Discover benefits of essential oils for headache relief, skin toning, and energy clearing

Essential oils can dial down stress, zap zits, and even help you power through an afternoon slump. That’s if you’re using the right blend at the right time. To help you get the most out of your essential oils and blend them like pros, we turned to Jennifer Rose Goldman, an Advanced Clinical Aromatherapist and founder of Essential Rose Life, and Nada Milosavljevic, MD, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and founder of the Integrative Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Here, their 10 must-have essential oils, plus four recipes for blending them.

1. Lavender

If you’re new to essential oils, put lavender on your list. It’s a harmonizing and balancing oil because the scent mixes well with others, Goldman says.

It’s also the most studied aroma, Milosavljevic says, with research suggesting that it can do everything from lower anxiety to improve sleep. When you take a deep inhalation, the scent engages your olfactory nerve, which is one of the most direct connections to your brain, Milosavljevic says. Lanvender, she says, can induce a sense of calm and lower stress. For this reason, it’s great to drop some in your bubble bath (try 15 drops) or even a foot bath (8-10 drops will do). You could also put a few drops on a towelette or tissue and breathe them in.

See also 5 Essential Oils Combos That Smell Better Than Your Favorite Candles

2. Tea Tree

This essential oil is cleansing because it has antiviral, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties, Milosavljevic says. Preliminary research has shown that it could be helpful for treating acne, nail fungus, and athlete’s foot. In fact, one review found it to be just as effective at fighting acne-causing bacteria as the chemical benzoyl peroxide.

While tea tree oil is gentler on skin than chemicals, it can be drying, so it’s best not to apply it directly to your face, Goldman says. But once you’ve got face cleanser in your hand, you could add in a drop of tea tree oil and then apply, Goldman suggests. Since tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory properties, it can also reduce redness and irritation. For added cleansing benefits, add one drop of lemon essential oil and one drop of grapefruit essential oil to the cleanser, Goldman suggests.

3. Rosemary

You may want to keep this essential oil on your desk along with lavender to combat stressful days or afternoon slumps. Clarifying and mentally stimulating, rosemary is great for boosting your memory and concentration, Goldman says. “The Greco-Romans wore rosemary crowns,” she says, “because it was associated with higher levels of cognition.”

Because rosemary is a stimulant for the brain, it can also help counteract fatigue, says Milosavljevic, who is also the creator of the Sage Tonic line of aromatherapy towelettes. Add a couple of drops of rosemary to a tissue or piece of gauze and inhale with deep breaths for a minute or so, she suggest. She blended her rosemary towelette with basil to help reduce fatigue and boost cognition.

See also 4 DIY Essential Oil Blends for Your Home

4. Lemon

Lemon is a refreshing oil that has the potential to give us an energy boost. It’s uplifting and joyful, Goldman says. Beyond being a mood-booster, research has shown lemon to have antiseptic, astringent, and detoxifying properties, which can help treat blemishes caused by oily skin. It also can brighten and rejuvenate dull skin. A diluted drop added to your face was can be cleansing, but don’t apply it directly since it might dry out your skin, Goldman cautions. You could also add in a drop of tea tree oil to soothe irritated or red skin.

5. Peppermint

If you’re feeling tired or lethargic or have a pesky headache, try massaging a peppermint essential oil blend into your temples, Goldman says. Just don’t overdo it because you don’t want the oil to get into your eyes. Combine the peppermint with a carrier oil, such as coconut, jojoba, avocado, olive, or grapeseed oil.

In general, a good ratio, recommended by Milosavljevic, is 12-15 drops of essential oil for every one ounce of carrier oil.

If you pair a couple of drops of peppermint with the lavender-oil blend, it can be extra soothing for headaches because lavender is a proven stress reliever, Goldman says. Peppermint paired with lemon may relieve headaches, while also providing an energizing pick-me-up, she explains.

6. Eucalyptus

Just think of how good it feels to open your lungs, deepen your breath and inhale the scent of eucalyptus permeating a steam room. To get the same benefit at home, Milosavljevic recommends adding a few drops of eucalyptus to a dollop of shower gel. Or, you could put a few drops in a wet washcloth that you set in a steamy shower. The antimicrobial properties in eucalyptus can be good for your respiratory tract if you feel a cold coming on, she explains. A small study also found that inhaling the aroma of eucalyptus can also reduce pain and blood pressure.

Eucalyptus offers a cooling sensation, Goldman says. It can have the same effect energetically, too, helping to relieve frustration. Along with lavender and rosemary, it may be a good one to keep nearby at work–simply add a couple of drops to a tissue and inhale.

See also 5 Essential Oil Recipes to Suit Your Mood

7. Patchouli

We know, outside of yoga circles, this one sometimes gets a bad rap for being too potent. But a small amount works wonderfully as a cleanser because of its antimicrobial effects, which may help balance oil production no your skin and scalp, Goldman says. Try adding a few drops to your shampoo, along with a drop of tea tree oil, to cleanse your scalp.

While the research isn’t there to back it up, some have claimed patchouli is a aphrodisiac. You can inhale it, rub it on pulse points or, place a patchouli towelette between your pillow and pillowcase.

8. Chamomile

Chamomile’s superpower is that it’s remarkably soothing, Goldman says. It’s a strong essential oil, so one drop will go a long way, she cautions. For women who are on their menstrual cycle, it may help to mix a drop of chamomile with olive oil and massage it on your belly area. Research has also shown that simply taking a whiff of it can be calming and help bring on the ZZZs on restless nights.

9. Grapefruit

Bright, uplifting, and cleansing, grapefruit essential oil is bidding for a spot in your beauty cabinet. It can dry out a pimple quickly: Just apply a drop directly to the problem spot, Goldman suggests. Its scent is also uplifting and stimulating.

10. Sage

You may have used sage in a ritual called smudging when you moved into a new home or went through a breakup. Practiced in many indigenous cultures, it involves filling a home with smoke to clear energy in the space. In terms of essential oils, a little goes a long way, Goldman says: “It’s very clarifying and can balance out your mood and energy.” Like rosemary, sage can also help boost cognition. If you have oily hair, you may want to try a drop in your shampoo, she says.

To start putting these 10 powerful essential oils to good us, try these custom blends from Goldman for use in rollerballs, in beauty cleansers, and as sprays.

See also Scents that Heal: Aromatherapy for What Ails You

6 Essential Oil Blends to Try

1. Soothe Blend

Best for relieving stress and anxiety.

Add to an essential oil rollerball:

  • 14 drops of lavender
  • 2 drops of chamomile
  • 8 drops of eucalyptus
  • 10 mL (or .3 ounces) olive oil or coconut oil

2. Headache Relief Blend

Best for soothing headache tension and promoting mental clarity.

Add to an essential-oil rollerball:

  • 8 drops lavender
  • 2 drops peppermint
  • 4 drops rosemary
  • 4 drops eucalyptus
  • 4 drops patchouli
  • 10 mL (or .3 ounces) olive oil or coconut oil

4. Sacred Space Blend

Best for purifying, clarifying, and clearing energy in your space.

Add to a 1-ounce (or 30 mL) spray bottle:

  • 2 drops sage
  • 14 drops grapefruit
  • 8 drops patchouli
  • 1 ounce distilled water

Mix the essential oils with the distilled water. Pour the blend into the spray bottle. Spray the mist around yourself and your or “sacred space” to purify, clarify, and cleanse the space and energy.

“This can be used before ritual to promote self-connection and clarified thinking, at the end of the day to clear the day’s slate, or throughout the day to get back into emotional balance,” Goldman says.

See also The Essential Guide to Essential Oils

5. Body Cleanser

Best for body toning, cleansing, and balancing oil production.

Add to your body wash. For every 8 ounces of body wash, add:

  • 7 drops lemon
  • 1 drop peppermint
  • 3 drops tea tree

6. Pep in Your Step Blend

Best for mental stimulation, improving focus, and boosting mood.

Add to a 1-ounce, or 30 mL, spray bottle:

  • 6 drops rosemary
  • 14 drops grapefruit
  • 2 drops peppermint
  • 2 drops sage
  • 1 ounce distilled water

Mix the essential oils with the distilled water. Pour into the bottle. Spray the mist above your head and face and allow it to gently fall onto your skin. “Inhale the powerfully uplifting and energizing aroma,” Goldman says. Use the aroma to start your day with increased focus, or throughout the day for a little added pep in your step.

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