I love to recommend therapeutic grade essential oils (EOs), as they are potent botanical medicines. EOs and herbal preparations work wonderfully together, and I classify EOs as herbal (or plant) medicine. I think of EOs as the "blood" of the plant, and the whole herb matter as its "flesh." EOs are concentrated sources of plant medicines, and a little bit often goes a long way. The healing actions of an EO are the same as its herbal counterpart, but produce effects more quickly and powerfully. EOs (as well as herbs) have been used as medicine in Europe and Asia for centuries. The French are often credited for pioneering the modern use of medicinal EOs and paved the way for scientific validation of these beneficial and efficacious plant medicines.
I often receive queries about what oils to use and how to use them. I struggle to provide a short list of necessary EOs, as the EO repertoire is abundant, with expansive healing constituents. But for the sake of simplicity, especially during travels, and the sake of financial expediency, I have attempted to compile a list of the ten oils I cannot live without. This list is by no means exhaustive, but covers most ailments people encounter. The world of essential oils and the art of aromatherapy is vast, and worth study. [I find the term aromatherapy to be misleading for people, as the medicinal power of essential oils is imparted through topical use, ingestion, as well as inhalation.] Single oils are powerful healing agents; EO blends create synergistic effects that enhance each oil's capability. Blending is both an art and science, and beyond the scope of this list. See the books in resources below for more information.
I must emphasize that not all EOs are created equally; for medicinal purposes, only high quality, pure grade EOs should be used. I am by no means an expert on companies...I personally use and recommend various EO companies. It is very important that your EOs are pure enough for ingestion, which allows you to dose an ill body with strong medicine. Certain popular health food store brands are not potent enough to be considered medicinal grade, nor can I feel assured that they are pure.
In the list following, I will name each plant, its medicinal properties and uses, and share how I use it most often (a quick overview and generalization...the EOs are multifunctional and broad spectrum healing agents). I will include resources and links below. (This post is linked at Real Food Forager's Fat Tuesday.)
Herbalistmama's Top Ten Essential Oils
Lavendula officinalisMedicinal properties: analgesic, anticoagulant, anticonvulsive, antidepressant, antifungal, antihistamine, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, nervine, regenerative, sedative.
French medicinal uses: acne, allergies, burns, cramps, dandruff, diaper rash, flatulence, hair loss, herpes, indigestion, insomnia, blood pressure, lymphatic drainage, menopausal conditions, mouth abscess, nausea, phlebitis, PMS, scarring, stretch marks, tachycardia, thrush, water retention.
Additional benefits: all skin inflammations and wounds, palpitations, hypertension, convulsions, muscle spasms, pain syndromes, arthritis, headache, eczema, nervous tension, irritability, insomnia, stress, labor.
When I reach for it: skin health, burns, itchiness, frazzled nerves, insomnia, tension, cramping
Medicinal properties: antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antiviral, immune-stimulant, anti-inflammatory.
French medicinal uses: asthma, bronchitis, pulmonary tuberculosis, rheumatism, whopping cough.
Additional benefits: Colds/flus, fungal overgrowth, parasites, respiratory system ailments, indigestion, gum infections, inflammation/pain.
When I reach for it: viral/bacterial infections (first sign of cold/flu)
Mentha PiperitaMedicinal properties: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, antispasmodic, astringent, decongestant, expectorant, febrifuge, hepatic, nervine, invigorating, digestive, vasoconstrictor.
French medicinal Uses: asthma, bronchitis, candida, diarrhea, indigestion, fever, flu, halitosis, heartburn, hemorrhoids, migraine, motion sickness, nausea, respiratory function, itchy skin, throat infection, varicose veins.
Additional benefits: arthritis, colic, depression, fatigue, hives, morning sickness, nerve regeneration, toothaches, muscle spasms, aches, neuralgia, ringworm, shock, mental fatigue.
When I reach for it: sore throat, stomach upset, headache
Citrus LemonMedicinal Properties: antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, diaphoretic, invigorating, tonic.
French medicinal uses: air disinfectant, anemia, asthma, cold, fever, germicide, gout, heartburn, intestinal parasites, throat infection, varicose veins, water purification, blood cell formation.
Additional benefits: acne, oily skin, warts, inflamed joints, arthritis, hypertension, mouth ulcers, poor circulation, detoxification, lethargy, aids concentration, brain stimulant.
When I reach for it: air purification, water purification, cleaning
Medicinal Properties: analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antiviral, decongestant, digestive, expectorant, immune-stimulant, insecticidal, stimulant, regenerative.
French medicinal uses: athlete's foot, bronchitis, colds, coughs, diarrhea, flu, gum disease, rash, skin ailments, sore throat, sunburn, tonsillitis, vaginitis.
Additional benefits: cuts, abrasions, insect bites, wounds, all fungal infections, burns, cold sores, air purifier, chicken pox, warts, asthma, acne, sinusitis, ringworm, dandruff, upper respiratory infections, varicosities, parasites.
When I reach for it: general first aid, antiseptic, infection, cleaning, fungal infection
Medicinal Properties: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, disinfectant, stimulant.
French medicinal uses: rheumatism, muscular pain, cramps, arthritis, tendonitis, inflammation, hypertension.
Additional benefits: broken bones, joint pain, bone pain, fever, eczema, edema, UTIs.
When I reach for it: bone/muscle pain
Medicinal properties: analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiparastic, antiseptic, antitumoral, antiviral, disinfectant, immune-stimulant.
French medicinal uses: toothache, intestinal parasites, pain, plagues, wounds.
Additional benefits: arthritis, bronchitis, cystitis, dental infection, diarrhea, acne, fatigue, flatulence, flu, halitosis, headaches, hypertension, infections, bites/stings, nausea, sinusitis, skin ailments, mouth sores, thyroid dysfunction, ulcers, warts.
When I reach for it: mouth/tooth pain, parasitic infection
Medicinal properties: antiseptic, astringent, anti-infectious, diuretic, expectorant, sedative, uterine tonic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, immune stimulant.
French medicinal uses: asthma, depression, ulcers.
Additional benefits: dermatitis, wrinkles, wounds, ulcers, sinus congestion, bronchitis, laryngitis, cystitis, acne, scars, diarrhea, viral infections, sciatica, increases leukocyte activity (strengthening immunity).
When I reach for it: skin infections, facial treatments
Eucalyptus globulus, radiata, smithii
Medicinal properties: analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anticatarrhal, decongestant, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, stimulant, antiviral, antifungal, antibacerial, anti-infectious, increases circulation.
French medicinal uses: asthma, candida, coughs, diabetes, fever, hypoglycemia, lungs, measles, migraines, respiratory stimulant, sinusitis, tuberculosis, urinary stimulant.
Additional benefits: chest/throat infections, cold/flu, viral infections (herpes), cystitis, arthritis, abscesses, wounds/cuts/burns/blisters, muscle stiffness/sprains, insect repellent, air purifier, swollen glands, immune stimulant.
When I reach for it: sinus troubles, headache
Medicinal Properties: analgesic, antirheumatic, antiseptic, astringent, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, decongestant, diuretic, emmenagogue, endocrine tonic, expectorant, hypertensive, nervine, parasitic, restorative, stimulant.
French medicinal uses: arthritis, low blood pressure, bronchitis, cholera, colds, dandruff, depression, diabetes, mental fatigue, flu, fluid retention, hair loss, headache, viral hepatitis, irregular menstruation, sinusitis, tachycardia, vaginitis.
Additional benefits: circulation, support immune function, muscle aches, acne, respiratory distress, asthma, bronchitis, ovarian/testicular function, varicosities, tonsillitis, sinusitis, swellings, skin toner, nervous tension, PMS, lethargy.
When I reach for it: chest congestion/coughing, hair tonic, cramping
Topical = rub on skin anywhere as needed, use soles of feet for systemic applications (large pores speed absorption into blood stream). Apply directly to problem areas. For topical application, most EOs should be diluted: 5 to 10 drops of EO to 1 Tb. carrier oil (jojoba, olive, coconut, etc). Dilute more for babies and children, as their skin is more sensitive. [Lavender is gentle enough to use without dilution, as is Tea Tree for most people. Once you become accustomed to regular use of EOs, you may find you need to dilute fewer of them.]
Inhalant = use EO diffuser or nebulizer, place in gently simmering water, put on tissue and inhale.
Ingestion = only with pure, therapeutic grade EOs (know your oils). Place one to a few drops in water and drink. This is particularly helpful for sore throats, colds, and digestive upsets.
Soaks = place a few drops of EO into a warm bath. Be cautious with EOs known to burn, such as strong citrus oils or mints.
(I'll list those lesser known)
analgesic = pain reducer
anticatarrhal = helps remove mucus from body, soothes mucus membranes
antiseptic = prevent infection, inhibit growth of microbes
astringent = constrict tissues
carminative = prevents formation of gas
diaphoretic = promotes sweating
diuretic = promotes urination
emmenagogue = stimulates blood flow in pelvic region/uterus
expectorant = promotes expulsion of mucus/phlegm from respiratory tract
febrifuge = regulates fever
nervine = benefits nervous system