Aromatherapy oil and lavender, lavender spa, Wellness with lavender, lavender syrup on a wooden background
Image: Shutterstock/Letterberry

Essential oils have a long history of being part of a useful home tool kit. With a variety of medicinal uses—as well as helping to clean and disinfect—you’ll find that essential oils can make your life easier and more comfortable. While essential oils aren’t a magic cure-all that should substitute for seeing a doctor when things get really bad, keeping these three essential oils on hand can be a good alternative to some over-the-counter medicines and even household cleaners.

Make sure to remember the most important tip about essential oils: always dilute with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil, rather than using it straight. Undiluted essential oils are too harsh to be consumed or used directly on skin. Always test first on the inside of your arm to see if you have an allergic reaction before applying it to your face.

Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil belongs in every woman’s home because it’s so versatile. Not just good for freshening breath, peppermint oil also treats a wide variety of ailments. When applied to your temples, it helps to relieve headaches. Rubbing a few drops of peppermint oil on your stomach can help if you’re feeling queasy. Even sniffing peppermint oil can help you breathe easier if you’re congested from a cold or allergies. Adding a drop or two to a foot bath can also relieve foot soreness. Just use caution: some people, particularly those with sensitive skin, can have a mild allergic reaction or burning sensation from peppermint oil.

Tea Tree

Tea tree oil has strong antiseptic properties, which makes it a natural for both treating skin conditions and helping to clean around your home. Got a zit that cropped up overnight? Try dabbing some diluted tea tree oil on it and your skin will clear up. In studies, tea tree oil works as well as benzoyl peroxide for treating pimples. It works more slowly but is less likely to cause bad reactions. Tea tree oil is also very effective as a disinfectant and household cleaner. When diluted with water, it will help to kill mold and fungus. Some small studies have even shown promising results in using tea tree oil to kill bacteria like Staphylococcus. Although more studies need to be done, tea tree oil can be a good alternative for naturally-minded folks who prefer to avoid chemicals like Lysol.

Lavender

Lavender essential oil doesn’t just smell nice—it also has a long list of beneficial uses. Lavender oil tends to have a calming effect, so diffusing some in your bedroom can help you relax and get a better night’s rest. Many people find that the relaxing properties of lavender oil also make it helpful in treating anxiety. Maybe a nice long bath with a couple drops of lavender oil could be just what you need to unwind. Like tea tree oil, lavender is also useful in treating pimples and helping your skin. It’s also a natural bug repellent and can be applied to treat bug bites. Just make sure to spend a couple extra bucks to get good quality lavender oil: quality matters a lot when it comes to lavender oil and cheaper brands tend to be much less potent.