Sunday, April 18, 2010

Essential Oils in the Kitchen

Essential oils are primarily used in the practice of aromatherapy and in the production of skin care and personal care products.  Essential oils are available in single notes--extracted from a single plant, flower or root like lavender or ginger--and blends that incorporate many different single note oils all working together to create a synergistic blend that addresses a particular mood or ailment.

The opportunities for using essential oils in the kitchen are as vast as the selection of oils available to choose from.  They can be used to clean, disinfect, sanitize, energize and uplift to name a few.  Here are a few of my favorite go-to essential oils I keep in my kitchen:

Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) - has a medicinal, woody, earthy, herbaceous fragrance.  It kills bacteria as it is antiseptic and anti-fungal.  I use it diluted with plain or soapy water to clean and sanitize hard surfaces, counter tops and floors (8-10 drops per gallon of water).  I also use it to sanitize and freshen up the dish cloth between washings (add 3 drops to approx. 2 cups of hot, soapy water let soak for 10 minutes and then rinse with warm water). Tea tree oil also helps to soothe superficial cuts and may be used neat (undiluted) on skin. If accidental cuts or scrapes occur in the kitchen, run cold water over the affected area, put a drop of tea tree oil on it and cover with a band-aid.

Lavender oil (Lavendula augustifolia) - has a fresh sweet, floral, herbaceous, slightly fruity fragrance.  It also kills bacteria and has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties.  I use it in the same ways I use tea tree oil--sometimes blending them together.  In addition to cleaning and sanitizing, lavender oil has a very calming and soothing effect on the nervous system and may be used neat on the skin for minor cuts and burns as well.

Sometimes, if I've had a particularly hard day or I'm a little nervous about a cooking project, I'll put on a small pot of water, drop in a few drops of lavender oil and let it simmer on the stove.  Before long, I'm working happily through my to-do-list without a care in the world.  

Lemon oil (Citrus limonum) - has a fragrance similar to fresh lemon rinds except more concentrated.  Another antiseptic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal multi-purpose oil.  I use it for cleaning and disinfecting like tea tree and lavender oils and I also love to add a drop or two to the dish water to help cut through greasy messes.  Citrus oils (lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit) are very uplifting--improving your mood almost instantly and they do a great job of eliminating odors.  Often, when I am cooking seafood or garlicky dishes, I will simmer a few drops of citrus oil in water on the stove with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg as it helps to clear the air of food smells.

Important Notes: 

Citrus oils are considered photosensitizers and may cause skin sensitivity when exposed to direct sunlight immediately after use.

Always exercise caution when using essential oils. When cleaning with essential oils, all essential oils should be diluted with water prior to use.  Never use essential oils near open flames.  If you decide to simmer essential oils on the stove, use an old pot you no longer use for cooking and be sure to add the oil to the water before you place it on the stove.  If you are using essential oils to clean, test a small area of your counters, cabinets, etc. before applying the cleaning solution to the entire surface as some oils may strip varnish or other protective layers off of your surfaces.

Keep essential oils away from your eyes, out of the reach of children and pets and if accidentally ingested (swallowed), call the Poison Control Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.  Consult with your doctor or health practitioner before handling essentials if you are pregnant.  Store essential oils in a cool, dark place--keep out of direct sunlight.  Essential oils can be purchased at health stores, some drug stores, specialty organic markets like Whole Foods Market and online.


  1. I appreciated your article on Essential Oils in the Kitchen. I have used essential oils for over 6 years now and would not be without them. I have virtually eliminated all toxic products and use essential oils to clean with. Also, I love to cook with the oils as well. In fact, I just made a yellow cake flavored with orange oil. YUM!!

  2. Just some more tit-bits for the mind. Tea tree oil is most commonly found as a pure essential oil. It is also an ingredient in creams, ointments, lotions, soaps and shampoos. Lavender oil has been proven to help you to relax, to sleep and is great for kids with ADD issues. It's the perfect massage oil. Lemon oil is also use to reduce respiratory problems such as asthma or bronchitis. You excited my mind to learn more. Thanks Lynn.

  3. @Carol, thanks! I have also removed most of the toxic products from my home although I must admit that sometimes a particularly messy situation calls for a and even when I use it I still finish up with my essential oils.

    I haven't yet cooked with essential oils but that's next on the list--been wanting to experiment for quite some time. Do you use an essential oil cookbook? If so, can you share the title with me? Thanks.

    @Frederick, thanks for adding the other uses of essential oils as there are many! It really is amazing that there are so many natural options for cleaning and wellness. I'm glad I could inspire you to learn more and I enjoy learning from you. Thanks again! :>)

  4. Lynn, thanks for the informations on your post, enjoyed reading it :-)

  5. @ Juliana, thanks for your comment--you're welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed my post. Not sure why your post isn't showing up but that sometimes happens with Blogger. Maybe it will show up in a day or so. Please stop by again soon. :>)


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