Essential oils, the concentrated liquid essence obtained from plants of all sorts, offer an easy-to-use and effective method of supporting both physical and emotional health. Their (usually) pleasant fragrance makes EOs a delight to use, even for kids who often balk at taking medicine. I’ve put together this list of ten essential oils every family should have so that you can support and enhance your family’s wellness.
From the floral to the woodsy, the common to the exotic, essential oils are obtained from over 100 plants around the world. While the lists of EO names can sometimes become confusing (Mandravasarotra, anyone?) each plant has its role to play in supporting health.
These ten essential oils are of great use to families because they offer help for issues that parents and kids often face. Even if you don’t have kids at home, you’ll still find each of these oils very useful. Let’s take a look at each oil and what it can do to help you.
Oregano (Oreganum vulgare)
Oregano essential oil has become a mainstay in my “medicine kit,” It stays on the shelf with the oils that I use most often for one simple reason: It is excellent for relieving dry and “moist” coughs.
When any of us develop a cough, I typically take a two-pronged approach with essential oils. I have a blend of seven oils that I put in the diffuser at night, and I apply a chest rub that contains the same EOs.
Recently, my youngest son (who’s three right now) had a moist-sounding cough that only bothered him when he was asleep. All day, he’d be fine and then start coughing within 15 minutes or so of falling asleep. The first night, he kept me awake most of the night with his coughing.
The second night, I thought, “Why am I not using the essential oils!” I applied the chest rub to his chest and back and started up the diffuser. No exaggeration – he had one more coughing spell about five minutes later and then slept the rest of the night without another cough.
It doesn’t always work that miraculously, but I can always detect improvement – for myself and for the kids.
Oregano is a hot oil, which means it must never be applied to the skin unless it’s first diluted in a carrier oil. Add 1-2 drops oregano EO to a tablespoon of olive, coconut, or other carrier oil. It’s best not to use oregano with children under two years old, or if you are pregnant or nursing.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
The fragrance of eucalyptus is probably familiar because it’s a common ingredient in commercial chest rubs, and it is certainly helpful for coughs and chest congestion. It’s one of the seven EOs I use in my own homemade chest rub (along with oregano, peppermint, and others).
Eucalyptus can also help relieve the pain and breathing difficulties of minor sinus congestion. Putting the oil in a diffuser may help, but for sinus congestion, my preferred method is to use a hot inhalation.
I place 1-2 drops each of eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano, and tea tree in a saucepan of pure water and then bring the water to a simmer. While the water is steaming, lean over it and breathe deeply. Drape a towel over your head to hold in the steam if you’d like. The oils will really open up your breathing passages – I promise!
Don’t boil the water, though, because the essential oils will vaporize into the air if you do.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officianalis)
If you already use essential oils, I’m guessing you have a bottle of lavender oil at your house. If you’re new to EOs, may I suggest that the first purchase you make is a bottle of organic lavender essential oil? The fragrance is so beautiful and calming – I’m sure it will quickly become a favorite!
Lavender’s most well-known use is to help induce relaxation and sleep. Put a few drops in bathwater just before bed to help yourself or your child fall asleep more easily and stay asleep. Diffusing lavender essential oil in the bedroom for about 30 minutes at bedtime can also help make falling asleep easier.
Lavender contains naturally antibiotic properties, which means that lavender essential oil can help prevent infection and speed the body’s healing of minor cuts, scrapes, and burns. I include lavender oil when I make my homemade antibiotic ointment and in many other salves as well. It’s the perfect addition to almost any salve because it smells heavenly and offers an extra touch of soothing to the mixture.
Be aware that using excessive amounts of lavender EO will actually act as a stimulant instead of being relaxing.
Lemon (Citrus limon)
Pressed from the rinds of lemons, lemon essential oil has a bright, uplifting fragrance that is both energizing and grounding. It makes a good addition to cold and flu treatments and brings its own healing properties to these preparations. Try putting 3-4 drops lemon EO in a cup of hot peppermint tea for relief from the pain and discomfort of minor colds, coughs, and fevers.
My personal favorite use for lemon essential oil is to ease the pain of a sore throat. I’ve used it successfully countless times over the last five years. When I feel a sore throat coming on, I warm a cup of pure water and add about 5-7 drops of lemon EO. I then gargle the lemon water for as long as I can before spitting it out. I can almost always notice a difference right away, and I repeat the procedure about every 15 minutes until the pain goes away.
I’ve knocked several sore throats out completely by doing this. It works best if I start as soon as I notice the pain or scratchiness. If I wait until the pain has gotten bad, gargling the lemon water will bring relief for 15-30 minutes but usually isn’t able to stop the sore throat completely.
Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata)
Growing up, when I’d walk into Kirklands or Pier One and smell that overpowering scent, I always thought I was smelling cinnamon. Nope, that wonderful smell of Christmas and Kirklands is actually clove bud.
Clove acts as a rubefacient and can bring soothing pain relief to arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, and strains, Dilute to a ratio of 1-2 drops per tablespoon of carrier oil and massage gently over the affected area.
My favorite use for clove oil is to relieve minor toothaches. My husband deals with crowns and fillings that have fallen out, and I’ve been cutting my wisdom teeth off and on for almost 14 years. (I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.) When either of us is stricken with tooth pain, we put a drop or two of clove oil onto a Q-tip and carefully touch it to the hurting gum. It brings almost instant relief, though it does need to be applied several times a day.
I’ll warn you – be careful when you apply the clove oil. If you touch your tongue or inner cheeks, they will feel hot and numb at the same time. I don’t recommend applying clove oil to children’s toothaches.
Clove is a hot oil. Do not use with children under age two, and do not apply undiluted to skin.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
The fragrance of peppermint is familiar to just about everyone. As an essential oil, peppermint is a stimulant that helps a person feel more awake, clear-headed, and able to concentrate. It can be helpful to diffuse peppermint while your kids (or you) are studying!
The menthol naturally present in peppermint is very cooling. Diluted in a carrier oil and then massaged or sprayed onto the skin, peppermint EO can reduce hot flashes during menopause, general sweating, or just help you feel more comfortable on a hot day.
Like the whole herb, peppermint EO aids digestion and can help relieve the discomfort of occasional nausea and indigestion. When I feel nauseous, I reach for either the peppermint or lemon essential oil and breathe deeply from the bottle. The effect doesn’t last forever, but it immediately calms my nausea and has helped me avoid vomiting.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary essential oil has a wide variety of uses. Like peppermint EO, it awakens the senses and helps with concentration. Rosemary has even been found to help with memory retention.
Diluted in a carrier oil and applied topically, rosemary essential oil can he helpful for minor muscle aches, muscle cramping, arthritis, and poor circulation. If you suffer from restless leg syndrome at night, try massaging diluted rosemary oil onto your legs before bed.
I include rosemary in my homemade chest rub for coughs and congestion as it has expectorant and decongestant properties.
Sandalwood (Santalum album)
Sandalwood has a lovely woodsy scent and is helpful for uplifting emotions and for certain skin issues. It’s considered a “grounding” essential oil and can be beneficial during times of stress or depression. Diffuse sandalwood at home or in the car, or dilute a few drops in a carrier oil and use for massage. Put 4-5 drops in a bathtub of warm water for a relaxing, emotionally-uplifting bath.
Use sandalwood diluted in a carrier oil for these skin issues:
- dry or oily skin (it will balance oil production)
- chapped skin
- to reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks
Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
Orange is another essential oil with such a delightful fragrance that you’ll quickly fall in love. It’s both uplifting and energizing, making it excellent to diffuse (or breathe directly from the bottle) on those days when you’re feeling down in the dumps or unmotivated.
I like to add orange and lemon oils to my homemade mop solution and other cleaners. They don’t add any particular germ-fighting properties, but they sure do smell wonderful.
Sweet orange is also helpful for improving slow digestion, relieving gas, and easing occasional constipation. Diffuse the oil for 30 minutes once or twice a day, or place 2-3 drops in a tablespoon of carrier oil and massage over the abdomen in clockwise direction.
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Tea tree essential oil is antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial – all while being non-irritating and non-toxic. These germ-fighting properties make tea tree EO another great addition to a homemade antibiotic ointment, though its fragrance isn’t nearly so pleasing as lavender’s. I like to add four drops lavender and two drops tea tree to an ounce of my homemade salve.
Tea tree oil is helpful for numerous skin conditions. Apply a salve or dilute three drops tea tree EO in a tablespoon of carrier oil.
- athlete’s foot and other fungal infections
- bruises, burns, and cuts
- cold sores
- insect bites
For mouth and throat problems like sore throats, gingivitis, or toothache, dilute 2-3 drops of tea tree oil in a small glass of warm water and use as a gargle.
Do not use tea tree essential oil on infants. Children and pregnant women should not use undiluted tea tree oil.
The fragrance of essential oils are enjoyed by just about everyone, and they are safe to use with certain precautions. Very few people are sensitive or allergic to EOs, but if you notice any unpleasant reaction, discontinue using that essential oil. With these ten essential oils, you’ll have a pleasant way to deal with those minor problems that we face frequently.
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Robbins, Wendy. “Essential Oils Directory: Essential Oil Properties, Uses and Benefits.” AromaWeb. AromaWeb, LLC, 1997-2017. Web.
Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don’t Know. Prentice Hall Press, 2010.
This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is intended only for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your healthcare routine.
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