What Are Essential Oils?

When you enjoy the scent of an herb or plant, you’re experiencing the aromatic properties of essential oils.

These naturally occurring, volatile aromatic compounds are found in the flowers, roots, stems, bark, and other parts of plants.  

Essential oils give plants their unique smells, protect plants and play a role in pollination.

In addition to their intrinsic benefits to plants and wonderful fragrance, essential oils have long been used for food preparation, beauty treatments, and health-care practices.

Photo Credit: dōTERRA International

But what the heck is a volatile aromatic compound?!?

In short, these compounds are small organic molecules that change quickly from solid or liquid state to a gas at room temperature.

They are described as volatile because they change state quickly. When you first open a bottle of essential oil, you immediately notice the potent aroma and you can usually smell it from some distance.

The chemical and physical properties of the volatile compounds that compose essential oils allow them to rapidly move through the air and interact directly with the olfactory sensors in the nose.

Such unique properties make essential oils ideal for applications inclusion in aromatherapy, using these compounds from plants to help maintain a healthy mind and body, and many other applications.

The varying types of volatile aromatic compounds present in a specific essential oil determines both the oil’s aroma and beneficial properties. 

lavender oil microcope

Lavender essential oil viewed under a microscope

There have been over 3,000 varieties of volatile aromatic compounds identified to date.

The nature of an essential oil varies between plants, within botanical families, and from species to species.

The delicate ratio of aromatic constituents found in any essential oil are what make it precious and give it specific benefits.

Even with the purest of essential oils, the oil composition can vary greatly depending on the time of day, season, geographic location, method and duration of distillation, year grown, and weather conditions, making every part of the production process a critical determinant of the overall quality of the distilled essential oil.

Essential oils can be used for a wide range of physical and emotional wellness applications. They can be used as single essential oils or in complex blends.

INDIA – Lemongrass being carried 10 miles down a mountain face from the harvest site to the distillation site on foot each day.


About The Industry

In a study conducted by Grand View Research, they found the essential oil industry is projected to reach $11.76 BILLION by 2022!!  That is massive and full of potential.

The sad part about the essential oil industry is there is no regulatory body to ensure safety and quality standards.  ZERO!  There is no one regulating this industry at all!

Even more depressing is there is no product labeling law for the words, “essential oil” on a product label.

This means manufacturers are able to label a product 100% pure essential oil and they do not have to have any plant-based essential oil in there at all!  

Manufacturers will dilute with vegetable carrier oils, cheaper essential oils of plants of similar species, add synthetic and petroleum compounds, and more!  YUCK!

There are four main types of essential oils available on the market today.

eo industry breakdown


The largest portion of the essential oil industry is SYNTHETIC essential oils which are used as fragrance only.

Synthetic essential oils are fake chemical compounds used as fragrances in our environment.  They’re in industrial supplies and products such as Febreeze, Glade products, Bath & Body Works, any perfume, cologne, Scentsy, scented candles…just to name a few.  

Studies are showing they have a very detrimental effect on our physical, mental and emotional health and are toxic in environments and for our pets.



The next largest portion are FOOD GRADE essential oils which are fragrance and flavoring for our food. 

Because so much of our food is refined and processed, manufacturers must add these essential oils to the product for us to identify it as edible food, purchase the food and consume it.

These essential oils are given a “GRAS” – Generally Recognized As Safe – rating by the FDA for human and pet consumption…in very, very tiny amounts.  They are also synthetic chemicals.



THERAPEUTIC essential oils are usually found a health-food stores and at major retailers.

Believe it or not, the term “therapeutic” is simply a marketing term aimed to help consumers identify the difference between a synthetic chemical fragrance and something that is supposed to be plant-based.

Due to the lack of regulations in the industry, many therapeutic level essential oils are full of petroleum substances, diluted with carrier oils, and contain of pesticides, fertilizers and fungicides.  This makes it especially challenging for consumers to find a high quality essential oil and related products.



doTERRA International was founded in 2008 by a few executives who left a competing essential oil company who wanted to provide a standard in this standard-less industry.  They aimed to give consumers an identity method for the most pure and potent essential oils available on the market today.

They did that by creating the Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) standard and are now the largest essential oil company in the world!  Read our 2015 Annual Earnings Statement here.



Testing & Quality

The purity is the most important characteristic of an essential oil and proper growing, harvesting and distilling methods are crucial to maintaining high purity levels.  The development of synthetic essential oils and poor production practices indicate that it’s almost impossible to accurately identify a pure, plant-based essential oil without scientific analysis.  Analyzing the constituent values within an essential oil is one of the most difficult and detailed aspects of quality control.

It used to be that Gas Chromatography was sufficient enough to identify the individual components found in essential oils.  However, as technology advances and more synthetic essential oil products are formed, additional testing and validation methods are necessary.  These methods include Mass Spectroscopy, Chiral Analysis, FTIR Scan, Carbon Isotope Analysis and more.  These methods have been developed and utilized by top scientists to more accurately identify each individual essential oil constituent.


Authentication of Quality

Directly after a plant has been selected, harvested and distilled, each oil is reviewed for it’s chemical composition of constituents.  This process is completed again once the batch of oil arrives at dōTERRA headquarters in Orem, Utah.  The third review is completed in a three-phase procedure during the actual filling process.  This ensures the essential oil is free of contaminants and unexpected alterations during production.

doTERRA Scientists & Researchers

doTERRA Scientists & Researchers

Organoleptic Testing

Organoleptic testing is used as a preliminary quality control step before any other tests are conducted. It involves using four of our five human senses – smell, taste, touch and sight. Expert distillers use their senses as a first level quality test to immediately analyze the acceptability of the product. Essential oil that smells unusual, has a strange color or an uneven consistency alerts the distiller something is erroneous.

Microbial Testing

This is the process of analyzing a batch of essential oils for the presence of bio-hazardous microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, mold and fungi. Scientists draw a sample of essential oil and add it to a sterile medium in an enclosed Petri dish or plate and that is placed inside an incubator. Scientists observe the dish or plate for microbial growth. Microbial testing is performed twice – once when product enters the manufacturing facility and again on finished products before distribution. This ensures no contamination occurred during the filling process.

Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry Analysis (GC/MS)

During Gas Chromatography an essential oil is vaporized through a long chamber to separate the components of oil according to the differences in molecular volume. The sample is measured as it exits the chamber and highly trained scientists analyze and interpret the data. Mass Spectrometry is used together with Gas Chromatography to help identify the separated components. During this process, the constituents previously separated by GC are ionized and sent through magnetic fields. The amount of each constituent can be identified by molecular weight and charge, which allow us to identify the potency of each essential oil.


Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) identifies the structural components of essential oil compounds and is conducted to ensure the quality of purity and potency of a batch of essential oil. Infrared light of different frequencies is shined through a sample of essential oil and the amount of light absorbed by the sample is measured. The quality of the sample is determined by comparing the results from an FTIR reading to a historical database with absorption patterns of high quality samples.


Chirality Testing

Chirality Testing separates and determines the percentage of chiral molecules in the essential oil. Chiral: Left-handed and right-handed orientation of molecules (e.g., d-limonene and l-limonene). In molecules, each “hand” has different chemical properties, which affects their physiologic interactions in the body. In a laboratory environment, you should have 50-50, right- to left- hand due to their structural similarities. One hand is produced primarily in nature so this test is used to ensure there are no man-made or synthetic elements in the essential oil.


Heavy Metal Testing

Although when properly distilled, essential oils should have no heavy metals, it is still important to test just to be sure. ICP-MS testing uses a high-energy medium called Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) to ionize the sample, where it is run through a mass spectroscope. This separates the sample into its elemental parts and provides a reading about which elements are present and at what quantities.



How Do I Use Essential Oils?

Traditionally, certain essential oil application methods have been preferred or used exclusively amongst aromatherapists.  

As the research surrounding essential oils continues to develop, a greater understanding of application methods is now emerging. 

All application methods are safe when using doTERRA Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) oils appropriately.  

This includes aromatic, topical, and internal methods. One or multiple application methods can be used for a wide range of emotional and physical wellness needs.  

CPTG oils can be used a single oil at a time or in complex blends, in one of three application methods:




Certain essential oils, when diffused, can be very energizing and stimulating, while others can be calming and relaxing to our mind and body.

Diffusing essential oils can also cleanse and purify the air of unwanted odors and pathogens.




Aromatic uses For Essential Oils Include:

Add oils into a diffuser to disperse evenly and consistently through the air

Mix oils in a spray bottle with water and mist over furniture, carpet, or linens

Add oils to a load of laundry or to wool dryer balls

Use in household surface cleaners

Apply oil to a cotton ball and place in the air vents of your vehicle

Click HERE to Learn More About Diffusers





Topical application is a very effective method for applying essential oils.

Due to the low molecular weight and the lipid solubility, essential oils easily penetrate the skin’s dermal layers.

Once absorbed, they stay in the applied area for a localized benefit.


Although essential oils are readily absorbed, there are many ways to increase absorption.

Use of a carrier oil with your essential oil will  improve absorption, especially in dry or flakey skin, as it helps moisturize and slow evaporation of the oil as well.

Using a light massage will increase blood flow to the application area, improving distribution throughout the body.


Click here to learn more!

Beneficial Areas You Can Apply Essential Oils

  • Neck
  • Forehead and temples
  • Chest, shoulders and abdomen
  • Arms, legs, bottom of feet

Other Effective Methods of Topical Application 

Add oil to unscented lotion or moisturizer and then apply to skin

Add a few drops of oil to a warm bath

Soak a towel or cloth in hot/cold water, add essential oils, and apply to the desired area

Sensitive Areas to be Avoided

  • Eyes
  • Inner ear and ear canal
  • Mucous membranes
  • Inside the nasal pathway
  • Genital area
  • Some facial areas, such as the skin around the eyes

Click HERE to Learn More About Topical Use




When you  sip a mug of peppermint tea, sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal, or add fresh basil leaves to your pasta, you are consuming essential oil compounds found in the plants.

Certain essential oils have a rich culinary history and have been used as dietary supplements supporting a variety of healthy conditions and contribute flavoring and aroma properties to many foods we eat.

Essential oils can be used as dietary supplements for more targeted and potent health benefits in their concentrated form.

DG products

Read HERE About Internal Use of Essential Oils

Internal use is a very safe and effective method of application because of the sophisticated physiologic processes of our bodies.

Essential oils directly enter the blood stream via the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, where they are transported throughout the rest of the body via the blood stream.

Essential oils are lipid soluble so they are readily transported to all organs of the body, including the brain.

Then, like all things we consume, essential oils are metabolized by the liver and other organs and are then excreted.

Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) essential oils will have a supplement facts label on the bottle.  This certification is recognized by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  

All doTERRA oils that are safe for human and pet consumption will have this label clearly printed on the bottle.


Read HERE About the Metabolism of Essential Oils



Effective Methods of Internal Application 

Add essential oils to water, tea, milk, smoothies, or other beverages

Take essential oils internally in a veggie capsule or add to a small amount of pureed fruit or yogurt

Use oils in recipes for cooking or baking to replace fresh or dried herbs and spices

Remember that essential oils are significantly more potent than dried or fresh herbs and spices, so start by dipping a toothpick in the essential oil and stirring into your recipe



Safety with Essential Oils

Essential oils are very safe but there are some primary concerns when beginning to use them.

The primary concern is skin sensitivity.  Those with sensitive, young or mature skin will need to make sure they’re always using a vegetable based carrier oil, such as Fractionated Coconut Oil.

Some oils are NEAT – or are safe right out of the bottle onto your skin.  Those with sensitive, young or mature skin will not have to use a carrier oil.  SENSITIVE – these oils will cool the skin, providing a tingling sensation.  To minimize these effects, add carrier oil when applying the oil topically to your skin.  DILUTE – these oils are warming to the skin and should ALWAYS be used with a carrier oil.

Determining Skin Sensitivity


Essential oils are not for use in eyes, ears or nose.  Make sure to keep out of reach of children.  If an essential oil does get into your eye, apply CARRIER OIL to the eye lid to draw it away from the eye.  Do not immediately rinse with water as that helps drive the essential oil farther into the tissue.

When apply essential oils to the ears, apply to the front of the ear, rub the entire ear, including the back of the ear called the ear bone and simply wipe the canal.  Do not insert essential oils directly into the ear canal.

Regular inhalation of essential oils is a wonderful method of experiencing the wellness benefits but please do not put them up your nose, swab with a q-tip or put in your Neti pot/nasal flush system.  This can damage sensitive tissues.   

Not For Use


Recommended Ideal Amounts


  • Internal Use: 2-4 drops per use, not to exceed 12-24 in a 24-hour period
  • Oral Use: 1-3 drops per use, not to exceed 4-18 drops in a 24-hour period
  • Dermal/Topical Use: 3-6 drops per use, not to exceed 12-36 drops in a 24-hour period


  • Internal Use: 21-2 drops per use, not to exceed 3-12 in a 24-hour period
  • Oral Use: Not recommended
  • Dermal/Topical Use: 1-2 drops per use, not to exceed 3-12 drops in a 24-hour period

Ideal Use


Top 10 Basic Essential Oils

There are 10 basic oils that every user must have in their oil collection, whether a novice or experienced user.  You will find yourself reaching for these oils a large majority of the time and they have hundreds of uses, combined and separately.  These oils you will find helpful in achieving even the most basic or serious of health goals. 

Each of these oils are 100% certified pure therapeutic grade. There are no additives, filler or synthetics added to any doTERRA oils. This is a huge reason why we chose to partner with doTERRA. 

Each of these oils have hundreds of different constituents that work within the body to help facilitate your body’s natural processes.

To watch a short video on each oil, click on the pictures below









Deep Blue