Essential Oils Blog

Feature Friday: Peppermint


Peppermint is usually one of the first essential oils that people buy! It’s fresh, clean and invigorating. It has so many wonderful things that it can be used for. As long as you don’t have very young children, it should be in your stash!

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 4.07.43 PMSo what do you do with your peppermint? I really love stirring 4 drops into 1/4 cup of Epsom salt and then placed in a basin of warm water for a relaxing but invigorating foot soak. Here are a few other ideas so you can get the most bang for your buck using your peppermint essential oil:

  1. Use a 5 drops of peppermint with 3 drops of Lemon on a personal inhaler to combat nausea.
  2. Upset stomach? Try combing 3 drops of Peppermint and 3 drops of Ginger and apply in a clockwise motion on the abdomen.
  3. For muscle strains or sprains try using 4 drops of peppermint with 6 drops of Rosemary in 1 ounce of carrier or unscented lotion. Apply to area of concern.

If you have any concerns or questions regarding the use of peppermint or any other essential oil, please contact one of our aromatherapists at and head over to join our Safe Essential Oils Recipe Facebook group!

Q & A with Robert Tisserand 8/29/2014

We offered our Plant Therapy customers a chance to ask questions and have them answered by Robert Tisserand on our Facebook page. The topic for this Q&A was “Topical Applications and Safety”. Questions were posted within a thread and for an hour Robert answered some of them! Of course, situations like this don’t allow for every question to be answered but below you can see the ones that were:

“Hello Robert, There are alot of opinions regarding the usage of eo’s on children under 2 and I would like further clarification from you since your book does not specifically say not to use eo’s on babies, just particular cautions are mentioned. Can, for instance, properly diluted roman chamomile be used topically on the outer jaw line of a teething infant, regardless if 3 months old or 12 months old? Also, is it safe to use lavender eo in homemade baby powder that would then obviously be applied topically to baby’s bottom or inside clothing, i.e. like 10 drops per cup of organic arrowroot powder? Basically, so long as properly diluted (.5-1%) can eo’s safe for children be used on babies as well?”

RT:  “I have general age/dilution guideline maximums, such as 0.2% for up to 3 months, 0.5% for up to 2 years, and these are for total essential oil. In addition there are sometimes even more restrictive guidelines for specific oils, such as 0.07% for cinnamon bark oil. Apart from the very few cases of highly toxic oils like horseradish, which should not be used at all, and those that are best avoided in young children, like peppermint, yes most oils can be safely used on babies if properly diluted

“How often can one apply a diluted oil, for example for a headache. once an hour? every few? every 4?

RT: “I would say there is no fixed rule for this. I have applied lavender oil to minor burns or bee stings every few minutes. That would be too frequent for a headache, which will be more like every 20-30 mins.

Are the EOs that are listed as phototoxic also more likely to provoke a sensitivity reaction?

RT: “Phototoxic oils of course can cause photosensitivity reactions, but they are not more likely to cause sensitivity (allergic) reactions, because the mechanisms involved are very different.”

“I have a question about ALLERGIES: When I try a new oil, I do a patch test. Here are some questions about the best way to do that:

  • 1) how long does it need to stay on? I’ve seen 12 to 72 hours.
  • 2) what dilution should I use for the test?
  • 3) does it matter what body part it is on? I usually see inner arm recommended – is that because it is a convenient section of sensitive skin? Can I use abdomen? It causes a lot of attention to walk around with multiple bandaids on!

RT: “You are supposed to leave on a patch for 48 hours. The dilution depends a little on the oil, but generally 5% would be appropriate. Patch testing is most frequently done on the upper back (by dermatologists, who sometimes want to test 2-3 substances at the same time) or the inner forearm. I don’t see any reason why you could not use the abdominal area (not generally used because in men, can be too hairy..)

“Several companies promote “neat” EO use. When is that appropriate? Is it most always better to dilute?

RT: “From a safety angle, it’s important to understand that some essential oils can cause allergic reactions, and that once your immune system creates antibodies to an essential oil constituent, such as cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon bark oil, it’s more or less there for life. Two of the important risk factors in skin contact allergies are (1) the essential oil used and (2) the dilution. So when you use undiluted oils you do increase risk. Also, a small point, but most undiluted oils have a drying effect on the skin.

“My dad is on Cumadin. He has arthritis. I know that wintergreen and birch cannot be used due to interactions. What eos can I use for him topically for pain that won’t react with his medication?”

RT: It’s much easier to list the oils to avoid, that might react with coumadin when used tpoically: Wintergreen, Sweet Birch, Garlic, Onion.

“What is the highest dilution recommended for adults when 2-5 is not working? Also, is it possible that when a given blend isn’t working that another blend should be tried rather using a higher dilution rate?”

RT: This really depends on what the problem is, but I would suggest using a different blend before going higher that 5%.

“In reference to child safe oils and safe use..I notice that sandalwood( Australian) santalum spicatum is listed as safe…but why not santalum austrocealeddonicum (new Caledonia) ? Is it ok for kids ..if not why?”

RT: Yes, both are equally safe

“How long can you safely use the same blend topically before it loses effectiveness and/or you risk sensitization? For instance, if I’m using a blend to reduce scarring or similar.”

RT: This is a great question, but there is no simple answer. For both continued efficacy and avoiding sensitization, you might consider changing blends every 3-4 months if you are using something long-term

“When you want to apply several oils-is it better to make a blend (like in a roller ball) or is it OK to apply the single (diluted) oil and then another over it and so on?”

RT: Well you can do either, whichever is easier, but there is no advantage to “layering” in my opinion

“I have an infant. Can I use oils topically on myself (chest, neck, etc.) when I’m around him? Is there a timeframe for how long I need to wait before holding him if I use them? Is it safe to use them if they’re covered with clothes or does it just depend on the oil?”

RT: Basically, yes, so long as you are not using undiluted oils or very concentrated blends

“Certain oils/blends work best for certain things (anxiety, sleep, etc). If I only get results from a certain combo, and have the condition daily, how can I prevent sensitization and still use frequently enough to get benefit?”

RT: See my previous comment on frequency, but I would say do change, or alternate your blend every 3-4 months.

“For those that have chronic illness’ like Fibromyalgia, chronic pain, etc, what are the risks associated with using EO’s everyday, (alternating blends to avoid sensitization), and what would be the max dilution you could apply for Pain aid or muscle aid? Thanks Robert!!”

RT: There are no increased risks because a person has fibromyalgia / chronic pain, and for general use, maximum would be around 5% for long-term use

“If you have known allergies to tree pollen, grass pollen, ect. Do you run a risk of having allergy to eo?”

RT: No, there is no increased risk. Inhaled allergies don’t cross-relate

“There is some conflicting information concerning using essential oils during preganancy. The latest information that I took from NAHA basically is stating that ‘normal use of eo’s by inhalation or diluted topical application shows no record of abnormal conditions to fetus. Because of the conflicts, I am wanting to hear your thoughts concerning using eo’s and pregnancy.”

RT: Most of the research is carried out in animals, using moderately high doses, but we do know from this that certain oils or constituents pose a greater risk of causing fetal malformations that the majority of oils. These include cinnamon bark, sage, wintergreen and others, which I recommend should not be used topically.

“Is there another way to do sensitivity test of oils besides bandaids, as I highly allergic to the adhesive.”

RT: Bandaids are not ideal anyway, but the patches made specially for patch testing are only sold to dermatologists. Perhaps a business opportunity here?

“If you have a reaction to an oil topically, is it still safe to use it by diffusing/inhalation or does the body process these the same way? Thank you for taking the time to respond.”

RT: 99% of the time it is safe to use it by non-topical routes, yes. Very rarely, there will be a reaction though

“I like to inhale from my hands over my nose/mouth rather than a difffuser, plastic inhaler, etc. Is it OK to use a higher dilution (30%?) If it’s only going on the thicker skin of my palms?”

RT: If you are not experiencing an adverse reaction then in a sense yes, it’s safe. But be aware that a few aromatherapists have developed hand dermatitis to some of the oils they used, so such reactions are possible

“Can sensitization be reversed? Thanks and you are awesome RT!”

RT: It sometimes just goes away after 10, 20, 30 years (similar to some vaccinations) but otherwise, I don’t think so

“Is clary sage safe to apply topically on the abdomen at a 1% dilution immediately following a birth? Thank you Plant Therapy and Mr. Tisserand!”

RT: Yes, totally safe

“I am sorry I can no longer see my question posted and it was about topically applying EOs. I have been putting Cedarwood on my 12 year old son’s feet to sleep at night and I wonder how many nights I can do that in a row and what signs I look for to see if there are problems.”

RT: It’s a very safe oil to use, but you might want to consider switching tom something else occasionally.

We want to thank Robert for doing this, and we hope that you have learned something while reading this! If you have specific questions or concerns, please be in touch via email at We look forward to hearing from you!

Chemical Families

Essential Oils&Chemical Families

Organic Chemistry…

No, don’t run! It’s ok! Don’t let your eyes glaze over quite yet. I am going to try to explain this so we can all be on the same page! Don’t worry – it’s not too complicated.

Chemical Families or Functional Groups refer to a group of compounds that share similar characteristics. Let’s take a quick look at each family and for the sake of basic information, I will be discussing the  main therapeutic properties of each family.  This information is important because we can make generalizations based on the percentages of each family present in an essential oil. Since the chemistry of essential oils is complex, these are very general, but give us a jumping off point when choosing oils for blends. You can find this information on a GC/MS report (which we are working on getting onto the website) and then you can see the breakdown of compounds in each family. Essential oils typically belong to many families, however certain constituents are higher in some families than others. Keep in mind this is a basic list and covers only the most common families.

It’s important to remember that when working with essential oils many aromatherapists are looking for specific compounds, but the entire composition should be taken into consideration when making choices. Simply because an oil has a higher percentage of a certain chemical family doesn’t make it a direct substitution for another oil.

Still with me? Ok, let’s dive in!

We have two large groups, with smaller family groups:


Refers to a group of compounds with only hydrogen and carbon atoms.


Large, light & airy compounds. These molecules tend to evaporate or oxidize quickly. Essential oils in this family are airborne deodorizers, antiseptic, decongestant and rubifacient. This is the largest group, comprising a large selection of oils many of whom belong to other families as well.

Examples of essential oils in this group are:


Essential oils in this family are anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-spasmodic & sedative.

Examples are:


Refers to the many compounds that contain hydrogen, carbon and oxygen atoms. Many essential oils with high percentages of alcohols are generally anti-infectious, bactericidal, and antiviral. Some may have a balancing effect


Antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-fungal & uplifting.

Examples are:

Sesquiterpenol Anti-inflammatory, cooling, grounding & supportive to body systems. Oils high in sesquiterpenols tend to be from the roots/bark of plants. The most “famous” of these is a-santanol found in sandalwood.

Examples are:


Stimulating to body & immune system, anti-infectious. Phenols should be used in acute situations for very specific reasons and for short periods of time.

Examples are:


These compounds are antispasmodic, calming to the central nervous system & healing for the skin. Some can be anti-inflammatory.

Examples are:


Can be decongestant, anti-viral, analgesic & stimulating for the mind. This group is known for the compound 1,8-cineole which is a fantastic decongestant.

Examples are:


These oils are fantastic anti-fungals, sedative, cooling & anti-inflammatory. Please use in low dilution (typically 1%) as they can cause sensitivity to the skin.

Examples are:


A group of compounds that can be toxic (as in the case of thuja and wormwood). Properties include mucolytic, circulatory stimulant, analgesic. Caution should be used with ketones during pregnancy.

Examples are:

It’s important to remember that this is a very brief look at these compounds, the properties they exhibit and how they function in essential oils. Each oil is a complex structure containing hundreds of compounds. For more information on the chemical make up of essential oils, consider a great reference book like “Essential Oil Safety” by Robert Tisserand or “The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy” by Salvatore Battaglia. Both of these books break down each chemical family, compounds and allow you to have a better grasp on what each does therapeutically. Use the above information with our post about Therapeutic Properties for a good start on the chemical makeup of essential oils. 


If you have questions or concerns please contact one of our certified aromatherapists at and head over to join our Facebook group Safe Essential Oil Recipes.

Feature Friday: Bergamot


Bergamot is a wonderful essential oil! It has a pleasant aroma and is very useful for emotional issues like anxiety, depression and nervousness. Check out this profile and the few suggestions for use:

Click here to download the Bergamot Product Sheet

I really love Bergamot. It’s one of my favorite oils since it blends so well with nearly everything. Use caution with Bergamot topically — it is a phototoxic oil. Here are a few ways to use it:

  1. To relieve anxious feelings, diffuse 4 drops of Bergamot with 2 drops of Grapefruit and 2 drops of Neroli.
  2. To make an inhaler that is great for panic attacks use 5 drops Bergamot, 4 drops Lemon and 2 drops Lavender on the cotton wick for your personal inhaler.


Don’t forget to print this sheet & save it with your references. As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns by contacting one of our on-staff aromatherapists at and head over to join our Facebook group Safe Essential Oil Recipes.

Essential Oil Extraction 101


Extraction refers to how the essential oil is removed from the plant material and made available for use. There are several methods of extraction. Each has benefits and depends on the type of plant material and the types of compounds you want in your final oil. Distillers may use one or more method of extraction for different plants.

Cold Press


Reserved for citrus extraction. The citrus fruits are rotated against rollers and bruised. The essential oils is released into a collection vessel also containing water. The water is siphoned off, leaving the oils behind since they float in the top. This method is good for citrus, since it’s not subjected to heat. The heat may destroy some of the compounds in citrus oils.

Steam Distillation

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 10.03.41 AM

The vast majority of essential oils are created this way! For this method, steam from a boiler in piped into a vessel containing the plant matter. The volatile compounds (essential oil) are released and move through a condensing tube into a collection vessel. This vessel contains water, which is the hydrosol. The essential oil floats on the surface of this liquid. Later, the water/hydrosol/floral water is decanted off leaving the essential oil for bottling.

The benefit here is the speed in which this can be completed. Again, some compounds can be subjected to degradation under high heat conditions. If the process can be quick, the degradation can be controlled.

Solvent extraction


Reserved for oils in which compounds would be damaged by traditional steam distillation.

Flowers too delicate to be processed with heat are soaked in a solvent, usually hexane that extracts the volatile elements. The solvent is then evaporated leaving only the most fragrant constituents behind. This process produces what is called an “absolute”. Here is a more in depth step-by-step process:

  1. Plant material is macerated in a solvent, usually hexane
  2. After several days the solvent is removed, leaving the viscous, fragrant concrete
  3. The concrete is dissolved with high-proof alcohol
  4. The mixture is chilled, and separates into plant waxes and fragrant tincture
  5. The fragrant tincture is vacuum distilled to evaporate off the alcohol, leaving an absolute


Hydrosols or Floral Waters



The water that is siphoned off prior to bottling essential oils. As you can see in the diagram, he essential oil is floating on the surface and there is water below. THAT water is the hydrosol. These are perfect for everyday use, having many of the benefits of essential oils, but in a much gentler form. Good for cuts, scrapes and for use with children.


You can tell right on the website what type of extraction was used for your essential oil! If this information isn’t found on the label, most websites have it available to you! It’s just another important piece to the puzzle! If you have any concerns or questions please fell free to contact one of our on-staff aromatherapists at! Also, join our Facebook group Safe Essential Oil Recipes.

Homework Helper!


The kids are back in school! Now we get to spend hours & hours doing homework at the kitchen table. Let’s make this process a little easier.

First, allow your kids some free play time when they get home from school. Letting them release some energy & play will help their concentration later in the evening. Next, give them a snack. A protein-packed snack helps the brain calm down and fuels the body & brain. Finally, provide a quiet or calm space for them to work. At my house, this is the dining room table cleared of all distractions. I am only a few steps away and available for help.

During homework time, get out your diffuser and try one of these blends to help your student get through that evening homework session.


If you don’t have a diffuser, consider using a personal inhaler with 12-15 drops of your selected blend on the reusable cotton wick! Allow your child to decorate the inhaler tube with his or her name. Empowering children with tools they can use to manage their education is so important!

Don’t underestimate the benefits of a good diet and proper rest, as well! Studies show that proper nutrition and rest are just as important to your child education as the teacher they have or the school they go to! If you have concerns about your child’s concentration, and want more specific help please contact us at or join us on Facebook Safe Essential Oil Recipes


Feature Friday: Rosemary


This weeks feature oil is Rosemary! A lovely herb used often in french cooking. It’s aromatic, warm scent is perfect paired with poultry. Let’s look at the profile for Rosemary as an essential oil and discover what it can do for you!

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 4.32.29 PM

Since we’ve taken a closer look at Rosemary’s profile, below are some ideas how you can use it in your home!

  1. 3-4 drops Rosemary and 4-6 drops pink grapefruit in the diffuser is fantastic for an afternoon blend. It’s centering yet invigorating.
  2. Add 1 drop of Rosemary to your quarter sized amount of shampoo 2-3 times a week. Very invigorating, as Rosemary helps stimulate blood flow to the scalp.
  3. Have a backache? Combine 3-4 drops lavender and 2-3 drops Rosemary with 1/2 c epsom salt. Stir to combine, then add to warm bath! Relaxation is just a few minutes away…


I hope this gives you a few more ideas how you can use your rosemary! Don’t forget to print this profile for future reference!

DIY Hand Sanitizer


Did you know that the regular hand sanitizer has 60-80% Ethyl Alcohol also known as ethanol! So that would make a 2 oz bottle of hand sanitizer = to 4 shots of vodka! According to the American Association of Poison Control, there were 12,000 cases of hand sanitizer ingestion in 2006. The dangers of it for little children are extreme! It can cause alcohol poisoning in little children according to the American Association of Poison Control. Now if that wasn’t enough, large amounts of alcohol dries out your hands and is very flammable! Yikes, those are unintended consequences. We all want to keep your families safe and healthy.

So, who wants to learn how to make your own hand sanitizer? It’s about time to send your kids back to school, we all know that means lots of hand washing to keep the germs away! Let’s make one that is safer and gentler on your skin!


Hand Sanitizer

What you’ll need:

What you’ll do:

  1. Pour Aloe Vera Jelly into a flip top bottle.
  2. Add 10 drops Palmarosa and 8 drops of Fir Needle. (Alternately you can just add 18 drops of Germ Destroyer or Germ Fighter)
  3. Shake well to incorporate oils.
  4. Use a dime size squirt of the gel as needed on your hands and rub in.

You or your child can carry this gel with you to work or school. A perfect alternative to traditional hand sanitizer. Not only will you support your immune function, but you will fight off the germs that many of us pick up every day! Keep your family healthy and happy this fall using a homemade hand sanitizer!

Please let us help you with your questions! You can email us at or join our Facebook Group Safe Essential Oil Recipes.

Aromatherapy Bubbles


Have you run out of cool summer fun for your kiddos? I am at my wits’ end trying to entertain all my munchkins. This was such a fun idea I had to share. BONUS: it’s super easy and keeps them entertained for an hour!  Some other great recipes for kids are Finger PaintPlay Dough, and Sand!


What you’ll need:

What you’ll do:

  1. Add 4 drops of essential per ounce of bubbles.
  2. Have fun!

See, I told you it was simple! We like to do this in the bathroom, in swimsuits. Kids are contained but happy and then I just rinse everything down. I like to try to do this at the end of the week when the bathroom needs a good wipe down anyhow! It’s a win-win for everyone!

What is Sensitization?


We throw around this big word a lot: Sensitization. We get asked a lot what this means, so here’s a quick lesson that sheds some light on sensitization.

What does this mean to you?

Sensitization is an allergic immune response. It can also be referred to as Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD). This means that the reaction may or may not show up at the area of application. If you apply an oil or blend to your arm, the reaction my show up on your chest, neck or just about anyplace else. Sometimes it will take time to figure out which oil you are reacting to. Almost every time the reaction will happen faster and last longer than the time before. Just like when you get bit by a mosquito or stumble upon poison ivy a raised, itchy, red rash can appear. It’s that histamine reaction that can worsen over time. It may not happen the first, second or even tenth time, but the fact remains it may happen. Now, here’s the really sad part: once sensitized to an oil you may not be able to use it without symptoms recurring. You may also have reactions to oils with a similar chemical make-up. An example of this is a compound called geranyl, widely used in modern cosmetics,  there are many people who have sensitization to Lavender since it contains geranyl.

Some signs of sensitization are:

  • itchy skin
  • raised, bumpy rash
  • eczema
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in chest

How can I reduce my risk?

This is why it is so important to follow proper safety dilutions. If you dilute your oils, you decrease your risk for sensitization. Why risk not being able to use your favorite oil? It is possible that if you use your oils undiluted for a long enough period of time, this can happen. Of course, this is not true in every case but why risk it? Always use the least effective amount of oil needed. I prefer to keep my dilutions to 1-2% for daily or frequent  use. For acute situations, like an injury, I go as high as 4-5 %.  Please refer to the dilution chart for guidelines on proper usage.

dilution guide chart final


Situations and oils that carry a higher risk:

If you are prone to allergies, eczema, dermatitis or have sensitive skin you may have an increased risk of sensitization. In this case, always use a lower dilution. Oils to avoid because they are known sensitizers are, Aniseed pimpinella anisum , Cassia cinnamomum cassia, Lemon Verbena Lippia citriodora or Aloysia triphylla, Peru Balsam myroxylon pereirae and Spearmint mentha spicata. There may be other oils that are prone to sensitization. Always do your own research to ensure that the oils you are choosing are right for you!

Does this mean I can’t use my oils neat, ever?

No, not necessarily. There are cases where I use oils neat, like when I touch a hot pan and burn my finger. However, erring on the side of caution here is useful so that when you have a need to use an oil neat you can do so without fear of creating more of a problem for yourself. It is always wise to work with a certified aromatherapist who can guide your safe usage of essential oils. We want to empower your use of essential oils, not create an atmosphere of fear. Please note that we always urge safe, conservative use of essential oils so that you can continue to reap the benefits of these wonderful tools!

Here at Plant Therapy, we have 2 on-staff aromatherapists who are happy to help you answer questions! Contact us at .


  1. Tisserand, R. (2014) Essential Oil Safety
  2. Fulcher, L. (2012) “Would you know if you had an essential oil “sensitization” reaction?”
  3. Clark, M. (2013) Essential Oils and Aromatics: A step by step guide for use in massage and aromatherapy