Essential Oils 101: Everything You Wanted to Know

Essential Oils 101: Everything You Wanted to Know

Essential oils are popping up everywhere - in the media, in your favourite beauty and skincare products and your friends might even been trying to sell you some! Personally I've been very confused about where to even start - what should I be looking out for and how can I choose an essential oils brand I can trust?

I sat down with Dr. Sarada Raghavan, founder of Iryasa, a holistic beauty and wellness brand to talk about essential oils. She's a cell & molecular biologist with over 14 years of research experience, and talked to us about the science behind essential oils to teach us how to cut through the fluff and fake news to make better choices.

In this video we talk about:

  • What are the benefits of using essential oils
  • How to sift through all the noise and pick a quality oil
  • How to use essential oils for you and your kids

(Transcript at the bottom of the page)

I hope this video was useful and helps you make better decisions around essential oils! Check out essential oil products at Iryasa and our own soaps containing essential oils.

Stay Awesome,


Toni Chan
August Society Founder & Creative Director



[Toni] Hi, everyone. I'm Toni, I'm the founder of August Society and we make sustainable swimsuits for the whole family. So, the reason that I'm making this video today is because the topic of essential oils has been coming up so much lately and you're seeing it everywhere on your social media feeds. You might even have friends trying to sell them to you. So, I really wanted to figure out exactly what essential oils are, you know, what are the benefits and how you can use them for yourself and your family. So I've invited Sarada here today from Iryasa and they do holistic beauty and wellness. So thank you so much-

[Sarada] Thank you for having me.

[Toni] For coming coming out today. And so she's gonna talk to us all about essential oils because they are the experts after all. So why don't we start from the basics? What are essential oils?

[Sarada] So essential oils are natural oils that are extracted from different parts of the plant like leaves, flowers, fruits, even the bark and resin. So they're extremely potent and concentrated, and they're basically the essence of the plant. And what's important is that they're volatile, which means that they evaporate, and that's why you can smell them.

[Toni] Okay. Great. And so what are the benefits?

[Sarada] So different essential oils have different benefits. Some of them are calming, some are more stimulating. They can definitely play a role in helping you improve focus or help you calm down and sleep better. And many of them also antiseptic and antibacterial, which is great because they can be added into your skincare routine as well.

[Toni] Okay, great. So now, you know, we've been hearing so much about essential oils everywhere, right? And they seem to fall somewhere between fragrance and medicine, right? All the claims that people make about them, whether they're unsubstantiated or true, right? So how do you use oils safely? Like how do we sift through all this madness, basically?

[Sarada] Right. So great question, and it's extremely important. And you're right, right? There's, everyone's an essential oils expert and there's a whole bunch of information out there and a lot of fragrances pass as essential oils as well. So we won't even get into that territory today. So there are lots of synthetic fragrances in the market that basically pass off as essential oils, and they're, literally, chemical compounds with no therapeutic benefit. So the problem with essential oils is there's so much information out there, and that people have, basically, been divided into believers and non-believers. And it's important to know that it's a science. Aromatherapy is a science and it's not religion, so it's not you believe or you don't. And it works whether you believe or you don't.

[Toni] So there are often studies done right?

[Sarada] Absolutely. So for example, when you inhale an essential oil, the scent signal basically gets carried into your brain which, the same parts of the brain are stimulated for scent or the sense of smell, as memory and emotions. So for example, when you smell, I don't know, Jasmine, and then you get reminded of your grandma's garden or something like that, those are real. So the same parts of your brain are being stimulated. And that's why it has such a close association with memory. So scent and memory go really close together. And the same part of the brain is also controlled, you know, it control a lot of endocrine functions, which are hormonal functions. So for example, lavender, which is such a popular oil. It contains a chemical constitute called linalool which basically does have... It basically reduces the cortisol which is the stress hormone. And it kind of regulates serotonin, which is the happy hormone. It calms you down. It helps you sleep better. So there's enough data out there backing these oils. It's the reason, I guess, people have kind of gone all over saying things that want, is that information's been either misinterpreted or just wrongly conveyed. There's so much information out there where people are saying, you know, "Drop three drops of frankincense into your mouth and you'll cure cancer" Things like that.

[Toni] Right, yes.

[Sarada] And of course it hasn't worked for people, and then it ends up being... Yeah there's a whole segment of people saying this is fluff. And then the believers like, you know, like what I said earlier, right? It isn't a religion. It isn't, it isn't fluff. It's just, you need to kind of find your facts. I would say ask the right questions. Ask people why a certain oil does a certain thing. Like, why is lavender calming, for example

[Toni] So how do we choose a good quality essential oil then?

[Sarada] Right. So I would look out for a few different things, right? They always should be stored in a dark colored bottle because they're light sensitive. So for example, we have this really dark violet glass bottle. And most essential oils come in amber bottles.

[Toni] So what happens if they're not stored properly?

[Sarada] So they will be oxidized. And then you will, basically, you lose the potency of the oil really quickly. So it would work at first, but then. So that's why even if you're storing them in dark colored bottles, you don't store them in the sun. Another thing to look out for, even though this is a little bit of a gray area, is that the bottle should say 100% pure. But people slap on that label now, anyway.

[Toni] Right.

[Sarada] But you can be almost sure that if it isn't there, then they obviously don't even know that.

[Toni] That's like the basics.

[Sarada] And then I guess the common name, the scientific name, must be there because that gives you the species information. And if the manufacturer or the brand doesn't know what species they're using, it could just literally be anything. It could be lavender-like smelling fragrance oil and it would still pass off because most people don't know what real lavender's supposed to smell like. And yeah, I guess, look for organic certification and ask the brand all sorts of questions, right? They should know the part of the plant that's being used. They should know the extraction procedure, for example. They should be able to provide GCMS reports to say "This is the oil and this is what the profile's supposed to look like." And you may not be able to understand every report. But I think the transparency that the brand shows will give you that confidence that, you know, maybe they're reliable. So that would be a good starting point, I would say.

[Toni] So in terms of using essential oils - what are the best ways to use them? And are there accessories that we should be using with it?

[Sarada] Essential oils can be used either for aroma therapy or for skincare, for example. Like topically, or you smell them. So there are different kinds of diffusers that you can use. So we have like an ultrasonic diffuser or a nebulizing diffuser, and they're great. You can just keep them in, the room will smell great. And you'll be benefiting from the therapeutic value of the oils. If you wanna apply it on your skin, always, always dilute them with a carrier oil.

So if someone says, you know, just slap it on without diluting, you can be sure that they've, pre-diluted it. And you're not getting a hundred percent pure oils. I mean, hopefully, they've done that because then you won't have a bad reaction. But if they haven't done that and you do react, you'll know that that's really not the way ago. Of course, there's some people who won't react, you know, they're not that sensitive. And they drop lavender oil, for example, and it's okay. But long term, it will kind of build toxicity and you shouldn't do that.

[Toni] And what's the ratio for dilution?

[Sarada] So for adults, I would go up to maybe 3% or 4% maximum.

[Toni] So it's actually you really don't need very much?

[Sarada] Absolutely. So you need a few drops. So for example, in a 30ml bottle, like 30ml of carrier oil, you would add about eight drops for a 1%. And eight drops is really little and, you know, your bottles last really long. So I guess it's important to know that less is more with essential oil, like you don't need a lot. And you'll still gain the therapeutic benefits of the oil.

[Toni] Right. Okay. That sounds good.

[Sarada] And then, of course, there are different accessories that you can wear. Like the little necklaces with a little bottle that you can kind of just smell, take a whiff off if you're having, like, a nervous breakdown or something. Ideally, I don't recommend candles just because burning essential oils will, eventually, you'll lose the therapeutic benefit of the oil. So even though nice smelling candles are amazing, well it smells nice, but that's all.

[Toni] And then what about using essential oils for our children?

[Sarada] Using essential oils on kids is fine. What you need to pay attention to is the dilution. So if you're using about a 1% dilution for adults, I would go 10 times less like 0.1 to 0.3, especially with the babies. So there are lots of oils like chamomile and lavender that are super safe. And if you dilute in the right carrier oils and apply it on your child, it literally calms them. Like you know, kids will stop screaming or going crazy, or just diffusing it in the room as well. So I mean, when you're diffusing it, the concentration doesn't really matter. It's kind of getting spread out in the room, but yeah. There would be some oils that would, kind of, avoid like cinnamon, like high phenolic. They can cause a lot of skin irritation.

But in general, there are a few oils that are safe for kids, like geranium, lavender, lemon sweet orange, frankincense. These are the popular ones. Like, Roman chamomile is great as well, but it's a little bit more pricey.

[Toni] And so my last question for you is what would be your top three essential oils, and what do you use them for?

[Sarada] Okay. So personally, my favorites are bergamot, well my current favorites. So there's bergamot, there's clary sage, and, oh, this one's hard. But I like the blend of bergamot, clary sage, and grapefruit together. So I'd say grapefruit. But yeah, I usually use them together.

So bergamot, it's a citrusy flavor, but it has in all the undertones, is very interesting. It's like Earl Grey tea, which is a lovely scent. It's very calming, and it also has a lot of hair and skincare benefits, but I mainly diffuse it. Clary sage is a great hormonal balancer, you know, on bad days when you're PMSing or you're just irritated for any reason. It also works really great because it can be diffused at night. So it's very calming. And clary sage is also great for the skin. So it's beautiful to add a few drops into jojoba oil, for example, which I use for my face. And yeah, it's just kinda gives you, like, nice glow. I really like clary. And then, I guess grapefruit's just a happy scent. It's like other citrus, like sweet orange. It just kind of gives you that boost of energy. It's just brightens up the home. It's a very... And our grapefruit is very sweet. So it's a very nice scent. It's not, you know, that bitter undertone. It's a beautiful scent.

[Toni] Okay. Fabulous. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about-

[Sarada] Oh, thank you for having me

[Toni] So I learned a lot. If you are looking for essential oils then please do check out Iryasa, they ship worldwide, right?

[Sarada] Yes.

[Toni] Yes. And thank you so much for watching, and I'll see you next time.

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