Essential oils have been used for centuries for the health-supporting properties. But where should you start?

essentialoils.jpg It’s no secret that plants contain a ton of health, cooking and cleaning benefits. Willow bark extract acted as an early aspirin, and even today, our artificial cleaners are made to smell like fresh lemon. But why not cut directly to the source and get the best of nature from its distilled oils? Essential oils carry the best of the plant in a convenient bottle. Some can be used in cooking, others cleaning, and all of them have a myriad of health benefits. They’re like a magical little elixir you can get at the health food store. But rather than going out and buying all of them, below are 10 of the best ones to have around the home. As a safety note, however, be sure to use only cooking grade essential oils in food. Many are toxic when ingested, so check the labels carefully. Also, the health uses are not a complete substitute for a physician. You should check with your doctor before ingesting oils. For dosing, follow the directions on the label of the oil. Never take more than is listed. Be safe and use common sense, and you’ll be able to reap the full benefits of essential oils.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is a popular powerhouse of an oil that may kill bacterial and fungus infections. It dates back to the aborigines of Australia, who used it to treat cuts and skin ailments. People use it on acne, nail fungal infections, lice, scabies, athlete’s foot, as an antiseptic for cuts and burns and for ear infections, just to name a few uses. Adding it to warm water can treat coughs if you breathe the steam. You can also add it to a vaporizer for chest ailments. This one’s on the toxic list, so never take it by mouth.

Patchouli oil

Patchouli (also spelled patchouly) oil has strong antimicrobial effects and has been used for colds, headaches, nausea, bad breath and vomiting, just to name a few conditions. Patchouli oil is used topically or inhaled. It’s also supposed to help fight chapped skin.

Peppermint oil

Peppermint is one of the must-have oils due to its iconic, uplifting scent. Food grade peppermint oil is a great flavoring, but it can also be added to the skin for headaches, muscle pain and aches. It’s even supposed to repel mosquitos. You can also inhale this oil via steam for colds and cough like tea tree oil. Combined with caraway oil, peppermint oil has even been scientifically shown to help relieve gastrointestinal disorder symptoms.

Cinnamon oil

Cinnamon oils are used in small amounts in commercial toothpaste, mouthwash, lotions, soaps, etc. Cinnamon itself can even help to regulate blood sugar. However, the essential oil is not safe to ingest. The scent makes it a great room freshener, and it can be added to potpourris. It’s great for adding to fall and holiday themed aromatherapy recipes, like scented homemade candles and sachets.

Lavender oil

If you only have one essential oil in stock, make sure it’s lavender. Food grade lavender oil can be used to add a sweet taste during cooking. The essential oil is often added to baths and homemade cleaning concoctions for the scent. It can be used in aromatherapy to treat insomnia, pain and agitation. For aromatherapy benefits, cup 2-3 drops in your hands and inhale deeply. Then rub the oil on your temples and wrists. It’s even been shown that taking lavender oil orally can help with anxiety symptoms. It’s also supposed to reduce inflammation on minor abrasions like bee stings and pain on minor burns. It’s reported to be a natural disinfectant, which you can use on minor cuts and in cleaning. It’s great as an additive to a vinegar and water household cleaning solution.

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil is toxic if ingested at full strength and must be diluted with water before it’s added to the skin. This one is also a powerful antiseptic. This oil is a common home remedy for respiratory issues, and it can be found in commercial cough drops. It can be added to boiling water for steam inhalation or vaporizers. It’s supposed to help with asthma, coughs, bronchitis, COPD, nasal stuffiness and sinus pain. If you have a lot of respiratory issues, you may want to give this oil a shot.

Sage oil

This one is a great additive to food for flavoring, but be sure to find food grade oil. Sage essential oils come with a host of issues if ingested. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists 12 drops or more of the essential oil as toxic. However, sage oil also has antimicrobial properties, so add it to cleaning solutions or put it on minor cuts. It’s also used as a home remedy stimulant. It’s even been reported that sage in its herb form helps boost memory.

Evening primrose oil

Primrose oil is a lesser-known oil that still packs a ton of health benefits. People use it to treat a whole host of issues like eczema, psoriasis, acne, heart disease, whooping cough and high cholesterol. It’s really the jack-of-all-trades health oil, due to its high content of omega-6. Though you may want to consult a physician before using it to treat serious health issues.

Rosemary oil

Rosemary is another oil that you should consider having on stock, even if you only have one or two oils around. It’s rumored to be great for boosting the memory and is a common dandruff remedy when added to shampoo. It’s also a heady addition to cooking.

Clove oil

This is another common treatment for skin irritations due to its antiseptic properties. It’s the go-to oil for dental pain and gargling with diluted clove oil can help relieve throat pain. Mix it with salt and apply to the forehead to treat headaches.