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Essential Oils for First Aid and Emergency Situations

16 Sep, 2015

From the Desk of EpicenterJanet — Essential oils are typically extracted from plant leaves, bark, fruits, and seeds; using distillation, pressing, or maceration processes to extract the aroma and properties. While there are hundreds of essential oils available, there are a handful of them that may come in handy during an emergency.

Recommended Essential Oils for First Aid

The most recommended essential oils for first aid are as follows:

  • Lavender is a "jack of all trades" in the essential oil world. It can be used to disinfect wounds and burns, promote healing, and may reduce scarring. This soothing oil is commonly used to help with inflammation, from bug bites, bee stings, or sunburns; and is known for its antihistamine properties.
  • Lemon is an amazing disinfectant. A bit of Lemon oil in your water can help ease symptoms of a cold or flu, may promote a healthy digestive system and liver, and may reduce petrochemicals (petroleum by-product chemicals) in the body. It is also excellent for cleaning and disinfecting objects. It is not recommended to use Lemon, or any other citrus oils on the skin prior to going into a tanning booth or into the sun, as it can cause serious reactions due to photosensitization.
  • Peppermint [2], like Lemon, promotes healthy digestion and to soothe nausea. Peppermint may also help with aches and pains in the muscles, headaches and fevers, and may even help during menstruation. This strong oil may also perk you up, clear mental fog, and increase focus. Peppermint may also help relieve cold symptoms and heartburn.
  • Oregano [1] helps promote a healthy immune systems to fight off not only symptoms of colds and flu, and may also be used as an aid against infections (bacterial and yeast) and inflammation. Oregano may help with gastrointestinal issues.
  • Tea Tree (or Melaleuca) oil has been used throughout history because of its fantastic anti- fungal, bacterial, and viral properties. Tea Tree oil can be used in a homemade "Neosporin," helps disinfect skin irritations, and can also help relieve discomfort from slivers. It is also used to help support the immune and respiratory systems.
  • Helichrysum, other than Lavender, is a first aid essential oil must have! Helichrysum is commonly used as a painkiller due to its analgesic properties when used in a cold compress.  It may assist to heals bruises, sprains, and swelling.
  • Myrrh is also useful for swelling, cuts, and bruises. Myrrh promotes blood circulation and tissue regeneration. It is also known to be an astringent, and like Helichrysum, Myrrh is said to have analgesic and antibacterial properties.
  • Clove [1,2] is commonly used for dental issues due to its analgesic properties.
  • Frankincense is a great aid to use in conjunction with your other oils, as it can help enhance their properties. It is commonly used for skin ailments. Frankincense is also said to relieve restlessness, like Peppermint.
  • Lemongrass [1,2] is commonly used with Citronella as a bug repellent. It also works well as a cleaner.
  • Thyme [1,2] has analgesic and disinfectant properties. It should be used ONLY when it is absolutely necessary due to the potency of it.
  • Rosemary, like Peppermint and Frankincense, is used as mentally stimulating oil and commonly used for hair loss.
  • Eucalyptus is used for its respiratory, sinus, and cold easing properties. It can also be used as an insect repellent, and is said to have mild painkilling, antiseptic, viral, and inflammatory properties.
  • Chamomile may aid in calming restlessness, and may help soothe minor burns, insect bites, bee stings, and rashes.
  • Citronella [1] is a well known insecticide and repellent, but the oil may also be used as an analgesic and disinfectant, and astringent.

[1] These oils are known skin irritants. Many people with sensitive skin have had bad reactions to these oils being applied directly to the skin. Irritation symptoms can include blotchy, red, and "hot" skin. These are extremely potent and should be avoided on any open, damaged, or otherwise irritated skin. It is highly recommended that a skin patch test be performed before topically applying these oils.

[2] These oils are known mucous membrane irritants. If used near mucous membranes of the mouth, eyes, nose, and reproductive organs, it will produce a dry, hot sensation. It is recommended that these oils never be used in or near mucous membranes, including full body baths.

These statements are provided by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.

Safety & Proper Use of Essential Oils

Now that you know a handful of good oils to keep on hand for an emergency, you need to know how to use them properly. Because essential oils are so potent, it is never recommended to apply them directly to the skin without diluting them first, as most oils can cause discomfort and burning if applied this way.

Before using any oils on yourself or others, like any medication, you should be aware of any existing allergies. The use of oils with other medications, during pregnancy, or on infants or the elderly should also be taken with care and caution. Please consult a doctor before treating an at-risk individual with oils.

If you are treating ailments topically, please be aware that those with sensitive, broken, or inflamed skin, or skin with a disease should be treated cautiously — the use of oils may cause further irritation and damage, such as sensitization.

The common applications of essential oils are: topically (directly on the skin), via inhalation, by diffusion, and internally. Each bottle of essential oil should come with that oil’s instructions and safety warnings on the label. Please read these thoroughly. Some may be safe for certain application methods, while others may not. Many oils should never be taken topically or internally, so please use all oils with caution.

Essential oils should be stored in a cool, dark place. Much like long-term food and water, sunlight and heat degrade the quality of the products.

Essential Oil First Aid Recipes

If you talk to any Holistic Health expert, purchase a book, or search for recipes online, you will find many options for homemade essential oil recipes. As always, treat the oils with as much caution as you would any other medication, and patch testing is always recommended first.

  • Homemade “Neosporin” Salve (recipe from Oil You'll Ever Need)
    In a double-boiler, add 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil, ¼ cup olive oil, and 1 tablespoon beeswax. Once completely melted, remove from heat. Add 20 drops Lavender oil, 12 drops Frankincense oil, 10 drops Lemon oil, and 8 drops Melaleuca (Tea Tree) oil. Pour the mixture into desired containers for safe keeping, and let cool. Keep this salve in a cool, dark area.
  • Homemade “Vapor Rub”  (recipe from Wellness Mama)
    In a double-boiler, mix 1/4 cup coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil, and 2 tablespoons beeswax. Once completely melted, remove from heat. Add 20 drops Eucalyptus essential oil, 20 drops Peppermint essential oil, 10 drops Rosemary essential oil, and an optional 10 drops of cinnamon or clove oil. Pour the mixture into desired containers for safe keeping, and let cool. Keep this salve in a cool, dark area. For a children’s version, use half the amount of oils.
  • Recommended Recipes (from Nature's Nuture)
    • To promote the healing of bumps and bruises, mix 8 drops Lavender essential oil, 8 drops Helichrysum essential oil, and 2 ounces of your preferred carrier oil. Apply once or twice a day.
    • To make homemade sunscreen, add 5 to 10 drops of Lavender and/or Helichrysum oil to 1 ounce of coconut oil. For more fair skin use more oils, for darker skin you may use less. Apply the sunscreen often to keep skin protected and moisturized.
    • If you didn't keep that sunscreen applied often enough, use this homemade sunburn gel to help ease the burn. Use 20 drops of essential oils all together. Lavender, Chamomile, and Peppermint are go-to picks. Blend the essential oils with 2 teaspoons of avocado oil, and then stir in 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel. Apply generously to sunburned areas. This can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
    • If you're feeling nauseous, add about 3 drops of Peppermint oil to a washcloth and hold under your nose. Breathe slowly and deeply for 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Simple First Aid Wash (recipe from Birchhill Happenings Aromatherapy LLC)
    Add several drops of Lavender to a small basin of water. Submerge the affected area and swirl around in the water for a minute or two. If the area is too big, use a washcloth and gently dab over the area.
  • Cold Compress for Bleeding (recipe from EssentialOilsPedia.com)
    In a basin of cool water, add several drops of Helichrysum and submerge a washcloth. Wring the cloth out, and use as a cold compress to help stop bleeding.
  • Mosquito & Bug Repellent / Homemade Bug Spray (Janet & Jessica of TheEpicenter used the following recipe for their trip to Yellowstone National Park in August 2015)
    In a measuring cup (preferably at least 2 cups and with a spout), add 1/4 cup of sweet almond oil. Add in about 30 drops (or less) of Young Living's Purification® Essential Oil Blend. Purification is an expert blend of Citronella, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Tea Tree, Lavender, and Myrtle essential oils. Top off with 1/4 cup Witch Hazel. Blend well, as the oils and witch hazel will separate. Pour the mixture into an amber or cobalt glass bottle with screw cap and attach a fingertip mister. When using the spray, shake well to mix the components together and use lightly.

The Many Benefits of Essential Oils

In addition to the many benefits of essential oils, they may also:

  • Improve Mental, Emotional & Spiritual Health
  • Assist with Stress Relief & Relaxation
  • Offer Immune Support
  • Promote Better Sleep
  • Assist with Pain
  • Improve Romance
  • Natural Cleaning (Personal Hygiene)
  • Home Cleaning and Purification

History of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy over the Centuries

Aromatherapy has been dated back to 2000-3000 B.C.E. It is said that Egypt is the birthplace of aromatherapy, and that essential oils were used there around 3500 to 4500 B.C.E. They used the oils in mummification, as well as cosmetic, spiritual, and medicinal purposes. Egyptians were highly concerned with beauty and body care, and Egypt is known as first civilization to use perfumes. Not only did they use oils for personal care, they attributed scents to certain deities, and only priests were allowed to handle the holy oils. Today, archaeologists can find traces of essential oils and resins in mummies, and many jars of perfumes in ancient tombs.

The history of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy can be found on Wikipedia.


Essential oils can be used for much more than traditional aromatherapy — they are extremely useful to have around in an emergency if other first aid supplies were not readily available. In addition, essential oil treatments, when administered with care and caution, can help a large list of ailments we face not only in an emergency, but in daily life.

Recommended source for the highest quality essential and carrier oils is Young Living Essential Oils. I have purchased essential oils from other companies, but Young Living has THE BEST OILS I've found. They're not the "cheapest/least expensive" but IMO the price is worth the quality of the Young Living oils.

If you purchase any of their oils, make sure you add "Thieves" essential oil blend to your list! Be sure to take a look at all essential oils' safety statements before purchasing.