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The Ultimate Guide to Essential Oils


Odds are you've experienced essential oils, when you've walked into a spa and breathed in the lavender or orange blossom that greets you at the front door or when you cracked open that reed diffuser your mom gave you for your birthday. But there's also a good chance that you haven't experimented with essential oils on your own. After all, there are seemingly endless options—and no guidance on the best way to incorporate them into your beauty routine.

Nick James, a botanist and the co-founder of Body Bliss—a company that sources high-quality essential oils—says it doesn't have to be complicated. "You can achieve amazing results with essential oils and aromatherapy, whether it's an outlook on life that needs to be adjusted or a pain that needs to be relieved," James says. "The catch is knowing the right oil for the job and choosing a good quality oil."

To help you master the essential oils aisle, we asked James for his ultimate tips on choosing and using oils. Follow his advice and get ready for some pretty powerful results.

1. Add them to a bath.
For a therapeutic effect, James recommends adding the oil into a bath. However, you can't just drop the oil into the water; you'll need a carrier that will spread it throughout the water. James' simple trick: Mix a few drops of your essential oils into a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream and add that to the bath water. It'll help distribute the oils evenly in the water.

2. No time for a bath? Add them to an unscented oil or lotion.
Unscented body oil is actually the best vehicle for carrying the benefits of the essential oils into your skin, but an unscented body lotion will also work.

3. Find a company you trust.
The essential oils James sources and sells at Body Bliss are high-grade, therapeutic oils. After all, James is a botanist; he studies plants for a living and knows which plants—grown in which climates, countries, and altitudes—will work best. A handful of other companies also stocks this level of products. So, do your homework before you buy. Check out the manufacturer's philosophy and the retailer's commitment to bringing you the highest-quality oil available.

4. Trust your nose.
James says you can tell after just a few sniffs what's good and what's not. "True essential oils are full of aromatic essences," James says. "Take lavender as an example. You'll want to look for one that has a soft and sweet smell—not something that smells synthetic."

5. Know which scents help which ailments.
While a number of different options can help with a wide variety of issues, there are certain scents that help with specific issues. Here are some of the common times when an aromatherapeutic pick-me-up can help, and what to reach for:

  • When you're feeling down or angry, reach for jasmine, bergamot, lemon, chamomile, rose, tangerine, or ylang-ylang.
  • When you're tired, reach for cardamom, cinnamon, clove basil, eucalyptus, fennel, lemon, peppermint, or sage.
  • When you're feeling stressed, reach for lavender, bergamot, cedarwood, frankincense, myrrh, orange, peach, neroli, or rose geranium.
  • When you're needing a shot of confidence, reach for jasmine, patchouli, sandalwood, or frankincense.
  • When you want to get in the mood, reach for jasmine, vanilla, ylang-ylang, or sandalwood.

6. Don't be afraid to blend.
Essential oils can be used on their own or combined to create a unique blend—one that James says may even have a more powerful benefit than if you use the oils on their own. "Blending oils not only creates a more interesting scent, but it also means you have a greater chance of finding the oil that's going to hit the button on your specific issue," he says.

Not sure where to start? Try these custom blends James recommends:


  • Can't sleep? Blend marjoram and spikenard (oils for insomnia) with lavender, clary sage, vetiver, and sweet orange. "Lavender will help relax the mind and body, and clary sage gives us a little distance from the mind chatter," James says. "Vetiver is deeply calming, and sweet orange makes people feel emotionally comfortable, safe, and secure. Put these essential oils together, and you're much more likely to have a good night's sleep."
  • Going through a difficult patch? Combine ylang-ylang, basil, jasmine, and bergamot. "Ylang-ylang is an oil that helps you enjoy life, and basil is associated with the entrepreneurial spirit and helps you go for your dreams," James says. "Jasmine is the oil of the creative spirit and helps you feel good about yourself, and bergamot is very good for situations where you might feel challenged or lacking in confidence."
  • Want to feel happier? Mix ylang-ylang (to help you come out of your shell), chamomile (to be more in the moment), orange (associated with abundance, feeling secure, and playfulness), and lime (to enjoy life and let your hair down). "Put these oils together and you have a blend that helps you put a positive spin on everything," James says.
  • Moving? Whether you're moving into a new apartment or want to give a housewarming gift, orange, geranium, and clove bud is a great blend. "Orange is about richness and abundance, geranium is the oil of friendship and loyalty, and clove bud is the oil of community," James says. "This blend is about coming together around the fireplace and the well-being that comes from being with people we love and care about."


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