Interested in how essentials oils could enhance your life? Whether you’re a seasoned
essential oil user or a novice, these health-promoting aromas have gained a lot of recognition as people turn to them to treat a variety of ailments, mental health and sleep concerns, and to replace fragrances and conventional home and body care products.
Essential oils are produced by steam distillation or cold pressing to capture the aromatic (“volatile”) compounds in plants that give them their characteristic scent. They can be used for aromatherapy by inhaling the scents with a diffuser or by applying directly to the skin. Because these oils are the concentrated chemicals found in plants, it’s important to always dilute them with a carrier oil before applying to your skin – use something neutral like jojoba, olive, or almond oil.
When picking your essential oils, there are some important things to consider as some types are toxic to cats and dogs or even children, including peppermint, wintergreen, citrus, pine, ylang ylang, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils. Check with your vet and pediatrician before applying or diffusing essential oils to or around your pets and kids. Information on these important considerations is presented here for you, too.
Whether you’re new to essential oils or a seasoned pro, check out the FoodTrients® top 50 essential oils guide to help you decide where to start or introduce you to some new options you might not already have in your stockpile!
Herbaceous and bright, basil essential oil is great for bringing the taste of the Mediterranea into your home with just a drop. Combine basil with other herbal oils like thyme, oregano, and sage to create a taste of Italy oil blend for your home. It’s also known to clarify and energize the mind, uplifting your mood.
Used to reduce stress and improve skin conditions like eczema, bergamot essential oil belongs in your mood-improving aromatherapy blend. Bergamot oil is cold pressed from the rind of a citrus fruit, the bergamot orange, lending it a scent similar to floral orange peel.
3. Bitter Orange
You may have heard of sweet orange essential oil, but this bitter version is preferred by some over its sweet sibling. Bitter orange oil is distilled from bitter orange peel and smells like a split between classic sweet orange and the more bitter grapefruit essential oils. This essential oil may be effective at treating fungal skin infections, but is photoreactive, so don’t put this one on your skin before going out in the sun!
4. Black Pepper
Black pepper essential oil can be used on your skin to provide a warming sensation and promote circulation. Be sure to heavily dilute this oil in a neutral carrier oil to prevent a burning sensation. Luckily, the combo of black pepper oil and a carrier oil like jojoba is perfect for creating a DIY warming massage oil for sore muscles.
5. Blue Tansy
Contrary its name, the Blue Tansy flower is actually yellow. With a sweet, herbal aroma, a light misting of this oil has been used to treat mild skin burns. Its aromatic constituents, including camphor, have been shown reduce inflammation. Add a drop of Blue Tansy oil to your moisturizer for a scented lotion that can help calm mild inflammation.
Camphor is one of the major components in products like Vicks VapoRub (along with menthol), due to its ability to reduce the urge to cough. Combine oils like camphor, peppermint, and eucalyptus in a carrier oil to make your own cough-relieving chest rub, perfect for cold and flu season.
This essential oil is often used in insect repellents, as well as many colognes, deodorants, and shampoos that build on this robust, woody scent. Cedarwood may be effective at repelling moths, fleas, and ticks, but make sure to check with your vet before applying this oil to your furry friends as a flea and tick repellant as it may actually harm animals.
Need help falling asleep? Grab some chamomile and take a few deep breaths. This essential oil pairs perfectly with lavender and other essential oils to help promote sleep and relaxation. Chamomile oil has muscle relaxing effects and pain-relieving effects, so this oil could be an excellent addition to any sore muscle massage oil. Roman chamomile has a light, fresh fruit scent while German chamomile has more of a cut-straw aroma.
A sweet and spicy oil, cinnamon is perfect for introducing cozy feelings on a chilly day with its warm and relaxing scent. Research shows that cinnamon has antibacterial and antiviral effects, but keep in mind that many manufacturers suggest not using cinnamon oil on skin at all (even when diluted) due to the risk of skin burns. Keep this one well away from kids and pets to keep them protected from the burn and toxic risk.
Also known as rock rose, this brightly colored flower yields a light, honey-like floral scent. Cistus has a long and biblical history of use for treating skin wounds and as a perfume or incense. Like many oils on our list, cistus has antimicrobial properties that explain its long history of use.
Long used as a natural bug repellant, citronella essential oil is great at keeping mosquitoes at bay. If you’re trying to avoid certain chemicals in commercial insect repellent products, consider combining citronella with other essential oils shown to repel insects (like cedarwood). There’s a double benefit of using it as well; it’s known to boost your mood and increase energy.
12. Cleary Sage
Feeling anxious before a big test or presentation? Dab on some diluted cleary sage oil and let the calming effects relax you. One study has shown that cleary sage has relaxing effects, even when facing a stressful situation. This flowering herb has a light, clean scent.
Warming clove might make you think of wintertime baked goods, but it’s also an excellent essential oil for its antimicrobial and pain-relieving effects. Clove is a common tooth-pain reliever in traditional medicine due to its analgesic effects and is one of the best essential oils for blocking cavity-causing bacteria. But be careful–clove oil is extremely strong and can burn if it’s not well diluted. Check with your vet before diffusing this oil around your pets since it can be toxic to cats and dogs.
Need a new cologne scent? Try combining cypress essential oil together with other woody scents like cedarwood and palo santo for a unique and earthy fragrance. Cypress oil may also have healing properties beyond its musky scent, such as effects against bacteria and microbes. Cypress oil is commonly used to treat warts and cold sores, but make sure to check with your doctor before using it to treat these conditions.
Another main ingredient in commercial cough suppressants, eucalyptus oil can be diluted and rubbed onto the chest or inhaled to help relieve coughs and help ease congestion. Make sure to keep this one topically and not diffused if you have pets around, as this oil can be dangerous for animals.
One of the gifts given by the three Wise Men in the bible, frankincense essential oil has a long history of use. The resin from Boswellia trees has been used to make frankincense essential oil for thousands of years on the Arabian Peninsula. Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, this oil may be useful for reducing pain from arthritis and improving asthma symptoms.
Commonly used in perfumes and cosmetics, geranium oil lends a light, fresh floral scent to any homemade lotion or perfume. Some research indicates that it might be helpful in reducing skin irritation and acne due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
This spicy, aromatic root has a number of health benefits due to its anti-inflammatory properties. The essential oil made from ginger has been less studied, but does appear to be effective at reducing inflammation when applied to the skin and at reducing nausea when inhaled.
Light and bright, grapefruit essential oil brings out the perfectly sweet and sour flavor of this citrus fruit. Like the other citrus oils, grapefruit oil causes photosensitivity and can cause skin burning where it comes in contact with the sun. If you apply this oil to skin not exposed to the sun or diffuse it around your home, it can be perfectly safe to brighten your mood and energize your senses. Make sure to check with your vet before diffusing this oil around your furry friends, as citrus oils can be dangerous for pets.
20. Holy Basil
Also known as Tulsi, you may have seen holy basil in tea-form claiming numerous health benefits. This plant isn’t the same as the basil you can easily buy in the grocery store, as holy basil is known to be stress relieving and cleansing for the spirit and mind in traditional cultures. Use this essential oil to treat insect bites or to add to an herbal diffusing blend for stressful days.
Stuffed up with a head cold? Try inhaling some hyssop essential oil, which has been used in folk medicine to reduce symptoms of a cold including sore throat and coughing. Combine this oil with others listed above like eucalyptus and camphor to make your own cough-relieving oil blend for cold and flu season.
Also known as Helichrysum Italicum, immortelle essential oil is made from the tiny yellow flowers grown on the Helichrysum plant. Many cosmetic and skin care companies add immortelle oil to their products due to its reported anti-aging effects. While there isn’t any clear research showing this effect, studies have shown that immortelle oil is anti-inflammatory, so it may be helpful against skin inflammation and other skin wounds. It’s honey and herbaceous floral scent would make a smart addition to a homemade face cream.
Looking for a classic floral scent to be the base of your homemade perfume? Look no further than jasmine essential oil. Usually sold as a pre-diluted oil blend due to the high cost of the pure essential oil, jasmine blends provide a strong floral scent even after being partially diluted. Look for “Jasmine Absolute” to make sure you are getting the true essential oil diluted in a carrier oil instead of “jasmine fragrance” which often includes other fragrance chemicals.
This essential oil is distilled from the same berries used to make the spirit, gin, lending the essential oil the same herbal-fruit flavor. Inhaling or diffusing juniper oil can promote relaxation and help you drift off to sleep. Combine it with oils like lavender and Roman chamomile for a sleepy-time blend.
If you want to start with just one essential oil, this should be it. Lavender essential oil is calming, promotes sleep, relaxation, and decreases anxiety. Numerous research studies have shown the benefit of smelling lavender essential oil or applying it to the skin for its calming and relaxing effects. On top of the health benefits of this oil, lavender has a floral, herbal scent that works as a subtle natural perfume.
The light citrus scent of lemon essential oil is refreshing and energizing, perfect for using in DIY cleaning supplies or diffusing into your bedroom on groggy mornings as a pick-me-up. Use this one only on skin not exposed to the sun, as the citrus oil can make skin photosensitive.
This essential oil with earthy undertones, yet reminiscent of lemons and other citrus, can be used to reduce inflammation. Inhaling the oil can help reduce headaches and has antimicrobial properties. It’s perfect to include as part of a yoga or gym mat cleaning spray to keep in your bag.
Combine lime essential oil with a coconut oil base for tropical and energizing vibes. It has antimicrobial properties, making if a perfect combination to join lemongrass in a yoga or gym mat cleaning spray or for use around your home as a natural cleaning agent.
29. Linden Blossom
Linden blossom essential oil might be hard to find, but this tiny white flower has a delicate floral scent you’ll love using as part of a natural perfume or to help promote relaxation and sleep. Combine it with water for a bedtime pillow spray or as part of a light DIY perfume.
Not just for cooking, marjoram is an herb that can be distilled into a sweet, herbal essential oil that decreases anxiety and promotes muscle relaxation. Combine it with other essential oils we’ve talked about on this list such as Linden blossom, lavender, and Roman chamomile to make a sleepy-time blend or a relaxing massage oil.
Another one of the gifts given by the Three Wise Men, this oil has a long history of use in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Myrrh oil is made from the dried sap of a tree and has a warm, dry and even smoky aroma. Like many other oils on our list, it is antibacterial. It was historically burned to cleanse the air of contagious diseases during ancient times.
Distilled from the flowers of bitter orange trees, neroli essential oil combines the scents of citrus with the lightness of floral aromas. Neroli oil is anti-inflammatory, making it potentially helpful for calming skin irritation. Neroli can also help to reduce stress and anxiety and can be combined with lavender and other soothing oils from our list for a homemade relaxing oil blend.
Delicious and warming flavors abound when you diffuse this nutty spice. Use nutmeg essential oil for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties in warming massage oils or diffused during cold and flu season. It’s a perfect cold-weather essential oil.
This oil is extremely strong and should always be well diluted before use. Oregano oil has potent antibacterial effects that appear to rival conventional antibiotic medications in some studies. Some doctors even use oregano oil as part of the treatment for gut infections such as small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO), but be sure to talk with your doctor before taking oregano oil internally, as it can be dangerous when taken incorrectly and can interact with other medications already prescribed.
35. Palo Santo
Distilled from the wood of the tree of the same name, palo santo is also known as ‘Holy Wood’, and has been used in traditional and spiritual medicine by the Incas. Use this sweet and woody scented essential oil in a blend for use during mindfulness and meditation practices.
This essential oil actually has a long list of benefits, including anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. Definitely check with your doctor before adding it to your next diffusing or skin blend, as patchouli oil can have blood thinning effects. Make sure to patch-test when using on your skin and diffuse in short bursts between getting fresh air to prevent side effects, and never use around pets or kids.
Peppermint essential oil is perfect to help perk you up out of an afternoon slump and revitalize your work or study day. Combine peppermint oil with eucalyptus oil for a minty, lung-opening scent when you have a stuffy nose or congested chest. Don’t diffuse this one around your pets to keep them safe from this strong oil.
Conjure visions of winter pine trees and holiday celebrations with just a drop of pine essential oil. This oil is excellent as an air freshener, bringing an invigorating aroma to any room. Use it sparingly and with caution, because it can cause reactions in adults and be dangerous for pets and kids.
A classic, familiar, floral scent, rose oil is the ultimate essential oil to add to homemade perfumes and grounding massage oils. Rose essential oil has anxiety and pain reducing effects, as well as antibacterial properties. This dreamy, romantic scented oil makes for an excellent component to a sensual massage oil. Like jasmine oil, true rose essential oil is very expensive and volatile, so you will most often find this as a rose oil blended with another neutral carrier oil like jojoba.
This woody herb is perfect for more than just seasoning your vegetables. Rosemary essential oil blocks the growth of bacteria and yeast in lab settings. Use this herbaceous oil for reducing stress levels and boosting your mood. Some people use it for enhancing concentration and learning so it can be a great gift for a student in your life.
Think beyond using sage to season your food and use this essential oil for its antimicrobial properties. Studies show that sage essential oil is able to prevent the growth of bacteria, even at relatively low concentrations (at least in lab settings), which is great news for any frugal essential oil users. This rich, herbaceous smelling oil pairs well with thyme and oregano. Keep in mind this is different from Clary sage, discussed earlier, which has a more fruity and floral scent.
This warm, woody oil is perfect to add to homemade soaps and fragrances and often acts as a base note to other fragrances. Add sandalwood essential oil to aromatherapy blends to support mood and quell anxiety. The rich, woody scent is also perfect to add to a massage oil, along with rose and ylang ylang.
A slightly sweeter scent than peppermint, spearmint is equally as bright and invigorating as its minty relatives. A great choice to dilute with water and vinegar for cleaning workout gear like yoga or gym mats, spearmint essential oil can be combined with other antibacterial oils like tea tree oil to make a cleaning solution with a scent to power you through your workouts.
44. Sweet Orange
This sweet-smelling citrus oil brings brightness to any room. More perfumed than the other citrus oils, sweet orange oil can brighten your mood and lower stress levels while also being anti-inflammatory. Like the other citrus oils, this one shouldn’t be used around pets or on skin that will be exposed to the sun.
45. Tea Tree
One of the most popular essential oils out there, tea tree oil has well studied antibacterial and antiviral effects, making it an excellent addition to hand sanitizers, cleaners, deodorant, or a minor cut salve. After lavender essential oil, this is our next highest “must have” essential oil for anyone starting their essential oil collection. Make sure to keep this one well away from pets, as it is toxic to dogs and cats.
Like many of the other green herbs (think sage, oregano, rosemary), thyme has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. On its own, thyme oil has limited evidence for treating any specific conditions, but can be used in combination with other oils to address skin irritation and minor infections. Like the other green herbs, thyme oil can be very strong and needs to be well diluted before use. It shouldn’t be used around kids or pets.
Distilled from the roots of a green grass related to lemongrass and citronella, vetiver essential oil has an earthy, herbal scent most commonly used in cologne. This oil can be diffused to promote mental alertness and focus. Dilute it to apply during a study session or your afternoon work slump.
True wintergreen essential oil may be difficult to find, but it contains an active ingredient that is similar to aspirin, used in traditional medicine as a pain-reliever. The research into the effectiveness of using this oil for pain has mixed results, but if you combine it with other refreshing oils like peppermint and eucalyptus, it can be part of a cooling massage oil for muscle and back pain. Be careful to avoid using this oil around kids or pets, and talk to your doctor before use as it can have blood thinning effects (much like its counterpart, aspirin).
Yarrow is used for anti-inflammatory and digestive health support. It may be effective at soothing burns and rashes when diluted and combined with other skin-soothing oils. Yarrow oil can also be diluted with a carrier oil to create of massage oil that’s soothing to joins. It has a subtle, herbal scent.
50. Ylang ylang
Made from the flowers of the Cananga odorata tree, this essential oil lends a sensual floral aroma to homemade blends. Said to promote relaxation and provide a romantic scent, ylang ylang oil is a perfect add-in for making your own sultry perfume, massage oil, or diffusing blend. Just make sure to keep this one away from pets as it can be harmful to them.
What are your favorite essential oils? How do you use them and in what combinations? Let us know in the comments!
Deans SG, Ritchie G. Antibacterial properties of plant essential oils. International journal of food microbiology. 1987;5(2):165-80.
Demetzos C, Katerinopoulos H, Kouvarakis A, et al. Composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of cistus creticus subsp. Eriocephalus. Planta Med. 1997;63(5):477-479.
Ehrnhöfer-Ressler MM, Fricke K, Pignitter M, et al. Identification of 1,8-cineole, borneol, camphor, and thujone as anti-inflammatory compounds in a salvia officinalis L. Infusion using human gingival fibroblasts. J Agric Food Chem. 2013;61(14):3451-3459.t
Essential Oils and Dogs | Pet Poison Helpline. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-safety-tips/essential-oils-dogs/. Accessed March 27, 2020.
Farag RS, Daw ZY, Hewedi FM, El-Baroty GS. Antimicrobial activity of some Egyptian spice essential oils. Journal of food protection. 1989;52(9):665-7.
Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils and other plant extracts. Journal of applied microbiology. 1999;86(6):985-90.
Kalemba DA, Kunicka A. Antibacterial and antifungal properties of essential oils. Current medicinal chemistry. 2003;10(10):813-29.
Nerio LS, Olivero-Verbel J, Stashenko E. Repellent activity of essential oils: a review. Bioresource technology. 2010;101(1):372-8.
Seol GH, Lee YH, Kang P, You JH, Park M, Min SS. Randomized controlled trial for salvia sclarea or lavandula angustifolia: Differential effects on blood pressure in female patients with urinary incontinence undergoing urodynamic examination. J Altern Complement Med. 2013;19(7):664-670.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.