What Are Essential Oils: Learn About Using Essential Oil From Plants

By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Essential oils are mentioned a lot in natural health and beauty remedies these days. However, historians have found evidence that essential oils were used as far back as ancient Egypt and Pompeii. Almost every culture has a long history of using plant essential oils for health, beauty, or religious practices. So, what are essential oils? Continue reading for the answer, as well as information on how to use essential oils.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are extracts that are distilled from the bark, flower, fruit, leaves or root of a plant. Most true essential oils are steam distilled, though in a few cases a process called cold pressing is used to extract essential oil from plants.

Plants naturally contain essential oils for many reasons such as:

  • to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects
  • as protection or deterrent from pests, including rabbit or deer
  • as protection against fungal and bacterial diseases
  • to compete with other plants by releasing alleopathic essential oils in to the garden.

Some plants that are commonly used for essential oils for their health and beauty benefits include:

  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood
  • Tea tree
  • Chamomile
  • Cinnamon
  • Cedarwood
  • Ginger
  • Rose
  • Patchouli
  • Bergamot
  • Lavender
  • Jasmine

How to Use Essential Oils

In order to extract the true essence of plants, they need to be distilled or cold pressed. Making essential oils at home is not actually possible without distilling equipment. However, it is recommended that essential oils used topically be mixed with a gentler oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil or jojoba oil. Essential oils are highly concentrated and are oftentimes mixed with just water as well.

There are three ways of using essential oils: topically, as an inhalant or orally. You should always read and follow the instructions on the labels of essential oils; it could be very harmful to ingest certain essential oils.

Bathing with a few drops of essential oils in the water allows you to use essential oils as an inhalant and topically, as the bath water is absorbed by the skin. You can purchase diffusers for essential oils that are meant to be used as an inhalant too. Compresses or massage oils are frequently used to apply topical essential oils.

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Using Essential Oils in the Yard & Garden

May 3, 2012 · Modified: Jul 2, 2019 by Pam Dana · This post may contain affiliate links · 4 Comments

Pests Pests NASTY Pests! They can totally ruin your garden… and fast! Lisa has had fun over the years battling different bugs, she shared them yesterday in her Planting and Pests post!

Essential Oils: I am not shy about how much I love E.O’s! So, I am so beyond excited to use them in my yard and garden! Here are ways I’ve used E.O’s in the yard and garden.

  • Ants: Peppermint (Add a line of peppermint to the window or door seals)
  • Aphids: Peppermint, Sandalwood, White Fir
  • Beetles: Peppermint, Thyme
  • Chiggers: Lavender, Lemongrass, Thyme
  • Cutworm: Thyme
  • Flies: Basil, Clove, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary
  • Gnats: Patchouli
  • Mosquitoes: Lavender, Lemongrass
  • Moths: Lavender, Peppermint
  • Plant Lice: Peppermint
  • Slugs: White Fir
  • Snails: Patchouli, White Fir
  • Spiders: Peppermint
  • Ticks: Lavender, Lemongrass, Thyme
  • Weevils: Patchouli, Sandalwood

For those of you that are new or unfamiliar with Essential Oils, remember that E.O’s are very strong! You don’t need much. To treat the plants you can spray or brush the Essential Oil directly on the plant, right on the problem area. You can treat it daily until the problem is gone!

Vinegar: I’ve used Vinegar for cleaning, but had no idea it was also a versatile option outside! Did you know vinegar is a natural herbicide? I didn’t! You can use it to kill weeds in unwanted places! All you do is pour full-strengeth distilled vinegar on them. I thought this was a great option for those annoying cracks and crevices in the walkways and driveway! It will kill grass though, so be careful not to have it over spray onto your grass!

Here are a few other suggestions they had for vinegar:

  • Give acide loving plants a boost by watering them with a vinegar solution every once in a while. A cup of vinegar to a gallon of water!
  • Preserve cut flowers and liven droopy ones by adding 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar to a quart of water in a vase.
  • Wash garden vegetables with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar in 1 ½ quarters of water.
  • Kill slugs by spraying them with a mixture of 1 part water and 1 water white vinegar.

Also, if you missed any of our posts this week in our Garden Series you can read them here: Planters, Beds and Trellises, Soil Prep and Planting and Pests!

A Word About Purity

Before we get started, let’s talk about purity for a minute. Everyone has their own favorite brand of oils – so we won’t cover particular brands in this article.

However, I advise buying from the manufacturer directly, and not from a 3rd party source like Amazon. It’s very, very easy to pop the top off oils and replace them with an inferior essential oil – or something that doesn’t even resemble an oil, but smells like the real deal.

The last thing you want is to spend a lot of time and effort growing your garden, only to dump a bunch of toxins on them unwittingly.

Bottom line: Buy from a trusted source, just be sure the oil is pure, and the oil in the bottle is as advertised.

Mice and other rodents are repulsed by the clean, fresh scent of peppermint. Douse cotton balls with 1 – 2 drops of Peppermint oil a piece then tuck them into the entrances of mouse holes, squirrel nests, and other rodent burrows to persuade rodent residents to relocate. Replace as needed.

Did you know that cats hate the smell of Rosemary? If you can’t seem to keep the neighborhood tomcat from leaving his delightful presents amidst your herbs and veggies, try spraying your mulch with Rosemary oil diluted in water. Alternately, you can add a few drops of Rosemary oil to a wide, shallow container partially filled with water. Whisk vigorously to break up oil droplets then drop in strips of cloth or pieces of string. Allow them to soak long enough to absorb all of the oil. Tie strings between plants or around the garden perimeter. Hang cloth strips between garden rows, around plants, or anywhere you know the cat likes to dig. Refresh as needed.

Black Pepper (or any other pepper, for that matter) essential oil can also be used to deter larger mammals from your garden. Dogs, in particular, with their sensitive noses will be turned away from the strong odor of pepper oil. Apply using the same string / cloth method as with Rosemary oil (above). Just keep in mind that over-use of this essential oil may make your garden less pleasant for humans as well.

The sun is shining again, which means it’s time to tend to your beloved plants! While we prepare our gardens for a bright and sunny season, nothing quite dampens the spirit of things like unwelcome pests and fungal blight. From aphids to mold, essential oils can help bolster the health of your spring garden. Below are some of our favorite methods to keep gardens happy.

One of the strongest champions for your garden is Neem carrier oil. Acting as a potent insecticide , Neem can repel and manage the presence of over 200 species of garden-destroying bug species, including aphids, mites, snails, moths and gnats. It also acts as an antifungal that supports soil while remaining friendly to birds, bees, ladybugs and other wildlife (as long as they are not sprayed directly).

To spray your plants using Neem, add about 1.5 tablespoons of the carrier oil with ½ a teaspoon of castile soap to a gallon of water. Be careful not to spray directly onto friendly bugs, and avoid spraying your plants in direct sunlight or hot weather. Be sure to coat the leaves on the top and undersides, and even spray a little bit on to the soil.

Our favorite essential oils for gardening keep pests away while simultaneously supporting the health of your precious plants, indoor and out. Basil, Lavender, Helichrysum and Hyssop can all attract welcome guests like bees and butterflies while driving away mosquitoes and opportunistic flies.

Here a few other essential oils and their areas of expertise:

  • Tea Tree : fights mold and fungus
  • Peppermint : repels ants, aphids, beetles, moths and spiders
  • Basil : repels flies and supports vegetable plant health
  • Lavender : attracts pollinators repels mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks
  • Cedarwood : repels roaches, slugs and snails

Tips & Tricks

  1. Making a beneficial spray is as easy as adding 10 drops of essential oil to a gallon of water with a couple drops of castile soap. If a spray bottle is preferred, you can also add 2-3 drops of EO for every cup of water used, plus a drop of castile soap.
  2. Mix the essential oil combination of your choice into Epsom salt and add a layer around your garden. The plants will thank you for the magnesium boost as well.
  3. We recommend spraying your plants for preventative purposes every 1-2 weeks, and every 3 days for a week or two to combat a specific pest issue.
  4. Similar to Neem oil, we recommend that you spray your plants when the sun is setting and the weather is not too hot. You may want to spot check your spray on one particular leaf to ensure it does not have a negative reaction.
  5. Research, research, research! There are tons of tried-and-true recommendations all over the internet. Find what works for your particular garden.

About the Author, Jenna Jones

Jenna Jones is the Chief Marketing Officer of Edens Garden. Jenna’s background in journalism led her to investigate the world of essential oils, and what she discovered inspired her. She joined the team in 2016, spurring Edens Garden into a leading source for aromatherapy education.

This article was reviewed by our Lead Aromatherapist,

Bella Martinez is a Certified Aromatherapist, Natural Skincare Formulator and Edens Garden’s lead aromatherapist. An industry expert, Bella has spent years training and learning in the aromatherapy field, which she continues annually. Her passion is taking evidence-based aromatherapy and making it approachable for all.

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