and therapeutic (see my recommendations below).

Are Essential Oils safe for most people to use?

I am glad to say that they are, by and large, safe. This is because they are made of the same material as the human body (unlike chemical synthetics). Unlike drugs and other chemicals, essential oils do not stay in the body – they are excreted through perspiration, exhalation, and though our elimination system.

Some people can be allergic to certain oils, so I always recommend a patch test: Simply apply a couple of drops of oil to your inner wrist or arm. Cover with a Band Aid, and check back in 12 hours. There should be zero redness/itching etc.

Be cautious using oils when pregnant. The safer pregnancy oils include: Madarin, Grapefruit, Geranium, Roman Chamomile, Bulgarian Rose, Jasmin, Ylang Ylang, and Lavender.

What’s the best way to use them?

There are so many different ways to use your oils! The most common method is inhalation or application to your skin. Here are my favorite methods:

  • Diffusing throughout my home using a diffuser: 3 – 10 drops in the water reservoir, depending on its size.
  • As a perfume blend, which I apply to my wrists, temples, and behind my ears
  • Tissue (Kleenex): a few drops, sniffed when required
  • Massage oil: 1 drop to each teaspoon of base oil (such as almond, avocado or jojoba)
  • Bath : 8 – 10 drops
  • Shower: Add 6-8 drops to a face cloth to use in shower
  • Foot bath: 2-6 drops (I take a bottle to the salon)
  • Light Bulbs: 1-2 drop on the cold bulb before you turn it on
  • Humidifiers: 1- 10 drops in the water

What are the best oils to get for a newbie?

I recommend creating a basic care package with the following oils:


Anti-depressant, sedative, immune system booster, antibiotic, anti-viral.

Tea Tree:

This is the ultimate anti-bacterial, anti-viral oil. It’s a must-have in my medicine cabinet.


It is anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It can stimulate your lymphatic system, and your thyroid gland. Note that it should not be applied to the skin undiluted. You should also not use it on babies or small children.


This is great oil for the prevention of diseases, viruses, and infections. It can be used to treat asthma, sinusitis, digestive issues, and of course, toothache.


It is a great water purifier. It is anti-bacterial, and can treat insect bites. It’s great for digestion, and I use it in many of my cleaning products.


This oil is great for headaches, migraines, and nausea. It is a stimulant, and is helpful when increased energy and focus is needed.


This is one of my personal favorites because I love the aroma. I have included it in your basic care kit because it helps with menstrual problems, circulatory problems, nervous tension and irritability.

Must-have oils for dry/mature skin?

Chamomile, geranium, lemon, carrot, Palma rosa, Patchouli, Benzoin, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Rose and Neroli.

Must-have oils for oily skin: Peppermint, Marjoram, Rosemary, Cypress, Jasmine, Pettigraine, Ylang Ylang.

Which brands to you recommend?

For a great sustainable brand, with a huge inventory, quality organic oils, and great customer service, I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs. I also support this company because they are invested in supporting sustainable farming, which is so important when sourcing oils.

Annmarie Gianni essential oils skin care anti-aging line – the best blends ever in a large skin care line, which covers all your bases.






Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sophie Uliano is New York Times best-selling author and leading expert in the field of natural health and beauty, who takes a down-to-earth approach to beauty focusing on what's truly healthy. Join my masterclass to get started.