Essential oils are powerful plant extracts, creating a path to well-being that we at Heritage Oils are committed to helping you discover.
Australia’s contribution to the world of essential oils is relatively small with one of its most recognised essential oils being Eucalyptus. Prior to European settlement, Indigenous Australians used oil from native plants for beverages, medicines and food. Early settlers took advantage of the oil containing plants from native species like Tea Tree for medicinal purposes and then in the early 19th century commercial production of Australian essential oils commenced. Australia now has the capacity to expand further in growing and manufacturing essential oils from both native and introduced species.
At the crossroads of cutting-edge research, Heritage Oils has created a wide range of essential oils based products, solutions that empower you to avoid using harmful chemicals, enrich your life and help toward relieving stress. Reclaim your natural harmony.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for cosmetic, health and medicinal purposes as well as for their spiritual and emotional uplifting properties.
Essential oils are the volatile compounds extracted from aromatic plant parts such as flowers, leaves, fruit rinds, seeds, nuts, roots or bark. Essential oils are extracted via a number of methods such as steam or hydro distillation, solvent extraction and CO2 extraction. They are highly concentrated, highly volatile, beneficial secondary metabolites that serve as the defence mechanism of the plant. Each essential oil can contain anywhere from just a few to hundreds of chemical constituents, making them complex and vibrant!
Using the sun’s energy, soil, air and water, a perfectly balanced blend of complex components is created. Each essential oil has its own individual character, an absolutely unique identity based on it’s complex chemical makeup. Their potency allows them to be used in small quantities with beneficial and effective results. The combination of numerous elements gives each oil its individual fragrance along with its particular beneficial and healing properties.
Essential oils can help balance and support the body to heal itself. Research has shown that essential oils may help fight infection, contain balancing compounds and aid regeneration. They possess antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. The molecules of essential oils are lipid soluble and relatively small, giving them the ability to penetrate the mucous membranes lining the lungs and travel throughout the body quickly when inhaled.
Essential oils can be used for many areas of your health and well-being, such as to enhance mood and feeling of wellbeing, energise or relax, support healthy immune system, skin and respiratory systems, purify the air, promote focus and concentration, improve sleep, support joints and muscles, in skin care, hair care and body care.
For those new to the wonderful world of using premium-quality essential oils for health and well-being, the subject of safe usage is of the highest importance. This entails how to use your essential oils in a safe and sustainable manner, to gain the most benefit from them and without harm.
For those seeking natural alternatives, we can embrace an integrated perspective and approach using these amazing, healing oils. But there is also the need for realistic expectations. Essential oils are often touted as a “cure-all”, and they are truly wonderful but they are not intended to replace medical care, instead they complement it. In the case of serious health conditions, always consult with your general practitioner before embarking on the essential oil journey, to ensure that it is safe to do so. Additionally, consider seeking the help of an experienced, qualified Aromatherapist.
There is a lot of information on Aromatherapy out there, with many differing opinions and conflicting information regarding essential oils and how best to use them. It is easy to be overwhelmed! But with basic information, practical common sense and ignoring the hype, we can safely explore the numerous benefits and uses of essential oils for many areas of your health and well-being.
With safety firmly in mind, the home user can navigate the world of aromatherapy with care and minimal risk, and see the beneficial role Aromatherapy can play in their life. Adverse reactions can and do occur, however this often occurs with inappropriate usage (such as using undiluted essential oils directly on the skin, or incorrect dilution). These are unpleasant experiences but are generally short lived and the knowledge gained becomes helpful for future learnings and application.
Key Safety Considerations:
If you are new to using essential oils, we highly recommend starting slowly, remembering that these oils are highly concentrated and a little will go a long way! Essential oils are natural but can still cause harm if misused.
There are three basic ways to use essential oils:
The easiest and simplest way of enjoying essential oils is through inhalation. This can mean using an aromatic diffuser to purify the air of your home, an aromatherapy nasal inhaler to help with congested sinuses, a drop on a tissue tucked into your sleeve or pillow case or simply enjoying the aroma straight from the bottle by wafting it under your nose.
Essential oils are concentrated and highly volatile, and readily transform from their liquid state to vapour, which is why you can often smell them immediately after taking the lid from an essential oil bottle. Their aromatic molecules are practically leaping out of the bottle!
Through our sense of smell, it is believed that once the aromatic molecules of the essential oils enter your nose and olfactory system, they activate the smell receptors in your nose, which then send messages to interact with central nervous system and the brain (limbic system), to then cause effect or change in the body both physically or psychologically. It is thought there is interaction with areas of the brain to have an effect on your emotions and physical body, such as by stimulating release of feel-good brain chemicals. In this way they can have a quick effect on the body’s nervous system, mood, sleep, memory, focus, even nausea and vomiting.
Additionally the aromatic molecules can be absorbed by the mucous membrane of the nose and lungs. The molecules of essential oils are lipid soluble and relatively small, giving them the ability to penetrate the mucous membranes of the lungs, be absorbed into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body in the blood.
The benefits of inhalation are endless. Our sense of smell is a very powerful thing and can bring about many beneficial responses, physically and psychologically.
Through inhalation various essential oils may uplift and brighten your mood, calm and soothe emotions and nerves, invigorating and energise your mind and body, focus your mind, assist with nighttime routines, boost immunity and assist with ailments during the winter months, cleanse and purify the air, eliminate odours, or simply to aromatically scent your home.
The benefits of inhalation are numerous, and there are different methods of enjoying them. Here are a few to consider:
b. Topical Use
Using essential oils on the skin (diluted of course!) is another wonderful way to enjoy their benefits. Essential oils can be used topically for many different reasons, in skin, body and hair care products, body scrubs, massage or body oils, liniments for digestive and respiratory systems support, muscle and joints, natural perfumes, emotional support, bath oils, soothing irritated skin, acute skin care.
Through topical application the aromatic molecules can be absorbed by the mucous membrane of nose and lungs, or by the skin. The molecules of essential oils are lipid soluble and relatively small, giving them the ability to penetrate skin cells and travel throughout the body in the blood.
For topical use, dilution is key! Appropriate dilution will lessen the risk of adverse skin reactions, keeping your skin safe and saving your precious essential oils.
If you are using an essential oil or blend for the first time, start with a low dilution to ensure it does not cause irritation.
But first let’s talk dilution!
Diluting essential oil before using them on the skin is highly recommended for two very important reasons. To keep you and your family safe by minimising the occurrence of skin reactions, and systemic complications or toxicity.
Aromatherapy safety experts note that there is no reason to use essential oils undiluted on the skin as they work just as effectively when diluted. Other benefits of dilution are the minimising the risk of adverse reactions (which is affected by concentration), reducing wastage of your precious essential oils by using less, preventing the fast evaporation of undiluted essential oils off your skin allowing the essential oils to absorb into the skin more readily.
The easiest medium to use to dilute is a Carrier Oil (also known as fixed oil, base oil or vegetable oil). Other mediums are unscented body cream or lotion, balms and butters, liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners.
A word of caution – essential oil and water do not mix! Essential oils are hydrophobic, therefore will not disperse in water without help, and will always float to the top and reform as a pool of essential oil no matter how much the mix is shaken or stirred. So if you are creating an essential oil body spray using distilled water or a hydrosol, you’ll need a solubilizer or a perfumer’s alcohol to ensure the essential oil is properly dispersed. An alternative, which helps to a degree is Witch Hazel, containing a portion of alcohol.
To ensure you have the information you need to safely dilute your essential oils to use on the skin, below are our basic guidelines.
Below is a sample topical dilution chart to get you started. The vertical row on the left notes the amount of the carrier oil, and the horizontal column at the top notes the dilution rate. An example of how to use – say you’d like to create a 10ml pulse point with 3% dilution of essential oil. Firstly I go to the 10ml row on the Carrier Oils column, then look across to the right until I find the 3% column. In that box where the two meet is the number of drops I can use in my pulse point. In this example it’s 5 drops!
Essential Oil Topical Dilution Chart
|Essential Oil Dilution – Number of Drops|
Suggested dilution rates for different applications
1% dilution is recommended for sensitive skin, facial use, children
2% dilution is recommended for bath products, whole body massage and regular daily use in an adult
3% dilution is recommended for specific situations, mid to short term usage
5% dilution is recommended for localised acute situations, short term usage
When diluting essential oils to use on the skin, there are a number of factors that need to be considered to work out what dilution rate to use:
Below are some suggested dilution rates based on age and health status:
|Babies – 6-24 mths||0.25%||0.5%|
|Child – 2-6 years||0.5%||2.0%|
|Child – 5-15 years||1.5%||3.0%|
|15 year +||2.5%||5.0%|
|Elderly, Sensitive Skin and compromised health||0.5%||1.0%|
|Short Term Acute in healthy adult||3.0%||5.0%|
Carrier Oils (also known as fixed oil, base oil or vegetable oil) is a term commonly given to a lipid base oil regularly used to dilute essential oils. They are an important element of Aromatherapy and within the skin, body and hair care industry.
Carrier oils in their own right are nourishing and hydrating to the skin, making them a wholesome addition when blending with essential oils. In addition to their reducing the risk for adverse skin reactions, they are thought to assist with the absorption of the essential oils into the skin , especially by reducing their volatility, they allow you to easily control the concentration of essential oils used, allow the extension of essential oils, helping them go further and allowing them to be applied to larger areas of the body.
There are many carrier oils to choose from, such as Sandalwood Nut Oil, Jojoba, Macadamia Nut, Sweet Almond and Camellia. Carrier oils are produced from kernels, seeds, nuts, grains, fruit, legumes and beans of the plant world, extracted through cold pressing, expeller pressing or solvent extraction and hale from all over the world. They contain essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients.
Here we can also include infused oils (where the herb or seed is macerated and infused into a base oil) such as Calendula, Arnica and Carrot.
Each carrier oil or infused oil has its own individual wealth of skin loving and therapeutic properties. Some are excellent for nourishing dry skin (such as Rosehip, Avocado and Argan oils), some have anti-inflammatory properties (such as Calendula infused oil, Arnica infused oil and Sweet Almond), whilst others are excellent for mature skin and fine lines (such as Argan, WA Sandalwood Nut and Rosehip).
Like essential oils, carrier oils will degrade and spoil in the presence of heat, oxygen and light. To ensure the quality of your carrier oils and avoid spoilage, we recommend storing in dark glass bottles, with airtight lids, away from heat and direct light. Refrigeration is recommended.
For more information on the individual carrier oils and their uses, please see their webstore entries. (link to carrier oil page)
c. Internal Use
Heritage Oils does not advocate the ingestion of essential oils, unless under the care of a suitably qualified healthcare practitioner.
Whilst essential oils are used in some commercial food for flavouring and in medicinal preparations, of the many essential oils that are currently available, there are relatively few that are suitable for this purpose, and even then the essential oils are processed in appropriate ways and used in minute amounts because of their potency. It has been suggested that one drop of Roman Chamomile is equivalent to over 30 cups of chamomile tea.
Internal usage of essential oils without the proper education or guidance comes with risks. There is the potential of causing stomach irritation, mucus membrane irritation, ulceration, and sensitisation of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and stomach lining. Additionally the effect on the intestinal microbiota needs to be considered, along with the potential stress put on the body’s metabolic processes, especially over the long term.
Further to this, Heritage Oils also do not recommend adding essential oils into water to drink. Essential oils are lipid loving and will not mix or dilute into water. Because of this, the essential oils will float on the top of the water, meaning that you are effectively drinking undiluted essential oil. Again, there is the potential for causing mucous membrane irritation, burns, damage as noted above.
d. 7 Simple Ways to Use Essential Oils in Your Home
Add one or two drops of essential oils onto a tissue. Hold under your nose and inhale as needed. Alternatively use an aromatherapy nasal inhaler.
For a 100-150ml capacity diffuser – add 3 to 5 drops of essential oil to the water filled water tank. Diffuser for 15-30 minutes at a time, taking a break 15-30 minutes in between. Diffuse in well ventilated areas.
Add 5 drops of essential oil into a 10ml pulse point bottle and top with your preferred carrier oil. This will make a 2.5% dilution. Apply the inner wrists, behind ears, back of neck, chest and collar bones, or to the area needed.
Add 15 drops of essential oil into a 30ml of your preferred carrier oil. This will make a 2.5% dilution. Use as a massage oil, body oil or even hair treatment oil.
Add up to 4 drops of essential oils to 20ml of your preferred carrier oil. Combine and add to your bath. Note that carrier oil may make bath slippery. Avoid using skin irritating essential oils. If available a solubilizer can be used to help disperse the essential oil into the water. Avoid adding undiluted essential oils to bath water.
Add 20-30 drops of essential oil to 100ml distilled water, hydrosol, floral water or witch hazel in a spray top bottle. Shake well before spraying. If available a solubilizer can be used to help disperse the essential oil into the water.
Add a few drops of your favourite essential oils or blend to a wet face cloth and pop in the corner of your shower. The heat will allow the aroma to rise up in the steam!
I see the term “carrier oil” used in several places. What is a carrier oil, what does it do, and why should I use it?
A carrier oil, also known as a fixed or base oil, is a vegetable oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, rosehip oil or jojoba oil, that can be used as a medium to dilute essential oils. Carrier oils ensure that essential oils applied topically are comfortable to the skin and reduce the risk of adverse skin reactions. Dilution with a carrier oil does not dilute the effect of the essential oil and prevents waste due to excessive application. Carrier oils are useful in their own right, as they can protect and nourish the skin. See our section on Topical usage for further information. See our section on Carrier Oils for further information.
What is “hot oil”?
“Hot oil” is not a technical aromatherapy term, but a phrase created amongst essential oils users or companies to depict essential oils that can cause a hot or warming, or even burning and irritating sensation when applied to the skin, especially when not diluted appropriately. Examples of “hot oils” may include Cinnamon, Clove, Oregano, Lemon Myrtle or Lemongrass where application may cause a hot or burning sensation, especially when not diluted appropriately. Another example of this is Peppermint’s cooling sensation that can be too intense for some people. These generally are essential oils that require heavy dilution to ensure their safety on the skin and to avoid adverse reactions.
If you experience a hot or burning sensation or develop a rash, according to the Tisserand Institute, wash the skin in an unperfumed soap and water, then expose the affected area to air to allow for the essential oil to evaporate. After this, an oatmeal bath may assist to sooth the area, along with application of a barrier cream (unscented) or carrier oil. If irritation persists, seek medical attention.
Heritage Oils recommends always highly dilute these essential oils if applying them to the skin, and avoid using them in a hot bath. See the individual essential oil pages for further safety information.
What if I experience skin discomfort or irritation?
If discomfort or irritation, redness or itching occurs, stop using the essential oil immediately. Some essential oils can irritate the skin, especially if they aren’t sufficiently diluted, or where old/oxidised essential oils are used. According to the Tisserand Institute, wash the skin in an unperfumed soap, then rinse under running water. Expose the affected area to air to allow for the essential oil to evaporate (avoiding direct sunlight). After this, an oatmeal bath may assist to sooth the area, along with application of a barrier cream (unscented) or carrier oil. If irritation persists, seek medical attention.
Another adverse reaction to essential oils to be aware of is sensitisation. This is where the body sets up an immune response to an essential oil, which can lead to an allergic reaction. This reaction can be immediate but more commonly it is a delayed reaction, meaning it may occur after several uses, and the reaction may worsen with further usage. This unfortunately means that it is likely that the individual will be sensitive to that particular essential oil on an ongoing basis.
The best preventative of skin irritations and sensitisation when using essential oils is to not use undiluted essential oils on the skin, be aware of which essential oils pose a greater risk than others and use them with caution on the skin and in the bath, avoid using the same essential oils for long periods of time.
For further information on adverse reactions and what to do if you experience one, the Tisserand Institute website is an excellent resource – https://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/what-to-do-when-experiencing-an-adverse-reaction/
Can essential oils be applied to sensitive areas?
Heritage Oils recommends avoiding the use of essential oils on sensitive areas such as eyes, ears, genitals, inside the nose, or delicate mucus membranes with essential oils.
How often can essential oils be applied? How much do I use?
Essential oils are concentrated and very powerful, so we suggest to start low and go slow. Excessive use of essential oils may increase the risk of adverse reactions. How much to use and how often depends on what you are using your essential oils for. For products used daily or often, such as face or body products, low dilution rates are recommended. Also we recommend taking regular breaks from these products and to swap the essential oils used around often. For a topical product that is for short term usage, such as for a sore muscle or upset stomach, a slightly higher dilution rate can be utilised given that the product is being used acutely. See our section on Dilution for further information on different applications and dilution rates.
Can essential oils be used during pregnancy or while nursing?
Heritage Oils strongly recommends seeking the advice and recommendations of a suitably qualified healthcare professional or Aromatherapist before using essential oils, especially if you are in the first trimester. It is important to know that there are certain times during pregnancy, such as the first trimester, when some Aromatherapists suggest essential oil usage is not recommended. There are also essential oils that are not recommended for usage during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding.
Can essential oils be used on children?
Many essential oils are safe and appropriate for use on and with children.
Some oils are too strong for children to inhale or use topically, therefore we suggest approaching with caution and researching which may be safe to use with your child, and to always dilute appropriately before using on their sensitive skin.
For example, whilst wonderful respiratory support essential oils, the Eucalypts (for example kochii, polybractea and radiata) and Peppermints are cautioned for usage on or around the face of infants and young children because the 1,8-cineole in the Eucalypts and the menthol in Peppermint can slow breathing in some children, and can cause neurological issues.
We recommend avoiding essential oils on babies under 6 months and to try hydrosols first with children aged up to 2 years before using essential oils topically.
Some general guidelines for essential oil usage for children follows. If your child is on the lower end of the age range, use the lower dilutions rates. See our section on Dilution for further information.
6-24 months – up to 0.5% – 1 drop of essential oil in 10mls of carrier oil. We recommend trying hydrosols first.
2 to 6 years – up to 0.5-2.0% – 1-4 drops of essential oil in 10mls of carrier oil
6 to 15 years – up to 1.0-3.0% – 1-6 drops of essential oil in 10ml of carrier oil
15 + years – up to 1.0-5.0% – 1–10 drops of essential oil in 10ml of carrier oil
How does exposure to the sun affect essential oil use?
Some essential oils, especially certain citrus oils, contain natural molecules (such as certain Furanocoumarins or FCs) that activate in the presence of sunlight (UV light) and can cause skin reactions. When there is a sufficient quantity of these molecules in the essential oils and used on the skin, exposing the skin to the sun can create a photosensitivity reaction on the skin, causing skin painful redness (like sunburn), burning, inflammation or blistering. The skin reaction can last for several days and can also cause skin pigmentation, even scarring. This pertains generally to leave-on products, not wash-off products such as shampoos or soaps.
Of the Heritage Oils essential oil range, Cumin essential oil carries this caution, along with the following cold pressed Citrus essential oils – Grapefruit, Pink Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime. There are other common essential oils that are considered phototoxic such as, but not limited to, Bergamot (the non-Furocoumarin free variety), Bitter Orange, and Clementine.
To reduce your risk consider the following:
See the website page for each individual essential oil for further safety information and dilution percentage rates.
Tisserand, R & Young, R, Essential Oil Safety, 2nd edn, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014,
What about the use of essential oils if I have a medical condition? Can essential oils interact with prescription medications?
As some essential oils are contraindicated with certain medical conditions or can interact or interfere with prescription medications. Therefore it is always recommended that if you have a serious disease or medical condition, or are using a prescription medication, to consult with your medical practitioner prior to using an essential oil.
Wintergreen essential oil has a high content of chemical constituent Salicylate, which is known to thin the blood. This essential is contraindicated for those on anticoagulant medication (blood thinners), those with bleeding disorders or GORD/GERD, or when having major surgery. Additionally it should not be used with children (can increase risk of Reye’s syndrome) or if pregnant or breastfeeding.
German Chamomile essential oil contains chemical constituents farnesene and alpha-bisabolol which may inhibit the metabolization of liver enzyme (CYP2D6). The knock on effect of this effect is the potential to potentiate the effect of the drugs that are metabolised by this enzyme. These drugs include certain antidepressants (when used topically), or codeine and tamoxifen (when taken orally – which we do not recommend for the home user).
How do I store my essential oils?
Your essential oils are an investment in your health and well-being, so keeping them fresh and viable is a well worth exercise! Storing your essential oils well will help maintain their stability, shelf life and potency.
Essential oils will naturally degrade over time, however heat, light and oxygen are the main culprits for accelerating the degradation of essential oils, causing oxidation and other chemical reactions/breakdown, and negatively impacting the oil, it’s aroma, potency, safety and reducing therapeutic effect. This can be deterred in a number of easy ways.
If an essential oil label states it has antibacterial properties does that mean I can use it instead of e.g. Dettol?
Many essential oils have natural antibacterial properties and can be used safely in cleaning, diffusing and first aid. Manuka is one of the best natural ‘first aid’ oils for cuts and wounds and a useful essential oil to keep in your first aid kit. Tea tree is another strong antibacterial essential oil. Did you know that the Australian Diggers kept Tea Tree oil in their kits during the First World War to use as an antiseptic?