Been wondering about essential oils? Read this quick start guide, full of helpful information to answer the questions of anyone thinking about getting started with essential oils.

What are Essential Oils? 2

Been wondering about essential oils? Read this quick start guide, full of helpful information to answer the questions of anyone thinking about getting started with essential oils.Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be making my first official blog post today and begin sharing and learning with you guys.

As with anything, I figured it’s best to start at the beginning. So what exactly is an essential oil?

Basic Definition

According to, an essential oil is “any of a class of volatile oils obtained from plants, possessing the odor and other characteristic properties of the plant, used chiefly in the manufacture of perfumes, flavors, and pharmaceuticals.”

In other words, essential oils are volatile, highly concentrated oils extracted from various plants that are then used for their scent, flavor, or disease-fighting ability.

But what really is an essential oil?

So now you’re thinking, ‘yeah, I kind of already knew that, and that doesn’t really help me.’ Fear not, friend, this is where the useful information begins.

If you’re researching essential oils, you’re probably more interested in what they’re used for than a formal definition. Uses for essential oils fall into three major categories: Scent, Taste, and Supplement.


This is a very common use for essential oils. Since they are generally extracted from plants such as lavender, lemon, or peppermint, these oils (or more commonly a combination of oils) can be used as air fresheners or perfumes. Most of the time oils used for scent are either diffused in the air using a diffuser, combined with water or vinegar and sprayed into the air or on surfaces, or applied to the skin like a perfume (Be careful with this, as some oils are not safe for direct skin contact and can cause burns and rashes. This is why it is important to dilute oils using a proper carrier oil.)

Related: Carrier Oils: What They Are and How to Use Them


Aside from smelling good, a lot of essential oils taste good as well. Obvious examples are lemon and peppermint, mentioned above. These can generally be added straight to food or drink for flavoring (Please be cautious! Not all oils are fit for consumption, and it is very easy to overdose because EOs are very concentrated). I personally love to add a touch of peppermint to my coffee in the winter when I’m feeling festive.


This is what brings together the trifecta of power for essential oils. There are many, many oils that smell good, taste good, and do amazing things for your body and mind. These effects can be experienced through either inhalation, digestion, or absorption through the skin. Going back to our example of peppermint, not only will diffusing it into the air make your house smell like christmas, it can improve your concentration and focus. Not to mention that ingesting it is generally believed to help regulate digestion.

Related: Peppermint Oil: Just the Facts

Can essential oils really do all that?

Yes – to some extent.

Essential oils are believed to help with everything from headaches to heartaches, boasting properties that promote calming, sleep, energy, immune strength, and even sexual desire. But how much truth is there to these claims? That’s what I’m here to find out. Through review of scientific research and personal experimentation, I’m going to clear up once and for all what’s true and what isn’t. (And what might be plausible vs what’s completely impossible).

All I can talk about right now, with certainty, is my own experience so far. The biggest reason I started looking into essential oils was because my boyfriend has chronic insomnia, and I wanted to be able to help him sleep without him having to take a sleeping pill every night. Not only can those being addicting, but they’re riddled with unwanted side effects. So I did some research and came across this blog post  that then led me to Young Living, where I decided to dive head first into the world of essential oils. 

Long story short, their oil blend Stress Away did the trick for my boyfriend. He now sleeps deeply through the night, whereas before he complained of waking up several times and not always being able to fall back to sleep. He likes to playfully call it witchcraft, but he won’t deny that it works.

Along with Stress Away (which also does a great job of calming me down during the day), I’ve found that peppermint lives up to many of its claims. I have a mild case of indigestion most days, and adding peppermint to my morning coffee has greatly reduced the number of bubbles in my stomach during the day. I’ve also experimented with diffusing it while studying, and I feel it contributes to helping me focus and be productive.

There are so many more oils still left to explore though! One of Young Living’s specialty blends, Thieves, is supposed to promote a healthy immune system, as well as help you get better faster once you do get sick. With the cold weather beginning to set in, I’m sure I’ll get a chance to test that out soon enough (unfortunately). Another oil I hope to try soon is Basil. This oil has historically been used to treat headaches and chest infections, and I’m hoping it will be effective on the former, allowing me to wean myself off of Advil.

One last note for everyone: Be careful when using essential oils! As mentioned in the definition, these oils are volatile, and not extensively studied (which is why information about them is currently so muddled). Please check each and every oil you use for directions on diluting or guides for supplementing via ingestion. 

Psst… you can download my free dilution guide here!

So what do you guys think? What works and what doesn’t? Have any of you experienced the benefits of essential oils? Let me know in the comments below!

About Rachel

Rachel is a blogger and Biophysics Lab Manager who lives in Clemson, SC (go tigers!). After studying conventional pharmaceuticals and how they target specific ailments, she applied that knowledge to figuring out how essential oils can work to treat the same ailments, and ended up creating the blog The Essential Girl.

When she’s not blogging or sciencing the shit out of something in the lab, she likes to swing dance and teach group fitness classes.

  • Cody Hudson

    Ok so I got here from you sharing this on Facebook and love the blog. I’ve been interested but skeptical of oils since I first heard of them. The idea is great but there’s too much misinformation. Anyways I’ve been thru this blog every which way I can find and was wondering if you’ve thought of linking the fb page and maybe a twitter to the contact me page. That would be a good way for people to keep updated on when you post but also to give you comments or ask questions. Could be a decent way to get ideas for future posts, since you get to see what people are interested in.
    Also I’m personally interested in not only clean living but sustainable living. Maybe after you’ve done a few posts talking about more of the different oils you might be willing to look into how to derive your own oils from, say an herb garden. Basil. Peppermint. Lavender. All herbs right? Anyways that’s just something I’m curious about but not sure when I’ll have the time to research it myself.
    Overall I love it and I’ll consider this invaluable if it truly becomes what you seem to want it to be. Good luck.

    • rachel

      Hi Cody! So there is a link to the Facebook page on the sidebar (well there should be at least). I don’t yet have a Twitter or Instagram but I definitely plan to in the future. However I think adding the link on the contact page is a good idea especially since it wasn’t immediately noticeable to you and others may have trouble too.
      In terms of keeping updated on when I post, in addition to liking the FB page, you can subscribe to the essential news in the side bar, which will email you each time there is a new post.
      I think you bring up a good point about sustainable living. I’ll definitely have to look into that. So far all I know is that something like distilling your own oils is possible, but probably pretty difficult due to the number of plants required to get a good concentration. I’ve read on Young Living’s website that they use something like a pound of peppermint plants to make 15mL of oil.
      Thanks for the input! I hope this continues to be helpful for you.