The use of essential oils as a medicinal supplement continues to be a growing trend. You may have noticed how they’re popping up on every grocery store shelf and being distributed by multi-level marketing companies such as doTERRA and Young Living. In 2020, the market size value of essential oils reached 18.62 billion, and it is expected to grow 7.5% from 2020 to 2027.

But what are essential oils exactly? Are they truly capable of lowering feelings of stress and anxiety? Are they safe for everyday use? What other purposes do they have?

If you’re searching for more information on the essential oils craze, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to explore what exactly essential oils are, how much they cost, how to know if they’re pure, what you can use them for, and, of course, if they actually work.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oil scent sticks

Starting with the basics: Essential oils are natural essences extracted from plants through distillation or pressing, which people typically use for aromatherapy. It typically takes a large amount of plant matter to create a single bottle of essential oil. Once the essence is extracted, it is combined with a carrier oil for dilution to prevent skin irritation. A carrier oil is any type of vegetable oil, such as coconut or avocado. The most common essential oils are lemon, cinnamon, lemongrass oil, clary sage, lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, and rosemary.

Quality and Cost of Essential Oils

Determining the purity of essential oils matters. When purchasing any essential oils, the label should indicate whether or not the essential oil is mixed with other products. The purest essential oil is the one that is taken directly from the plant without any additives.

Additionally, the University of Minnesota (UMN) experts have noted that there are several ways the quality of essential oils can be affected, such as:

  • Plant condition: the use of pesticides can impact the plant’s chemical composition
  • Processing: some essential oils are not pure and may be mixed with other chemicals
  • Packaging and handling: the quality may decrease due to exposure to heat, light, or oxygen
  • Storage: oils should be stored in a cool, dark location to preserve their chemical composition

*Note: The UMN warns buyers that the United States does not currently regulate the quality of essential oils because they have yet to be classified as a drug or cosmetic by the FDA. You should always read the label’s information before purchasing essential oils or applying them to your skin.

Person holding an essential oil bottle

As for price, those at UMN claim that if the essential oils you are purchasing are inexpensive (less than $20), they are likely not pure and made only from plant material. The essential oil’s cost is dependent on the plant’s rarity from which it was harvested, the extracting process, and the amount of plant material required to produce enough oil. Prices also fluctuate due to supply and demand, as well as labels and packaging. HowStuffWorks states that an ounce of essential oil can cost anywhere from $5 to $800, with the purest essential oils having a higher price.

Furthermore, Hopkins Medicine advises looking at the label, evaluating the company, choosing dark containers, and comparing prices before making any purchases.

What Can Essential Oils Be Used for?

While essential oils are most commonly bought for their aromatic properties, they can also be used topically and internally. From cleaning supplies to mind and body care, essential oils can be used in a variety of ways.

1. Cleaning Supplies

Due to their chemical composition, some essential oils have antimicrobial qualities, which means they can kill various microorganisms and stop their growth. However, they should not be used on their own to kill germs and other bacteria, as they are not nearly as effective as CDC-approved cleaners and disinfectants. When creating a DIY cleaner with essential oil, it’s critical to understand the plant and its properties that the oil derived from. A handful of essential oils should not be used around pets, children younger than 12, pregnant women, or persons with certain medical conditions.

The most common essential oils used in cleaners are lemon, lime, wild orange, thyme, peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, rosemary, and cinnamon. You can create all-purpose cleaners, toilet scrubs, shower sprays, carpet refreshers, stain removers, and air fresheners with essential oils with these scents. For more ideas on how to incorporate essential oils into your cleaning supplies, visit Six Amazing Alternatives to Chemical Cleaners!

2. Mind

Mason jars essential oil aromatherapy device

Aromatherapy is defined as “inhalation or bodily application (as by massage) of fragrant essential oils (as from flowers and fruits) for therapeutic purposes.” It is a common practice that involves the use of essential oils for relaxation. Inhalation of essential oils is achieved through diffusers, humidifiers, and sprays moving the product throughout the air, which may have positive physiological and psychological effects. More on that in a bit!

3. Body

Topical application, or bodily application, is achieved when essential oils are absorbed through the skin. They can be used during massages or mixed in with existing skincare products. It is important to note that essential oils should always be diluted by a carrier oil prior to skin application. As with any other product, do an allergy test before applying anything to your skin.

Do Essential Oils Work?

Many have claimed to experience various medical benefits from the use of essential oils. Despite that, essential oils cannot necessarily “cure” ailments and illnesses. However, essential oils are mood elevators and stress relievers with calming properties. When using them correctly, you may experience relief from:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Sadness
  • Sinus infections
  • Sore muscles
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia

Many essential oils should not be directly inhaled or swallowed, as they’re toxic when ingested. Be sure to research the specific oil you intend to use before combining it with other oils and products or using it for medicinal purposes.

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Now that you know more about essential oils and may consider using them as cleaners or part of a wellness regimen, you might be wondering what you'll need to use them. Well, wonder no more! Need a sprayer cap for your homemade essential oil cleaner? We got it! Ideas on how to incorporate aromatherapy into the school day? We’ve got you covered! But that’s not all—for more DIYs, stories, and recipes, visit our Get Inspired page!