A Basic Introduction to
Essential Oils

By Samantha McCracken
Updated: June 11, 2021

What are essential oils and how do they work?

Essential oils are compounds that contain the ‘essence’ of the plant they come from.  They have the ability to quickly transform from their liquid state to a gas state at room temperature.  This is why their scent is usually the first thing you notice about them.

Essential oils are quickly absorbed by the smell receptors in the nose, which have a direct link to the limbic system in the brain by way of the olfactory nerve. The limbic system is part of the brain that supports a variety of functions including smell, emotions, behaviour, and memory.

From here, the unique chemical composition of an essential oil has the ability to do a number of things including calm, soothe, energise, uplift, warm or even cool a person.

How do you use essential oils?

There are three main ways to use essential oils:


The aromatic use of essential oils consists of benefiting from the natural properties of the oils by way of breathing in the aroma. 

While topical and internal application require the body to come in contact with the oil, aromatic application merely requires the essential oil to pass through the nose in order to offer the benefits.

Aromatic use is typically achieved by diffusing or inhaling essential oils directly.


You can read more about the aromatic use of essential oils in doTERRA’s Aromatic Use of Essential Oils eBook.


Topical use is the direct application of an essential oil to the skin or the body.  This is usually done by mixing the essential oil with a carrier oil or lotion, and then rubbing it on to the skin.

While aromatic use allows users to enjoy essential oils through the air, and flavouring use consists of consuming essential oils, topical application is a simple way to experience the power of essential oils— providing significant benefits for the skin and entire body.

You can read more about the topical use of essential oils in doTERRA’s Topical Use of Essential Oils eBook.

Flavouring Use

Cooking with essential oils is a fun, simple way to make creative meals, or to make your favourite meals a bit more interesting.

How you use essential oils for cooking will depend on your own personal taste, what kind of food you are making, and which oil you are using.

By following a few simple guidelines*, you can easily enjoy the benefits of cooking with essential oils. 

* Not all essential oils can be used this way.  Please check the label of your essential oil to ensure it is suitable for flavouring use.

You can read more about the topical use of essential oils in doTERRA’s Cooking With Essential Oils eBook.

Essential Oil Benefits

There are many ways essential oils can support you and your neurodiverse home.  When discussing the benefits of individual essential oils, I find it helpful to categorise them by the type of benefits they offer.

I created the following ‘Support Categories’ of Essential Oils that are used throughout this website as an easy reference for the benefits you should expect to see from essential oils.

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Essential oils traditionally used in herbal medicine to maintain and support general health and wellbeing.

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Essential oils that exhibit calming and grounding properties.

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Essential oils known to support a good night’s sleep.
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Essential oils that are soothing and beautifying to the skin, hair and teeth.

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Essential oils that invigorate your mind and restore your focus.
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Essential oils with natural cleansing and purifying properties.
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Essential oils that may reduce uneasy feelings, energise and uplift, or promote a positive outlook.

What's next?

Now that you know what an essential oil is, it’s time to move on to the next step: learning about how essential oils can help neurodivergent people.

Click on the ‘Next Chapter’ link below to learn which of the support categories listed above are the key essential oil support categories for neurodiversity.