Getting Started with Essential Oils

There may be debate on the efficacy of essential oils in treating ailments, but according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, they can be beneficial for us and our children. We caught up with local mom and essential oil enthusiast Jennie Steinmetz to get some tips and tricks for using them. Essential oils have helped many families, including hers, and Jennie says “I am proud to be an educator in teaching others how to safely and effectively use oils in their everyday lives.”

The important thing when considering essential oils is to learn how to use them safely for everyone in your family no matter their age. When asked how her family has benefitted from adding oils to their daily regimen, Jennie laughs “they sort of give you Wolverine powers—they help your body heal naturally!” 

Essential Oil Quality Matters

Her number one tip: always be safe! Make sure the oils you’re intending to use are from a reliable source, rather than just the cheapest ones from Amazon or a craft store. Some of the prices may seem steep, but in this arena you really get what you pay for. Cheap oils may actually be nothing more than perfume-grade—which might make you smell better but won’t have the intended results. 

The good thing is you won’t need much of the oil once you have found a reputable brand, since diluting oils properly is the next most-important step in using them. For example, when using a diffuser for a child’s room only one drop is required in the average 50mL diffuser-tank, with the rest being filled with water. Essential oils can also be applied topically, but if you’re new to using them it’s best to ask someone to show you proper techniques or to buy pre-made mixes to ensure you don’t agitate or burn your skin.

Getting Started

With so many different oils to choose from, figuring out where to start can be overwhelming. There are three that work for almost any situation, and therefore make a great starting point. “Lemon, lavender, and peppermint can be used for almost any basic need” Jennie says. Here are some basic uses of each:

  • Lemon: diffuse to energize a space or assist with seasonal respiratory discomfort; use in a spray bottle with water for cleaning household surfaces; mix with olive oil for a leather or furniture polish.
  • Lavender: diffuse to create a calm environment for bedtime, or add a few drops to your pillow or bottom of feet; add to water in a spray bottle to freshen linens and upholstery; Jennie likes adding lavender to witch hazel in a small spray bottle to help clear up diaper rash.
  • Peppermint: diffuse to help you focus or relieve head tension; use topically to reduce itching or muscle aches; put in a spray bottle with water for a great odor-reducer.  Note: it’s recommended to wait until children are 30 months or older before using peppermint oil.

Daily Use

Knowing that essential oils support and encourage our body to perform optimally, we asked Jennie for her favorite uses for her family and home: “In the winter, we use peppermint or eucalyptus to help clear up respiratory issues, usually just by diffusing them.” Using a diffuser before bedtime allows the oil to work into the air and create a relaxing environment, encouraging better sleep that can also help our bodies heal. However, Jennie says to be careful of peppermint at bedtime. “Peppermint can be invigorating, which is not what you want at bedtime—especially for kids!”

Essential oils are also great for cleaning without using harsh chemicals. There have been studies done that show certain oils have antibacterial properties—tea tree and lemon are most common, but studies have shown that orange, eucalyptus, and peppermint are also effective. 

The easiest way to incorporate oils into your daily cleaning routine? Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar, 1 ¾ cup water, and 30 drops of your choice of oil together in a spray bottle. Shake it up, then use like you would any household cleaner. Another great tip Jennie loves, is to add oil to the filter in your vacuum cleaner. She says “Just a few drops in the filter will deodorize the entire house and keep your carpet smelling fresh.”

Natural is Great When Used Correctly

Essential oils provide a great way to clear our homes and daily lives of harsh chemicals and toxins. As with any product on the market, however, be sure to follow safety guidelines. Jennie stresses “Always dilute essential oils before applying to skin, less is more—you do not need much for them to be effective!” 

Always consult with your family doctor prior to using essential oils or beginning any kind of natural remedy, and never use essential oils to replace medical care recommendations. If your child develops a skin rash or skin irritation, headaches, vomiting, coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing, call your doctor.