Do Essential Oils Really Work?

Learn from this beginner's guide and find the best method for you

Photography: @younglivingeo on Instagram (Main Photos)

Natural remedies are making their way back into the mainstream through essential oils, and if you're a fan of amazing scents and approaching health the old fashioned way, then it might be for you.

Basically, essential oils (EOs) are volatile liquids that are extracted from plants. They're apparently the same compounds that plants use to heal themselves, and when used by humans, are said to provide a variety of health benefits through aromatherapy or topical application. Again, EOs are by no means a new concept. It traces way back to ancient Egypt!

That said, getting this natural remedy to work isn't as simple as purchasing your own diffuser. It takes some experimentation, research, and a true passion for wellness. So, we spoke with three essential oil users to create a simple beginner's guide to get you by. Keep scrolling for the basics!


If you're a beginner, start slow.

Starting your journey with essential oils requires a lot of research. It is part of a science, after all. Even if it's a natural remedy, approach each method and oil with caution. Oiler Vicki Abary suggests finding a local community of oilers that can guide you with their tried and tested blends, so you can discover what works for your body chemistry.

Choose the best method for you.

According to the oil you're using, the best method of application to see the best results might vary. It might take some trial-and-error to find your favorite one, but it'll be totally worth it. There are three methods you can choose among:


Diffusing oils and scents into your home can do more than just set a room's vibe. The millions of molecules they contain permeate into our cells and lymbic system to do their magic from there. "They clean toxic cells, repair them, and restore them to optimal function," says Vicki. Typically, this method is used for mood lifting and removing unpleasant smells in a certain space.


Here are three ways to use essential oils aromatically:

1. Using scent diffusers

2. Mixing oils in a spray bottle and spritzing over linens, carpets, etc.

3. Adding a few drops to a batch of laundry

Recommended aromatic oils:

1. Lemon or any citrus - According to photographer Sara Black, citrus oils are incredibly energizing. Perfect for the mornings!

2. Frankincence - Need to clear your mind and focus? Sara recommends diffusing this oil.

3. Lavender - The relaxing, regenerative and antihistamine effects of lavender makes it a favorite of Vicki's.

4. Peppermint - Keep your sense awake and alert through a whiff of this EO. Vicki swears by this for improving concentration.

5. Purification - Oiler Chris Daez loves this six-oil blend for removing odors and bacteria from her home. It combines citronella, lavandin, lemongrass, rosemary, myrtle, and tea tree to create a bright, refreshing scent. She uses it topically for little cuts and bruises as well.



Some essential oils perfom better when in direct contact with our bodies. Topical application is therefore preferred by many oilers for addressing skin concerns and physical pain, because you can target specific areas. However, this method requires you to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil to prevent skin reactions and help the oil absorb into the skin easier. Essential oil brand doTERRA states that the recommended areas for topical application are the neck, forehead, temples, chest, abdomen, and the limbs.

Below are a few blends and oils to try topically:

1. Tea tree (with virgin coconut oil as carrier oil) - Other than treating acne, Sara loves a tea tree oil blend for treating wounds, cuts, abrasions, or any skin lesion that needs antibacterial attention.

2. Eucalyptus/mint (in VCO) - Remember that strong, minty balm your mom used to massage you with? This is its EO alternative. Sara recommends this for relaxing sore muscles on your feet or anywhere after a workout.


3. Thieves - An antiviral and antispetic oil with a spicy scent, as suggested by Vicki. This one traces back to an old tale about the effectiveness of essential oils.

4. RC - A blend of spruce, cypress, and three types of eucalyptus oils that Chris uses for coughs. To use, dilute in VCO and apply on throat area.

5. Digize - Chris and Vicki love this for soothing digestive problems or simply supporting healthy digestion. It contains five oils: orange peel, clove bud, cinnamon leaf and bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary.


Like medicine, essential oils can be ingested. You should, however, be very careful with this method by doing extensive research on the safety of the oil you're using. It has to be certified safe for internal use. Also, always check for its recommended dosage and conflicts with certain medicines, medical conditions, and incompatibility with other oils. Here are some oils to try with this method:

1. On Guard - A poweful immunity booster by doTERRA you can dilute in water.

2. Oregano - A natural antibiotic for common illnesses. Sara shares this helped her cure a mutant cough through steam inhalation and ingestion.


Blend your oils properly.

Sara notes that unlike beauty oils, essential oils are very potent, which means you may need no more than a few drops to achieve your desired effect. This is why most topical applications should be done with a mix of a carrier oil like coconut oil. (Note: the ideal ratio of EOs and carrier oils may differ between babies and adults!)


According to Vicki, she tries not to blend too many oils together at once. She either adds only two to three together or add one oil to a blend that already contains that same oil. If you're just starting out, keeping your blends simple is a great way to test your sensitivities.


For ingestion, adding a drop or two (depending on the oil) into tea, water, or into your food is a common practice for diluting oils. More potent oils might even require less, and dipping a toothpick into it should suffice. 

If you still doubt your mixing abilities, though, opt to buy starter kits from brands such as doTERRA and Young Living's premium starter kit instead in order to have all the basic oils in one go along with a guide on proper blending.

Carry them on-the-go.

Since it's not feasible for everyone to bring their entire kit of essential oils everywhere, bring portable versions of your favorite blends. Vicki likes hers inside rollers for quick topical application, especially her digestion-assistive oils. As mentioned above, you can also dilute your oils in some water and store the blend inside a spray bottle.


Once you start using oils, adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Similar to all types of self-care, committing to essential oils means improving your diet and lifestyle to match. Even if EOs are natural remedies, prevention is still better than cure. "There are no single fixes with the use of essential oils," Chris stresses. "We should choose to live a healthier lifestyle to be able to get the results we want—its usage should be long term."


This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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