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Carrier Oils

Essential oils need not be applied “neat” (or undiluted) for every use.

It is quite reasonable to hearken to the axiom that ‘less is more’ when we work with these powerful therapeutic ... healing essences. 

 One common mistake with oils is the assumption that more is better.  Quite the opposite, it is reasonable to hearken to the axiom that ‘less is more’ when we work with these powerful therapeutic ... healing essences.  

Essential oils are usually distilled from aromatic elements of plant life including the leaves, flowers, bark, and roots.  These essential elements have a concentrated aroma and never go rancid.  However, most carrier oils or fixed oils usually have minimal aroma and minimal color.  This is due to being pressed from the fatty portions of botanicals such as the nuts and seeds.  Some carriers go rancid with time and therefore have a shorter shelf life.

Carrier oils are useful when working with essential oils because it is sometimes necessary to dilute a neat oil. One example is when applying to the skin.  Powerful, highly concentrated essential oils may cause skin irritations.  Another use for carrier oils blended with essential oils is that they are often applied during massage, acting as a needed lubricating agent when working larger areas and muscles. 

One advantage of carrier oils is that they do not evaporate like essential oils that tend to evaporate quicker when applied neat.  Carrier oils actually aid in absorption.

Incorporate carrier oils for massaging, making lotions, rubs, and creams for use on babies, children, elderly, and sensitive areas.

Below are some common carrier oils:

Coconut Oil

Whole coconut oil is solid at room temperature and has long unsaturated fatty acid triglycerides.  This oil has a high percentage of completely saturated triglycerides (no double bonds).  When the smaller fatty acids and long-chain triglycerides are separated from the whole coconut oil, it leaves only saturated fats or a fraction of the whole oil.  This is then known as "Fractionated Coconut Oil."

Advantages of Fractionated Coconut Oil

With no double bonds, there is no oxidation.  Thus, fractionated coconut oil is a carrier that never goes rancid.  It basically has an indefinite shelf life and is in a perfectly clear liquid form. Other advantages of fractionated coconut oil are:

·  It is odorless and colorless.  It won’t stain and easily washes out of clothing and sheets.

·  It absorbs into the skin while reducing essential oil evaporation.

·  It is excellent on skin; a natural and very safe moisturizer, softener and safe, non-irritant lubricator. 

·  It leaves skins smooth with no greasy feeling.

·  Low production costs make it cost effective.

·  It can be mixed with other, more expensive, carriers to increase shelf life.  It can also be used it to create different cream textures.

·  It does not aggravate skin problems or clog pores.

·  It is fully digestible and considered an excellent and healthy cooking oil.

·  It is truly one of the best multi-purpose carrier oil products on the market.

Advantages of Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO - not fractionated)

(...)'s coconut oil is a great product with a great shelf life and is liquid at room temperature but it does not include all the fat chains. VCO on the other hand has its own advantages and some real followers that are adamant about its health and wellness attributes. A little internet research and you'll see the passion out there. I have personally seen it do amazing things by itself, especially in the area of skin care, but when you blend VCO with (...) essential oils you create a synergizing product that I believe is far superior that just either product alone.

An example.  We had a friend who had a son with a rash under his eye. Likely herpes. We had him apply some essential oils, which seemed to slowly be helping, but when we combined the oils with VCO, the irritation was completely gone in a few short days.

You get organic VCO at the health food store or on line.  It's white, solid (below about 73 degrees) and has a slight coconut flavor.  If you melt it to add essential oils, don't use a microwave but place a glass container with the VCO in a pan with hot water from the tap. This will be sufficient warmth to melt the VCO. (thanks for the hint, Denise)  Then you add the oils and blend a salve and save it in a baby food jar or other small jar.


Grapeseed Oil 

Obviously from its name, grapeseed oil is made from the seed of the grape.  Its production prior to the 20th century was limited because grape seeds contain such a small quantity of oil.  The process of extraction therefore is labor intensive.  It is most widely known for its healthy culinary applications.  It is beginning to be recognized as a massage oil, lotion base, hygiene cream, and lip balm.  It is relatively odorless and is an excellent carrier oil.  It is mostly clear with a very light yellow/green tinge and has a slightly sweet taste. 

Other advantages of grapeseed oil are:

·  It offers regenerative and restructuring characteristics that offer quality skin moisturizing.

·  It is considered an excellent lubricant for massage and shaving.

·  It leaves a glossy film that protects essential oils from evaporation.  Saturation takes longer than some other carriers. 

·  Some claim it has astringent qualities that tighten and tone the skin.

·  It does not aggravate acne or clog pores.

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is found in the seed of the Jojoba plant.  The oil makes up nearly 50% of the seed in weight.  It is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.  It is considered a natural wax.  It is nearly colorless (slight yellow tint) and odorless.  It is normally liquid at room temperature; its melting point is just over 40° F.

Other advantages of jojoba oil are:

·  It has a very stable shelf life and when mixed with other carriers, increases their shelf life.

·  It is known for its nourishing qualities for the skin. 

·  It closely resembles the natural oils of our own skin

·  It absorbs well into the skin, with no greasy feeling.

·  It is naturally protective to sensitive skin.


Olive Oil

Olive oil is universally known a one of the most quality culinary oils. It has a multitude of uses however, including a quality carrier oil.  Depending on the press, it has a full-bodied flavor and a strong aroma, and can also have a golden brown or green color.  If it is a color and odor that is pleasing then enjoy its healthful benefits to the skin and hair.

Other advantages of olive oil:

·  It has a high vitamin and mineral count.

·  It is a quality lubricant.

·  It has approximately a one-year shelf life.

·  It is an excellent conditioner for hair.


Safflower Oil

Safflower oil is extracted from the seeds of the safflower plant grown in great abundance for this commonly used vegetable oil and is relatively inexpensive.  It has a high content of unsaturated fatty acids and can go rancid quickly.  Its best shelf life (about 1 year) is guaranteed if it is mixed with another quality carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil.  It is a pale yellow, nearly colorless, and has very little odor.

Other advantages of safflower oil:

·  It has excellent moisturizing qualities.

·  It is a good lubricant.

·  It is easily absorbed.

·  Quality safflower does not stain.



Essential oils can be added to carrier oils or a carrier oil can be applied first to an area, followed by an essential oil, this process is referred to as dilution.  It is usually specified in terms of either a percentage or a number of drops to be added to an amount of carrier oil.  The descriptions in the chapters on Wellness Uses and Health Concerns often give either the number of drops or percentage.  The chart below helps to convert from percentage to the number of drops of essential oils required.  Over time, it will feel comfortable deciding the amount of carrier to use for certain applications.  The charts are mostly for beginners with essential oils who are still uneasy about essential oils and their carrier amounts.

Mixture amount chart






1 Teaspoon

1 drop

2 drops

5 drops

10 drops

1 Tablespoon

3 drops

6 drops

15 drops

30 drops

1 fluid ounce

6 drops

12 drops

30 drops

60 drops

Choose the amount or carrier being used in the 1st column.  Then find the number of drops of essential oil in either the 1%, 2%, 5%, or 10% columns.  For example, to make 1 tablespoon of ointment with a 2% mixture would require 6 drops of essential oil.

Conversion chart

The chart below is just a helpful measurement conversion chart for milliliters (ml.), teaspoons, tablespoons, and fluid ounces (fl.oz.).

1▼ is how many ►




ml (milliliter)












fl. oz. (fluid ounce)




As you gain experience with essential oils, you will find that you can quickly make your own carrier mixtures that you are confident in, without careful measuring or precise calculations.

Included below are some common examples
of what typical applications are like:

Situation: A minor cut or scrape

Solution: Direct topical application of Lavender essential oil.  This is a mild oil and with very few exceptions, 1-2 drops can be dropped directly on a wound after cleaning.  Repeat 2-3 times per day as needed.

Situation:  Uneasy sleep or restlessness

Solution: Lavender, Ylang Ylang or a calming blend essential oil as a foot rub before retiring.  Make a 2-5% mixture with 1 teaspoon of carrier oil and 3-5 drops of essential oil.  The carrier oil facilitates the rub and allows adequate massage of both feet.  Don’t forget to cup and inhale the residue of the mixture remaining on the hands.

Situation: Coughing and mucus after a cold

Solution:  Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Cypress (if available) essential oil.   Add 2-3 drops of each oil to a teaspoon of carrier oil and apply as a massage to the neck and chest.  Repeat every 4-6 hours as needed. (Similar to Vicks™ rub)


Premixing Salves, Ointments, and Spritzers

Sometimes it is wise to have a premixed salve, ointment, or spray for emergencies that may come up or for a concern that requires periodic application.  Here are some hints on premixing:

·         If making a premixed spritz for applications, it is usually done with water as a carrier, because the two will separate, therefore, shake vigorously before using and continue shaking often.  Typical use of 4-6 drops of oil per 1/2 cup of water is sufficient.  Use a quality spray container and apparatus. 

·         A common ointment to have handy is 6-8 drops of Peppermint to a teaspoon of a carrier oil for headaches.  A small amount of this mixture placed on the temples, forehead, or back of the neck is very effective for many people.

·         If a carrier/essential oil ointment is pre-made, be sure to use a tight sealing and low light container, or store them out of the light.

·         It is handy to keep a pre-made, relaxing foot rub ointment next to a child’s bed so that a parent can quickly and easily give a child a relaxing and calming foot rub at bed time.


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NOTE: The advice shared in this site has not been evaluated by the FDA. The products and methods recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease, nor is it intended to replace proper medical help. As members offer or look for answers, kindly understand that essential oils work to help to bring the body into balance - thus helping the body's natural defenses to restore homeostasis. Essential oils are not used to "treat" medical problems.