Whole Family Wellness with Essential Oils: An Introduction for RD’s

As an RD on a mission to equip others to take back their power by embracing self-care, I have developed the perfect tool chest of natural options for the home.  After years of experimenting with a variety of products, I have found the perfect marriage; wholesome foods plus essential oils (EOs.)  This powerful combination is simple to use and often has immediate and effective results.

When I was in need of wellness support, I found that eating healthy wasn’t enough to bring my body into balance.  After experimenting with several natural interventions, EOs proved to be a game changer for me; fun to use and backed by over 26,000 clinical studies.

By combining nutrition intelligence with EOs my personal wellness, career and purpose have received new life and helping others has never been more rewarding.

EOs offer chemical-free solutions for physical wellness, cleaning and chemical-free personal care.  Toxic-free living is a key concept in my presentations.  The research is clear; chemicals wreak havoc with our cells, disrupting metabolic pathways – ultimately causing a downward health spiral.  This has been substantiated in numerous clinical trials, including studies correlating chemical exposure with diabetes.  Diabetes is just one example of a very clear disruption of normal cell function.  Research reveals that chemicals block insulin receptor sites, impeding the work of insulin.

Take any chemical from the label of your personal care products and put it into Google, preceded by “dangers of” and see what comes up.  You may be alarmed to learn that products you assumed were safe have multiple chemicals that are known carcinogens.

With access to different plants from all over the world, we now have an EO for many everyday needs.  DIY oil-infused recipes are a popular way to create affordable chemical-free personal care products.  When speaking to small groups about EOs, I ask them to think of me as “the girl next door” who is interested in natural wellness options for my family.  I encourage you to do the same.  As you read through this article, simply think about your own wellness needs.  How might you benefit from a few daily drops of pure EOs for enhanced wellness in mind, body and spirit?

In this article, you will learn:

  • What EOs are
  • EO history and research
  • Three easy ways to use EOs
  • Common everyday EO uses
  • How to select quality EOs

What are Essential Oils?

EOs are aromatic fluids, distilled from plant petals, leaves, bark and roots.  Their wellness properties derive from the 200-500 compounds present in each single drop.  This is why they have become so popular for supporting every system in the body.

EOs contain elements of the plant’s immune system.  Plants must defend themselves from scorching heat, insect invaders, mold and disease. Plants develop compounds that enable them to ward off these offenses and thrive.  The compounds are especially prevalent in EOs from plants grown in rich organic soil; similar to food plants that develop more protective compounds when allowed to thrive without chemical inputs.

EOs are chemically different from cooking oils.  They contain much smaller molecules and evaporate fairly quickly.  When applied topically, they are rapidly absorbed and do not leave a greasy residue.

History and Research

Unadulterated EOs can safely be used to support physical, emotional and spiritual wellness.  They have been used for 6,000 years in many cultures and are mentioned over 400 times in the Bible.

As of this writing, there are over 26,000 published EO studies demonstrating many options for safe and effective use.  There are essential oil chemists, just as there are microbiologists and bacteriologists.  Due to the scope of areas where beneficial effects of EOs are experienced, a variety of journals publish EO research, including:

  • Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism Journal
  • American Journal of Digestive Diseases
  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  • Behavioral Brain Research Journal
  • Nutritional Neuroscience Journal
  • British Journal of Nutrition and Pharmacology
  • Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology
  • Leukemia Research Journal

Most EOs are extracted by steam distillation; citrus EOs are pressed from the skin.  Plants should be harvested on the correct day and hour for ideal oil concentration.  When distilled at carefully controlled temperatures, the resulting EO contains 100’s of therapeutic compounds in the appropriate ratio for supporting wellness.  For example, when cypress EO is harvested at the correct hour and distilled at the appropriate temperature, it contains 288 naturally occurring compounds.  If it is harvested one hour too early, the resulting cypress EO contains only 11 compounds.

Using EOs and EO-infused DIY personal care and cleaning products in place of chemical-laden products is one of the most beneficial ways to experience these natural gems.  So many of us are drinking clean water and pesticide-free foods but inundate our bodies with a daily chemical cocktail of personal care products.

A comprehensive approach to wellness includes education about the importance of avoiding bioaccumulation of chemical toxins.

Over the course of a lifetime, exposure to chemicals can occur from infancy (diaper cream, wipes), through childhood (soap, toothpaste, shampoo) and into adulthood (toothpaste, serums, moisturizer).  The public is not aware of the profound deficiency of government regulation of chemicals in personal care products.

The 1975 Toxic Substances Control Act is the law governing the safety of chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday lives. This law grandfathered in thousands of chemicals without ANY testing for safety.  It allows the cosmetic industry to self-police. The EPA has only reviewed a few hundred of the 85,000 approved chemicals used in cleaning and personal care products.   In the past 36 years the European Union has outlawed hundreds of chemicals whereas the EPA has only banned 11.

By following a few basic guidelines, EOs can be safely used at all ages and are even used for holistic pet care.  Best practices include use of age-appropriate references for guidance.

References will provide simple information on the most suitable EOs by age, number of drops and modes of application.

Therapeutic EOs are selected based upon specific levels of desirable constituents whose presence should be evaluated in each crop.  EOs with imbalanced levels of key constituents should only be used by the perfume or food industry where flavor and aroma are the primary feature.

Three Simple Ways to Use Essential Oils:

  1. Inhalation
  2. Topical
  3. Internal


When EOs are inhaled, they reach the amygdala region of the brain in a nanosecond.  This is the area where emotions and memories are stored, including traumatic events.  Inhalation of essential oils along with affirmations or prayer is a powerful way to help one process and release toxic emotions and calm nervous tension.

Topical (Skin) Application

Small amounts of an EO can be applied directly onto the skin.

Recommended areas include sides of the neck, wrists,

behind the ears and brain stem (back of neck and

1” up into the hair line) for emotional or cognitive support.

When applied to the bottom of the feet, the EO is circulated everywhere in the body within 20 minutes.  This is a great way to use EOs for whole body immune support.

EOs are often diluted, especially for infants and children.  Fatty “carrier” oils such as coconut, grapeseed or olive oil can be used for dilution.  Carrier oils are chemically different from essential oils.  Common dilutions include:

Dilution is an area of controversy.  I recommend diluting most of the time, using age-appropriate ratios.  When repeatedly using the same EO daily, I highly recommend dilution with a carrier oil (or aloe vera gel) and to take 1 week off every month to avoid developing a sensitivity.

Some oils, such as cinnamon and oregano can have a “hot” sensation and should always be diluted.  Citrus EOs can cause photosensitivity and should not be applied to sun-exposed skin. Do not apply EOs to sensitive tissues, inside the ears or eyes.

EOs have an incredible safety record and sensitivities are uncommon, but to be extra safe, patch testing can be performed by applying 1 drop of an EO to the inner arm.  Most skin sensitivities appear within 10 minutes, but it’s a good idea to re-check the area in 24 hours for additional assurance.  If there is a reaction, it will typically be a minor skin irritation which can be neutralized by applying a fatty oil, such as olive oil.

Internal Consumption

EOs from a company with an FDA approved dietary line, can safely be added to tea, olive oil, honey, empty vegetable capsules and to recipes.  Many RD oil educators start their day with 1 drop of lemon EO in a glass of water; a great way to consume the very beneficial cell supporting limonene.

EO companies following FDA guidelines closely adhere to purity standards and have specific labels indicating which of their oils are for dietary use.  Everyone has grown up ingesting EOs in the form of “natural flavorings” added to candy, cereals and baked goods.

Along with the growing popularity of EOs, a corresponding increase in fraudulent practices has arisen.  The FDA only requires that a bottle of EO contain a mere 5% EO.  Manufacturers are free to use “pure” labeling if it meets this requirement.  Some manufacturers add chemical extenders and carrier oils to fill the remaining 95% of the bottle.  According to Robert Pappas PhD, an EO researcher, 75% of EOs on the market are adulterated.  Reduced effectiveness of the oils is a small problem in comparison to not knowing what has been added to “stretch” the oil.  It is not possible for most people to detect adulterated oils by color or aroma.  It is important to do your due diligence on any company you purchase from.  A few important items to inquire about include:

  • 3rd party laboratory testing of seeds
  • Number of tests performed prior to capping the final product
  • Criteria for farmland selection and soil management
  • Pests and disease treatment: treated with EOs or chemicals?
  • Frequency of evaluating EO content of plants close to time of harvest to determine exact hour to distill plant material for optimal composition

It is a best practice to purchase EOs from authorized resellers, as professional re-bottlers have been found to dilute and reseal original bottles for online sales.

All EOs have a physical and emotional/cognitive effect.  It is therefore common to use an oil for one purpose and experience additional unexpected benefits in other areas.

Common Everyday Uses of Essential Oils

Equipping others with self-care knowledge and the tools to be the “first-responders” for common family needs goes very well with healthy eating and lifestyle recommendations.  It is also integral to chemical-free living.  Detox programs are much more effective when the flow of everyday toxins are reduced.  RDNs who want to incorporate EOs into their family tool chest can start by reviewing their own everyday needs for physical and emotional support.  Common uses include:

  • Add lemon EO to DIY home cleaning recipes
  • Diffuse peppermint during homework to enhance focus.
  • Add frankincense and lavender EOs to your moisturizer to promote youthful skin.
  • Diffuse a blend of orange and cinnamon EOs to cleanse the air in your home
  • Diffuse equal parts tangerine, bergamot and lavender EOs for emotional shifting such as reducing nervous tension and the occasional “blues.”
  • Diffuse myrtle for respiratory support.
  • Apply a winter wellness immune blend of clove, rosemary and lemon EOs to the bottoms of the feet at bedtime.
  • Apply lavender EO on your neck (like perfume) at bedtime to promote restful sleep.
  • Mix copiaba and peppermint EOs with coconut oil and apply to joints in need of soothing comfort.
  • Put a few drops of cedarwood EO onto the hands and inhale to calm nervous tension while providing cognitive support.
  • Make a roller-top bottle with cedarwood, vetiver and lavender EOs and applying on brain stem to calm tantrums.
  • Add lime and grapefruit EOs to a capsule to support fat burning.
  • Energize your workout by applying peppermint EO to your spine.
  • Apply peppermint EO on the abdomen to alleviate nausea and support healthy gastrointestinal function.
  • Replace toxic baby care products with chemical-free recipes using safe and gentle EOs suitable for everyday baby care such as DIY baby wipes.
  • Enhance prayer by applying frankincense and lemon EOs to palms and inhaling during prayer or spiritual reading.
  • Apply rosemary onto temples to enhance concentration and memory.
  • Add lemon EO to dressings, marinades or smoothies to brighten the flavor and enhance the nutritional profile with their cell-supporting limonene.
  • Inhale lemon, peppermint and lavender EOs from a tissue for seasonal respiratory support.
  • Add 2 drops of tangerine EO, vanilla extract and sweetener to flavor plain yogurt.

The growing popularity of EOs is in part due to the widespread emergence of young families interested in natural wellness.  Children have a remarkable intuition for what works for them.  It is not unusual for a school-aged child to go to his parent’s oil selection and choose the one that he/she knows will resonate with their current need.  EOs are very safe and extremely enjoyable when used with common sense and practical guidance.


This simplicity of EOs is one of their most attractive features.  When used with evidence-based practices, one can experience a more rapid shift towards wellness.  It is advisable for RDNs to gain some personal experience with EOs prior to recommending them to others; similar to trying a new recipe before handing it out.


An unexpected bonus of this process is the multiple areas where one can benefit from using EOs.  They can replace a cabinet full of less reliable, chemical-laden products for cleaning, wellness, personal care and beauty.


EOs can open up the door to a variety of new and exciting professional  work opportunities for RDNs.  Most importantly, others will be grateful for the enjoyment and effectiveness they offer and are more likely to embrace self-care as they experience gentle shifts in wellness through their own hands.

Interested in my free webinar  with more practical tips on EOs?  Visit the RDN Area

on www.oilsbymarie for my presentation on



Marie Ruggles MS, RD, CN, CDE, earned her Master’s degree in Nutrition & Public Health from Columbia University where she started her career in research.  She is an award-winning author and sought-after speaker.

While continuing to work in traditional nutrition, Marie also hosts an on-line learning forum on natural wellness.  Her most recent publication is The Aromatic Breath: Using Essential Oils with Breath, Prayer & Affirmations. 

Learn more at www.OilsbyMarie.com

This article is for informational purposes only.  Consult your health care professional for advice. The information in this article should not be used in any way as a substitute for medical advice.  Essential oils are outside her scope of practice as a RDN



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