Best Essential Oils

Updated April 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best essential oils

Last Updated April 2019

Essential oils extracted from plants (literally taking the “essence” of the scent and flavor of the plant or herb) have been used for medicinal and wellness purposes for centuries. Sometimes the benefits come from rubbing the oils into the skin but they can also be added to warm baths or misters to inhale for aromatherapy benefits. Depending on the oil, they can be used to ease headaches or muscle pain, help with emotional issues like anxiety and stress.

Some oils (such as peppermint, lavender, and lemon) have more than one purpose and can be blended, so we checked out kits that cover the basics. When choosing, make sure these collections include any personal favorites.

We also looked for oils that are naturally derived rather than having gone through a chemical process. This ensures they are purer and less diluted, with authentic aromas to create a pleasing scent to ease your aches and pains — or, just to make bath time into a spa ritual.
 

The uses of essential oils go beyond health and mood. Many oils, particularly citrus oils, are also good for cleaning around the house.

What are essential oils and how do you use them?

Essential oils are plant compounds extracted from bark, flowers, leaves, roots, stems, seeds, or fruit. Steam distillation is the most common process for extracting plant oils, but heavier materials, such as citrus peels, are cold-pressed. Once the extraction process is complete, what remains is a concentrated plant oil that contains the healing aromatic compounds of that specific plant.

There are three basic methods for using essential oils.

Inhalation

Inhalation is the most common method of using essential oils and the basis of aromatherapy. You can sniff the oils directly from the bottle or pour a few drops into a diffuser, which spreads the fragrance over a large area. You can even wet a cotton ball with essential oil, and then set the fragrant cotton near you or in any area you want fragranced.

Topically

Many essential oils are used topically, which means they are applied to the skin. However, since essential oils can be irritating to the skin on their own, the essential oil is usually diluted with a carrier oil before it is rubbed into the body. Sweet almond, apricot, and jojoba oils are the most common types of carrier oils.

Internally

Occasionally, essential oils are added to water, juice, or foods and ingested. But while a drop or two of lemon essential oil is a nice way to add taste to a glass of water, regular or intensive ingestion of essential oils is not recommended unless you are advised to do so by a trained aromatherapist or other holistic expert.

EXPERT TIP

Perfumed oils and extracts are not the same thing as essential oils. Be sure you are buying a product clearly labeled as 100% pure essential oil.


Staff  | BestReviews

What to look for when buying essential oils

Because essential oils are not subject to any strict regulations or government oversight, you’ll encounter a lot of marketing hype and unsubstantiated claims when shopping for these fragrant oils. To whittle the field down to the best brands, use these guidelines.

  • First, be sure it’s actually essential oil, not perfume, fragranced oil, or synthetic oil. While these inferior oils have their uses, they do not provide the benefits of true essential oils. Essential oils are labeled as such on the bottle.

  • If the price is much lower than other brands, watch out. It can take hundreds of pounds of plant material to produce one ounce of essential oil, so these products are often pricey. A suspiciously low price usually means inferior quality.

  • While there are no official regulations defining “therapeutic-grade” essential oil, when used by a reputable manufacturer, this term implies the oil is pure and distilled under strictly monitored conditions.

  • Look for products with both the common and botanical name of the plant on the bottle. Some essential oils might also indicate the plant’s country of origin. It’s even better if the product’s label shows the distillation process, distillation date, and expiration date.

  • Good essential oils come from organically grown plants. You don’t want pesticide residue or other toxic chemicals in your oil.

  • Generally, essential oils come in small brown glass bottles, usually with drip dispensers. Avoid clear bottles, plastic, or metal containers, which often indicate the oil is an inferior grade. Also, reputable brands of essential oils do not use rubber-top dropper caps. The concentrated oil will eventually dissolve the rubber, ruining the oil.

  • If you are purchasing an essential oil blend, the label should specify what oils are included.

  • Most reputable essential oil makers belong to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). Check the company’s website to see if the brand you are considering is a member. It’s also common for reputable essential oil companies to show concern for sustainable farming practices, ethical harvesting, and other environmental issues.

  • You should find product testing information on the websites of reputable essential oil companies. Typically, a company will test every batch of oil with both gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to confirm pureness.

DID YOU KNOW?

You can apply essential oils to your skin, inhale them from a diffuser or directly from the bottle, and even ingest many of them.

DID YOU KNOW?

Essential oils are often blended together to create mixtures to help relieve various conditions, such as tension, insomnia, headaches, or fatigue.

Popular essential oils and their uses

While there are hundreds of essential oils available, let’s take a look at the most popular.

  • Peppermint: relieves headaches and muscle pain, stimulates energy, and reduces gas and sluggish digestion.

  • Lemon: relieves stress and anxiety, adds flavor to water and other beverages, and is useful for household cleaning due to its antimicrobial properties.

  • Tea Tree: a powerful antimicrobial that zaps skin conditions and infections.

  • Rose: an aphrodisiac and mood-booster that also moisturizes skin.

  • Rosemary: relieves nasal, sinus, and chest congestion and thins mucus.

  • Lavender: soothes nerves and induces sleep.

  • Eucalyptus: relieves chest and sinus congestion and helps clear and stimulate the mind.

  • Ginger: relieves gas, soothes nausea, stimulates digestion, and helps with constipation.

  • Roman Chamomile: useful for menstrual cramps, also relieves insomnia and anxiety.

  • Clove: offers a wide range of antimicrobial properties, also works well to numb toothaches until you’re able to see a dentist.

Tips for mixing essential oils

You can buy many blends of essential oils, but it’s also easy to create your own mix.

  1. Decide how you will use the blend of oils. Do you want an energizing mix? Are you looking for something to help you sleep or calm your nerves? Or maybe you want a blend to help treat a skin infection or muscle soreness. Whatever your goal, choose essential oils with the same desired qualities.

  2. If you simply want a wonderful fragrance, mix essential oils in the same fragrance group, such as woody, herbal, citrus, floral, or spicy.

  3. Start by identifying the primary oil in the mixture. This might be the one that smells the best to you or has the strongest properties for the effect you’re after.

  4. Add just a few drops of the oil to a clean glass bottle.

  5. Now add your other oils, just a few drops at a time. For the best results, limit your blend to three types until you gain more experience with mixing these highly scented oils.

  6. Swirl the bottle gently and inhale. Drop a few drops of the blended oil onto a blotting paper or cotton ball and let it sit for a while. Then sniff to discover how the blend smells after evaporation.

  7. If necessary, add a drop or two more oil until you like the balance of fragrance.

  8. Write down the formulas for any oil blends you especially like so you don’t forget the recipe.

  9. Feel free to experiment. You might discover a new favorite!

How much do essential oils cost?

You’ll find a wide range of prices when it’s time to buy essential oils, but watch out for products that cost just a couple of dollars. Often that’s the mark of an impure or low-quality oil.

Generally, you’ll pay $10 to $20 for a bottle of the highest-grade pure essential oil.

Often, however, buying a set of popular essential oils is more economical than purchasing the bottles separately, as long as you’ll use all or most of the oils in the set.

Choose organic, therapeutic-grade, 100% pure essential oils from reputable companies for the best results. You might pay a bit more, but it’s worth it.

Because essential oils are very concentrated, it’s best to dilute them with a few drops of carrier oil before applying them directly to your skin. As a rough guideline for topical use, dilute 10 drops of essential oil with one teaspoon of a carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, or coconut oil.

FAQ

Q. Are essential oils regulated or approved by the FDA?
A.
No, they are not. That’s why it’s so important to buy your essential oils from well-established, reputable companies that provide extensive documentation of their sourcing, distillation, and bottling practices. Watch out for companies that make excessive claims or say their products can cure serious conditions. While aromatherapy can help relieve symptoms of many conditions, there is no proof that it can cure them.

Q. Does aromatherapy really work?
A.
While there are no extensive studies on the efficacy of aromatherapy, many small studies have indicated good results from various oils. Lavender, in particular, has been shown to have strong anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia effects. Tea tree oil is another essential oil with proven abilities to combat many types of skin infections and irritations.

Q. How should I store my essential oils?
A.
To maintain potency, keep your essential oils away from direct light, heat, excessive humidity, or anywhere the temperature fluctuates drastically. Don’t let your bottles sit open for lengthy periods; oxygen exposure breaks down the oils. And never let water or other fluids drip onto the bottle’s dispenser.

The team that worked on this review
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