Internal Use of Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter I post in the #AtoZChallenge. My series is about aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I have a quick post for you on the safety (or lack thereof) of using essential oils internally. Are essential oils safe to ingest? The short answer: no!

Essential oils are highly concentrated. This means that, just because you can safely consume, say, orange juice, doesn’t mean orange essential oil is safe to ingest. It is not!

Aren’t essential oils used in food? Yes, they are. For example, candy canes may contain a tiny amount of peppermint essential oil. Candy canes and other industrially-manufactured foods that may contain essential oils, though, are produced in such large amounts that a drop of essential oil doesn’t nearly have the same effect as it would when you added it to your food.

Can you add essential oils to your drinking water, even just a drop? No, don’t! They really aren’t safe to ingest, not even a drop.

So why do certain companies, like Young Living and dōTERRA, advocate the internal use of essential oils? I honestly don’t know. It’s probably a way of making their essential oils sound better than other companies’. In reality though, I wouldn’t trust a company whose safety advice goes against that of major aromatherapy associations such as the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.

Can you use essential oils in lip products or toothpaste? I’d say no. Again, some cosmetic product manufacturers will put essential oils into their products and some companies say that some of their oils are safe for lip products. However, if you aren’t well-educated on aromatherapy, I recommend you don’t take the risk. I personally don’t! Instead, I will always use food grade flavor oils.

Hazardous Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter H post in the #AtoZChallenge on aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I will talk about hazardous essential oils. I will also talk some about the risks of generally safe essential oils.

There are some oils you should definitely not use. These include bitter almond, boldo leaf, deertongue, sassafras and garlic. See a more complete list on AromaWeb.

However, you should not assume that an oil is safe just because it doesn’t appear on the list. For example, birch oil can make people very ill. Some people will use it for its phenomenal painkilling properties, but I wouldn’t recommend taking the risk. Birch oil used to appear on the AromaWeb list I linked above. So did wintergreen, which is now commonly used in diffuser blends.

In general, pregnant women should be cautious about using essential oils. While some oils are safe to use in pregnancy, the list of oils that can affect the unborn baby, is long.

Never apply essential oils on the skin undiluted by a carrier oil. Many essential oils, though, can be irritating to the skin even when diluted. These include citrus oils such as lemon and bergamot, peppermint oil, spicy essential oils such as cinnamon and clove, etc. AromaWeb has another list of skin irritant oils. Oils that are photosensitizing will cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight. Phototoxic oils are even worse, in that they can cause severe sunburn.

Even with generally skin-safe essential oils, it is recommended to do a patch test (applying the diluted essential oil to a small spot on the skin) before using an essential oil in baths or for general massage. After all, you may get irritated skin from or develop an allergic reaction to any oil.

Lastly, there are some other risks to using essential oils. For example, clary sage essential oil should not be used when you’ve consumed alcohol because of its sedative properties. Certain oils, such as ylang ylang, can cause a headache when inhaled over a prolonged time. Finally, oils such as fennel and hyssop may not be safe for people with seizure disorders.

In general, if you have any chronic medical conditions, you should be extra cautious when using essential oils. I’ve also heard that essential oils can interact with medications or natural remedies. I haven’t personally experienced such interactions as far as I know.

Geranium Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter G post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. For this letter, I will talk about geranium. This is one of my less favorite scents, but when blended appropriately, it can definitely be beneficial.

Geranium is originally not native to Europe or the Americas. It originates from Africa and was introduced to Europe in the seventeenth century. Currently, it is cultivated all over the world. Geranium essential oil is sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s rose oil”, because it has similar properties to rose essential oil but is much more affordable.

The most common geranium species used for its essential oil is Pelargonium graveolens. Geranium essential oil is distilled from the leaves and flowers of the plant. It has a sweet, floral aroma, which comes from its constituent geranyl formate. Other chemical constituents of geranium essential oil include Linalool, Citronellol and Geraniol. The preferred variety of geranium essential oil by aromatherapists is Bourbon geranium, as it has a smell preferrable to others.

In aromatherapy, geranium essential oil is used for the reduction of feelings of anxiety, sadness and fatigue and to promote general wellbeing. It is also known to help with concentration and cognitive function.

Used topically on the skin, geranium essential oil is known to help eliminate dead skin cells and regenerate new ones. It is known to help tighten the skin and, as such, reduce effects of aging such as sagging and wrinkles. Geranium essential oil is also used in the promotion of healthy hair growth.

Geranium essential oil is a gentle and relatively safe oil to use. However, pregnant women are advised to be cautious with this oil, as it effects hormone balance and it is not known how this oil might effect their unborn child.

Geranium essential oil blends well with most other oils. I like to blend it with calming oils such as lavender and clary sage when I want a relaxing effect. It however also blends well with citrus oils. When creating diffuser blends, I personally like to add only one or two drops of geranium essential oil into my blends, as I don’t really like its scent when it’s too strong.

Frankincense #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter F post in the #AtoZChallenge. I focus my A to Z posts on aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I want to talk about frankincense.

Frankincense is a resin (highly viscose substance that the plant uses to protect itself) derived from any of five species of Boswellia. It is used in both incense and in perfume-making or aromatherapy.

Frankincense has been used ever since at least 1500 BC. It was introduced to western Europe by the Franks, who had found it on their journeys to the eastern Roman empire. The name, though, doesn’t refer to the Franks, but is derived from the old French word for high quality incense.

Frankincense has been claimed to have medicinal benefits for many centuries. In traditional Chinese medicine, frankincense and myrrh combined are used for their antimicrobial and blood moving properties. In Persian medicine, frankincense was used for diabetes and stomach ulcers.

Frankincense essential oil is produced via steam distillation of the resin from a Boswellia plant. I only own Boswellia Carterii essential oil.

Frankincense essential oil has a fresh and fruity yet warm, woodsy and spicy scent. It is a stimulating essential oil and can be used to clear the mind and increase focus.

When applied to the skin in massage oils or other skincare products, it is supposed to help prevent skin aging and help with dry skin.

Frankincense essential oil blends well with citrus oils such as lime, lemon and orange. It also blends well with oils such as lavender, geranium, ylang ylang and woodsy oils such as cypress and sandalwood.

Please note that some species of Boswellia are near threatened status. Although they are exempt from the international regulations on trading endangered plants or animals, it may be advised to take their rarity into account when buying frankincense.

Eucalyptus Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter E post in my #AtoZChallenge on aromatherapy. Today I will share what I know about eucalyptus essential oil.

Let me start by saying that my use of the singular word “oil” when referring to eucalyptus, is incorrect. There are several types of essential oils derived from different species of eucalyptus. These various types of eucalyptus essential oil are similar, but still each have their own somewhat different uses. The most common types of eucalyptus used in aromatherapy are eucalyptus globulus, eucalyptus radiata, lemon eucalyptus and peppermint eucalyptus (eucalyptus dives). I only own eucalyptus globulus.

Eucalyptus oils that contain large amounts of cineole should not be used on children under age ten. These include eucalyptus globulus and eucalyptus radiata. Lemon eucalyptus and eucalyptus dives can be used on children age two and up.

According to Valerie Ann Worwood, in her book The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, eucalyptus radiata is the safest essential oil out of the various eucalyptus species to be used by people with chronic health conditions.

Eucalyptus is perhaps best known for its effectiveness in relieving common cold symptoms such as a stuffy nose. However, it also has antiviral and other antimicrobial properties. It also works as a natural pain reliever, particularly for arthritis.

According to Worwood, eucalyptus helps relief sunburn and cools the body in summer. By contrast, in winter, eucalyptus warms the body and keeps infection at bay.

Eucalyptus has a fresh, somewhat sharp scent. The aroma of eucalyptus globulus, the one I own, is described as herbaceous, menthol and camphorous with woodsy undertones. Personally, I never thought of it as a camphorous scent (that reminds me of cinnamon, but I might be wrong). It has deodorizing properties.

Eucalyptus, particularly the lemon variety, can be used as an insect repellant. Eucalyptus essential oil is energizing and helps with focus and concentration.

Eucalyptus essential oil blends well with lemon and other citrus oils, rosemary, peppermint and tea tree essential oil. If you want to sleep peacefully and breathe easily at the same time, blend eucalyptus essential oil with lavender. It also blends well with woodsy essential oils such as cedarwood or sandalwood.

Do you like the scent of eucalyptus?

Diffusing Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter D post in the #AtoZChallenge. My theme for this challenge is aromatherapy and today, I’ll talk about one of the most common ways of using essential oils: diffusing.

When I first started using essential oils, oil lamps were still popular. These use a tealight under the essential oil bowl. Other options were aroma stones, which you were supposed to lay on the heating. However, heat can alter the effects of the essential oil and is, for this reason, not recommended.

When I first got my own essential oil diffuser, it was a nebulizer that works with a fan. Then, about a year and a half ago, I got an ultrasonic diffuser. This is a diffuser in which you add water and essential oils. Ultrasonic waves then convert the water and oil into a fine mist. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of diffusers:


  • Fan-based nebulizers are more expensive than ultrasonic diffusers.
  • They also are usually louder. My nebulizer’s fan made a horrible noise, while the only sound my ultrasonic diffuser makes, is a slight bubbling of the water.

  • You don’t need to clean fan-based nebulizers. Rather, you remove the oil filter or switch off the bottle of oil. My nebulizer had oil filters, but I’ve heard there are also diffusers to which you attach a bottle of essential oil directly. Ultrasonic diffusers need to be cleaned occasionally. I heard various things about how to clean a diffuser. I personally fill about half the diffuser’s container with water and then add a bit of white vinegar. Then I turn on the diffuser for five to ten minutes. I finally have it on with just water to clear out the vinegar smell.


I, to be honest, prefer my ultrasonic diffuser because it’s quieter than the fan.

There are many brands of diffusers. Some ultrasonic diffusers are as cheap as €15. Mine cost about €40. My AromaStream® fan-based nebulizer cost about €60.

Ultrasonic diffusers also come in various sizes. Mine has a container of at most 300ml water, which is enough to diffuse essential oils into a large bedroom or normal living room. The diffuser size determines how many drops of essential oil you can use in it. With a 300ml diffuser like mine, 10-12 drops is recommended.

Many essential oil diffusers have other uses besides diffusing essential oil. For example, mine has LED lights in it too, so it doubles as a night light. I’ve also heard of an essential oil diffuser with a Bluetooth speaker in it. I think that’s awesome!

Carrier Oils in Aromatherapy #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter C post in my #AtoZChallenge on aromatherapy. Today, I will be discussing carrier oils.

Carrier oils, also sometimes called base oils, are the oils used to dilute essential oils into when using essential oils in skincare products. After all, undiluted essential oils are irritating to the skin. Please note the following differences between essential oils and carrier oils:


  1. Essential oils are derived from the aromatic components of the plant, such as leaves, bark and root. Carrier oils come from the fatty portions of the plant, such as the seeds.

  2. Essential oils retain the characteristic odor of the plant. Carrier oils do not, at least not very strongly.

  3. Essential oils evaporate easily (hence producing their characteristic scent). Carrier oils do not evaporate as easily.

  4. Carrier oils can go rancid over time. Essential oils do not, but they will oxidize and lose their therapeutic benefits.

Carrier oils are natural vegetable oils derived from the fatty portions of plants, usually the seeds, kernels or nuts. The name “carrier oil” comes from their function in carrying the essential oils onto the skin. Aloe vera gel can also be used as a carrier, but it isn’t an oil. I will be focusing on oils here. Below are some examples of carrier oils.

1. Sweet almond oil. One of the most commonly-used carrier oils, because it is widely available in organic form. It is relatively affordable, all-purpose and has a shelf life of 1-2 years.

2. Grape seed oil. A relatively all-purpose oil in skincare or massage. However, it is not often available in pure, organic form. It also has a rather short shelf life of only 6-12 months.

3. Coconut oil. This comes either in a virgin form or as a fractionated oil, which means it has been distilled to contain only the medium chain triglycerides. Fractionated coconut oil is odorless and highly stable. Virgin coconut oil still contains the aroma of coconuts and can, as a result, be used to create this scent.

4. Apricot kernel oil. This is an oil that is in many ways similar to sweet almond oil. However, it is lighter in texture and viscosity and is absorbed into the skin relatively quickly.

I have so far only used sweet almond and apricot kernel oils.

In addition to carrier oils, butters can also be used in skincare products, such as body butter or lip balm. Butters include mango butter, cocoa butter and sometimes coconut oil can be thick enough to be used as a butter. I love to combine cocoa butter, coconut oil and sweet almond oil into a body butter.

Blending: Essential Oils in Synergy #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter B post in my #AtoZChallenge, in which I discuss aromatherapy and natural healing. Today, I will discuss the principles of aromatherapeutic blending.

Most people who know a bit about essential oils, will know that they often aren’t used singly, but rather in combination. That is, when I first bought essential oils, I used single oils only, because I was clueless about blending. Besides, being blind, I found it hard to count the number of drops I put in my diffuser, so I would just give the bottle a shake and hope something came out.

Now, I rarely if ever use single oils in my diffuser or in my homemade skincare products. However, you may be wondering, why not? What is the advantage of using essential oils in combination?

The simple answer might be that, just as with perfume, combinations of essential oils smell better (when done correctly) than the single scent. However, experience also shows that one oil can complement or strengthen another’s therapeutic benefits. This is called synergy.

According to Jennifer Peace Rhind, the author of Aromatherapeutic Blending: Essential Oils in Synergy, the first known example of synergistic blending of plant components dates back to ancient Egypt, around 1500 BC. The Egyptians used combinations of myrrh and frankincense. So did traditional Chinese healers when treating blood stagnation and inflammation.

Indeed, the author says, synergistic effectiveness of different essential oils has been proven in the lab, at least in some contexts. She said that a combination of frankincense and myrrh was shown to have significantly better antimicrobial properties than either alone.

Similarly, ayurvedic medicine uses combinations of herbs in its traditional treatment of illnesses. Jennifer Peace Rhind says that, indeed, the combination of for example ginger and long pepper has shown to have synergistic benefits. This might be because compounds in one prevent breakdown and enhance absorption of the other.

The first person to describe the effects of aromatic essences on anxiety and depression was Paolo Rovesti in the 1970s. He, however, also noted that combinations of oils work better than one oil on its own.

One of the reasons for this could be that single essential oils when not diluted often have a very strong odor. This may be experienced as unpleasant. When combined, though, essential oils’ odor may be more pleasant. If nothing else, essential oil blends are more pleasing to the senses than single oils and, as a result, contribute to mental wellbeing. After all, no-one is going to feel better when smelling an odor they don’t like!

So is there any evidence for synergy? Well, insofar as there is evidence for aromatherapy, that is. It seems there is, if for no other reason, then because essential oils are themselves a mixture of compounds. Peace Rhind cites a study in which various components of lavender essential oils were proven to work together against anxiety in animals.

Interestingly, essential oil blending is much more complex than the simple idea that certain oils promote one another’s effects. After all, Peace Rhind says, certain oils work together (synergy) at certain doses but work against each other (antagonism) at other doses. The author explains a way of plotting the effectiveness of essential oil blends in a graph. I won’t get into this though, as I barely understand it myself.

Aromatherapy: An Introduction #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day one in the #AtoZChallenge, in which I talk about aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I’ll share a brief introduction to what aromatherapy is. In future posts, I’ll go deeper into the different uses of aromatherapy and essential oils.

Aromatherapy is a form of complementary or alternative medicine in which essential oils and other plant compounds are used in the promotion of health and wellness. Essential oils are natural oils typically extracted by distillation and having the characteristic odor of the plant. They are therefore also known as aromatic oils. They are, for clarity’s sake, not the same as fragrance or perfume oils. Though perfume oils are also often created from partly natural ingredients, they don’t offer the therapeutic benefits of essential oils.

Aromatherapy has probably been practisedforever. Hippocrates, the “father of modern medicine”, promoted it some 2,500 years ago.

However, according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), the term “aromatherapy” (or “aromathérapie” in French) wasn’t introduced till 1937. It was first used by the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé. According to the NAHA, Gattefossé is most well-known (within the field of aromatherapy, I suppose) for an incident in which he burned his hand and then put it in a vat of lavender, which prevented the otherwise inevitible scarring.

Essential oils are the most commonly used component of a plant in aromatherapy. However, aromatherapists also use carrier oils (which are used to dilute essential oils), hydrosols (or floral waters) and other parts of the plant. I will get to these later in this series.

In this series, I will also be discussing the various essential oils I know about. Please note that not all essential oils are equal. Quality may be an issue, which I’ll get to later. However, as the author of AromaWeb says, there are many different oils grouped together that may come from different plants. For example, both eucalyptus globulus and eucalyptus radiata are often referred to as “eucalyptus”. Same for Atlas cedarwood and Virginia cedarwood, which are actually very different plants. In this series, I will group together various oils that have related properties and constituents. After all, if I were to describe each oil individually, I could have half a dozen A to Z Challenges filled up.

#AtoZChallenge 2021 Announcement!

Hi all! Ever since 2010, the challenge of blogging from A to Z in April has been a thing. I didn’t find out about it until 2015 and then participated on my old blog with the topic of autism. I participated again successfully in 2016, this time with mental health as my theme. In 2017, I barely even started. I blame my chosen topic, which was autism again in the midst of my undergoing reassessment for it. In 2018 and 2019, I had no topic and both times didn’t finish the challenge either.

Last year, I didn’t officially have a theme, but unofficially it was self-care. I finally finished the challenge again, having decided on an only tangentially related topic for my letter X post well in advance. As one of my commenters said, you have to know your letter X word first.

Usually, the official master list for participants goes live sometime in January and there’s a designated theme reveal at the end of March for those who’ve chosen a topic. Not so this year. The theme reveal list went live last week, while the participants’ master list won’t go live until March 29. I’m not sure why this is. This did leave me with a kind of dilemma though, because I hadn’t decided on a theme and usually only decide on one at the last moment, even though I have topics running through my mind practically the entire year. Since the theme reveal sign-up will close on March 20, let’s consider this my theme reveal post.

Like I said, last year I had self-care as my unofficial topic. This year, I’m going to do a sort of similar theme. My theme is health and wellness. I intend on giving a lot of focus to aromatherapy and related topics, but to cover those letters that would otherwise be too hard, I’ll broaden my theme.

Let me say up front that I’m not an aromatherapist or alternative medicine practitioner. I am not even sure I believe in aromatherapy beyond its obvious effects of creating a nice smell. I am not a researcher or scientist and I don’t have the skills to review scientific literature, nor do I have the means to access it or the will to read it. I do find alternative medicine interesting though to learn about. That’s why I chose this as my topic. As such, please do take the health claims that aromatherapy or natural medicine make and which I may share about here, with a grain or several of salt.

Are you participating in the #AtoZChallenge this year? If you don’t know about it and are interested in signing up, check out its homepage.