Essential Oils Every Naturalista Should Have

Karen Frazier
dropper bottle

While many people have a supply of the most basic essential oils like lavender and tea tree oils, there are many other less commonly known oils that are true workhorses. Consider adding to your stash a handful of oils that will have a big impact.

1. Spikenard

Spikenard is the root of an herb from the valerian family, and it has a musky, heady, slightly funky aroma. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is called Jantamansi. Like the herb valerian, spikenard has mild sedative and muscle relaxing properties, which makes it a truly effective essential oil for people with sleep problems or anxiety.

  • If you're an anxious flier, a small vial containing a piece of cotton with four or five drops of spikenard oil stashes easily in a carry-on and if you feel anxiety rising as the airplane does, you can take a discreet sniff.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, blend four drops of spikenard with one ounce of witch hazel, vodka, or rubbing alcohol; three ounces of distilled water; and ten drops of lavender essential oil to make a pillow-misting linen spray (spray the pillow with a few spritzes just before you go to sleep).
  • You can also diffuse spikenard by adding four drops to an ounce of water and putting it in a diffuser, which is great in rooms where there might be excess tension, such as in your bedroom after a fight with your significant other.

Spikenard essential oil has other properties, as well, including acting as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent. It can also act as a laxative if you are constipated.

  • For constipation, mix two drops of spikenard oil with two tablespoons of a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil, and rub it on your lower stomach and back in a circular motion.
  • For inflammation due to injury, combine two drops of spikenard essential oil with two tablespoons of emu oil and use as a rub on the inflamed area.
  • For a bacterial sinus infection, make an antibacterial blend with two drops of spikenard, four drops of eucalyptus, and four drops of orange oil in two ounces of water. Diffuse.

Do not use spikenard internally and avoid use while pregnant unless supervised by your primary health care provider.

2. Ginger

Ginger essential oil comes from the rhizome (root) of the ginger plant. It has a warm, spicy aroma. Ginger has well-known anti-nausea properties, and it's also anti-inflammatory. It can also help relax bronchial spasms associated with asthma, upper respiratory infection, and bronchitis, and it's stimulating.

  • Create a warming anti-inflammatory salve by warming one ounce of beeswax and one-third ounces of carrier oil, such as almond oil or jojoba oil, in a double boiler until it melts. Cool the oil slightly. Add 12 drops of ginger essential oil and store in a small container. Allow to harden and use as a salve on inflamed joints (such as from arthritis) or other inflamed areas where no broken skin is present.
  • For bronchitis, asthma, or an upper respiratory infection, add 12 drops of ginger essential oil to a hot bath and soak for 15 minutes.
  • For morning sickness, or to fight nausea and vomiting, combine 5 drops of ginger essential oil with one ounce of distilled water and diffuse.
  • Wake up the right way. Add two drops of ginger essential oil to one tablespoon of your body wash to wake you up in the shower.
  • Add one-half teaspoon of ginger essential oil to water for a house cleaning steamer, and use it to steam clean your counters, sinks, and toilets. Your house will be sparkling clean, and it will smell like a ginger cookie.

Consult a primary care doctor before using ginger if you are pregnant and don't use ginger essential oils near mucous membranes or broken skin. Do not take internally, no matter how delicious it smells.

3. Black Pepper

Extracted from the fruit of black pepper plants (the peppercorns), black pepper essential oil has a peppery, slightly floral aroma. The spicy scent is energizing while the oil, when used topically, is warming. It also can serve as an expectorant, clearing respiratory passages, and it can relieve gas.

  • Feeling gassy? Add two drops of black pepper oil to one tablespoon of sweet almond oil and massage into your abdomen in a clockwise circular motion.
  • If you're feeling a little frostbitten, you can warm up in a warm bath with 10 drops of black pepper oil. Soak for 15 minutes. It smells divine, and you'll feel the blood returning to your toes.
  • If you have a cough, diffuse black pepper essential oil (five drops in an ounce of water) or add a drop of black pepper oil to a nasal steam inhaler. Use the inhaler according to manufacturer's instructions.

Don't take black pepper oil internally and do not use with children under six years of age.

4. Basil

Basil essential oil comes from the leaves of the basil herb. It has a fresh, green, mint-like aroma. Basil's combination of anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties make it a great acne treatment. It is also a good oil for deodorizing stinky things, and it can soothe achy muscles.

  • For acne, combine two drops of basil essential oil with one tablespoon of pure aloe vera gel and sweep across acne prone areas with a cotton ball.
  • Get rid of household odors by adding 15 drops of basil essential oil to three ounces of water in a pan and simmer on the stove.
  • If you are smelly and tired after an especially taxing workout, soak away both your stink and your aches in a nice basil bath. Add 10 to 15 drops of basil oil to a hot bath and soak for 15 minutes.

Do not take basil oil internally.

5. Melissa

You may know the herb that makes melissa essential oil by another name: lemon balm. It comes from the leaves and flowers of the lemon balm plant, which is in the mint family. It has a sweet, citrus aroma with subtle floral notes. Studies have shown melissa essential oil (applied in a carrier oil twice a day as a massage oil) lowered agitation in patients with severe dementia, which subsequently raised the quality of life. It is calming, a great essential oil for reducing anxiety and tension, and it may boost immunity.

  • If you have a tension headache, add two drops of melissa essential oil to one tablespoon of a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or sweet almond oil, and massage into your temples, jaw, and the base of your skull.
  • Add one or two drops of melissa essential oil to your body lotion and smooth on your skin when you have a particularly stressful or anxiety-producing day ahead.
  • Have you been getting sick a lot recently? Add two drops of melissa essential oil to an essential oil diffuser locket necklace and wear it daily to boost your immunity. Refresh the oil daily.

Don't use melissa oil topically in children under the age of two. Melissa oil may interact with certain medications, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist before combining its use with medications. Do not take melissa essential oil internally unless you are under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.

6. Grapefruit

With a juicy, zingy citrus scent, grapefruit essential oil is an eye-opener. It boosts immunity, serves as an anti-bacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-viral substance, and it has a clean, energizing scent. It is distilled from the peels of grapefruit.

With all the "antis" grapefruit has, it makes an excellent housecleaner because it kills germs that may be hiding on household surfaces. Its scent is also nearly as good as a cup of coffee for energizing you in the morning.

  • Add one-half teaspoon of grapefruit essential oil to four ounces of white vinegar. Shake it up in a spray bottle and use it as a household surface cleaning spray.
  • Add two drops of grapefruit essential oil to your hair conditioner when you shampoo in the morning. Your hair will smell great, and it will boost your energy.
  • The "antis" in grapefruit essential oil also support clearer skin. As a facial toner, add 12 drops to four ounces of witch hazel and use as an astringent by sweeping a cotton ball soaked in the toner across your face after cleansing and before moisturizing.
  • Make an invigorating body scrub by combining 20 drops of grapefruit essential oil with one-half cup of sweet almond oil and one-half cup of sea salt.

Do not take grapefruit essential oil internally unless supervised by a qualified professional. Avoid contact with mucous membranes and broken skin.

7. Fennel

Sweet fennel essential oil is distilled from the crushed seeds of the fennel plant. It has a lovely licorice aroma. Fennel has been shown to help relieve menstrual pain primarily due to its antispasmodic properties, and it can help wounds heal more quickly. It's also good for gas, as well as for colic in babies.

  • If cramps are an issue, place two tablespoons of virgin organic coconut oil in a small bowl and place the bowl in hot water to gently warm the oil and melt it. Stir in five drops of fennel oil. Massage the mixture into your lower back and over your uterus every four hours.
  • You can also make a fennel oil warm compress for menstrual cramps. Add 15 drops of fennel oil to one-half gallon of hot water and soak a washcloth in it. Place on your bare abdomen to soothe menstrual cramps.
  • Make a tattoo healing salve by heating one-fourth cup of coconut oil with one-fourth cup of sweet almond oil and one tablespoon of beeswax pastilles. Warm, stirring, until the wax is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add twenty drops of fennel oil and four drops of vitamin E oil. Store in tightly sealed containers and use twice daily on a new tattoo.
  • For a baby with colic (or for any gassy tummy), dilute two drops of fennel essential oil in two tablespoons of sweet almond oil. Gently rub in a circular pattern on the stomach.

Do not apply fennel oil undiluted to the skin in babies and toddlers. Do not take internally unless supervised by a qualified health care provider.

8. Cinnamon Bark

Distilled from the bark of Ceylon cinnamon trees, cinnamon bark essential oil has the familiar warm, spicy fragrance of cinnamon. Cinnamon can boost brain power and improve cognitive function. It can also improve circulation, and its scent can ground and center you if you're feeling flighty.

  • Need extra brain power for a presentation or test? Rub one teaspoon of sweet almond oil and one drop of cinnamon bark essential oil between your palms, open them, hold them four to six inches under your nose, and inhale gently right before you need the brain boost.
  • If you're traveling (or sitting for a long time) and are concerned about circulation and blood clots, add four drops of cinnamon bark essential oil to two tablespoons of coconut oil and massage into your calves.
  • After meditation, use the scent of cinnamon bark essential oil to ground yourself. Diffuse a few drops in water, or dilute two drops of the essential oil in one tablespoon of a carrier oil and rub on the back of your neck and the bottom of your feet.

Never use cinnamon oil directly on your skin without dilution. Keep cinnamon bark oil away from mucous membranes and broken skin. Do not use with children under the age of six. Don't inhale directly from the bottle as this may irritate nasal passages.

9. Geranium

Geranium essential oil comes from the green parts of the geranium plant. It has a floral aroma similar to a rose with a peppery scent underneath. This essential oil has many benefits for beautiful, healthy skin and may be beneficial for eczema and acne, and it is included in many anti-aging remedies. It's also a great insect repellent.

  • Create an anti-aging serum by mixing two drops of geranium essential oil with the contents of an evening primrose oil capsule and one teaspoon of jojoba oil. Massage into your face before you go to sleep each night.
  • Repmosquitoestos and ticks by mixing five drops of geranium essential oil with two ounces of sweet almond oil. Rub into your skin.
  • Add two drops of geranium essential oil to one tablespoon of your hair conditioner to soothe flyaways.

Some people may be allergic to geranium oil. If you notice allergic reactions, discontinue use. Do not take internally.

10. Bergamot

Bergamot essential oil has a citrus aroma similar to oranges. It is extracted from bergamot orange citrus peels. It is used in complementary medicine to treat chronic pain (it lessens pain sensitivity), and it is a natural deodorant (both on people and objects) due to its antimicrobial properties.

  • If you're not partial to commercial deodorants, which often contain toxic ingredients, you can make your deodorant. Combine one-half cup melted virgin coconut oil, one-half cup baking soda, and 30 drops of bergamot oil. Allow to solidify and spread under your arms for daily deodorant protection.
  • St. John's Wort oil is also known for relieving pain (particularly nerve pain). To make a pain relieving oil, combine four ounces of St. John's Wort oil with 15 drops of bergamot oil and massage into areas of pain up to four times per day.
  • Do you have stinky pet furniture? Create your own deodorizing furniture spray. Combine four ounces of distilled water, two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol or vodka, and 15 drops of bergamot essential oil. Shake before using, and spray on smelly fabrics. Test fabric colorfastness first in a discreet area.

Avoid using bergamot if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Don't apply bergamot directly on the skin without dilution. Do not take internally.

Essential Oils for Naturalistas

Essential oils are a great way to reduce your toxic chemical load and bring more natural substances into your life. Try the above remedies, or find your own uses for these fantastic essential oils.

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Essential Oils Every Naturalista Should Have