How to Pick the Right Essential Oils

Aromatherapy provides a powerful sensory experience for one simple reason: The nose knows, according to Dr. Nancy B. Irwin, a Los Angeles hypnotherapist.

“The olfactory sense, like all of the others, holds memories that the subconscious mind associates to people, places or times in our lives that flood us with pleasure-or pain,” she tells “Smelling fresh-baked cookies reminds you of a favorite grandmother. A certain cologne reminds you of the first boy you ever kissed. We can immediately change state, or mood, just by breathing in these aromas.”

Knowing how to choose the right essential oil for the right occasion is the first step to reaping aromatherapy’s benefits. How can you tell which oils will calm your nerves and which will invigorate you? Read on to learn the essential of essential oils.

Oil Properties

“I use lavender for people with grief, anxiety and depression disorders,” says Dr. Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of Atlanta, Georgia-based Alter Your Life, a company that markets nurturing products designed to help you live “an intentional life.”

“Lavender possesses calming properties and works incredibly well for stress, anxiety and depression,” she tells “I use citrus aromas, such as orange, tangerine or lemon, for my patients and clients with depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and anxiety. Vanilla is another aroma I have had a great experience with. I have found that aromatherapy is a perfect adjunct therapy for physical, psychological and spiritual conditions.”

Debbie Polden, manager of the Emerald Mist Spa at St. Kitts Marriott Resort in the West Indies, recommends chamomile, ylang ylang and clary sage for relaxation.

“Chamomile is an excellent oil to help relax the body,” she says. “It helps soothe the nerve endings and has a calming effect on the entire body. Ylang ylang has a more mentally relaxing effect, working more on the mind to give you a feel-good response. And clary sage is an essential oil that has a very euphoric reaction with the mind, so it works more on a spiritual level to relax.”

Rosemary, peppermint and citrus oils (lemon, grapefruit or orange) “help to increase circulation, revitalize the mind and awaken the senses, leaving you feeling more energized,” she says.

Psychotherapist and life coach Joshua Estrin, president of Concepts In Success, also recommends peppermint for a mental-health boost.

“Stress and tension block strategic thinking and keep us stuck,” he tells “Clients have found it helps them relax.”

Jennifer Urezzio, founder of Blooming Grove Herbal Remedies, enjoys the invigorating qualities of lime, jasmine and lemon. The trick is using them correctly when creating personal-care products.

“Essential oils and water do not mix well,” she tells, “so I recommend using an unscented liquid soap or foaming bath gel, or unscented bath salts or crystals, and adding 10 drops of oil [for every 8 oz.] to the mixture,” she says. “Please make sure you pick a soap or salt that is all-natural-one that you have used before and had no signs of skin irritation.”

Spiritual Healing get Reiki channeled to you daily for as little as $1 a day.

Special Uses

For swollen legs, draw a bath and add a few drops of essential oils, a few cups of Epsom salts and dead sea salts, says Cici Coffee, founder and CEO of the Natural Body Spa & Shoppe, with eight locations in Atlanta, Georgia. You can also add a few drops of oil to your favorite lotion-a particular treat for tired feet.

Erich Worster, owner of Anakiri Aromatherapy, recommends putting a drop of stimulating oil on the carpet of your car.

To purify home and office environments, try Air Therapy from Mia Rose Products, Inc. The concentrated non-aerosol spray mists are developed with essential citrus oils known for their rejuvenating effects. Available fragrances include Original Orange, Key Lime, Vibrant Vanilla, Spearmint and Silver Spruce.

Dr. Lynn Watanabe, a dentist who founded Dental Spa in Pacific Palisades, Calif., advocates the use of aromatherapy in the dental office to help patients relax. She heats essential oils in diffusers and lights aromatic candles.

“Obviously, they are used not only to reduce, minimize or eliminate odors caused by dental chemicals and dental work, but also to distract patients from the stigma attached to being at a dental office,” she says. “Lavender is our favorite because research indicates its calming and beneficial effects. One of our favorites is the combo of lavender and tangerine. It should be noted, however, that some patients are sensitive and allergic to some of these oils and candles, so we always respect the patient’s desire not to have these oil diffusers or candles used.”

Shopping Hints

Choose organic essential oils, whenever possible, as they are truly superior, notes Boyd J. Landry, director of The Coalition for Natural Health, based in Washington, DC. You can then rest assured that residues from chemicals or pesticides were not transferred when the oils were prepared.

“Not all essential oils are prepared from organic plants,” he tells

Shop for your oils at a reputable establishment, and be sure to follow an expert’s recommendation when using them, advises Mandy Aftel, owner of Aftelier Perfumes and coauthor of the newly released Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Food & Fragrance.

“Make sure you buy from a source where there is a lot of turnover-especially for citrus, which goes stale easily,” she tells “Buy very small sizes, and get familiar with the varieties of that scent. Train your own nose!”