Essential oils: when less is more

Because in this case, more becomes too much – for instance, one drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea![1]though I first read that it was up to 75 bags of peppermint tea!

In my journey as a mother, it has given me the perfect excuse to move from the mainstream to the more natural (and sometimes more trendy, hip, and thus, expensive) – away from synthetic dyes, strong-chemical cleaners, parfums and fragrances; now, instead of getting excited for $3 anti-bacterial hand soap from the Bath&Body Works, I get excited over $9 1.1L bottles of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, which is pretty much an all-purpose cleaner (for body, face, hands, counters, floors and sinks!). And, I can use a few drops of essential oils to scent it to my fancy – plus, certain essential oils are said to contain active anti-bacterial, anti-fungal properties, which, if true, then bonus!

Beginning with Essential Oils

Essential oils dropper
These containers are best to dispense essential oils a drop at a time. Plus, the dark glass keeps them fresher longer. Image credit: Honolulu Media, Creative Commons License on Flickr


So where does one start? Had I known more about essential oils before buying my first few vials, I probably would’ve gotten a few less, or one or two different ones. But, with that being said, I ended up with lemon, citronella, sweet orange, rosemary, spearmint, lavender, ylang ylang (a later addition) and tea tree essential oils.

Now, I’d recommend one or two from each of these three categories, especially if you tend to enjoy experimenting and like to use your own blends instead of an essential oil on its own:

  • A “base” (grounding) essential oil, such as frankincense, sandalwood, cedarwood – it looks like I’m missing this from my collection; I had a broken bottle of frankincense which was lovely while it lasted (during the 1 use).
  • A “middle” essential oil, such as lavender or rosemary – personally, I find lavender to be more versatile than rosemary[2]especially since rosemary is not recommended for use around younger children from various sources … Continue reading
  • A “top” essential oil, such as sweet orange, lemon, grapefruit, peppermint/spearmint, eucalyptus – the citrus ones are great in cleaning agents, soaps, but use caution in diffusers as they can erode plastic and as they can affect your skin in sunlight / cause a photosensitive reaction when applied topically [3]Note that various sources online also recommend against using peppermint and eucalyptus essential … Continue reading

! Precautions and safety, especially around children and pregnant women

I’m still learning about essential oils so I’m far from being an expert in this, but as essential oils are known to actively affect our bodies (it’s not just nice-smelling), I would follow these precautions, especially around children and pregnant/nursing women:

  • Don’t eat, don’t apply: Essential oils are the most potent when ingested and when applied directly on the body especially without any dilution (e.g. with a carrier oil), aka “neat”. I would avoid unless under direction and care from a health practitioner
  • Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Peppermint: based on what I’ve read online, I would lean towards avoiding these three essential oils around younger children (sources explain that it might affect their breathing), and if you do use it, let it dissipate for 2 hours prior to exposing children in the same area. Though, I’m still wondering about the commercial products that are advertised as being baby safe that contain these ingredients in them, especially eucalyptus in chest and cold rubs, and germ blends for diffusion (maybe their effectiveness is counteracted by all the other ingredients??)! 
  • Pregnancy: Avoid the use of essential oils in your first trimester of pregnancy; research the safe ones for the latter trimesters and nursing if using. Yes, I had exposure to essential oils in massage oils, foaming hand soap, and in commercially available shampoo and handmade (but not homemade) bar soap while I was pregnant and nursing.
  • Use the more common essential oils, unless you’ve researched the others
  • When in doubt, avoid or look it up online first
  • use on body > in the air >  in cleaning products: essential oils have a shelf life, so once it starts to degrade, instead of using it say as a component of your massage oil, you can add it to your diffuser or into a cleaning agent (e.g the mop bucket) instead
  • Less is more: unless you use a lot, buying a small vial (10ml instead of 15ml) will ensure freshness. Also, one drop goes a long way even when diluted, as your nose will likely tell you. When diffusing, don’t let the diffuser go for extended periods of time as you just end up wasting its effectiveness; I’ve read recommendations of 10 minutes at a time for up to 1-2 hours.

You can find more extensive lists of safety considerations online.

What can I do with essential oils?

Now that you have a few bottles of essential oils, here are some ideas on what you can do with them:

If you have a DIY recipe with essential oils to share, leave a comment below!

6 Comments

  1. Gabe.

    January 20, 2017 at 1:08 AM

    I’ve actually been using the same method foaming pump with Dr. Bronners for the past few years. I’ve realized I prefer much more soap… Maybe 40/60 soap water. Also I find the precipitate rather unappealing. Do any of the Castile soaps not precipitate when mixed with water?

    G.

    1. emjaune

      January 20, 2017 at 11:53 PM

      Oh, yours has floaties too?! (so I’m not alone!)

      I had asked a friend if hers ever did, but she only mentioned that it would cloud over when it got colder. I have wondered if the floaties are a result of a preservative-free soap-water mixture. Not all of my bottles had / have them, so I’ve wondered if the type of water (distilled vs filtered – we use the latter, not distilled) affects it, and if adding Vitamin E oil to extend the shelf life would help. I’ve also made less in a bottle, which seems to keep the floaties to a minimum. Have you tried changing bottles or experimenting with any of that?

  2. Anonymous

    January 25, 2017 at 10:07 PM

    I’m not really sure, I think it’s one of three things:

    The water is acidic enough to reverse the alkali in the soap, and we’re getting globs of fat back out. I doubt this, because the precipitate sinks to the bottom and none of it seems to float to the top.
    Something in the hard water is reacting with the sodium stearate in the soap and precipitating out calcium stearate. This is pretty common and is part of the reason you get “soap scum”.
    Somehow the essential oils are reacting when you add water. I’m not sure about this. I have some pure unscented castile soap at home that I’ll experiment with. I also happen to have some distilled water. I’ll update when I find out.

    1. emjaune

      January 25, 2017 at 10:39 PM

      Looking forward to hearing your findings! For what it’s worth, we actually use Dr. Bronner’s pure unscented castille soap before mixing in any water or essential oils

      1. Anonymous

        January 27, 2017 at 6:59 PM

        No precipitate with Dr. Bronners and distilled water.

        1. emjaune

          February 1, 2017 at 10:27 PM

          Thanks, so I guess distilled water is the key!

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