We’ve all been there. You find a new DIY or a diffuser blend to try and you don’t have one of the oils. So you need to find an oil to substitute, but which one? Substitution, although intimidating at first, isn’t as tricky as you might think. You don’t need to have a degree in aromatherapy or extensive training in essential oils to find the right oil to use. You can always reach out to us with any questions, but we created an amazing tool to help you feel confident in substituting oils when you’re making DIYs and blends. By asking yourself the right questions, you can be a pro at working with what you have on hand.
But First, Why You Shouldn’t Substitute
Before we get to the good stuff, there’s something to be said about not substituting oils in recipes. Whenever someone creates a recipe with essential oils, whether for therapeutic or aromatic purposes, the oils were chosen for a reason. No two oils smell identical or have the same chemical makeup. So whenever you alter a recipe, you are changing the end result. That’s not to say it won’t work or smell good, but it won’t be the same. At the same time, we understand that it might not be feasible or practical to own every essential oil ever (but that’s the dream though, am I right?). Before you rush to find an oil to use instead of the one you don’t have, just take a moment to make sure that changing the recipe won’t change the intent of the recipe.
No Two Oils Are Created Equal
When you’re substituting it’s important to remember that no two oils are created equal. This isn’t to scare you away from substituting, just to remind you that there are things to keep in mind as you do it. Here are things you’ll need to consider as you’re choosing an oil from your collection to use.
Is it KidSafe, Pregnancy & Nursing Safe or Pup & Pony Approved?
This one really only matters if you’re using the recipes on or around kids, pregnant or nursing women, or your dogs. As you’re looking through your essential oils stock, you can eliminate any potential oil substitutes by checking for a KidSafe label or referencing our Pregnancy & Nursing Safe and Pup & Pony Approved charts.
Are the dilution rates the same?
One of the easiest ways to substitute is to use a different variety of the same oil. But they won’t always have the same dilution rates for topical use. Steam Distilled Lime can safely be used topically when diluted to 2-4%, but regular Lime can only be used at 0.7%. Another example is Thyme Thymol, which can be diluted to 1.4%, and Thyme Linalool, which can be diluted to 4.5%.
Make sure to double-check labels to make sure any oils you’re using have similar dilution rates. If they don’t, you can adjust the number of drops used in the recipe. Unfortunately, there may be math required. But to make life easier, you can use our dilution chart!
Is it a top, middle or base note?
When it comes to aromatic blends, one thing that makes for an exceptional blend is that it has top, middle and base notes. If you need to use a different oil, try to choose one that falls within the same category. This should be fairly easy as similar oils tend to be grouped together. For example, most citrus oils are top notes. They’ll often be the first thing you notice in a blend and they’re usually the first to evaporate. Middle notes help give body and fullness to the blend. Base notes, often woodsy or rich oils, provide a foundation for the blend and will linger the longest. You can check out a complete list of top, middle and base notes here.
Helpful Resources for Substitution
We have many, many resources to help give you all the information you need to make a substitution and learn more about your oils. Here are some things you might want to take a look at as you make your DIYs and blends.
- Fragrance Wheel
- Constituent Chart
- Substitution Chart
- Dilution Chart
- Pup & Pony Approved Oils
- Pregnancy & Nursing Safe Oils
- Top, Middle & Base Notes
How to Substitute Essential Oils
And here we are! Armed with some useful charts and information about your oils, you can follow this flow chart along to find the right oil to use. Keep in mind, you might not even find a suitable oil to substitute, and that’s okay! Many recipes still work if you leave an oil out. You can either increase the drops of other oils to make up the difference or leave it out altogether. Just remember to pay attention to dilution rates. But above all, don’t let the fact that you don’t have every oil ever stop you from enjoying the ones you do have.
For a printable version, click here.